This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
How to awaken cariosity in the youthful mind should he one of the objects of those who endeavor to prepare them for a life of usefulness to themselves, their families, and their country. Occasionally there comes to us an article respecting the progress made by a clergyman in Hitcham, England, who has, unaided, established a little school for his neighbors' children. Professor Henslow, as he is called, has taught his little companions koto to observe, and he has thus prepared them for enjoying life in the country, no less than to be benefactors to future generations.
At a late "Laborers' and Mechanics' Horticultural Show," at Hitcham, under our Professor and in his rectory grounds were two tents of excellent construction, "one of large dimensions for the Show, and the other," says the Gardener's Chronicle, "called the Marquee Museum, containing objects of interest on which the Professor gave instructive little lectures in the course of the day. On this last occasion the whole front of the long tent outside had arranged before it a row of most noble gourds, the seeds of which were given some time since by Dr. Lindley. One of them weighed 111 lbs.; and the three next, the produce of a single plant, full 2 cwt. On the summit of this tent and in the front, were various devices in Dahlias and China Asters, due to the zeal and skill of the Professor's servants. In the interior were arranged the flowers, fruits, and vegetable produce of the cottagers, to which the prizes were assigned. They were most creditable to the humble cultivators, and proved that some high encomiums by the judges in the allotment report were well merited. A stuffed rook, which seemed to look down archly on the scene, had, written under it by the Professor, " The Farmer's Friend," and his beak was covered with mould to show how he searched in the soil for grubs.
There were placed on one of the adjacent stands large bundles of wild fruits collected for prizes by the children of the school, many of whom are excellent botanists. Instead of nosegays they were called mouthgays, and the one that gained the first prize had in it 34 specimens, all accurately named, including Elder-berries, Sloes, Nuts, Guelder Rose berries, wild Carrots, etc. Beautiful herbaria were also shown, collected and dried by the same young people; and in a recent excursion one had gathered and named 12 wild flowers not found near Hitcham. Thus the religious and other lessons of the school are mingled with improving knowledge of the natural productions of the district; and the high cultivation of the allotments is coupled with instruction in plants growing in the fields and hedges. About two o'clock the company, consisting of the families from the neighborhood, and the poor, all gathered round the Professor, while he delivered a most interesting lecturet, as he called it, on the contents of his Marquee Museum. This Marquee is altogether original.
Its name appears in front in letters formed of common snail-shells, surrounded by ornamental designs in mussel-shells, looking like mother-jof-pearl. It is divided into two compartments by a noble piece of tappa cloth, from the bark of the Paper Mulberry of the Tonga Islands. On the shelves on each side were arranged the objects in such a way as to attract attention. A group of sloe-worms were so placed as to be supposed to be holding conversation on the disaster of the loss of their tails, which is the accident most commonly befalling them; and two ninny toads were set up as if dancing a minuet, to the great amusement of the juveniles. The chief subjects of the lecturet were aluminium, fine specimens of which were exhibited, and the manufacture of candles from Palm-oil, and paraffine derived from petroleum, with some observations on certain fossils found in the Suffolk drift of the locality. These explanations were given in the happiest manner. Then began the distribution of the prizes, and John Bull had the first prize for allotment Wheat, and Jack Robinson the second, names that elicited innocent fun. Next came results of experiments on 55 allotments, and, after certain other business was transacted, an orderly and sociable tea.
The conduct of the humbler classes in the midst of the large gathering was most modest and decorous, and all partook more or less of the hospitality and enjoyed the courtesy of their talented host. A more intellectual rural fete cannot be conceived. All seemed to enter into it with pleasure and spirit. Instead of idling and sauntering without objects, the children of the Hitcham schools become intelligent observers of Nature, while they are directed to lift up their young minds to its adorable and infinitely wise and good Author and Creator. One pupil teacher had actually collected in rural strolls, and afterwards dried and correctly named, more than two hundred and fifty specimens of plants. The effect of such pursuits so well directed was visible in the countenances of the young people, which expressed a modest intelligence of a most pleasing kind. These children are not made botanists at the expense of higher and more useful knowledge in the economy of their daily life, but are taught to make science within their humble reach an improving amusement. It is true the people of Hitcham have a leader of rare gifts and high attainments, but such an example might be more largely followed, and in the hope that it may be so we point to it for imitation.
Long may Professor Henslow be spared, and may many others who have like opportunities learn how to make the field and the garden, as well as the schoolroom and desk, helpful to knowledge and promotive of improving enjoyment".
Here is something worthy of imitation. We have a large body of Clergymen among us but half employed - nay, many to whom their time is a sorrowful burden. How wise they would be, and how wise they could make the next generation, if they would imitate Professor Henslow!
We have already chronicled the establishment of children's gardens for the higher classes in Belgravia, London. These are not merely gardens, but sheltered glass structures, where children may have that necessary ingredient of growth, light, but instruction in various things that will leave more valuable impressions than the mere dressing of dolls or shooting marbles. An instructor attends to teach the youngsters to construct houses, even to model in prepared clay, to employ their infant minds in mathematical patterns made of ornamented blocks, and, in short, in a thousand ways their thoughts are brought into use. Will it be astonishing if from the Hitcham school there should come the greatest botanist of the next generation, or from a Children's Garden the greatest sculptor of the age? We are yet in the infancy of teaching, and our rural districts tell too plainly of the absence of proper schools.