Recollections of John Pounds by Henry Hawkes: Public Talk
John Pounds (1766-1839) is one of the most influential figures to come out of Portsmouth, yet remains one of the least known. Matt Wingett describes the life of Pounds, from his early years working in the dockyard through crippling injury, to setting up a cobbler’s shop in one of the meanest parts of the town of Portsmouth.
It is here that his life took a new turn, when he began to teach the children of the poor to read and write. Portsmouth at the time was a violent and dangerous place for children to grow up. Harsh and brutal punishments awaited children who had no schooling and could find nothing else to do than loiter on the streets, sometimes shivering in the icy winter, sometimes neglected by parents who had fallen into drunkenness, idleness or vice. For these children, education was literally a lifesaver.
Matt looks at Pounds’ particular approach to education and how, after his death, his example went on to inspire others to bring education to the poorest of the poor through the Ragged Schools – and eventually led to state education.
Though he has been called “the Founder of Ragged Schools”, Matt argues that this is not entirely true – and his real role in the vast movement that followed after him is explored and explained.