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Letter 9122

Darwin, C. R. to Down School Board

[Nov–Dec 1873]

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    CD, Sir John Lubbock, Ellen Frances Lubbock, and S. E. Wedgwood, petition the Board to grant permission for the school hall to be used as a reading room in the evening during winter.


Down, Beckenham, Kent.


For two successive winters the Down School room was lent by Sir John Lubbock, to be employed as a reading room to be open every day but Sunday from 7 to 10 o'clock & no refreshment but tea or coffee to be allowed— For this object he aided by a subscription.

Some respectable newspapers & a few books were provided & a respectable householder was there every evening to maintain decorum. A woman was employed every morning to air & clean the room & put it in order before the school opened—

The end aimed at was to afford some amusement or possible instruction to working men & to give them a comfortable place of assembly without the necessity of resorting to the public house—

The late Vicar Mr Powell appreciated so highly the advantages of such institutions, that he not only subscribed but presented them with a bagatelle board.

The meetings were attended on the average by about 18 persons, & seemed to give great satisfaction, as was proved by the regularity of the payments of 1d a week by the members.

The only objection that we have heard to the employment of the School-room for this purpose is the smell of tobacco remaining in the room until the next morning. As the children must be so well accustomed to this in their confined rooms at home we cannot but think that this would not prove a serious objection, considering the height of the room & the absence of all hangings or furniture.

Under these circumstances we the undersigned hope that you will grant permission for the room to be employed in the same manner as formerly for the months of Dec., Jan., Feb, & March in the ensuing winter

Gentlemen | your obedient servants | Charles Darwin

For | Sir John Lubbock | Ellen Frances Lubbock | S E. Wedgwood

It having been suggested that the Education Department might not approve of the employment of the Schoolroom for the above purpose, an application was made & the answer is herewith sent. The proviso that there must be `no displacement of the school furniture' can only mean that is all so properly re-arranged before school hours; as whenever the room is cleaned the furniture must be displaced.

We therefore engage that the furniture in the room shall be daily left in proper order for the school, & that if any damage is done we will immediately make it good.

It may be added that other School rooms in the neighbourhood, as for instance that of Hayes, are used for a Reading Room.

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