Orphanage Industrial School for Roman Catholic Boys (St Vincent's), Liverpool, Lancashire
In around 1856, the Rev. Father Pierse Power founded an orphanage for Roman Catholic boys at Everton Crescent, Liverpool.
In July, 1861, construction began of new premises on Beacon Lane, Liverpool, into which the establishment moved the following year. A ceremony of blessing for the building took place on May 18th, 1862, conducted by the Rev. John Henry Fisher. Designed in the Gothic style by A.W. Pugin, the building was three storeys high and constructed in red brick, with stone bands and blue brick courses. The front entrance, at the south end, was through a Gothic arched doorway. Inside, the committee-room was on the left, with a staircase and workroom. At the end of the entrance passage was door to the playground. To the right of the entrance was the school room, measuring 65 feet by 18 feet. The room was fitted with three tiers of desks and seats, and could accommodate about 120 pupils. At the end of the school room was a class room fitted with a gallery. Adjoining this room was the matron's room. Next to the school room, at the end of the entrance passage, was the refectory. Beyond this room was a passage into the kitchen, which was fitted with large cooking apparatus, two boilers, dresser etc. Adjoining the kitchen was a bakehouse, bread-room and storerooms. Ascending the main staircase, on the first floor were the dormitories. At the left was the master's room, on the right a lavatory. The dormitory, 91 feet by 37, and 14 feet high, was lit on each side by eight mullion windows. Down the centre of the room was nine-inch wall, having seven open Gothic arches. Beyond this dormitory, at the north end, were three bedrooms, water-closet, bath-room, housemaid's closet, and store-room. On the second floor was another dormitory of similar dimensions to the one below, the two dormitories accommodating a total of 140 to 150 beds. On the same floor ware a workshop and lavatory similar to those below, an infirmary, two clothes rooms and a water-closet. A wing attached to the north of the building contained the wash-house and laundry, over which was a room 28 feet by 16 feet, for use as a play-room or work-room. The running of the new establishment was placed in the hands of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, with Sister Middleton as superintendent.
On July 21st, 1868, the institution was certified for use as an Industrial School, allowing it to receive committed by magistrates. It could accommodate up to 150 boys aged from 5 to 11 at their age of admission.
In 1872, new workshops and offices were added to the premises. There were now 226 boys in residence, most of them very young. On inspection, it was noted that the educational attainment of the boys was much above the average. This was attributed to the boys spending a far larger proportion of their time in the schoolroom than was usual in other Industrial Schools. Industrial training provision included tailoring and shoemaking classes, and a carpenter's shop, but more employment was needed for the majority of the boys.
By 1888, the industrial had developed considerably. There were now 34 boys working as tailors, making and repairing the clothing for the School and for the nearby St Edward's College. A further 16 boys were working as shoemakers on a similar basis. About 100 boys were employed in the manufacture of matchboxes. A class of boys were working in the joiner's shop in the manufacture of packing and soap boxes and in general work. There was also a fretwork department, under the charge of a Sister, in which some beautiful work was produced. The boys assisted in the laundry and in the general work of the house. The boys were said to drill well. There was now a strong and well-instructed band.
In 1890, the superintendent was Sister Vincent (Mary) Morrogh, assisted by 11 Sisters. Other staff included a tailor, shoemaker, joiner and bandmaster, drill-master, and cowman. The work-masters slept on the premises at night.
An 1896 report noted that the School, when first erected, had stood in the midst of open country but was now surrounded by streets of small houses and had become a town school. There were now 31 shoemakers, 40 tailors, 50 matchbox makers, and 15 makers of confectionery boxes who turned out 500 a week. A horse and light cart were kept and a boy looked after them. There brass and reed band now had over 40 performers, with a separate contingent of 20 buglers. The boys were said to be great knitters and took a keen interest in making their own socks. jerseys, etc. Many of the boys were too young for any work. Boys were licensed out fairly early and use was made of the Shaw Street Auxiliary Home. There was a good paved play-yard with a covered shed. Sergeant Wall of the Liverpool School Board attended regularly to drill the boys. The football team practised each day in the public park and had won all 6 of their matches, including those against the Shaw Street Home. The juniors were taken to the park twice a week by a Sister, where kite-flying and other games were carried on. The whole school were under canvas far a fortnight on the coast in August. Theatricals were organised and the circus and pantomimes were visited. There were about 300 books in the library, and these and indoor games were supplied in the various class-rooms in the evening Prizes were given quarterly, and bad conduct resulted in the privation of privileges. Corporal punishment was rarely resorted to.
Sister Mary Morrogh died in January, 1910, after 47 years' connection with the school, during 28 of which she was Superioress. Sister Theresa Boyle was now appointed as superintendent.
By 1930, the establishment had adopted the name St Vincent's School. Sister K. Waldron was now superintendent.
In 1933, St Vincent's 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. The School could then accommodate up to 150 Junior Boys, aged under 13 at their date of admission.
During the Second World War, the School was evacuated to Capel Curig, near Bettws-y-Coed, North Wales. In 1949, it moved to new premises at Formby.
The Beacon Lane building was subsequently occupied by a furniture factory but no longer exists.
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.
- Liverpool Archives, 3rd Floor, Central Library, William Brown Street, L3 8EW. The School's institutional records were deposited by Nugent Care in 2012 and are currently being processed.
- 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)
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