Industrial School Ship 'Wellesley', South Shields, County Durham

The Training Ship Wellesley was established in 1868 by a group of philanthropic Tyneside businessmen, led by James Hall, 'to provide shelter for Tyneside waifs and train young men for service in both Royal and Merchant Navies.' They initially used a former frigate which had been doing duty on the Thames as the Reformatory Ship Cornwall but was now renamed Wellesley. In around 1874, the vessel was replaced by an old wooden battleship, the former HMS Boscawen, which then took on the Wellesley name.

The Wellesley, c.1910. © Peter Higginbotham

The Wellesley was moored on the Tyne at North Shields and provided accommodation for up to 300 boys. Boys were admitted on the ship between the ages of 11 and 14 years, many going on to the Mercantile Marine.

The Wellesley, c.1910. © Peter Higginbotham

On July 24th, 1868, the Wellesley was officially certified as an Industrial School Ship, allowing it to receive boys committed by magistrates to a period of detention. The vessel was also certified by the Local Government Board for the reception of pauper children placed by Boards of Guardians. Boys of all denominations were received.

The Wellesley, The Wellesley, Mess Room, Lower Deck, c.1913. © Peter Higginbotham

The Wellesley, The Wellesley, Field Gun Drill, c.1913. © Peter Higginbotham

In common with other training ships, the Wellesley had a military band which often performed at fêtes and other events in the area.

The Wellesley, Band and Ship's Company, c.1913. © Peter Higginbotham

Advertisement for hire of the Wellesley Band, c.1900. © Peter Higginbotham

The Wellesley had shore-based junior establishment, known as Green's Home, in Mile End Road, South Shields, with accommodation for 60 boys. Here, boys were received as early as 7 years of age, then transferred to the ship on reaching the age of 12. Green's Home was officially certified for its purpose on December 19th, 1884.

In 1911, the Captain Superintendent was Commander Percy de W. Kitcat, R.N., and the Secretary Mr. George Luckley, solicitor, of 25, Queen Street, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

The Wellesley was destroyed by fire in 1914. The boys were initially provided with an emergency home at the Tynemouth Palace Theatre — the building was officially certified to house up to 300 boys on March 31st, 1914.

The Wellesley on fire at North Shields, March 1914. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1915, it was reported that as part of the war effort, the Wellesley boys had manufactured 120,000 rope grommets (for the protection of the copper bands of artillery shells) for Messrs. Armstrong, Whitworth and Co.

The Wellesley was subsequently re-established as the land-based Wellesley Nautical School. at Links Road, Blyth, Northumberland, which could accommodate up to 200 boys, aged from 8 to 13 at their time of admission.

A house at 15 Lawe Road, South Shields, was used as an auxiliary home for boys moving on from the School. The home housed up to 10 boys, aged 14-16, who were taking up employment in the town.

In around 1934, the Wellesley Nautical School became an Approved School for Intermediate Boys with accommodation for up to 150 inmates aged 13 to 15.

In 1973, the school became a Community Home with Education under the control of Sunderland County Borough Council.

Part of the Links Road site was also later used by the Territorial Army. The buildings no longer survive.

Records

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

Census

Bibliography

  • None noted at present.