Searching for Hedge School Buildings and Locations

Do you know a of a locally or historically attested Hedge School location in Ireland? A building that was once used for informal education? These often (but not always) took the form of a roadside bothán (vernacular building) or similar. If so, please get in touch

I am currently trying to identify buildings that were used as Hedge Schools in Ireland in the 17th and 18th century.

Prior to the early nineteenth century, formal education in Ireland was primarily a privilege for the elite, non-Catholic classes. This was particularly true during the eighteenth century when Catholics were forbidden to be educated under the Penal Laws from 1695 to 1782. Catholic children were educated by means of the somewhat secretive and unofficial ‘hedge schools’, usually taught by an educated person from the locality or a travelling schoolmaster. ‘Hedge school’ was the name given to this educational practice because of its rural nature rather than the schooling being held outdoors. However, Arthur Young, travelling in Ireland in the 1770s, claimed that the most appropriate name for them would be ‘ditch schools’, for he had seen many ‘ditches full of scholars’. The tradition of building the school by a ditch was known before the Penal Laws, however, as shown in this example during the reign of Charles II: ‘Stephen Gelosse, S.J. has been working in and near New Ross this year 1669, and ever since 1650 … When Cromwell’s tyranny ceased, Father Gelosse … taught a small school … in a wretched hovel beside a deep ditch, and there educated a few children furtively’

The ‘Hedge School’ was a method of education rather than a building type. However, these buildings were often located in secluded spots, and according to some historical sources, by ditches. It is not possible to say with absolute certainty that the present building was a hedge school as these buildings would not include any such diagnostic features.

Do you know a of a locally or historically attested Hedge School location in Ireland? A building that was once used for informal education? These often (but not always) took the form of a roadside bothán (vernacular building) or similar. If so, please get in touch

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