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How best to train and educate pauper children thrown upon the hands of the State is a question which has for a long time been the subject of debate. This class of children are, by reason of their inherited physical and moral constitutions, breeding, and associations, of all most in need of careful training and treatment to fit them to take their places as self-supporting members of society; but their circumstances and surroundings are such as to render it least likely that they can obtain it. It resulted from this, that at one time it was no uncommon thing for paupers to regard the Union-house as their ancestral home, and several generations of one family might be found under the shelter of the same workhouse roof. It has been recognised, however, that it is the duty of the State, if only on the low ground of economy, to put an end to the perpetuation of a race of paupers; but the task is one of great difficulty, and with regard to the best means to be adopted, opinion is much divided. At present there are in England alone upwards of 47,000 children maintained by the Poor Law authorities.
Of these, some are inmates of workhouses, some few are boarded out with the families of labouring people, and a large number are kept in what are called district schools - buildings erected and maintained by the guardians of several parishes or unions united to form a school district. There can be little doubt that, except in cases of large parishes or unions where the number of children is sufficient to warrant the provision of a separate school and the employment of an efficient staff of teachers, the education and training of the children are more efficiently carried out at the district schools than at the schools maintained by the parishes within the walls of their respective workhouses. The establishment of the district schools was a great step in advance; but those who have been brought into connection with children trained in these large barrack-like institutions are generally agreed that in the result something is still lacking. The machine-like and unsympathetic manner in which everything must almost necessarily be done in a school of, say, 1,000 children has apparently the effect of crushing the individuality of the child. The physical training may as a rule be said to be successful, the education (using the word in its more limited sense) sufficient; but the cultivation of individual character and the moral and mental faculties appears to be out of the question. To meet this acknowledged deficiency in the pauper schools as at present constituted, the organisation of schools to be in future erected on the village system has recently been encouraged by the Local Government Board. In February of last year Dr. Mowatt, inspector, and the late Captain Bowley, an officer of the architectural department of that board, visited the few institutions which have been established on that system in this country, and their interesting. report upon the subject has been printed as a Parliamentary return. The first village of any size erected by the Poor Law authorities will be that at Banstead, Surrey, now being built from the designs of Messrs. A. and C. Harston for the managers of the Kensington and Chelsea School District, a view and plans of which appear among the illustrations of the present number. The site of this village is a long strip of ground comprising upwards of 27 acres, adjoining on one side the Epsom Downs Branch of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.
The subsoil is chalk, and the land stands high and commands extensive views of the varied scenery of Surrey. There are no less than 33 detached buildings in course of erection, principally ranged along the sides of a road running east and west, where double avenues of trees will be planted, and footpaths with grass margins formed upon each side of a central roadway. The aim of those who advocate the village system is to supersede the "Institution" by the Home, and accordingly in the Banstead School the children are to be divided into groups of 20 girls and 32 boys and lodged in separate houses.
In connection with the industrial training should be mentioned the clothing stores and needle-room, which form a separate building, where the clothing will be cut out and made up by the children, instructed by a needle mistress. On the right-hand side, near the entrance, are the probationary houses for boys and girls respectively, divided by the medical officer's office and dispensary. Here children are detained for a few weeks on their first introduction to the village as a precaution against the introduction of disease. On the left is the porter's lodge and the superintendent's house. The building immediately facing the entrance is the officer's house for the accommodation of the school staff and others not immediately attached to the homes; and at the rear of this, and connected by a covered way, is the bakery and general store.
To the right of the officer's house, and on the main avenue, is the chapel, designed to seat 400 persons. It has a square chancel, flanked by a vestry and organ chamber. The roof is in a single span of 40ft., and has moulded king-posts and tie-beams bearing upon the walls of dormers.
The parts of the roof between the dormers are continued to a lower level, and there are carved and moulded braces above and below the tie-beams, giving the lightness and effect of a collar roof. The inter-spaces are filled by matched boarding in panels. In a corresponding position, on the left-hand side, is the school for the elder children, planned for the accommodation of 250 boys and 150 girls. The central school-room is 68' by 26', and 19ft. in height, with ceiled roof and wrought and stained trusses with curved braces. In addition, there are 7 large class-rooms and a library, and separate entrances for boys and girls, with cloak-rooms, etc. The infants' school building, for 100 children, is immediately opposite the general school, and consists of a school-room with a large gallery and a babies' room. The boys' homes are placed on that part of the main avenue which is to the right of the entrance, and the girls' homes to the left. On the extreme left are two detached infirmaries, one for infectious diseases and one for the treatment of ordinary complaints. Each of these infirmaries has a centre or administrative block, and two wings consisting of four wards, and, in fact, forms a separate hospital, with its own kitchen, laundry, etc, complete. The village is to be lighted by the Epsom Gas Company, and supplied with water from the Sutton Company, whose mains are constantly kept at sufficient pressure to supply the eight hydrants which will be laid down for protection from fire. The sewage is dealt with by water carriage, and, being conveyed to the lower part of the estate, is there screened and disposed of by irrigation. The material for the buildings is brought on to the ground by means of a siding from the London and Brighton and South Coast Railway, temporary lines of rails being laid down through the length of the main avenue; and the trucks are unloaded wherever the material is required. The buildings are erected with stock bricks laid in selenitic cement, with white strings and dressings, and the roofs are covered with red tiles. Messrs. Harston have here, as in other large Poor Law buildings recently erected by them, made a great speciality of Portland cement cast concrete.
The window-sills, lintels, steps, thresholds, copings, and chimney terminals are all formed of this material, and the baths, lavatory troughs, and road gullies are to be formed in a like manner.
Among other specialities may be mentioned the balanced ventilating heads to the windows, long narrow flags in the head of the window-frames, on the principle of the Sherringham ventilator, which may be used without interference with the blinds, as also the treads of the staircases, which are formed of teak and made reversible, so that all four edges may be worn, and ultimately the tread renewed, without affecting the structure of the staircase. The lavatories are arranged on the trough and jet system, which is found to be a great safeguard against ophthalmia by preventing the use of the same water by more than one child. Each house is supplied with hot water, and the temperature of the lavatory jets may be regulated at will. The w.c"s are entirely detached from the houses, and all internal wastepipes discharge over surface channels leading to earthenware or concrete traps, and are carried up through the roofs to secure ventilation. The total number of beds which the buildings will accommodate under the existing regulations of the Local Government Board as to floor and cubic space is 680. The contract for the whole of the buildings and fittings has been taken by Mr. William Crockett at £57,200, and the works are being carried out under the superintendence of Messrs. A. and C. Harston, architects, of 15, Leadenhall-street, aided by Mr. G. March, their clerk of the works.