Charter Schools

The Charter School building the Presentation Sisters moved into in 1819 had been built in 1750. Charter Schools were founded in response to the 1731-2 Report on Popery, which asserted that more than 500 Catholic schools were operating in defiance of the Penal Laws. The schools were run by the ‘Incorporated Society for Promoting English Protestant Schools in Ireland’ which was established and given a royal charter by King George II in 1733. The schools were intended ‘to promote the glory of God, and the salvation of souls, by rescuing the children of the poor natives from that ignorance, superstition and idolatry, to which they were devoted from their infancy; and to train them up…in the pure Protestant faith, and worship’. 

The motto of the schools was Religione et Labore (Religion and Labour) and the seal showed a bible, plough and spinning wheel. The schools were residential and children were often accommodated far from their families in a deliberate attempt to reduce family and religious ties. The schools came under repeated and sustained criticism because of the poor conditions the children lived in and the quality of the teaching. John Howard, best known as a prison reformer, visited many of the Charter Schools in the 1780s and concluded that ‘the state of most of the schools was so deplorable as to disgrace Protestantism and encourage popery rather than the contrary’.

Above: Royal Charter School, Clontarf, Dublin
Above: Seal of the Charter Schools with the motto ‘Religion and Labour’ and images of the bible, a plough and a spinning wheel.
Above: The Royal Charter School, Clontarf, Dublin by William Ashford, 1794

‘…by a curious vicissitude, an edifice, created for the purpose of promoting the Protestant religion in this country, became, before the close of the same reign, the residence of an order whose professed object is the very reverse, viz that of extending and preserving the Catholic faith in Ireland’

‘Hardiman’s History of Galway’, 1820, 306.