Have you ever thought what really is being kept in the archives? Most people don’t’ know. I didn’t know until I went there. Official documents, old letters, pictures but what else? Well then, fasten your seatbelts and put on your dust goggles. We’re going on a grand tour!
One of those things we have are the students’ agreements. Those were the agreements every student had to sign before they were accepted. They are not loose documents, but are bound in quite large books. They consisted of a series of questions that the candidate had to answer. The questions are printed and the answers filled in by hand. It was in the times when the calligraphy was compulsory and it gives a pretty, even effect when written down. For the pages that contain not much more than some questions and answers, we can deduce some interesting information, if we’re willing to look closely enough. Some questions were about practical things, like place of birth, previous education and if they had means to pay for their education. Some were a sign of times. Nobody would put a question like: ‘Are you in the habit of attending the Lord’s Supper?’ in that kind of document anymore. I think it speaks volumes about what was important for the people in the past, as well as the character of the school back then.
In those agreements we can see what kind of people came to the school. Among them were tailors, schoolmasters, horse grooms, but also puzzle makers and ‘map dissectors’ whatever that trade might be.:-) Anyone could see what kind of job the great-great-great-great-grandpa did before he became a teacher.
But the students’ agreements are just a tip of an ice-berg. There is plenty more and I will explore it all in the weeks to come
Source: Battersea Training School students’ agreements 1845-53.