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Bridget Bevan

Bridget Bevan (1698-1779) was a philanthropist and educationist from Carmarthenshire. She played a major role in establishing the Welsh Circulating Schools system, which turned Wales into one of the most literate nations in Europe.

Bevan inherited from her father a passion for education. In 1731, Bridget supported a local Anglican preacher, Griffith Jones (1684-1761) establish an experimental school in Llanddowror, Carmarthenshire. At this time there was no compulsory education in Wales and most people could neither read nor write. The school led to the birth of an innovative system of teaching known as the Welsh Circulating Schools system. The schools would circulate from parish to parish, teaching local people how to read for 3 months at a time. The teaching was carried out through the medium of Welsh and was based upon biblical texts. Bevan became chief patron and advisor to Jones and poured her wealth into funding more circulating schools. By the time of her death in 1779 it is estimated that over 300,000 people had attended a circulating school at one time or another, giving Wales one of the highest literacy rates in Europe.

The success of the programme garnered attention from far and wide, even supposedly attracting interest from Catherine the Great of Russia. After the death of Jones in 1761, Bevan took full responsibility for the running of the system of schools and on her death left £10,000 to the schools system. The Circulating Schools system came to an end in 1854. Jones’ vision supported by Bevan’s philanthropy fundamentally altered the landscape of Welsh education, spreading literacy to all corners of the country.

To find out more about a worthwhile charity in Wales, why not visit the Bevan Foundation website that works for social justice in Wales. To visit the Bevan Foundation website click here...

Photo attributed to GeoWombats, Flickr

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