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Education                                               John Mollett

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Know Britain - an interesting summary of why state education did not happen until 1870

Hatton Hill Academy? 1810-1820?


In addition to the, no doubt, extremely valuable education of the streets that John and his small brothers must have acquired, it now seems that his father probably had ambitions for them to rise above their circumstances, by sending his children away to a private school in the country.  My reason for thinking this is that he lends his name as a sponsor to an advertisement for Hatton Hill Academy - a small private school in Windlesham near Bagshot, once part of  Windsor Great Park.  Above is one of the advertisements. We found them in the new Times online database, so the ad would have been placed in The Times (or an earlier version thereof).  Note that this is a practical business orientated kind of education - not a snooty ‘classics’ education - no Latin, no languages, no art.   The earliest ads, dated 1817, say ‘young gentlemen under 10 years of age’ are included, the later ones just say ‘young gentlemen’.  The later ones also have a second teacher and a higher number of students, so maybe the original students stayed on and required further instruction.  Of course I have no idea when John and his brothers would have been sent off there, or indeed whether they were at all.  Were they all sent, or was one, or maybe two kept at home to help in the shop?  It is all guesswork, but one cannot imagine that Robert was supporting the school to the extent he seems to be, without sending his own children there.  


The Google satellite view at right shows Hatton Hill today - the road snaking diagonally across country - and you can see that even now it is pretty much countryside - very different from the hectic world of Smithfield.  


I cannot find out much more about the school other than that William Ives was a Baptist Minister who registered his house for use of the local Baptists as a Meeting Place.  So no doubt religion of the Baptist kind would have been in the curriculum.   The fees of 25 guineas per year all-inclusive (in 1819), are roughly equivalent to £1,100 ($1,768) in today’s money (multiplied by three for the three boys), which would have been a reasonable amount of money for a not very wealthy family.  John’s father must have considered it money invested in the future, and it paid off as we shall see.  Perhaps he got a discount for sponsoring the ad, or for sending more than one child there.  The ads were mounted over a period of about five years and although the names of the sponsors change, Robert Mollett is always named, often with his house as a venue for people to meet with William Ives.  So Mr. Ives must have been a guest for a week or so at a time and therefore maybe a family friend.


The school was small - no more than forty pupils at its peak - they try to make it sound like a home away from home.  The two pictures on the right are probably a bit later, but show the spirit of the place as it seems to me, which seems to have been benevolent and worthy rather than the frightening places described in much of Victorian literature.  I would like to think that it was not grim - the advertisement does speak of the children being treated “with parental tenderness”.  Though, of course, parental tenderness in Victorian terms may not have been what we think of as parental tenderness.  Nevertheless I do have an overall impression of a loving, respectable, religious home for John and his brothers, and also for his own children later in life.


It is unlikely that John had any further academic education.  Now that would surely have been too expensive.  Initially I was completely clueless about what happened to John after school, but I now know that he did at least try to follow in his father’s profession of pastry cook for in 1819 at the age of 14 he is apprenticed to his father, “in consideration of the Natural Affection which he hath for his said Apprentice.”.  However, I cannot find the freedom document that marks the end of an apprenticeship, so can only assume that John found it was not to his taste, or Robert decided he had no talent, and so the apprenticeship ended.  None of the other boys seems to have followed in Robert’s footsteps either.  I wonder if this was a disappointment to him, or whether he was proud of all of their considerable achievements in other fields.