Ancestry UK

Arbroath Industrial School / The Dale School, Arbroath, Angus (Forfarshire), Scotland

The Arbroath Industrial School opened its doors on 14 March 1853 at Dale Cottage, 84 Brechin Road, Arbroath, close to the town's poorhouse. On the first day there were just eight pupils in attendance but within a year this had risen to over forty and a additional building was erected at the site.

On 18 May 1855, the establishment was certified under Dunlop's Act to operate as a Reformatory (later reassigned as an Industrial School), allowing it to receive children placed by magistrates under a period of detention. An inspection in 1857 recorded that the school 'can contain 100 children; average attendance 80; master intelligent; boys employed in gardening; the whole seems well managed in a very simple and economical manner.' The master, or superintendent, was Mr Aikin.

An inspection in September 1864 found 30 children in attendance. Of these, 5 boys and 3 girls were lodged at the premises, with 4 of the boys and 2 of the girls being under a magistrate's order. About half of the children appeared to be under instruction, and to be learning something, the rest were all very young, and seemed to do nothing and to be taught nothing. The master and matron were now Mr and Mrs Irvine. There was a well stocked greenhouse which appeared to occupy more of Mr. Irvine's attention than the children. Mrs Irvine was said to make an excellent matron and house manager, and under her care the girls cleaned and scrubbed and swept the house, cooked the meals, made and mended, knitted and darned.

By 1866, Mr Aikin was master of the school, with Mrs Aikin as matron. In 1869, however, Mr and Mrs Irvine were back in charge.

In 1871, the inmates comprised thirteen boys and four girls, with four of the boys lodged out. There were about twenty children, mostly very young, as day scholars. A small workshop had now been built adjoining the house where wood-chopping was carried out. That year's inspection concluded that 'the school appears of very little use, and to become more and more inefficient every year. It seems hardly worth while to carry it on as a certified school, unless the directors resolve to put it on a better footing.'

The inspection report for 1876 recorded that the superintendent had died in January and not having been replaced by a permanent superintendent until the 26th May, the children had run wild, several of them absconding. The new superintendent and matron were Mr John Aitken and his wife, Emily. The report reiterated the inspector's view that building was not suitable for an Industrial School: it was too small; the dormitories were small, and there were no arrangements for supervision. The drainage was not well arranged, delivering on to the surface of a field close to the building. A new classroom and dormitory were needed and fewer non-resident pupils. Ideally it should become as single-sex establishment.

In 1878, the school's management decided to no longer admit girls and once those currently under detention had been discharged to become a boys-only establishment. In 1880 it was reported that the remaining girls were now lodged elsewhere, while 20 boys slept on the premises. A new lavatory and bathroom had been added to the premises, together with an additional room for the master.

The School site is shown on the 1901 map below.

Arbroath Industrial School for Boys / The Dale School site, Arbroath, c.1901.

A much better account of the school was given in the 1888 inspection report. A new schoolroom and dormitory had been added on the west side of the building, the old school-room converted to a dining-hall, and the playground much enlarged. A garden of about an acre was now under cultivation by the boys who also did a little wood-chopping. The girls amongst the day-pupils assisted in the cooking, washing and housework, and learned to knit, sew and make their own clothing. Miss Jessie Aitken now assisted in the schoolroom.

In 1896, the school was described as a home-like building in an open situation on the outskirts of the town. Particular mention was made of toilet facilities, which consisted of earth closets. The earth pails were emptied daily — 'I should have thought better,' commented the inspector. Industrial training was still limited to simple gardening, wood-chopping and house cleaning, although a joiner's shop recently been fitted up, and the four oldest boys received some instruction in practical carpentry. There was a small playground. and the boys went out to the common for football, once a week. Outside games were played, and there is plenty of liberty allowed for sea-bathing. A drill instructor visited once a week. There were books and simple table games for the boys' use in winter.

The superintendent, John Aitken, resigned from his post in May 1898. He died in October of the following year. The Aitkens were succeeded by Mr and Mrs William Stewart.

In 1933, the Dale School, as it was by now known, 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 then accommodated up to 30 Junior Boys, aged from 7 to 14 years at their date of admission.

In 1943, the school was described as a small home particularly suitable for younger boys. The headmaster was now Mr J.G. Tollerton.

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, Dale became referred to as a 'List D' school. Following a decline in numbers being placed at the school, it finally closed in 1983. The property has now been converted to residential use.


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  • Dundee City Archive & Record Centre, 21 City Square Dundee, DD1 3BY. Has Schedules of admission (1853-1932), Register of medical history (1917-1951), Register of punishment (1887-1961), Committee minute books (1853-1935), Annual reports (1853-1958).



  • None identified at present.