Was Wackford Squeers based on William Shaw?
Hamsterley Monday Club is delighted to be hosting one of this year’s ‘Dickens in Teesdale’ Events, a talk by Ted Shaw about his famous – or possibly notorious – ancestor.
Ted is the great-great-grandson of William Shaw who was the headmaster of Bowes Academy, a school in Bowes Village in the 19th century that housed and taught some 300 boys.
Hearing reports of cruelty and neglect in the so-called ‘Yorkshire Schools’, Charles Dickens and his illustrator, Hablot Browne, travelled to Barnard Castle in 1838 to research these establishments. They certainly met William Shaw, though only briefly as he was suspicious of their intentions.
His fears were well founded: Dickens transformed Bowes Academy into ‘Dotheboys Hall’ and in his novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby he gave the cruel headmaster, Wackford Squeers, the same initials as William Shaw.
But was Dickens’ portrait fair? Ted Shaw has researched his ancestor’s life in some depth and his illustrated talk will cast the schoolmaster in a rather different light.
The event is open to all, there is no charge and free refreshments will be served.