The Workers' Educational Association was founded in 1903 by trade unionist and co-operators, and was primarily a working class movement.
It was a democratic, non-party political and unsectarian organisation, its purpose was to awaken the desire for education amongst working people and their organisations.
In 1951 there were over 1,000 branches with a total membership number 37,452.
Of the many distinguished people who gave service to the W. E. A., two of the best known were Professor R. H. Tawney, renown throughout the world as Historian and Scholar, and Dr. William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was also President of the Association for 16 years.
The W. E. A. headquarters were in Temple house, Portland Square, London, and were opened early in the 1950's. It was a fitting tribute to the work of Dr. Temple.
In 1939, Mr. T. A. Kelly, M. A., was the resident tutor for this area, he invited a number of people from Rishton, known for their interest in adult education, to a meeting which he was holding in the Council Offices. A class centre was formed, and subsequent meetings were held in the County Library. Mr. G. V. Berry, at the time Clerk to the Urban District Council, carried out duties of Secretary for a short time.
Mrs. A. Fish was duly appointed secretary, and held the position until 1946, when with the centre being firmly established it was resolved to form a Rishton Branch of the Association.
The members manage their own branch affairs and select the subjects for study. During the years from the second world War to 1951 classes were held in Science in Everyday Life, International Affairs, Psychology, English Literature, and Appreciation of Music.
Tutors were appointed by the responsible authority not only for their High Academic Standards, but also for their interest in the spread of education.
Books were supplied for the use of students by the County Library and the extra-mural department of Manchester University. The Rishton branch was fortunate in having use of a pleasant room for its class meetings.
Discussions played a prominent part in W. E. A. classes, the usual method was for the tutor to give a lecture for the first hour, which was then followed by discussion. This gave the students opportunity to express their points of view, resulting in interesting, free and lively conversation.
The Branch Officers for Rishton in 1951 were;
- Chairman: Levi Fish Esq., J. P.
- Hon. Secretary: Miss Margaret Rossall
- Hon. Treasury: Mrs. A. Sanderson
The W. E. A. is still in existence today, and in 2003 celebrated 100 years in existence. Their web site can be found at http://www.wea.org.uk/index.htm
Rishton on Record, The Festival of Britain 1951.