Sunday School, the greatest lay movement since Pentecost, was
founded by a layman. Robert Raikes was the crusading editor
of Gloucester Journal. After becoming frustrated with ineffi-
cient jail reforms, Raikes was convinced vice could be better
prevented than cured. While visiting in the slum section of
the city, he was distressed with the corruption of children.
Raikes shared the problem with Rev. Thomas Stock in the vil-
lage of Ashbury, Berkshire. They conceived of a school to be
taught on the best available time–Sunday. They decided to
use the available manpower–laymen. The curriculum would be
the Word of God, and they aimed at reaching the children of
the street, not just the children of church members.
The movement began in July, 1780, when Mrs. Meredith
conducted a school in her home on Souty Alley. Only boys at-
tended, and she heard the lessons of the older boys who
coached the younger. Raikes wrote four of the textbooks, but
the Bible was the core of the Sunday School. Later, girls
were allowed to attend. Raikes shouldered most of the finan-
cial burden in those early years.
Within two years, several schools opened in and
around Gloucester. On November 3, 1783, Raikes published an
account of Sunday School in the columns of his paper. Excite-
ment spread. Next, publicity was given the Sunday School in
Gentlemen’s Magazine, and a year later Raikes wrote a letter
to the Armenian Magazine.
Raikes died in 1811. By 1831, Sunday School in Great
Britain was ministering weekly to 1,250,000 children, approx-
imately 25 percent of the population.