Dissenting academies played an important part and made a major contribution to the development of the English educational system from the mid-17th to the 19th centuries. The academies were colleges, seminaries and schools run by religious dissenters. Non-practising members of the Church of England people/religious dissenters were barred from gaining access to the then existing universities. As a result many people went abroad to study or attended Scottish University’s. Below I list the dissenting academies in England and Wales with approximate dates of their foundation and locations. The list is not complete but will hopefully convey the scale and scope of these fascinating institutions. The students who attended the academies represented such religions as Jews, Nonconformist Protestants, Quakers and Roman Catholics. (I guess that the title of academy came from Plato’s school of philosophy and his subsequent influence on philosophical thought stressing the importance of being sceptical).
Academies primary purpose was to provide higher education during the 19th century but ultimately the long overdue reforms by Oxford and Cambridge were introduced and more importantly the founding of London University and the university colleges/provincial universities gradually removed their need and purpose. However they represent an important and influential movement in the development of education in England and Wales and their importance should not be underestimated.
Academy/Location/Date of approximate founding:
Abergavenny/Wales/1757. Alcester/Midlands/foundation unknown closed 1720. Attercliffe/North/1691. Bedworth/Midlands/1690. Bishop’s Hall Academy, Bethnal Green/London/1680. Bristol/South West/1720. Bolton/North/1723. Bridgenorth/Midlands/1726.Bridgewater/South West/foundation unknown closed 1747. Broad Oak/Wales/1690. Bromsgrove (or Stourbridge) /Midlands/1665. Brynllywarch near Bridgend/Wales/1757. Carmarthen/Wales/1700. Cheshunt, Higham Hill/Walthamstow/1790. Coventry/Midlands/1663. Dartmouth/South West/1668. Exeter (a number of academies had the same name/South West/1760. Findern (afterwards at Derby)/Midlands/foundation unknown closed 1754. Gloucester/South/1696. Gosport/South/1789. Heckmondwyke (merged with Rotherham College)/North/1756. Hoxton Square/ London moved from Coventry/1700. Hungerford/South/1696. Idle (became Airedale Independent College in 1826)/1800. Ipswich/Suffolk/1698. Islington (a number of institutions under the same name established (x2)/London/1672. Kendal/Lakedistrict/1733. Knill/Wales/1675. Lincoln/Midlands/1668. Lyme Regis (moved to Shepton Mallett and then Poole)/South West/1690. Manchester/North/1698. Market Harborough (moved to Mile End, London)/Midlands/1758. Mill Hill/London/foundation unknown closed 1701. Nettlebed/Oxfordshire/1666. New College/ Hackney, London/1786. Newington Green (a number of institutions under the same name established(x3))/ London/ 1667. Newport Pagnell, (later merged with Cheshunt)/Midlands/1783. Northampton/Midlands/1715. Nottingham/Midlands/1680. Ottery St Mary/South West/1752. Sherriffhales/Midlands/1663. Palgrave Academy/Suffolk/1775. Rathmell/North/1669. Saffron Walden/Essex/1680. Wapping/London/1675. Shrewsbury/Midlands/1663. Stratford-on-Avon/Midlands/1715. Sulby/Midlands/1680.Tubney/South/1668. Taunton/South West/1672. Tewkesbury/South West/1680. Tiverton/South West/dates unknown. Wapping/London/1675. Warrington/North/1757. Wellclose Square (Coward Trust) (moved to Hoxton Square in 1762)/London/1744. Whitehaven (moved to Bolton 1723)/North/1710. Whitchurch/Midlands/1668. Wickhambrook/Suffolk/1670.
New College /London – This was a Congregational academy formed by the amalgamation of Daventry Academy as Coward College, Highgate Academy and the Homerton College. 1850to 1900. Became part of University of London in 1900.
Northampton –Started at Kibworth moved to Hinckley, Market Harborough and in 1729 to Northampton. In 1752 moved to Daventry and then back to Northampton.
Idle became Airedale Independent College in 1826. From 1834 in Undercliffe and from 1877 in Bradford. In 1888 Rotherham and Airedale became Yorkshire United College, Bradford.
Warrington Academy 1757-1783. Library moved to Manchester New College, in 1783 moved York, Manchester and London. At one stage Harris Manchester College. Oxford. (See pages on this website site for more information on the Warrington Academy).
Ottery St Mary started by Congregational Board with representation from Bridford, Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth and Bristol.
Newington Green judged by many as the best of the academies. Charles Morton tutor – subjects taught included, mathematics, natural sciences and well equipped laboratory.
Attercliffe Academy established by Richard Frankland.
Some Famous People (Tutors, former Students) Associated with Dissenting Academies:
Benjamin Disraeli, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Wesley, Joseph Priestley, John Dalton, Richard Frankland. Charles Morton. John Locke.