Edgar Street Ragged and Industrial School, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire
The Leeds Ragged School Association was founded in 1849 and raised money to establish a school for necessitous children, initially for a year. The school was opened in a building known as Spitalfields Chapel and the Old Hall, at Richmond Hill, with Mr John Bowker as master. It was decided at the outset not to provide the children with food. A separate infants' school was subsequently opened with Miss Susannah Wright as mistress. Mr Bowker later recalled that when the children had first entered the Spitalfields school, many had been disorderly and dirty. They had for several successive days been sent home to be washed and combed, and their parents on some occasions were offended. The same children could now, he said, be seen orderly and clean. During the first year, a total of 312 children passed through the two schools, with the daily attendance at the end of that time being 70 in the main school and 50 in the infant school. The ages of those then in the schools ranged from 2 to 11 years, with 110 being from 4 to 8 years old. At the end of the year, it was decided that both schools should continue in operation. However, the scheme appears to have foundered in 1851 due to a lack of funds.
In 1859, however, there was a revival of interest in ragged schools. A new committee was formed and, on March 29th of that year, a ragged school was opened at Richmond Hill. The children were given elementary and religious education, and a daily dinner of bread and soup. The following October, a Shoeblack Brigade also began operating at the building, together with a Night Refuge for the boys so employed, and for other destitute children. A second ragged school, only for girls, was opened in July, 1859, in a building known as Ann Carr's Chapel, Regent Street, Leylands. At the same time, moves were begun to form a permanent institution to be known as The Leeds Ragged School Association.
In 1861, the Leeds Industrial Ragged School moved into premises in Edgar Street, Leeds, formerly one of Payne's schools. The existing operations at the Richmond Hill and Leylands Schools were then all brought together at the new site.
On March 26th, 1862, the new establishment was certified as an Industrial School, allowing it to receive children placed under detention by magistrates for reasons such as vagrancy, frequenting with thieves, or being beyond their parents' control. The superintendent of the School was Mr R.W. Ambler, assisted by his wife and by his two daughters, both of the latter teaching in the schoolroom.
An inspection report in October, 1862, described the premises as being convenient and roomy for the purposes of general instruction. There was, however, only one dormitory, which accommodated the shoeblacks. The playground, too, was separated from the school by a public road, and was not yet enclosed. It was noted that the School's managers proposed to use the dormitory for lodging boys under detention, and to board girls out with respectable persons in the vicinity, or to take a house for the purpose, and where the master and his family might also reside. By the end of 1862, however, the Leeds magistrates had placed only 10 cases at the School.
The School premises were extended in 1864-65 with the construction work taking place on a plot of ground on the opposite side of the road to the original building. The new facilities included a large schoolroom, four adjoining rooms for use as workshops, and two enclosed sheds for wood-cutting, etc. The old building was then adapted for use as a dining hall, and to lodge those under detention.
In the summer of 1866, a serious outbreak of typhus fever led to many of the day scholars staying away for a time, and the girls being sent to Harrogate. One fatality from the disease was Mr Colbeck, the schoolmaster. Industrial training was now provided by a tailor and a shoemaker who attended four or five days a week, six boys working with each of them respectively. The chief industrial employment, however, was cutting and binding firewood, with the girls learning needlework. The boys also had drill and gymnastic exercises each day.
In 1867, the girls under detention were lodged in a house on Springfield Terrace under the care of its matron, Miss Land. Mr Ambler and his family resided in a house adjoining the School. The inconvenience caused by the divided nature of the various buildings became an increasing cause of criticism from the School's inspector. By 1869, the girls lodgings had been moved a building called the Convalescent Home, lent to the School's committee by the Leeds Board of Guardians. The Springfield Terrace House was now being used as a dormitory for some of the boys.
The School's industrial training provision for the boys was increasingly criticised as being inadequate. The School's managers response was that they provided for a considerable number of the boys by apprenticing them to the coal mines.
In1870, day scholars, who had previously been taught alongside those under detention, were transferred a regular day school in St Peter's Street. In the same year, the girls under detention were removed to the new Leeds Girls' Industrial School on Windsor Street, Burmantofts.
In 1874, Mr Ambler was succeeded as superintendent by Mr F. Williams, with Mrs Williams as matron. The boys were no longer sent out as shoeblacks, and the industrial training occupations now included matchbox-making, which took place in a curtained off section of the schoolroom. The managers of the School were said to have prepared plans for new premises, but progress in this never materialised.
On May 22nd, 1877, having given up hope of resolving its accommodation problems, the School's committee resigned its Industrial School certificate. The Leeds School Board, however, undertook to carry on the School at a new site they had acquired at Shadwell Lane, about six miles to the north of Leeds, where a large new building was being erected. In the interim, the Board took over the running of the Edgar Street premises, which were immediately re-certified under their management.
The boys were transferred were transferred from Edgar Street to Shadwell Lane on October 6th, 1879.
In 1881, the old premises were re-opened as the Edgar Street Day Industrial School.
The Edgar Street buildings no longer exist and Haslewood Drive now covers the area.
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.
- West Yorkshire Archive Service (Leeds Office), Nepshaw Lane South, Morley, Leeds LS27 7JQ. Has Registers of Commitments (1862-1926, indexed).
- 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.