Fitzroy Report (1904)

1904 Fitzroy Report (text)

Fitzroy Report (1904)
Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration
Vol. I Report and Appendix

London: HM Stationery Office

Background notes

Historical context

Following the end of the second Boer War in 1902, the government appointed an Inter-Departmental Committee to investigate why so many would-be recruits had been in poor physical condition.

The Committee, appointed by the Duke of Devonshire, Lord President of the Council, on 2 September 1903, was chaired by Almeric W Fitzroy (1851-1935), a civil servant who had been Clerk of the Privy Council since 1898.

The other members of the Committee were Colonel GM Fox, HM Inspector of Physical Training under the Board of Education; JG Legge, HM Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools; HM Lindsell, Principal Assistant Secretary to the Board of Education; Colonel GT Onslow, Inspector of Marine Recruiting; John Struthers, Assistant Secretary to the Scottish Education Department; and Dr JFW Tatham, of the General Register Office. The Barrister Ernest Pooley served as Secretary.

The original Terms of Reference to the Committee were:

To make a preliminary enquiry into the allegations concerning the deterioration of certain classes of the population as shown by the large percentage of rejections for physical causes of recruits for the Army and by other evidence, especially the Report of the Royal Commission on Physical Training (Scotland), and to consider in what manner the medical profession can best be consulted on the subject with a view to the appointment of a Royal Commission, and the terms of reference to such a Commission, if appointed.
These Terms of Reference were subsequently explained and enlarged, as follows:
(1) To determine, with the aid of such counsel as the medical profession are able to give, the steps that should be taken to furnish the Government and the Nation at large with periodical data for an accurate comparative estimate of the health and physique of the people; (2) to indicate generally the causes of such physical deterioration as does exist in certain classes; and (3) to point out the means by which it can be most effectually diminished (page v).

The Committee's recommendations

Evidence was provided by 68 witnesses, and the Committee submitted its report to Devonshire's successor, the Marquess of Londonderry, on 20 July 1904. It made 53 wide-ranging recommendations which are summarised in Part III (pages 84-93).

Perhaps its most significant recommendation was that the state should assume responsibility for feeding under-nourished children. Support for this among the witnesses was all but unanimous:

With scarcely an exception, there was a general consensus of opinion that the time has come when the State should realize the necessity of ensuring adequate nourishment to children in attendance at school; it was said to be the height of cruelty to subject half-starved children to the processes of education, besides being a short-sighted policy, in that the progress of such children is inadequate and disappointing; and it was, further, the subject of general agreement that, as a rule, no purely voluntary association could successfully cope with the full extent of the evil. Even those witnesses who were inclined to think that its magnitude had been much exaggerated, did not question the advisability of feeding, by some means or other, those children who are underfed, provided it could be done quietly and without impairing parental responsibility. The only witness who appeared absolutely to dissent from that view was the Bishop of Ross, who, while admitting an enormous number of underfed children in Ireland, deprecated any steps being taken to remedy the evil, on the ground that it would weaken the sense of self-respect and self-reliance both of parent and child (page 69).
More than 120,000 children in London alone were shown to be underfed, with similar proportions - 15 to 16 per cent - in Manchester and elsewhere.

Outcome of the Report

In January 1905 there were two conferences on the issue. The TUC's, at the Guildhall, was chaired by Sir John Gorst. The Labour Representation Committee's conference was chaired by the Labour MP Arthur Henderson (1863-1935), with Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937) and Keir Hardie (1856-1915) among the speakers.

Following the election of 1906, WT Wilson, a new Labour MP, introduced a bill providing for the feeding of necessitous schoolchildren. This became the 1906 Education (Provision of Meals) Act (21 December), which empowered (but did not require) LEAs to provide meals for undernourished elementary schoolchildren.

Many local authorities were reluctant to use their new powers: by 1910-11 a hundred had done so, less than a third of the total.

One LEA which did take advantage of the Act was the City of Bradford. In an Education Committee Report, Medical Superintendent Ralph H Crowley reported on a 'Course of Meals given to Necessitous Children' between April and July 1907:

The meals, consisting of breakfast and dinner were given in a School in one of the poorest quarters of the city, about 30 of the children coming from this school, and 10 from an adjacent one. The children were selected out of Standards I. to IV. by the Head Teacher and myself. ... Every effort was made to make the meals, as far as possible, educational. There were tablecloths and flowers on the tables; monitresses, whose duty it was to lay the tables and to wait on the other children, were appointed, one to each group of 10 children; they were provided with aprons and sleeves and had their meals together after the other children. ... The table cloths, it is true were very dirty at the end of the week, but this was chiefly due to the dirty clothing of the children, and owing to the very inadequate provision at the school for the children to wash themselves, it was difficult to ensure that even their hands were clean (quoted in The National Archives: School Dinners).
The 1914 Education (Provision of Meals) Act (7 August) extended local authorities' powers to provide meals: no longer would they need to apply to the Board for permission to do so.

The Report online

The Fitzroy Report was published in three volumes. Volume I, containing the Report itself and Appendices I - Va, is presented complete in a single web page.

Longer quotations were printed in small type. I have reproduced them here in indented paragraphs. The Appendices were also printed in small type, two columns to a page. I have not reproduced this layout here.

I have corrected a handful of printing errors. Otherwise, the text shown here is as in the original.

The above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 24 January 2019.