Leicester Industrial School for Boys / Desford School / Polesbrook House, Desford, Leicestershire
In January, 1881, the Leicester School Board opened an Industrial School for Boys at Markfield Lane, Desford, near Leicester. On January 13th, the School was formally certified to receive up to 150 boys aged 8 to 12 years, including those placed under detention by the courts. The buildings, which cost more than £20,000, were formally opened on January 17th by Leicester-born MP, A.J. Mundella, with the Bishop of Peterborough also in attendance.
The School site is shown on the 1903 map below.
An 1884 report on the building noted that:
In addition to classroom education, the boys were provided with industrial training which included tailoring, shoemaking, and mat-making. The School's 64 acres of farmland provided agricultural and horticultural employment for the older boys.
The School's initial staff comprised the superintendent, Mr Thomas D. Adcock; matron, Mrs Mary E. Adcock; schoolmaster, Mr Robert Gamble; a tailor, shoemaker, farm bailiff, general assistant, and several men employed on the farm. In around 1895, the Adcocks were succeeded by Mr and Mrs Oxley who were still in post in 1911.
A report on the School in 1896 noted that the School could now accommodate 200 boys and its grounds amounted to 138 acres, of which 28 acres were garden ground. The stock consisted of 7 horses, 22 cattle, about 100 pigs, plus sheep and poultry. The farm buildings were extensive, but were scattered over the estate. The allocation of boys to various tasks was as follows: on farm, and fruit and vegetable gardens (stock boys included), 74; tailors, 18; shoemakers, 16; laundry, 18; kitchen and house, 16; bakers, 4; office boys, 4; full-time in school, 37; brass band, 24. The School had an asphalted playground, a cricket field with turfed a pitch, and a football field, with matches against outside teams being arranged. There was a fair-sized swimming bath, used once a week in winter, and more often in summer. Physical and military drills were given, and the text books used for the former was one written by Mr Oxley himself.
In 1897, a gymnasium and assembly hall were added to the buildings, and the construction of an isolation hospital was begun. The boys regularly performed well in sporting competitions. The School were runners-up for the Championship Cup at the Home Office Swimming Gala in September, 1910, and won the Ansell Shield and the Certified Schools' Championship of the Midlands in 1911.
On September 1st, 1910, an Auxiliary Home was opened in premises at 132 Highcross Street, Leicester, where up to 18 boys aged 14 to 16 could be accommodated. The home provided a supervised hostel for boys who were leaving the main School and taking up work with local employers.
In January, 1926, the Auxiliary Home moved to new premises at 'Winthorpe', 84 Westcotes Drive, Leicester, where 22 boys could be housed. In more recent times, the property has been occupied by a care home.
By 1920, Mr W.O. Braid had taken over as superintendent.
In 1933, the institution became an Approved School, one of the new institutions introduced by the 1933 Children and Young Persons Act to replace the existing system of Reformatories and Industrial Schools. Desford could then accommodate up to 175 Junior boys, aged from 10 to 13. The headmaster in 1935 was Mr C.J.W. Lane.
In 1973, the School, now run by Leicestershire County Council, became a Community Home with Education (CHE) known as Polesbrook House. The School finally closed in 1978.
The School building is now occupied by Kirby Grange residential care home and some new building has taken place at the north-east side of the site.
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.
- The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, Long Street, Wigston Magna, Leicester, LE18 2AH. Has extensive holdings including registers, admission orders, photographs, log books, personal and correspondence files, etc.
- 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)
- Hyland, Jim Yesterday's Answers: Development and Decline of Schools for Young Offenders (1994, Whiting and Birch)
- Millham, S, Bullock, R, and Cherrett, P After Grace - Teeth: a comparative study of the residential experience of boys in Approved Schools (1975, Chaucer Publishing)
- None noted at present.
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.