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Robert William Dale‬

Dennis Williams

Proud Brummie
Robert William Dale‬

Robert W Dale

Robert William Dale (1 December 1829 – 13 March 1895) was an English Congregationalist (Nonconformist) church leader.
Dale was born in London and educated at Spring Hill College, Birmingham, for the Congregational ministry. In 1853 he was invited to Carr's Lane Chapel, Birmingham, as co-pastor with John Angell James, on whose death in 1859 he became sole pastor for the rest of his life. In the University of London M.A. examination (1853), he came first in philosophy and won the gold medal. The degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him in 1883 by the University of Glasgow during the lord rectorship of John Bright. Yale University gave him its D.D. degree, although he never used it. He served as Chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales in 1868 and President of the International Congregational Council in 1891.

Spring Hill College

Views and publications
He normally read his sermons, because 'if I spoke extemporaneously I should never sit down again'. He did not use the title 'Reverend'. He was a strong advocate of the disestablishment of the Church of England, holding that the Christian church was essentially a spiritual brotherhood, and that any vestige of political authority impaired its spiritual work. In church government he believed strongly that congregationalism was the most fitting environment for Christianity. He published lectures such as the Atonement (which is still in print), sermons, the 'Manual of Congregational Principles' (also still in print), and, at his death, he left an unfinished history of Congregationalism, revised by his son, A. W. W. Dale.

Dale's integrity, intelligence, moral passion and oratory soon made him a national figure in an age when the strength of non-conformity was at its highest. He welcomed social improvement and was an advocate, with George Dawson of what became known in Birmingham as the Civic Gospel. The health, housing, sanitation and living conditions in Birmingham had suffered from its rapid population expansion in the previous thirty years. Dale argued 'the public duty of the state is the private duty of every citizen': service on the town council to improve the wellbeing of Birmingham was advocated by Dale as having moral and religious worth. He was an advocate of free public education, social improvement, the extension of the franchise, the recognition of trades unions, and understanding the links between poverty and crime.

Although Dr Dale did not preach politics, he was a keen Liberal and worked with other Birmingham reformers and radicals including Joseph Chamberlain, Kendrick, Jesse Collings, George Dixon and John Bright. In 1886 he opposed Irish Home Rule along with Joseph Chamberlain, but this did not seem to make him less influential with other Liberals and Nonconformists who took the opposite standpoint. He played a major part in opposing the religious elements of the Forster Education Act of 1870.

When Forster's Elementary Education Bill appeared, Dale attacked it. He argued that the resulting schools would often be purely denominational institutions and the Bill's 'conscience clause' gave inadequate protection to Nonconformists. Dale criticised the way school boards would be empowered to make grants out of the rates to maintain sectarian schools. He was himself in favour of secular education, claiming that it was the only logical solution and was consistent with Nonconformist principles. In Birmingham this controversy was ended in 1879 by a compromise.

His interest in educational affairs had led him to accept a seat on the Birmingham school board. He was appointed a governor of Foundation of the Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham and served on the Royal Commission of Education. Dale took a great interest in Spring Hill Congregational College, Moseley (where he had previously studied). Largely due to his initiative, Spring Hill College, renamed Mansfield College after its founders, was moved to Oxford in 1886 and he became chairman of the council of what is now Mansfield College, Oxford.

The statue of R. W. Dale sculpted by Edward Onslow Ford in 1898, was rediscovered in 1995 and is now on loan from Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, in Carr's Lane Church Centre (his old church). The National Portrait Gallery holds two pictures of him.
There is a blue plaque commemorating him on Carrs Lane Church, Carrs Lane, Central Birmingham. The street 'Dale End' in central Birmingham was named after Dale.

Blue plaque on Carrs Lane Church, Birmingham.

And the history and story of Spring Hill College itself is also fascinating...as it begat Jasper Carrot and Bev Bevan amongst many other of my favourite things...

..to be continued..
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Dennis Williams

Proud Brummie


Moseley School, Wake Green Road

The history of what is now Moseley School is somewhat convoluted, but can be traced back to 1838 when a private house in Spring Hill, Hockley, Birmingham, was opened as a training college for Congregationalist ministers – under the patronage of George Storer Mansfield (1764–1837) and his two sisters Sarah (1767–1853) and Elizabeth (1772–1847).

Twenty years later, in 1857, after expansion to include a further three private houses, the establishment, still named Spring Hill College, moved to new, much larger, purpose-built premises on Wake Green Road in what was then rural Worcestershire, some miles south of the city. This striking Gothic revival building was designed by the architect Joseph James, and is particularly noted for its gargoyles.

In 1886, the college was closed and a replacement establishment founded in Oxford, known as Mansfield College (which is now part of the University of Oxford). Meanwhile, the Wake Green Road buildings were re-opened as the 'Pine Dell Hydropathic Establishment and Moseley Botanical Gardens', which entailed the construction of a swimming bath (with highly decorative ceiling) and greenhouses. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the building was commandeered by the government for use as a military barracks. After a brief period as an orphanage, the building returned to academic use in 1921 as a teacher-training facility (under the name Springfield College).

Finally, in 1923, the premises were handed over to Birmingham City Council which opened them as Moseley Secondary School, with Major Ernest Robinson serving as headmaster until 1956. The study bedrooms of Spring Hill College were merged in pairs to form classrooms, and the former hydropathic swimming bath was boarded over to serve as the assembly hall. An extension was built to house laboratories and further classrooms. A unique feature of the school was that the headmaster would live on the premises, which remained the case until 1972. Boys-only with a selective entrance exam, the school changed its name to Moseley Grammar School in 1939. In 1955, the city council opened a separate school, known as Moseley Mixed Secondary Modern School, fronting College Road, on what had previously been a playing field adjacent to the grammar school site. This new school, with Miss Eileen Cohen (later Mrs Eileen North) as headmistress until 1967, was both co-educational and non-selective, and was to specialise in performing arts such as theatre and music. Only a fence separated the two schools, and relations between the two sets of pupils were not always peaceful. It was during this period, under the headmastership of Bruce Gaskin from 1956 to 1972, that Moseley Grammar acquired its reputation for academic excellence, having previously been known more for its sporting achievements, particularly in rugby. In 1968 it acquired a former inn near Abergavenny, Wales known as the Old Grouse Cottage, for outdoor activities and field trips, which the current school still retains. The grammar school became a Grade II listed building in the year of Mr Gaskin's retirement.

Eventually, in 1974, after two years of uncertainty over the issue, Moseley Grammar and Moseley Modern were suddenly merged, with only a few weeks' formal notice, in a shotgun wedding that was resented by some, but warmly embraced by others (among the latter, Mr Gaskin, who after his retirement remained active on the school's Board of Governors until the 1980s). The combined establishment, known simply as Moseley School, became one of the largest comprehensives in Birmingham, and initially at least, inherited the good reputations of its predecessors in their respective fields. Donald Wilford, headmaster of Moseley Modern since 1967, was keen on being appointed head of the combined school (Moseley Grammar had been without a headmaster since 1972), but in the event the job went to an outsider, Alan Goodfellow, who was on record as being bitterly critical of comprehensive education. He was also plagued by ill-health, finally dying, still in office, in 1981. Another period of uncertainty ensued, seemingly ended by the appointment of David Swinfen as head the following year. His ambitious plans, however, were overwhelmed by events, when the former grammar school building, known since the amalgamation as the West Wing, began falling apart as a result of decades of neglect and under-funding. In 1986 the roof of the library was declared unsafe halfway through an exam, and the entire building was closed and earmarked for demolition – the latter prevented only by Mr Swinfen's speedily organised campaign and the resultant public outcry. By the end of his tenure in 1992 the school had also undergone a radical change of character, following the redrawing of its catchment area in 1987/88. Hitherto, Moseley School had taken a majority of its pupils from the (then) largely white area of Hall Green, but now it would take them from the mainly Asian area of Sparkhill.

The campaign for the restoration of the West Wing would drag on for many years. As part of it, in 1995 Mrs Mary Miles, head teacher from 1992 to 2001, authorised the formation of the Moseleians Association, for former students and staff of the grammar school, secondary modern school, and comprehensive school. It publishes the twice-yearly Moseleian Gazette, and organises regular reunions and many other events. Continuing the work of the Old Moseleians Association – founded by Major Robinson in 1927, but with which the school had severed links in 1968 – the Moseleians Association has assumed an increasingly important role in school life, sponsoring competitions and prizes for pupils, raising funds for the school cottage, planting trees on the school grounds, and taking over the administration of the school archives.

After more than a decade of being closed and shored up with scaffolding, in 1998 – with financial assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund – the West Wing was completely refurbished, and re-opened under its original name of Spring Hill College (as the sixth form of Moseley School).

To coincide with its re-opening, the three daughters of Mr Gaskin published Moseley into the Millennium: Story of Moseley School, detailing and celebrating the history of the school.

Sir Alan Cottrell (MGS). Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge.
Anthony Jackson (MGS). Actor.
Anton Lesser (MGS). Actor.
Bev Bevan (MGS). Drummer.
Carl Chinn (Prof.) (MGS). Historian & Broadcaster.
Chris Spedding (MGS). Musician.
Daphne Slater (MMS). Olympic Sportswoman.
Frank Ifield (MMS). Singer.
Gladstone Small (MS). International Sportsman.
Jasper Carrott OBE (Bob Davies) (MGS). Comedian.
Joanne Malin (MS). Radio & TV Presenter.
John Taylor, Lord Taylor of Warwick (MGS). Politician & Convicted Fraudster.
Kabir Ali (MS). Sportsman.
Maurice Herriott (MMS). Olympic Sportsman.
Mickey Lewis (MS). Footballer, League Player & Manager.
Noel Luke (MS). Footballer, League Player.
Richard Tandy (MGS). Musician.


I think this is a wonderful extract written by Edward Henry Manning registrar and chaplin of Key Hill Cemetery.

Here, as nowhere else, the silent monuments yet speak to all thoughtful minds of the great and fruitful careers of men who, in the religious, political, social or industrial life of the city were 'Makers of the Metropolis of the Midlands'.
Parliament is represented by the Rt Hon Joseph Chamberlain, the Rt Hon Powell Williams, John Skirrow and Richard Chamberlain. The municipality has such representatives as Sir Thomas Martineau, Sir Henry Manton, Alderman Avery, three times chosen chief magistrate, Alderman Reading, Alderman Tonks and many others. In the large and distinguished company of ministers and devines whose names awaken fragrant memories, at the great Dr R W Dale, George Dawson, Charles Vince, W F Callaway, Henry Platten and many others who are all remembered for their conscientious and loyal devotion to Christ and the Church. Here also rest Samuel Timmins, the great Shakespearian scholar, Dr Langford, author and journalist, George Edmonds, solicitor and Clerk of the Peace, Harriet Martineau, authoress, W B Vince the distinguished contributor to the 'Birmingham Daily Post', Charles Reece Pemberton, actor and lecturer. There are also names of those well known in the medical world, Dr G A Craig, Dr Alfred Jukes, Dr John Melson, Dr John Drever, Dr J D Scurrah, Dr John Satchell, Dr John S Craig and others

Here is another photo of Robert William Dale.



Master Barmy
“The Reverend R. W. Dale, a Congregational minister in Birmingham from 1854 to 1895 and a leading supporter of Chamberlain’s municipal programme, exclaimed on a visit to Lake Lucerne and its mountains that there was nothing so magnificent there to make him ‘feel half the thrill I sometimes felt when I have looked down on the smoky streets of Birmingham from the railway.”