William Baker (Technical) School, Hertford, Hertfordshire

From the 1870s, training in industrial and technical skills had been an important part of the education provided by Barnardo's for those in its care. From 1870, boys at its Stepney Causeway premises had received instruction in trades such as carpentry, bootmaking, brushmaking and blacksmithing and printing. Apart from increasing the boys' prospects of being employable in later life, the sale of items produced could generate a useful income for the organisation. The printing workshop also undertook the production of the various printed matter published by Barnardo's.

In 1922, the training operation was relocated to a new home near Hertford, becoming known as the William Baker Technical School, named after the man appointed as Honorary Director of the Barnardo's executive Council after the death of Thomas Barnardo in 1905. The new home, for 300 boys aged 13 to 16, was based at Goldings, formerly the large country home and fifty-acre estate of a wealthy banker. The layout of the property is shown on the 1923 map below.

Goldings site, Hertford, c.1923.

William Baker Technical School, Hertford, date unknown. © Peter Higginbotham

Life at Goldings was originally conducted very much along the military lines of Barnardo's Watts Naval Training School and Russell-Cotes Sea Training School. This changed in 1927 with the adoption of a more public-school style, with the senior boys being referred as prefects rather than NCOs, and the school divided into houses each with its own house master and house captain. The training being given to the boys also evolved over the years. By 1939, the school was turning out electricians and motor mechanics rather than the brush-makers and wheelwrights of earlier times.

The picture below shows a party of boys with suitcases at the front door of the home, being addressed by the some of the staff. The could be new arrivals or just about to leave the school to make their way in the world.

William Baker Technical School, Hertford, date unknown. © Peter Higginbotham

William Baker Technical School dining hall, Hertford, date unknown. © Peter Higginbotham

William Baker Technical School boys in workshop, Hertford, date unknown. © Peter Higginbotham

From 1964, the name of the home was shortened just to The William Baker School, with it capacity at that date being 185 boys. The home closed in July 1967 although the printing department continued in operation there for a further two years. The site has now been redeveloped with most of the school's old buildings being converted for residential use.

Former William Baker Technical School, Hertford, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

Former William Baker Technical School, Hertford, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

In September 1969, the new Barnardo School of Printing was officially opened at William Baker House on Mead lane, Hertford, in purpose-built premises costing £40,000. It continued to undertake Barnardo's printing work until high running costs forced its closure in 1991. The building is now in commercial use.

Former School of Printing, William Baker House, Hertford, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham


Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.


  • Barnardo, Syrie Louise, and Marchant, James Memoirs of the Late Dr Barnardo (Hodder & Stoughton, 1907)
  • Batt, J.H. Dr. Barnardo: The Foster-Father of "Nobody's Children" (S.W. Partridge, 1904)
  • Bready, J. Wesley Doctor Barnardo (Allen & Unwin, 1930)
  • Rose, June For the Sake of the Children: Inside Dr. Barnardo's: 120 years of caring for children (Hodder & Stoughton, 1987)
  • Wagner, Gillian Barnardo (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1979)