ROGERS, William (1819–1896) educational reformer

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Papers of educational reformer William Rogers (1819-1896), including: miscellaneous certificates, correspondence and papers regarding Rogers' life and career, religious appointments and the administration of St Botolph's without Bishopsgate, 1837-1994; volume of press cuttings of obituaries of Rogers from various newspapers and periodicals, 1896.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Rogers was born in November 1819, was the son of William Lorance Rogers, a barrister of Lincoln's Inn and a London police magistrate, and his wife, Georgiana Louisa, daughter of George Daniell QC. He was sent to Eton College in September 1830, and was four years under the sway of Dr Keate. From Eton he went to Oxford, matriculating from Balliol College in 1837, and graduating BA in 1842 and MA in 1844. While at Oxford he obtained no academic distinction, but became well known as an oarsman. He had in May 1837 rowed in the Eton boat against Westminster. He took an active part in founding the Oxford University boat club, and rowed number four in the fourth race between Oxford and Cambridge in 1840. On leaving Oxford he went with his mother and sisters on a tour abroad, staying mainly in Florence, and on his return entered the University of Durham (October 1842) for theological training. He was ordained to his first curacy—at Fulham—on Trinity Sunday 1843.

In the summer of 1845, Rogers was appointed to the perpetual curacy of St Thomas's, Charterhouse, a City of London parish containing 10,000 people, with an income of £150. In this district, which he called Costermongria Rogers remained for eighteen years, and worked to improve the social conditions of his parishioners, particularly by establishing schools. He exploited the influential friendships he had formed at Balliol with the likes of Lord Coleridge, Stafford Northcote, Lord Hobhouse, Dean Stanley, Jowett, and Archbishop Temple to carry through his schemes. He ‘eternally dunned’ his friends, as he admitted, for his great educational work, but never for his own advancement. Within two months of his arrival he opened a school for street children in a blacksmith's shed and, in January 1847, he opened a large school building, erected at a cost of £1750. In five years' time he was educating 800 parish children at the new school, but was determined to extend his operations.

He was encouraged by the sympathy of the marquess of Lansdowne, president of the council, who in 1852 laid the foundation of new buildings in Goswell Street, completed in the following year at a cost of £5500. Rogers had obtained £800 from the council of education; the remainder he obtained by his private fund-raising. But before the debt was extinguished he had projected another new school, in Golden Lane, and contrived to extract nearly £6000 from the government for the purpose. This was opened by the prince consort on 19 March 1857. Before he left St Thomas's, Charterhouse, the whole parish was a network of schools, described in the official reports on the schools published by Rogers successively in 1851, 1854, 1856, and 1857. In June 1858 he was appointed by Lord Derby a member of the royal commission to inquire into popular education. The commission recommended the extension of the state grant on the basis of school attendance, and the formation of county and borough boards of education. Upon the passing of W. E. Forster's Education Act, for which the commission had somewhat cautiously prepared the way, Rogers was in 1870 returned at the head of the poll as a representative of the London school board.

In 1857 Rogers was appointed chaplain-in-ordinary to the queen, and in 1862 Bishop Tait, formerly his tutor at Balliol, gave him a prebendal stall at St Paul's, but ‘with no provender attached to it’. In the following year, however, Tait presented him to the rectory of St Botolph without Bishopsgate, of which Rogers took possession, as sixty-third rector, in June 1863. There he energetically set about founding what were called ‘middle-class schools’: secondary schools catering for the sons (he later added provision for girls) of tradesmen and clerks, intended for white-collar occupations in the City. At a time when secondary education was under review by the Taunton commission, Rogers became a leading promoter of such schools. The Cowper Street middle-class schools in Finsbury, for which he raised £20,000, were a model of their type. His next important work was the reconstruction of Alleyn's great charity at Dulwich, of which he was appointed a governor at the behest of the prince consort in 1857. After becoming chairman of the governors in 1862, Rogers had a stormy relationship with the headmaster, A. J. Carver, who was intent on establishing a leading public school. Rogers wanted the endowment to be used to establish middle-class schools in London parishes, an aim partly achieved, after four schemes had been mooted, in 1882 when the Alleyn School was founded as a separate institution from Dulwich College.

Rogers advocated secular education, leaving doctrinal training to parents and clergy. He was much attacked in the religious press for an outburst in October 1866 against the obstacles to middle-class schools: ‘Hang economy, hang theology: let us begin’ (Reminiscences, 167). This earned him the sobriquet ‘hang theology’ Rogers. He supported the opening of museums and galleries on Sundays and was a founder of the non-sectarian Society for the Relief of Distress. In Bishopsgate, Rogers was active in the restoration of the church of St Botolph, and at all times, both in his own and adjoining parishes, the erection of baths, wash-houses, and drinking fountains, the extension of playgrounds, and the provision of cheap meals, industrial exhibitions, picture galleries, and free libraries had his heartiest support. His labours in his own parish culminated in the opening of the Bishopsgate Institute (24 November 1894). From the mid-1880s he was badly lame, which curtailed his activities.

Rogers died, unmarried, at his house at 3 Devonshire Square, Bishopsgate, on Sunday 19 January 1896, and was buried at Mickleham, Surrey, on 23 January. His sister Georgiana, his companion throughout his career as a clergyman, died at Mickleham on 24 May 1896, aged seventy-five.

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Archivist's Note

Entry compiled by Grace Biggins

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