Surrey Industrial School for Boys, Byfleet, Surrey
The Surrey Industrial School for Boys was originally established in 1867 as an offshoot of the Boys' Home Reformatory at Bridge House, Wandsworth. Because of increasing problems with flooding at the Wandsworth site, the School moved to a new location at Coldharbour (or Cold Arbour) Farm, on what is now Oakcroft Road, Byfleet. New buildings were erected and on August 7th, 1871, the premises were officially certified to begin operation, with accommodation for 200 boys. The existing superintendent and matron, Mr and Mrs Gibson, accompanied the boys to their new home at Byfleet but the a new schoolmaster was appointed.
The Coldharbour Farm site is shown on the 1870 map below.
In November, 1873, following further building work, the School had 220 boys in residence. In addition to the Gibsons, the staff now included a secretary, Mr Alfred Wells; a band and drill master, and eight assistants. A year later, Mr Wells and his wife had taken over as superintendent and matron, while Mr Gibson was now schoolmaster. The boys' industrial training now included working the School's 250 acres of farmland which were chiefly used for the cultivation of roses and lavender. Instruction in tailoring and shoemaking was still provided, with carpentry added in around 1876. The boys also performed the work of the house including cooking and laundry work. A mark system was in operation which gave rewards or extra privileges for good conduct.
In 1878, Mrs Sampson, who had been assistant matron for the previous two years, took over as matron from Mrs Wells, with Mr Sampson continuing as chief assistant to Mr Wells. This arrangement continued until 1882 when Mrs Wells resumed her position as matron.
An inspection report in 1881 noted that the School was to be placed under the management of a more general committee mainly composed of Surrey magistrates and gentlemen of the county, so as to bring the institution "more directly in harmony with the public requirements of the county". Accordingly, at the end of October, 1884, the managers of the School resigned their certificate and the premises were re-certified for operation under the control of the Surrey magistrates. No immediate practical changes were made although at the end of 1884, a new superintendent and matron were appointed, Mr and Mrs Ridpath. Plans were also being made to move the establishment to newly built premises at Mayford, near Woking.
The Mayford site was certified for use as from August 30th, 1887. The Byfleet premises were then vacated.
The Cold Arbour farmhouse still stands, now in private residential use.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 6ND. Holdings include: Visitors' book (1865-1884); Scrapbook of Alfred Wells (Superintendent) including drawing and photographs of the school.
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- Mahood, Linda Policing Gender, Class and Family: Britain, 1850-1940 (1995, Univeristy of Alberta Press)
- Prahms, Wendy Newcastle Ragged and Industrial School (2006, The History Press)
- None noted at present.
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.