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Edward Joy (1816-1898)

Edward Joy (1816-1898) Pastoralist and Ragged School Philanthropist

 Edward Joy was born on 18 June 1816 in Leeds, England, the second son of William Thomas Outhwaite Joy (1785-1855) and his wife Harriet Glover.  William, who had been an apprentice and journeyman with Mr Medley, a Leeds Chemist, Druggist and Oil Man, set up business on his own as a seed and oil merchant in 1807.[1] Later, William entered into partnership with his brother Edward, after whom his son was named, and operated the Thwaite Mills near Leeds in a partnership that was eventually dissolved in 1844.[2] William and Edward then each formed a partnership with their own sons. Unlike his family, Edward Junior, as he was known in Leeds to distinguish him from his very prominent uncle, did not remain in the seed and oil business,[3] but became the manager of the New Leeds Gas Company in 1841.[4] In 1843, Edward’s older brother William married Mary Holt[5] and in 1851, Edward married Mary’s sister Eliza.[6] The Joy and Holt families were thus closely linked in an association that Edward would continue in the colony of New South Wales (NSW) through his business partnerships with Thomas Holt,[7] his brother-in-law.

 In 1853, Edward and Eliza set sail for the colony of NSW as first class cabin passengers on the Walmer Castle and arrived in Sydney on 12 September 1853.[8] Edward soon set up business in Sydney, utilising his Holt family connections by forming a partnership with George Stranger Leathes, trading as Joy and Leathes, for the purchase of wool for consignments for Lovegrove and Leathes of London and Holt Brothers of Leeds.[9] By 1856, this partnership was dissolved and Edward formed Joy and Company[10] with Andrew Hinchcliff, a partnership which also purchased wool and exported it to England. In 1862, the company was dissolved,[11] but Joy continued to send wool to England on his own account. Joy was also concerned with wool production and entered into several partnerships with Thomas Holt and others in the purchase of leases at Salisbury Plains in the Kennedy District, north of Rockhampton in Queensland.[12] In 1864, in a decision that would materially affect the course of his life Edward, together with Thomas Holt, advanced money to a lessee on Wealwandangie, a property in Queensland.  The years 1866-1871 were years of serious depression in the industry with a drought being experienced in 1868, followed by floods in 1869.[13] The partnership with Holt had ended by 1870 after a dispute over Joy’s exercise of power of attorney while his brother-in-law was absent in England during 1866-1868.[14] This matter was the subject of litigation between Holt and Joy and, although it was eventually settled by mediation, it must have soured family relationships.[15] The end result was that Joy sold his share to Holt in 1870 for some £24,000 (in excess of $3 million current value)[16] and then returned to England.

 While Joy was to spend only 20 years in the colony, during which time he acquired a modest fortune, he was to make a significant philanthropic contribution to NSW by his championing the cause of the Ragged School movement.[17] Edward and Eliza do not appear to have had any children of their own and they did not have any prior involvement in ragged school philanthropy, but they both gave themselves to the cause of the education of ragged children. Joy says he had read an account of the address of the Bishop of Sydney in the newspaper, during which the Bishop had urged his hearers to read a book written by Mary Bayly called, “Ragged Homes and how to mend them”.[18] Joy had some difficulty in obtaining a copy but eventually did so.[19] On reading the book, which ranged more widely in assisting the poor than just in the setting up of ragged schools,  he ‘became deeply interested in the subject, and he was thus led to do what he could towards establishing ragged schools’.[20] Bayly’s book, evoking biblical teaching, advocated that ‘the wise man was indeed right in saying that knowledge is the principal thing; and that if I could help them in any way to “get knowledge”, it would be a gift far surpassing in value anything else I could offer them.’[21] The principle of philanthropy as improvement, that Bayly advocated, rather than philanthropy as relief, led Joy to be involved in the Ragged School movement.

Ragged SchoolFor details of this illustration see the endnote.[22]

By February 1860, Joy had decided to act and was advertising for anyone who could lend him, ‘Reports, Rules and Plans of Ragged Schools to assist in forming a similar Institution in Sydney.’[23] On 24 February 1860,  Joy organised a public meeting to raise the issue of the existence in Sydney of ‘a class of children who could be got to attend schools of a character analogous to those which are usually denominated ‘ragged schools’ in the mother country’.[24] This group of children were to be distinguished from the children of the ordinary poor for Joy had found there were, for example,

a number of homeless boys who usually haunted the markets in the day time, where they lived upon the refuse fruit, &c – pilfering when they could, attending theatres every evening, and sleeping in out-of-the-way places by night. These, it appeared, had, some of them absconded from their homes from a mere love of vagabonding- of others, the parents (one or both) were dead or in goal. [25]

 As a result of the meeting a committee, to which Joy was appointed Secretary, was formed to found such a school, to look for suitable premises and to engage a master for a ‘Free School for the Education of the Neglected Classes’ which was abbreviated to ‘Free School’.[26] At this stage, the term ‘Ragged School’ was not used as some considered it ‘particularly inappropriate and objectionable, and would very likely be provocative of ill-will in the minds of the individuals sought to be benefited’.[27] This was speedily changed within the first year and the designation ‘Ragged School’ was used instead. Henrich sees this usage as ‘a deterrent to those who could afford to avoid its associations of dirt, filth, poverty and disrepute’[28] and there is some truth in this as Joy’s explanation was that the use of the term ‘Ragged School’ was necessary to maintain the core purpose of the schools. The use of the term ‘Free School’, he said, ran the risk of filling the school with those who were well able to pay. Joy noted that ‘a few among the parents of the children were annoyed at the name ‘ragged school’ but those have been were the very persons whose children did not need our aid’.[29] Henrich also suggests that the use of the name ‘Ragged School’ led to a stigma which accounts for why there are no ex-student organisations, proud school histories or many extant records.[30]

 It is clear that Joy did not believe such an association would lead former students to forget their Ragged School education as in 1891, through the school, he was seeking to organise a reunion of former students and teachers.[31] In a rare recorded expression of opinion by former Ragged School students, not selected by the committee for publication, one student wrote on their behalf to the newspaper stating that they had been ‘a neglected  class of boys; nobody cared for us, nor we cared for nobody’. They proposed that the government, instead of using money to encourage emigration, set aside money so that their ‘best friend Mr Joy’ could purchase some land to be called the ‘New South Wales Ragged School Lands’, which they would work.[32] That such a letter was written is a testimony to the empowerment that a Ragged School education afforded some, as well as the high regard in which the students held Joy. In a public annual meeting for the Ragged School in 1879, a former student stood to speak, expressing gratitude that

for years, he attended the Glebe Ragged School, and could testify to the good he received there; without this school he would probably have had no education or Bible training … He had not only received great benefit from the school himself, but he knew of many others who owed all their hopes in time and for eternity to the Ragged schools.[33]

For some, the benefits of the Ragged School education outweighed any stigma that they may have felt.

In preparation for setting up the Ragged School, Joy consulted with the Rev John West, editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, whose brother had been involved in such work in England. The two principles arising from the meeting, and that were written down at its conclusion, were first to

gain the affection of the children and to treat them according to the circumstances in which they were found, – the second was that religion, as all understood it, should be the grand engine employed to elevate these neglected children to a position to enable them to enjoy a social status.[34]

 Joy was soon advertising for a special sort of teacher who would not just be a teacher of reading and writing, but who would have ‘a truly Christian interest in the welfare of the class of children for whom the school is intended and who has at the same time the gift of winning the attention and securing the affection of such children.’[35] Henry B Lee,[36] an experienced Sunday School teacher, was engaged as a teacher and premises were found in Sussex-street, with classes being conducted from 2 April 1860. Both boys and girls (the girls being taught by lady visitors) attended from 2:00pm to 4:00pm every afternoon and in the evenings boys came from 7:30pm to 9:00pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. After three months operation, though attendances fluctuated, some 50 children were attending during the day and ninety boys were attending the evening sessions.[37] These children, who were at first wild and unruly and prone to foul language, were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, singing and religious instruction.[38] Some children were so famished that food was given to them and an appeal for clothes was made to assist those in desperate need.[39]

  The committee decided that a paid teacher was needed for the girls so, in October 1860, Miss Danne was appointed and just before the annual meeting in May 1861, a new master was required to replace Mr Lee and a Mr Danne was appointed. Mr and Miss Danne were now in charge of the school[40] and, while Henrich describes them as father and daughter,[41] they were in fact brother and sister[42] and their father, William, was a collector for the school from June 1861 to June 1862.[43]  Henrich further suggests that single women teachers, such as Miss Danne, ‘were not required to have any teaching qualifications, as the role was seen as primarily missionary rather than educational’.[44] While it is true that there was a strong missional emphasis, the case ought not to be overstated by making a clear distinction between the Ragged Schools’ missionary and educational function, for such a distinction was not clear-cut in the mind of Joy. We do not know what the actual teaching qualifications of the paid female teachers were, but we know what Joy’s aspiration was for the teachers. When Joy was advertising for a teacher for the Ragged School in the Sydney Morning Herald of 25 June 1862, he advertised as follows:

 Teacher wanted

The advertisement required four things of a female teacher: being a trained teacher, having piety, having an earnest desire to benefit the lowest class, and the ability to sing. Clearly his aspiration for the teacher was both educational and missional and this aspiration continued in advertisements for teachers at least until the end of the century.[45]

 Mrs Joy was also deeply involved in the work, not only assisting in promoting the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the children, but ‘she had on all occasions striven to secure their confidence by the exercise of the most kindly sympathy and love’.[46] That the Joys, along with the teachers, were able to secure the confidence and trust and affection of the children seems to have been a key factor in their success in establishing the school.

Though there was a committee to organise the school, in such nineteenth century charitable committees most of the work usually fell to the secretary. This was doubly true in the case of Edward Joy as the Ragged School was his idea and urging from the start; as the Bishop of Sydney said, ‘If we want to know about the Ragged Schools we must look to Mr Joy’,[47] for

Mr Joy had discharged the duties of the committee. If they asked who had management of the boys, they would be told Mr Joy. Who distributed the funds of the institution? Mr Joy. Who was the friend and benefactor of the children? Mr Joy.[48]

This was acknowledged by all and it was evident that the school’s running and success, on a human level, was largely due to Joy, but credit must also be given to the teachers who were employed and to the volunteers who came to assist. Rev S C Kent, minister of the Newtown Congregational Church and with whom Joy seems to have had a close relationship,[49] said when Joy expressed the desire to go to England to study Ragged Schools there, ‘he trusted that such a proposal would never be carried out, as he trembled to think what would become of the Sydney ragged schools during his absence.’[50] While this was no doubt true, Joy directed attention to the teachers when he said that, ‘Great praise is due to Mr and Miss Danne, the school master and school mistress, for their unwearied and well directed efforts to benefit not only the scholars but also their parents’.[51]

 Yet Joy was the indefatigable driving force behind the school as the idea of ragged schools for the poor of Sydney, ‘had taken possession of his whole brain’ such was his dedication to the cause.[52] Joy was not content to simply run a school; he also set up an industrial school for boys who were occupied in picking oakum and were taught to plait cabbage-tree to produce hats, make paper bags and other items and an Industrial School was eventually set up near Joy’s country residence at Nattai.[53]  The boys were paid for their work and two thirds of their earnings were deposited in a penny savings bank.[54] With Joy’s encouragement Miss Danne, reflecting Bayly’s book, set up a mother’s group where old clothes were cut up and remade, books read aloud and songs were sung. She also held a Sunday evening meeting where the Bible was read, hymns sung and prayers made and she visited homes. The committee found accommodation for the Dannes in the neighbourhood and they became part of the community.[55]

After giving himself unrelentingly to the work of the Ragged School Joy suddenly, in September 1867, informed the committee that he was resigning the secretaryship. He was hoping to return to England for a visit as he had been absent for fourteen years, and thought it best to resign well prior to his departure to give the new secretary time to settle in, and with a gradual transition to the work while Joy was around to assist. Yet this explanation was not the most significant of Joy’s reasons for resigning. For he said that

circumstances had occurred which imperatively required him to resign the secretaryship at once. As he was leaving Sydney for the country he was no longer able to pay that attention to the institution which was absolutely necessary.[56]

The circumstances to which he alluded, and that ‘imperatively’ required his resignation and removal from Sydney to the country, are unclear. There was no dispute at the Ragged School and his loss was universally lamented. It seems that Joy’s removal to the country was related to the business interests he had with his brother-in-law, Thomas Holt, and the difficulties in their partnership.

Concerning the nature of the Ragged Schools, Murray says that

in the early years of the Sydney Ragged Schools (1860-1867), their work displayed a social reformist approach, which put the schools and their supporters to the forefront of efforts to help these types of children. In the years of consolidation and expansion (1868-1889), there developed a strong emphasis on evangelism as the chief means of reclaiming these children, so that the schools became little more than missionary agencies. Finally in their latter years (1890-1924), influenced by the physical suffering of the depression, there was a return, in part, to the social concerns of earlier years.[57]

Murray sees the change in emphasis from social reform to evangelism as a result of Joy’s departure from active involvement in the work. It seems to be true that the loss of Joy’s dynamism from the Ragged Schools did reduce the scope and some of the creativity of the Ragged Schools’ activity. It is also true, however, that at the time of Joy’s exit from the work the schools were facing closure due to financial pressure. The committee reported that ‘the exchequer is empty’ and that ‘unless those who are favourable to the continuance of the schools immediately and liberally respond … the rooms must be closed, and the teachers dismissed.’[58]

 All this most certainly would have had an impact on the scope of their activities and was directly responsible for the closure of the industrial school aspect of the Ragged School.[59] It is also clear that Joy, while encouraging social reform, was strongly committed to the use of the bible and the inculcation of religious and moral values within the Ragged School. When speaking at a meeting to set up a Night Refuge he argued strongly, against some opposition, for the reading of scripture and religious instruction within the proposed refuge, saying of such institutions in England that

institutions had a character:- the Scriptures were read, and religious instruction given. There was no interference with the religious views of the inmates; but at the same time the institution was based upon religious instruction combined with temporal relief. The principle was just the same as that of the Ragged Schools.[60]

Murray’s distinction therefore does seem to be overdrawn. He concedes, however,  that such a dichotomy between philanthropists who were primarily guided by an evangelistic motive, and those whose dominant concern was to help reform society, needs to be seriously qualified as there was considerable overlap between the two motives.[61] It would seem that the changes after Joy’s departure were based more on the differences produced by a less dynamic, single-minded, time committed leadership and a lack of finance, rather than on any significant philosophical change within the Ragged School movement.

 In January 1868, Joy moved out of Camden Terrace, Newtown, and sold his household goods and leased the property.[62] The Great Southern Railway to Nattai, near Mittagong, had opened at the end of February 1867 and ‘Oak Grange’, Joy’s property at Nattai to which he had moved, was within walking distance of the railway station so Edward was easily able to visit Sydney to attend various meetings if he wished to do so.[63] He continued to be involved at Nattai being president of the local Band of Hope Society and other activities, but by 1870 he was attempting to sell ‘Oak Grange’.[64] By 1871, his Sydney residence was for sale and he was advising from his Mittagong residence that he was soon to visit England.[65] Edward was not able to sell the property before he left and was forced to seek someone to lease it.[66] The Joys left Sydney on 14 March 14 1871,[67] but Edward returned to the colony again in March 1872,[68] leaving his wife in England. He remained in the colony and managed to settle his affairs, disposing of the property at Nattai for £1850 ($305,000 present value),[69] and he left the colony on June 1873 aboard the RMSS Bangalore, never to return.[70]

 Edward Joy died on 15 April 1898 in St Leonard’s-on-Sea, England, leaving an estate valued at £21,601 ($3.35M present value) and his wife Eliza died shortly after on 11 August 1898. That Joy should die at this place was strangely appropriate for it was also the place of the death, on 23 February 1873, of the great Scottish advocate for Ragged Schools, the Rev Thomas Guthrie. In the colony of NSW, the annual meeting of the Ragged Schools noted with regret Edward Joy’s death, pointing out that for the first seven years of the life of the Ragged School Joy had given ‘nearly the whole of his time to the work’. Sir James Fairfax remembered him as ‘a man of considerable energy, and had the welfare of the children very much at heart’. From the time of Edward Joy until then, Sir James thought, probably 10,000 children had passed through the school and that beneficial results had accrued.[71] The success of the Ragged School movement was in no small measure due to the commitment and vision of its founder, Edward Joy.

 Dr Paul F Cooper, Christ College, Sydney.

The appropriate way to cite this article is as follows:

Paul F Cooper. Edward Joy (1816-1898) Pastoralist and Ragged School Philanthropist. Philanthropy and Philanthropists in Australian Colonial History, July 4, 2015.  Available at

[1] The Leeds Mercury (Leeds, England), March 28, 1807.

[2] The Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser (Leeds, England), May 11, 1844.

[3] His brother William Glover Joy and his cousins, the sons of his namesake, all continued in their respective family oil seed businesses.

[4] The Leeds Mercury (Leeds, England), June 9, 1849.

[5] December 7, 1843.

[6] October 9, 1851.

[7] Philip Geeves, ‘Holt, Thomas (1811–1888)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,  Christine E. McComb, HOLT, Thomas (1811-1888), Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography

[8] SMH, September 13, 1853.

[9] SMH, February 13, 1854.

[10] SMH, January 3, 1856.

[11] SMH, September 2, 1862. Andrew Hinchcliff purchased and refurbished the Waterloo Wool Washing Mills. SMH, May 21, 1864.

[12] The Brisbane Courier, November 30, 1864, Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser, February 9, 1864.

[13] Henry E Holt, An Energetic Colonist, (Melbourne: Hawthorn Press, 1972.), 157-158.

[14] The issue was a payment of £1,000 (approximately $125,000 current value) that Joy made.

[15] Henry E Holt, An Energetic Colonist, 158.

[16] Henry E Holt, An Energetic Colonist, 158-159.

[17] Eureka Henrich, ‘Ragged Schools in Sydney’, Sydney Journal, Vol 4, No 1 (2013): 49-65 gives a good overview.

[18] This book was Mary Bayly, Ragged Homes and how to mend them. (London, Nisbet & Co, 1860) and it was dedicated to Lord Shaftesbury. It must have been around late 1859 that Joy read the newspaper account.  The publication date of the book is 1860 but it was available in Melbourne at least from October 1859. Argus, October 15, 1859.

[19] SMH, November 29, 1867.

[20] SMH, November 29, 1867.

[21] Mary Bayly, Ragged Homes, ix. This is a reference to Proverbs 4:7 King James Version of the Bible.

[22] The Ragged School/In West Street (late Chick Lane) Smithfield by George Cruikshank, 1792-1878. 9 cm by 17.4 cm wide black-and-white print (source unidentified). 1844. Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.

[23] SMH, February 2, 1860.

[24] SMH, February 25, 1860.

[25] SMH, February 25, 1860.

[26] The Australian Home Companion and Band of Hope Journal, March 10, 1860.

[27] The Australian Home Companion and Band of Hope Journal, March 10, 1860.

[28] Eureka Henrich, ‘Ragged Schools’, 62.

[29] Empire, May 14, 1861

[30] Eureka Henrich, ‘Ragged Schools’, 62.

[31] Evening News, May 21, 1881. It is unknown if the envisaged reunion took place.

[32] Empire, June 25, 1862.

[33] The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, September 20, 1879.

[34] SMH, May 14, 1861.

[35] Empire, March 6, 1860.

[36] Lee was the editor of The Australian Home Companion and Band of Hope Journal.

[37] SMH, July 27, 1860.

[38] SMH, July 23, 1860.

[39] SMH, September 28, 1860.

[40] Empire, May 14, 1861, SMH, May 14, 1861. The identity of Mr and Miss Danne is probably Richard Vallency Danne and Catherine also known as Kate (nee Danne) Gent.

[41] Eureka Henrich, ‘Ragged Schools’, 55.

[42] SMH, April 11, 1862, Goulburn Herald, March 23, 1864.

[43] On appointment as a Clerk in the Post Office he relinquished the position of collector for the Ragged School. SMH, June 1861; June 26, 1862. NSW Government Gazette, May 2, 1862.

[44] Eureka Henrich, ‘Ragged Schools’, 56.

[45] Isabella Brown who was appointed in charge of the Waterloo School in 1886 and had worked at Glebe as an assistant prior to that was an English-trained teacher. Evening News, January 12, 1886, SMH, February 13, 1932. In 1892 when a teacher was again required for the Waterloo School the advertisement stipulated ‘must have had some training as a teacher. SMH, January 18, 1892. Again in 1898 ‘a thoroughly competent teacher’ was required SMH, February 11, 1898.

[46] SMH, May 14, 1861.

[47] SMH, August 29, 1866.

[48] Empire, November 29, 1867.

[49] Joy, with other members of the Holt family, assisted in the laying of the foundation stone ceremony for the school house of the Newtown Congregational Church. Empire, January 24, 1862.

[50] Empire, May 3, 1864.

[51] SMH, May 31, 1862.

[52] Empire, May 3, 1864.

[53] Illawarra Mercury, March 5, 1867.

[54] SMH, September 12, 1860.

[55] SMH, May 31, 1862.

[56] SMH, November 29, 1867.

[57] Chris Murray, ‘The Ragged School Movement in New South Wales, 1860-1924.’ (MA Thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney, 1979), (i), 144-147.

[58] Empire, December 17, 1867.

[59] SMH, July 30, 1868.

[60] SMH, April 12, 1864.

[61] Chris Murray, ‘The Ragged School Movement, 144.

[62] Empire, January 16, 1868.

[63] Illawarra Mercury, March 5, 1867.

[64] SMH, November 12 1870

[65] SMH, February 3, 1871.

[66] SMH, January 31, 1871.

[67] SMH, March 25, 1871.

[68] Empire, March 18, 1872.

[69] SMH, May 18, 1872.

[70] SMH, June 23, 1873; October 21, 1873. Joy was perhaps contemplating a return to the colony in 1881 as a reunion of pre-1871 scholars and teachers was being organised. No evidence of his actual return, however, has been found. Evening News, May 21, 1881. He continued to support the Ragged School by writing to the staff and pupils The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, August 15, 1874 and by making occasional donations sent from England. SMH, April 2, 1886.

[71] SMH, September 20, 1898.


  1. […] 1860, Henry became the first teacher for the Sydney Ragged School, the school founded by Edward Joy. Joy had advertised for a special sort of teacher who was more than just a teacher of reading and […]


  2. […] Street, Kent Street and Brisbane Street Schools and was a devout Wesleyan who, in concert with Edward Joy and the philosophy of the Ragged School, believed in the importance of the Bible in educating […]


  3. […] were to engage the life of the Bowie sisters, were begun in Sydney in 1860 at the instigation of Edward Joy. While he was the first to do this with a public organisation,[4] the citizens of Glebe had also […]


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