A FASCINATING new book about the schooling experienced by people in the Georgian period more than 200 years ago has been published this week.

The book, which has been compiled by volunteers working on behalf of the Berkshire Record Office, explores all the learning opportunities available during the period (1714–1837), and explains how virtually every village in Berkshire had at least one school, even if it was only on Sundays and taught no more than scripture and reading.

In the towns and bigger villages there were free schools, grammar schools and other charities, usually set up by a local benefactor to provide a proper education to the poor children of the parish.

Readers can draw interesting parallels with today’s educational scene.

In Newbury, ‘young gentlemen’ could be boarded at Charles Bull’s academy ‘to prepare for active concerns of life’, while in Reading, ‘young ladies’ might attend the Watlington House academy, which had ‘regard principally to the morals, health and comfort’ of its pupils while they learnt ornamental needlework.

Berkshire Schools in the Eighteenth Century is published by Berkshire Record Society, with the support of the Berkshire Local History Association.

The book costs £25 and is available direct from the Berkshire Record Society.

Mark Stevens, county archivist, said: "Our volunteers have put together some amazing research.

"It’s fascinating to see how much they have discovered.

"It turns out that Georgian Berkshire was a vibrant county of learning – and now we have the book to prove it."

Professor Ralph Houlbrooke, chairman of the Berkshire Record Society, said: "Berkshire Record Society is delighted to share in celebrating the publication of this ground-breaking survey of schools in eighteenth-century Berkshire, prepared in partnership with the Berkshire Record Office and the Berkshire Local History Association.

"For more than 25 years the society has been working to widen access to sources for Berkshire's history, and it warmly welcomes this important contribution to the history of the Royal County."

Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading council’s lead member for culture, heritage and recreation, said: "A lot of hard work and research has gone into this fascinating insight into schooling in our local area over two hundred years ago.

"If you have an interest in local history, this could be a must read for you!"