Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Brereton, Joseph Lloyd

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BRERETON, JOSEPH LLOYD (1822–1901), educational reformer, born on 19 Oct. 1822 at Little Massingham Rectory, King's Lynn, was third son of eleven children of Charles David Brereton (d. 1868), for forty-seven years rector of Little Massingham, by his wife Frances (d. 1880), daughter of Joseph Wilson of Highbury Hill, Middlesex, and Stowlangtoft Hall, Suffolk. His father was an influential writer on poor law and agricultural questions between 1825 and 1828. Brereton was educated at Islington proprietary school under Dr. John Jackson [q. v.], afterwards bishop of London, and at Rugby under Dr. Arnold (1838-41). He gained a scholarship at University College, Oxford, in 1842, obtained the Newdigate prize for a poem on the 'Battle of the Nile' in 1844, and graduated B.A. in 1846 and M.A. in 1857.

Taking holy orders, Brereton held curacies at St. Edmund's, Norwich, St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London, and St. James's, Paddington (1847-50). From 1852 to 1867 he was rector of West Buckland, North Devon, and from 1867 till death rector, in succession to his father, of Little Massingham. In 1882 Brereton, with his brother, General John Alfred Brereton, was severely injured in a railway accident between Cambridge and Ely, which interrupted for some years his public work.

Brereton's interest in educational reform among the agricultural and middle classes was early stimulated by his father's example and by the influence of Dr. Arnold at Rugby. While rector of West Buckland he, with Hugh Fortescue, second Earl Fortescue, lord-lieutenant of Devonshire, and his son, afterwards third earl [see Fortescue, Hugh, Suppl. II], established in 1858 at West Buckland the farm and county school (now the Devon county school), to supply education suitable for farmers' sons. The object was to provide public boarding-schools, with liberal and religious education, at fees large enough to cover the cost of board and tuition and to return a fair interest on capital invested. The main feature of the scheme was that the county rather than the diocese should be the unit of the area of organisation, and that upon the county basis the whole scheme of national education should be co-ordinated. In recognition of his efforts Brereton was made, in 1858, prebendary of Exeter Cathedral.

His removal to Little Massingham in 1867 as rector led in 1871 to the foundation there of the Norfolk county school, which was transferred in 1874 to Elmham. His next step was to connect the county school system with the universities. After an unsuccessful attempt at Oxford he founded at Cambridge in 1873 a 'county' college, which was named Cavendish College, after the chancellor of the university, the duke of Devonshire [q. v. Suppl. II]. Brereton described his scheme in his 'County Education: a Contribution of Experiments, Estimates and Suggestions' (1874). Cavendish College was instituted as a 'public hostel' of the university, students in residence being eligible for a university degree. The undergraduates were younger than was customary, and the cost of board and tuition, which was covered by an inclusive charge of eighty guineas a year, was lower. The venture received educational and ecclesiastical support; but the proprietary principle excited distrust; and the public schools withheld their recognition (Pall Mall Gazette, 30 July 1874). The scheme proved financially unsuccessful, and the college was dissolved in 1892, being used since 1895 as a training college Homerton College for women teachers. Subsequently in 1881 Brereton formed the Graduated County Schools Association, whose aim was the establishment of self-supporting schools and colleges for girls and women the last step in his practical scheme for a national system of county education.

Brereton was interested in agricultural questions, and while in Devon founded in 1854 the Barnstaple Farmers' Club, of which he was president. Later he was president of the west Norfolk chamber of agriculture. In north Devon his interest in rural prosperity was marked by many permanent works of reform and improvement, and by his efforts he helped to bring the railway from Taunton to Barnstaple, a line afterwards absorbed in the Great Western railway; similar efforts in west Norfolk led to the Lynn and Fakenham railway, which was subsequently extended to Norwich, Cromer, and Yarmouth. Brereton died on 15 Aug. 1901, and was buried in Little Massingham churchyard. He married on 25 June 1852 Frances, daughter of William Martin, rector of Staverton, south Devon, and had issue five sons and six daughters. His wife died on 13 May 1891. A portrait of Brereton as a boy with his maternal grandfather, Joseph Wilson, painted by Sir David Wilkie, is now in the possession of Arthur Wilson, of Stowlangtoft Hall, Suffolk. A second portrait, by George Richmond, R.A., with a companion portrait of his wife, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1868; both are now at Little Massingham Rectory. A bust of Brereton was placed in 1861 in the Devon county school, West Buckland, by Hugh, Earl Fortescue; there are memorials to him in Little Massingham church, where there is also a carved oak reredos in memory of his wife. His writings, beside his works on county education, pamphlets, and sermons, include:

  1. 'The Higher Life,' 1874, a blank verse exposition of New Testament teaching.
  2. 'Musings in Faith and other Poems,' 1885.

[The Times, 17 Aug. 1901; Brereton's County Education, 1874; private information from sons.]

W. B. O.