William Rogers - Encyclopedia


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WILLIAM ROGERS (1819-1896), English clergyman and educational reformer, was born in London on the 24th of November 1819, the son of a barrister. Educated at Eton and at Balliol College, Oxford, he entered Durham University in 1842, to study theology, and was ordained in 1843. In 1845 he was appointed to St Thomas Charterhouse, where he remained for eighteen years, throwing himself passionately into the work of education of his poor, degraded and often criminal parishioners. He began by establishing a school for ragamuffins in a blacksmith's abandoned shed, and with the generous help of friends he gradually extended its scope until the whole parish was a network of schools. In 1858 he was appointed a member of the Royal Commission to inquire into popular education, and he was returned a representative of the London School Board after the passing of Forster's Act in 1870. In 1863 the bishop of London gave him the living of St Botolph Bishopsgate. Rogers was also made a prebendary of St Paul's, and in 1857 he had been appointed Chaplain in Ordinary to the Queen. Having largely solved at St Thomas's the problem of elementary education, at Bishopsgate Rogers tackled the no less difficult one of middle-class schools. Ike believed in secular education, leaving doctrinal training to parents and clergy. To the cry against "godless education," Rogers impulsively replied, "Hang theology; let us begin"; and his nickname of "Hang-theology Rogers" stuck to him for the rest of his life. The Cowper Street Schools, costing £20,000, were the practical result of his energy. His next great work was the reconstruction of Edward Alleyn's charity at Dulwich. The new college was opened in 1870; new buildings were erected for the lower school, and the lion's share of the work fell upon Rogers. The culmination of his labours was the opening, on his seventy-fifth birthday, of the Bishopsgate Institute, including a hall, with accommodation for 500 people and a reference and lending library. On the same day a portrait and gift of plate was made him at the Mansion House, before a distinguished gathering. Lord Rosebery, then Prime Minister, observed in his speech that though bishoprics and deaneries had not been the rector's lot, there was not a poor Jew in Houndsditch or Petticoat Lane whose face would not brighten when he saw him coming. When he died, on the 19th of January 1896, this might have served as an appropriate epitaph.

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