He was married, and had several children, one of whom, John Lancaster, was a clergyman in Ireland,
[Cotton's Fastli. vol. i, passim, ii. and v.; Ware's Bishops, ed. Harris.
LANCASTER, JOSEPH (1778–1838), founder of the Lancasterian system of education, was born in Southwark, London, in 1778. His father had served as a common soldier in the American war, and afterwards added to his small pension by keeping a humble shop. Very early in life Joseph received powerful religious impressions, and was intended by his parents for the nonconformist ministry. At the age of fourteen he was impelled by a strong enthusiasm to leave home secretly, intending to go to Jamaica ‘to teach the poor blacks the word of God.’ Finding himself penniless when he reached Bristol, he enlisted as a naval volunteer, but after one voyage was, through the interposition of friends, released from his engagement. Soon after he joined the Society of Friends. Before he was twenty he obtained his father's leave to bring a few poor children home and teach them to read. He became conscious of a strong liking and aptitude for teaching and for winning the confidence of children. In 1801 he took a large room in the Borough Road, and inscribed over it, ‘All who will may send their children and have them educated freely, and those who do not wish to have education for nothing may pay for it if they please.’ His inability to pay assistants forced him to devise the plan of employing the elder scholars to teach the younger. His remarkable genius for organising made his experiment unexpectedly successful. The number of pupils grew rapidly. His school was divided into small classes, each under the care of a monitor; a group of these classes was superintended by a head monitor; and the quasi-military system of discipline, and of gradation of ranks, caused the whole establishment to assume an orderly, animated, and very striking appearance. The attention of the Duke of Bedford and of Lord Somerville was directed to his efforts, and soon afterwards the Duke of Sussex and other members of the royal family visited his institution and encouraged him with support. Such time as he could spare from the supervision of his large school of a thousand boys he devoted to lecturing in the country, and raising subscriptions for the foundation of new local schools.
He published in 1803 his first pamphlet, entitled ‘Improvements in Education,’ which set forth in detail the results of his experience. He described how his staff of monitors co-operated with him in the maintenance of discipline, and how they taught reading, writing, and the elements of arithmetic by a method of drill and simultaneous exercise. The material equipment of his school was of the most meagre kind. Flat desks covered with a thin layer of sand were used for the early exercises in writing. Sheets taken from a spelling-book and pasted on boards were placed before each ‘draft’ or class, and pointed to until every word was recognised and spelled. Passages extracted from the Bible and printed on large sheets furnished the reading and scripture lessons. Beyond these rudiments the instruction did not extend. He devised a very elaborate system of punishments, shackles, cages in which offenders were slung up to the roof, tying bad boys to a pillar in the manner suggested by mediæval pictures of St. Sebastian, divers marks of disgrace, and other appeals to the scholars' sense of shame; but his quaker principles revolted from the infliction of actual pain, and prevented him from perceiving the tortures inflicted by his own system on sensitive children. He instituted degrees of rank, badges, offices and orders of merit, which, while they undoubtedly made his school attractive to lads of ambition, tended to encourage vanity and self-consciousness. It was an essential part of his plan to enlist the most promising of the scholars in his service, and to prepare them to become schoolmasters. In this way he is fairly entitled to be recognised as the first pioneer in the work of training teachers for their profession in England. Some of the principles he advocated, and his favourite sayings, have passed into pedagogical maxims, e.g. ‘The order of this school is “A place for everything and everything in its place.”’ Of the day's work he was wont to say, ‘Let every child have, for every minute of his school-time, something to do, and a motive for doing it.’
In 1797 Andrew Bell (1753–1832) [q. v.] had published accounts of his educational experiments in the Madras Asylum. Lancaster in his first pamphlet cordially acknowledged his obligation to Bell for many useful hints. He afterwards visited Bell at Swanage, and established very friendly relations with him. During the eight years of Bell's residence at Swanage, little or nothing was done for the establishment of schools on his method; but Lancaster within that period was carrying on an active propaganda in all parts of the kingdom, and securing the adhesion of many powerful friends. His fortunes reached their zenith in 1805, when George III sent for him