Ellen Turner's Education

Ellen Turner was abducted from her boarding school, a Ladies' Seminary in Liverpool, run by the Daulby sisters - almost 50 miles from her home in Pott Shrigley near Macclesfield in Cheshire.                                              

That Ellen was a pupil at such renowned school, was evidence not only of her privileged posiion in society but the enlightened and progressive view of education held by her parents, William and Jane Turner.  Girls in her position were usually educated at home by a governess but as her ambitious father's heir, Ellen was being prepared for a marriage equal to her father's expectations.  She received a broad education being tutored in history, reading,writing, languages as well as drawing and music and was, it appears, a model student.

By receiving such an privileged education, Ellen was set apart from working class girls, who might be lucky enough receive some form of  basic education from  a Dame or Sunday school.  But compulsory education was not enshrined in law until the passing of the 1833 Factory Act- seven years after Ellen's abduction - which stated that  children working in factories should receive two hours schooling every day.  It was difficult to enforce and many children continued to receive little or no education.

The philanthropist and reformer,Priscilla Wakefield, the grandmother of the 'ruthless ravisher' Edward Gibbon Wakefield,  promoted education for the poor, one of her books being used by pupils in the first of many  free schools set up by the Joseph Lancaster, the education pioneer. Whilst conceding that Lancaster would be 'a great instrument in enlightening the human mind', Edward Wakefield, Edward Gibbon's father, thought Lancaster, 'an inherently unpleasant character'. Undoubtedy, the methods of disciplining children promoted by Lancaster were questionable and severe even for the period and the standard of education could be poor, it was the beginning of a system of mass education.

Ellen would not return to school after her abduction, but by then she had received six years' education under the tutelage of the Daulby sisters which would have surely given her a much better and more rounded education than many of her peers.


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