The work of the commissioners has now been discussed from three aspects: the respective claims of poverty and merit; politics, administration, and religion; and the curriculum. Before saying more about the endowed schools in the 1880s and 1890s, it will be convenient to look in more detail at some endowments. To do this for many cases would be tedious and repetitive, yet so much of the debate was highly localized and related to the concerns of particular groups that it is desirable to provide some specific examples. The general treatment so far has been topical, yet in any situation a whole mass of topics was confused together. The case-study method reminds us that any actual debate was much more disorderly and confused than is suggested by the neatness of thematic treatment. For examples I have chosen Bristol and Birmingham. Both had local groups with strong and contrasting views on political and religious issues, and the two cities are very different from one another.
Bristol was a place of ancient wealth and strong local traditions, which was not likely to take kindly to what Bristolians would regard as interference from London. It possessed wealthy hospital endowments which presented the same problems as those already studied in the case of Emanuel Hospital. Its grammar school, after a period of decline in the early part of the century, was flourishing under an able head, J.W. Caldicott, appointed in 1860 (Hill 1951). He was very sensitive about the status of his school and very suspicious about what he thought was the tendency of the commissioners to favour Clifton College, founded in 1862, which had quickly established itself as one of the most successful of the new public schools under an able headmaster, John Percival.
The grammar school, together with Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital for boys and the Red Maids’ School for girls, was administered by the municipal charity trustees set up under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. Colston’s Hospital for boys was another wealthy foundation, independently administered by the Society of Merchant Venturers. It