The Monitorial System was an education method that became popular on a global scale during the early 19th century. This method was also known as "mutual instruction" or the "Bell-Lancaster method" after the British educators Dr Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster who both independently developed it. The method was based on the abler pupils being used as 'helpers' to the teacher, passing on the information they had learned to other students. These free schools were intended for children of the poor and paid for by donations and subscriptions from the local inhabitants.

The 1823 Baker's Southampton Guide records that a new school based on Dr Bell's plan had been established on the north side of St Michael’s Square near the middle of the square. The building consisted of two spacious rooms where both boys and girls were taught reading, writing and arithmetic. Sundays were given over to church attendance and religious instruction. The Guide estimates numbers at 130 boys and 100 girls.

The British School, a school based on the similar Lancastrian Method had been established in 1814 near Back-of-the-Walls.

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