Robert Raikes

1735-1811. Promoter of Sunday schools. Born in Gloucester, he succeeded his father as publisher of the Gloucester Journal, which business enabled him to maintain his interest in neglected children. After a meeting with Thomas Stock (1749-1803), who had started a Sunday school in Ashbury, Berkshire, he set up one in his own parish in 1780 which met a glaring need. The idea caught fire, and schools sprang up in other places. Despite popular opinion, however, he is not the movement's founder, and never claimed to be. By 1786 some 200,000 children were being taught in England, and a London society for establishing Sunday schools had been organized (1785) by William Fox. They spread into Wales (1789) through Thomas Charles* of Bala, and to Scotland, Ireland, and America. John Wesley encouraged them, and Adam Smith praised their cultivating good manners. They taught children to read and write along with giving Bible instruction. An interview Raikes had with Queen Charlotte led to Mrs. Trimmer's starting schools visited by George III. At first teachers were paid, later they volunteered. In 1803 a Sunday School Union was founded. Although Raikes was accused of excessive vanity, his immense benevolence cannot be disputed.

See also Education, Christian.