Stockport Industrial School for Boys, Stockport, Cheshire
The Stockport Industrial School for Boys, originally known as the Stockport Ragged and Industrial School, was founded in 1854. Its premises, formerly the vicarage for St Thomas' Church, were known as Townend House and located at 48 Higher Hillgate, Stockport, between Marriott Street and Holt Street. The School had both day attenders and also residential places. In the early 1860s, Mr and Mrs Jackson were appointed as superintendent and matron. The main industrial occupations for boys at the School were paper-bag making, printing, hair-teasing and tailoring. The girls were employed in needlework and housework.
The School building was considerably extended in 1865-66 with the assistance of a £700 donation from the Marquis of Westminster. On March 7th, 1866, the establishment was certified as an Industrial School, allowing it to receive up to 150 boys including those sentenced by the courts to a period of detention. Further additions were made to the building in 1968-69.
Following the departure of the Jacksons in June, 1869, to take charge of the Farningham Home for Little Boys, Mr Donald Ross of the Rothesay Industrial School was appointed superintendent, with his wife as matron. The staff at that time also included an assistant master and matron, an industrial assistant, a tailor and shoemaker. In 1871, Mr Ross moved to the Barnes Home, near Manchester, and was replaced by Mr Williams, previously schoolmaster on the Akbar. Mr Williams' health gave way, however, and he was succeeded by Mr Shaw, formerly connected with the York Industrial School. In 1873, another change took place, with Mr and Miss Reith taking charge of the establishment. This was another short-lived appointment and the following year, Mr Reith transferred to the Edinburgh Original Industrial School. He was replaced by Mr Alfred R. Williams from the Middlesex Industrial School at Feltham, with his wife Louisa as matron.
In January, 1877, after continuing problems in maintaining separation between the boys' and girls' sections of the School, the girls were transferred to separate premises in another part of Stockport. A new regime was then introduced into the boys' establishment, dividing the inmates into different classes according to their conduct, and with privileges and rewards attached to the upper classes.
By 1879, some of the boys were being trained in hat-case manufacture. One group of works repaired shirting and clothing under the direction of a seamstress. A band had also been started at the School.
Mr Williams left the School in 1882, moving to the Cumberland County Industrial School at Cockermouth. Mr and Mrs J.A. Johnstone were then appointed as superintendent and matron. The change was followed by an increase in offences and punishments for matters such as lying, impudence, disobedience and neglect of duty, with four boys absconding during 1883. An inquiry took place after a boy was sent to his parents in a dying state and died shortly after his discharge. Charges of neglect and improper treatment were raised but were decided to be unfounded, although it was judges that the boy in question was medically unfit and should not have been received into the School in the first place.
Another change of staff took place at the end of 1884, with Mr MacPherson of Inverness succeeding Mr Johnstone as superintendent. In 1887, 15 boys were working out in the town as full-timers and 47 as half-timers in various occupations as follows: 24 hatters, 23 errand boys, 4 bottlers, 3 gardeners. 3 dyers, 1 stable boy, 1 grocer, 1 ironmonger's boy, 1 employed by a surveyor and 1 by a doctor. Of the others, 13 were learning tailoring in the School workshops, 21 shoemaking, 8 printers, 10 employed in the house, 18 in the sewing room, and 1 attending to the steam boiler.
In 1890, Mrs and Mrs W.J. Leach took over as superintendent and matron. The following year, an issue arose as to the religious provision in the School, with Church of England inmates demanding 'definite and distinctive religious training and education'. The School's managers objected to this imposition and decided that henceforth they would receive only Protestant and not Church of England children. The most common disciplinary offences at this time were loitering in the streets, stealing from shops in the town, and smoking.
Following increasing complaints by the School's official inspector about the declining state of the premises, it was reported in 1894 that a site had been procured on the outskirts of the town for a new building to be erected. In 1896, while still at the old site, a sergeant attended once a week to drill the boys. The boys were now attending the local public swimming baths. The school band occasionally performed for temperance societies and Sunday school fêtes. The School library had only about 50 books, mostly rather ancient, but the Boys' Own Paper, Chums etc. were taken and the boys were keen readers of the sports section of the Evening News. Occasional magic lantern shows were given during the winter, and every summer there was a day trip to the seaside and another to Torkington where the boys had a row on the water. The Mayor of Stockport put on an annual dinner for the boys, followed by an entertainment.
The School's new premises, on Offerton Lane (now Marple Road) at the eastern outskirts of Stockport, were officially opened on November 17th, 1898, by local M.P. George Whiteley. The building stood on a five-acre site and, including furnishing, had cost on the region of £10,000. The establishment had received its certification as an Industrial School on August 16th, 1898, with places for 160 boys, aged 9 to 12 at their date of admission. The new building immediately came under criticism from the School's inspector who suggested that its large and 'desolate' dormitories were an obstacle to classification and out of step with what was now the general practice. Improvements to the ventilation in the building were also said to be needed. The School's report for 1900 noted an 'absence of manliness' and 'a want of grip about the management' while a lack of 'feminine care over domestic concerns, including the boys' clothing, and the arrangements for safe-guarding their health.'
The School's matron, Mrs Leach, died in January 1900. The head teacher, Mr J.E. Waltho, who had been on sick leave, also died on March 7th, 1900. Mrs and Mrs W.C. Bancroft were appointed superintendent and matron on November 26th, 1900.
Industrial training now included technical drawing, joinery and baking, while the shoemaking department included work for private customers. Free gymnastics and musical drill with barbells were conducted by the schoolmasters. Football matches were played on Saturdays against local sides, with the School winning the majority of their matches. In 1903, a boy from the School won the 100-yard race in the inter-school competitions. The academic performance of the boys received increasing praise. The decline in numbers being placed at the School was beginning to cause some concern, however, especially those being committed by magistrates. However, by 1909 the School was back at full capacity.
Additional building work in 1903-4 provided a new sick-room, schoolmasters' and officers' rooms, stores, accommodation for female staff, and an enlargement of the dining hall and the dormitory above. An additional ¾ of an acre of land was purchased in 1911, for use as a garden and also to prevent the encroachment of neighbouring cottage property. A gymnasium was added to the buildings and incandescent light fitted throughout. The School site in 1923 is shown on the map below.
In around 1933, the School was redesignated as one of the new Approved Schools introduced by the Children and Young Persons Act to replace the former Reformatories and Industrial Schools. Offerton School, or Offerton House, as it later became known, accommodated up to 120 Intermediate boys, aged 13 to 15 at their date of admission. The training offered by the School included raining in gardening, cabinet-making and carpentry, painting and decorating. The headmaster in 1936 was Mr A. Binks.
The School closed in January 1956. The buildings no longer survive and the site is now covered by modern housing.
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.
- Stockport Archives, Central Library, Wellington Road South, Stockport SK1 3RS. Has Minute books (1854-1943); Reports (1872-1955); Superintendent's journal (1877-1917); Visitor's book (1878-1924); Rules and miscellaneous items (1921-1955).
- The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU. Has returns of children detained under Children's Act (1939-1949).
- 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.