Sue Young Histories

Rev. William Gover 1805 - 1886

November 18, 2009

BirminghamRev. William Gover ?1805 - ?1886 MA Cabridge, was a British parish priest, Honorary Canon at the Cathedral Church of Worcester, at St. Andrews in Holborn, at Somerstown Chapel in London, Principal of the Worcester Diocesan Training College, Principal of the Normal Training School in Saltey in Birmingham (for the training of Masters for Elementary Schools), member of the Committee of Council on Education, member of Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, member of the Egypt Exploration Society, Fellow of the Geological Society of London, member of the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, member of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, Chairman and member of various other Associations and Parliamentary Committees, prizewinning duck breeder, and member of the Management Committee of the Birmingham Homeopathic Hospital,

Rev. Gover was eager to support the Birmingham Homeopathic Hospital, as he had sent hundreds of people to the homeopathic dispensary in the in the sixteen years he had lived in Birmingham,

The National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, otherwise known as the Social Science Association, was the pre-eminent forum for the discussion of social questions and the dissemination of knowledge about society in mid-Victorian Britain.

Founded in 1857 and active until 1884, it provided expert guidance to policy makers and politicians in the era of William Ewert Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli.

The Association was constructed out of several different organisations and campaigns in the mid 1850s. Rather than undertaking research and lobbying government on single issues, social reformers then believed that a pooling of resources and ideas in a single, large and multi faceted forum would assist their various interests and the cause of reform in general.

The National Association brought together law reformers from the Society for Promoting the Amendment of the Law (which had been founded in 1844); penal reformers from the National Reformatory Union who were focused on the reformation of young offenders; and the pioneering feminists of the Langham Place Circle in London who, from 1855, led a campaign to reform the laws of property as they affected women in marriage, and who subsequently extended their critique to many other aspects of the social, economic and political status of women in Victorian Britain.

The participation of women in the Social Science Association was one of its most remarkable features; for some years it was the major public forum for the discussion of women’s issues in public life.

In 1857 Mary Carpenter, famous for her work with ragged and criminal children, reputedly became the first woman of the middle or upper classes to speak in public in Britain when she addressed the Association’s inaugural congress in Birmingham.

The Association was founded at a meeting in the London home of Henry Peter Brougham 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux in July 1857 attended by over fifty people drawn from different areas of Victorian life - politics, medicine, social administration, the legal professions, the universities, and women’s education.

The Birmingham congress, held in the city in October, set the pattern of the annual meetings held in different British cities each autumn until 1884. A congress would last for the best part of a week; it attracted hundreds (and in many cases thousands) of participants in a mixture of plenary and specialist sessions; it mixed together provincial audiences and metropolitan figures, many from the worlds of national politics and administration.

Its proceedings would be extensively reported in the local press, where fuller accounts can often be found of papers only summarised or listed in the Association’s published Transactions…

In the 1820s and 1830s Henry Peter Brougham 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, its founding president, had been the most dynamic of popular political figures through his associations with anti slavery, popular education, the reform of the franchise, and the modernisation of the law.

By 1857 Henry Peter Brougham 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux was a venerated symbol of past campaigns and an ideal figurehead for an organisation seeking to build support for its favoured causes.

John Russell 1st Earl Russell, the mid Victorian Liberal prime minister gave important addresses at its first two congresses in Birmingham and Liverpool in 1857 and 1858; William Ewert Gladstone was present for its 1863 congress in Edinburgh and, in 1868, chaired a notable meeting of its Committee on Labour and Capital a few weeks before he became prime minister for the first time.

Lesser figures, many of cabinet rank, and largely drawn from the Liberal party, were frequent speakers. They were joined by public servants such as Edwin Chadwick, John Simon and William Farr, three of the great sanitary reformers of the nineteenth century; economists including Henry Fawcett and William Stanley Jevons; and intellectuals as various as John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin, Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles Kingsley.

In sum, a remarkable number of eminent or just important Victorians had some sort of place in the history of the Social Science Association. continue reading:

Rev. Gover wrote Our Work; or, remarks upon the results of an inquiry into the state of education of the working classes in Birmingham, The Irish Church,