Heroes of the Faith: Robert Raikes, Sunday School founder

Robert Raikes was the pioneer of the Sunday School movement.

Robert Raikes was born on September 14, 1736 in Gloucester, England. He was the eldest child of Robert and Mary Drew Raikes. His faher was a newspaper publisher.

Robert Raikes

On December 23, 1767, he married Ann Trigge. The couple would have ten children together, three sons and seven daughters.

In 1757, he inherited a publishing business from his father and became proprietor of the Gloucester Journal.

Raikes became involved with the boys at the county Poor Law {part of the county jail} and the boys in the slums. He decided that it was better to prevent than cure this issue and saw schooling as the best intervention.

The boys worked in the factories six days a week and the best time was on Sunday. The text would be the Bible, teaching the boys to read and understand the Bible and learn catechism, under the teaching of the lay people.

Raikes publicized the schools in his papers and covered most of the cost in the early years.

The movement began in July 1780 in the home of a Mrs. Meredith. Originally boys only attended, but eventually girls also attended. Soon the older boys began to teach the younger boys.

Robert Raikes Sunday School

The schools were derisively called “Raikes’ Ragged School”.

There were some opposition and criticisms, but the schools continued.

However, the crime rate dropped sharply in his city and county.

Raikes saw the Sunday schools as simply a response to Jesus’ instruction to “feed my lambs.”

In 1788 John Wesley wrote to a friend, “I verily think these Sunday Schools are one of the noblest specimens of charity which have been set on foot in England since William the Conqueror.”

Robert Raikes

“Adam Smith gave the movement his strongest commendation: “No plan has promised to effect a change of manners with equal ease and simplicity since the days of the Apostles.”

“By 1831, Sunday schools in Great Britain were teaching weekly 1,250,000 children, approximately 25 percent of the population. As these schools preceded the first state funding of schools for the general public, they are seen as the forerunners of the current English school system.”

The idea of Sunday Schools also spread throughout the churches to becoming a small Bible Study in the mornings before morning worship.


Robert Raikes aimed to help children on the street and pioneered the Sunday School movement #heroesofthefaith #faithfulheroes Share on X


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