An agricultural college on the Cotswold hills : The Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, and the origins of formal agricultural education in England
Formal agricultural education in England came into
existence with the opening of the Royal Agricultural College,
Cirencester, Gloucestershire in 1845. For many years, it
remained the sole agricultural college in the country. This
begs the questions why was it created at this time, and in
this place? Why was its example not widely copied?
The original intention of the founders was to provide
agricultural education for the sons of working farmers in
the Cotswolds, but this could not be sustained, and the target
group and the catchment area were soon changed. What brought
about these changes?
In seeking answers to these, and other questions, the
key role of a single individual, R. J. Brown, is examined.
He was acknowledged as the originator of the plan to create an
agricultural college. Having no English precedent, Brown
looked abroad for models, on which to base his proposals and
arguments. Some of the models he chose are examined for possible
sources of inspiration and influence.
The roles of other individuals and groups involved in the
development of the Royal Agricultural College are explored.
Attention is given to the fact that the College, which became
a national institution, was launched by a local Farmer's
Club, at a time when local and county Agricultural Societies
were flourishing and the Royal Agricultural Society of England
had been in existence for seven years.
Brown was not the only individual to outline proposals
for establishing an agricultural college. Two similarcontemporary schemes, for Kent and for Yorkshire are included
for comparison, both of which failed.
The foundation of the Royal Agricultural College in
England is seen as part of a diffusion process starting with
the pioneering work in formal agricultural education in
Switzerland and Germany and its gradual spread that included
the creation of establishments at Templemoyle in Northern
Ireland and at Grignon in France.
The creation of the Royal Agricultural College is
regarded as an innovation, the result of a directed social
programme, with Brown as the change agent. Use is made of
Beal1s Construct of Social Action to discuss the process of
the development of the Royal Agricultural College and the
start of formal agricultural education in England.
A retrospective view from 1907 of the achievements of the
Royal Agricultural College is attempted, in the light of the
evidence offered by the Principal of that time