First Wesleyan students at the Glasgow Normal College

From subsequent reports and inspections we know something of the first three students. James Ford, the very first teacher trained by the Wesleyan Education Committee, spent six months in Glasgow. Thereafter he was sent to Brunswick Chapel in Sheffield where he operated the ‘Glasgow System’ with 200 children. Shortly afterwards it was reported that the school1was ‘in perfect order and efficiency according to the plans pursued at the Normal Seminary at Glasgow.’  It was also noted that other schools in Sheffield were adopting the same system after witnessing the effects of Mr. Ford’s school which was attended by over 200 children. In a letter dated May, 20, 18402Mr. Ford stated how with ‘much fear and trembling’ he made the attempt to introduce the Glasgow system into Sheffield for the first time. A public examination was held at the Brunswick Chapel School which gave evidence both of the ‘excellence of the plans and the ability of the master’ and two further Wesleyan schools were established3

Ford died in Sheffield in 1897, presumably having taught there for many years. The second student, Edmund J. West came from Portsmouth and after training went to Burslem Wesleyan School. The Education Committee minutes note that ‘At Burslem, Mr. West (our second Teacher in order of time) is settled also in a most encouraging field of labour. Mr. West was sent for three months to try if he could raise the School, which had fallen into great decay, into something like efficiency; and he has succeeded so well, that he is now himself comfortably established over a very flourishing School, and receives from its proceeds about £80 a year.’4

As noted later, he spent the bulk of his career, from 1850 to 1880, in the Practising Schools at Westminster College.5

Mr. Bowker the third student to be trained at Glasgow did equally well in a school at Chesterfield where he introduced a gallery, maps, and other apparatus on the Glasgow model. The Committee Report reads ‘Mr. Bowker, the third young man sent from the Glasgow Seminary for us, is settled under very encouraging auspices at Chesterfield; where his labours among the rising generation appear to be gratefully appreciated’.6

At the same time that the Committee sent these three (that is Ford, West and Bowker), three other men who had ‘come under (the Committee’s) care and partial support during the year’7also undertook their training in Glasgow. They may have been Mr Swaine who settled at St Albans; Mr Henry Rogers, who after a stint at Derby (1842) and Selby (1846) became a teacher in the model school at Westminster College when it opened in 1851; and Mr J. Peachy who settled at Ipswich and is known to have trained at Glasgow at the same time.8

Thus, with the first woman, Mrs Gordon, the widow of a missionary, the Committee was able to report that:

 ‘Of the seven candidate Teachers now at Glasgow, the Committee continue to receive the best accounts from Mr. Stow and the other Officers of the Seminary, as to their character, conduct, abilities, and studies. The Committee are pleased to be able to state their conviction that these Teachers would do credit to any Society.’9