Industrial School / Snowdon School for Girls, Stirling, Stirlingshire, Scotland
On 22 June 1847, a public meeting was held at the Court House in Stirling to discuss a proposal to establish a Ragged or Industrial School in the town. The institution would provide destitute children with 'wholesome food, and thereby take away the temptation to irregular life, as well as a good common and Christian education, and also train them to habits of industry by employing them daily in some useful work suited to their years.' A committee was formed to pursue the scheme. It was not until 1849, however, that sufficient funds had been raised to begin its practical operation. On 14 August 1849, the school opened with 11 boys in attendance, in premises 'at the foot of Mr Wright's Close in King Street.' By the end of that month, there were thirty boys on the school roll.
Many of the boys lived in very squalid conditions and arrived at the school in a filthy state. They were stripped and thoroughly washed, had their hair cut, and clothed with garments donated to the institution. The food provided to the pupils consisted of porridge and milk for breakfast; broth, bread, and butcher's meat for dinner; and porridge and milk for supper. The meal hours were originally at half-past nine in the morning, two in the afternoon, and half-past six in the evening. Misconduct could be punished by the deprivation of a meal.
More spacious premises were then obtained in a large flat above the Corn Exchange Inn at 1 Spittal Street. Sergeant Anderson was superintendent of the school and Mr Morton the teacher. In addition to their classroom lessons, the boys spent about two hours a day in work such as teasing hair, making paper bags, and netting. From November 1850, girls began to be admitted to the school, with a matron then appointed to supervise them. The girls were taught to knit and sew, and assisted in the kitchen and in the general housework of the establishment.
In April 1855, the directors of the school purchased a property at 12 Spittal Street (later renumbered 31), including the garden ground behind, on which to erect a new school, with house accommodation for the matron. The new building, completed in December 1856, was designed by Messrs Hay of Liverpool. It was in the Gothic style, surmounted by a tiny spire. On the basement floor to the front were a room and bedroom for the use of the matron, together with two small sleeping-rooms for temporary inmates. Behind these was an apartment to be used as a workshop for the girls, and still farther back the kitchen was situated. Detached from the main building, and opposite to the kitchen, was the laundry, which was also fitted up with hot and cold water baths. There was a large plot of ground behind, apart of which was to be laid out by the children as a garden, with a portion left for use as a play-ground, gymnastic exercises etc. In the far corner of this piece of ground was a pig sty. An ascending flight of steps led to a balcony, with separate doors leading into a school-room and a workshop for the boys. The school-room to the front of the building, measured 28 feet 18 feet, exclusive of two closets at one end, the roof being constructed of circle trusses. The latter, in common with the doors and woodwork, were stained to resemble oak. The school-room to the back was of the same dimensions as that to the front, both being well lighted with large gable and small side-windows. The cost of construction was about £700.
The school site is shown on the 1858 map below.
On May 5 1868, the establishment was certified to operate as an Industrial School, allowing it to receive children who had been placed under detention by the courts. There was accommodation for 20 boys and 8 or 9 girls. An official inspection in June 1869 recorded 35 children in attendance, of whom 12 boys and 3 girls were committed cases. The boys were employed in tailoring, gardening, wood chopping and hair picking, while the girls did needlework and housework. The head teacher was Mr David Berrie (or Barrie), and the matron Mrs Rain (or Raine).
In 1875, the school's directors acquired a Sauchie House, a short distance away on Baker Street, which was used to house boys in their own establishment. The Spittal Street premises were retained for use by the girls. The 1876 inspection recorded the girls' school as being superintended by Miss Steedman, with Miss Elizabeth Berrie (or Barrie) as schoolmistress; the following year, the two had exchanged their positions.
By 1877, Miss Moir had become schoolmistress. The girls were employed in housework, cooking and laundry work, and learned sewing and knitting. In addition to making all their own clothes they made all the shirts and stockings for the boys' school. In the school's garden, the rough work was done by the boys, the girls helped to keep it in order.
The 1889 inspection raised a number of concerns about the school's accommodation. The one dormitory was crowded, and there was no sick,room. The rooms occupied by the superintendent and teacher were on the,ground floor and not fit for sleeping rooms. The lower part of the house was damp and unwholesome. The building's situation presented problems: the site was shut in by the town infirmary on one side and a board school on the other, so there is not much room for enlarging the premises. The following year, construction had begun of a substantial extension which including two new dormitories and some rooms for the superintendent. The old dormitory was then turned into a sick-room.
The school site is shown on the 1898 map below.
By the beginning of 1897, Miss Marley had become superintendent. That year's inspection noted that classroom performance in composition, geography, recitation and mental arithmetic was generally 'fair'. Tho girls were trained for domestic service and mostly went out as general servants. They were taught plain needlework, and did the washing and work of the household. They assisted in the kitchen, but as the dietary consisted mainly of porridge, soup and broth, the range of instruction was not wide. The girls went out for a walk once a week. However, there was so much household work of various kinds to be done that it seemed impossible to arrange for more frequent walks, as would be desirable. The inmates had a fortnight's holiday in August when they were taken for frequent trips. They were also able to see any entertainments in the town. There school had no library, but the girls occasionally saw an illustrated paper. Miss A.M. Mitchell succeeded Miss Marley as superintendent in May 1897. Mar 1897.
The 1899 inspection noted that the girls received instruction in a routine of extension movements designed to improve their physique. Their gait also received attention. They had plenty of reasonable liberty in the way of walks in the neighbourhood. A nucleus of library had been donated to the school by friends. One girl, Lizzie Hutton, was said to be 'defective' and her transfer to a special institution was recommended. It was suggested that unless she found a particularly long-suffering mistress, she would be unlikely to succeed in domestic service. The following year, a course of cookery lessons was given to a class of about 20 girls by a qualified teacher from Edinburgh. In 1901, twice weekly drill was introduced, taken by the schoolmistress.
By 1908, the cutting-out of simple garments was being taught and nine girls could work the sewing-machine well. Two girls had attended the dressmaking class at the Board school, and four girls had taken cookery lessons at the Board's centre. Swedish drill under a specially trained teacher had been introduced.
In November 1909, Miss Mitchell was succeeded as superintendent by Miss Agnes Maxwell.
During the 1920s, the school was renamed Snowdon School (sometimes misspelled as Snowden). The superintendent was now Miss Forbes. In 1933, Snowdon became an Approved School, one of the new institutions introduced by the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act to replace the existing system of Reformatories and Industrial Schools. It accommodated up to 30 girls, aged from 8 to 11 years at their date of admission.
In 1943, the practical instruction provided at the school included cookery, laundrywork, dressmaking and housewifery. The headmistress was now Miss J.A. Forbes.
The 1968 Social Work (Scotland) Act aimed to bring Approved Schools in Scotland under the control of local authority social work departments. As a result of a title in a list drawn up by the Scottish Education Department, Snowdon became referred to as a 'List D' school.
In more recent times, Snowdon School has been a residential special school for girls, aged 12 to 17, referred by Local Authorities, Social Work Departments, Education Services, Children's Hearings and others from throughout Scotland and beyond.
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.
- Stirling Archives, 5 Borrowmeadow Road, Stirling FK7 7UW. Has Annual reports (1916-46, with gaps); Register of detention (1876-1937); Log book (1911-53); Visitors' book (1879-1925); Register of punishments (1882-1949); Disposal book (1931-1937).
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.