Bouyer in Lincolnshire: Stuff Balls, Spinning Schools and Saving the Church 1770-1811

23rd October 2018

Louth Naturalists', Antiquarian & Literary Society 
7.30pm Conoco-Phillips Room, Louth Library, Northgate, Louth, LN11 0LY

Prof Joanna Innes:  Bouyer in Lincolnshire: Stuff Balls, Spinning Schools and Saving the Church 1770-1811

Our speaker was born in London in 1954, and educated in England and the United States, where her parents emigrated in 1967. Returning to England in 1972 to go to University, she studied at Cambridge, and was then offered a job at Oxford. She will take (slightly) early retirement from Oxford in September 2018. Her research focuses on British social policy 1688-1830, and she has published an overview of some of this in a book entitled Inferior Politics: Social Problems and Social Policies in Eighteenth-Century Britain. She is also involved in an international collaborative project on changing ideas about and practices associated with ‘democracy', in Europe and both Americas, from the middle of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century: the period over which the ancient concept of ‘democracy' came to be applied to modern circumstances.

Reynold Gideon Bouyer was a high-profile clergyman-activist in late eighteenth-century South Lindsey; his reputation extended not just to Lincoln, but also to London and the royal court. In this talk Prof Innes will describe his two most notable, linked projects: the founding of a Stuff Ball, at which all who attended were supposed to wear Lincolnshire worsteds, and the establishment of a network of parish ‘spinning schools' which at its furthest extent embraced more than one hundred parishes. Surviving records take us right into an outlying school, in Nettleham, showing us which children attended and what they achieved there. She will explain what motivated Bouyer to pursue these projects and how he went about it, with whose help and in the face of whose opposition. She will also talk about his increasing concern to defend the Church of England against what he saw as ignorant and fanatical itinerant preachers, and how this led him to refocus his later educational work, after he had been hand-picked by the Bishop of Durham to promote education in that diocese. But Bouyer didn't only change his mind from his own volition: he also had to respond to criticism he encountered from parents who had their own ideas about what kinds of education their children needed.

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