Ancestry UK

Arno's Court Reformatory / St Joseph's Training School for Roman Catholic Girls, Bristol, Gloucestershire

The property originally known as Mount Pleasant, on the Bath Road in the Arno's Vale district of Bristol, was built in 1760 for William Reeve, Master of the Merchants' Society. In 1851, it was taken over by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd for use as a convent. The site was purchased for the sisters by William Austin Gillow who, having visited the Sister's Hammersmith convent and seen the good work done for women who had been brought from a life on the streets, 'desired earnestly that a similar house be set up in Bristol for the same purpose'. Included in the gift was the land which is now the Cemetery of the Holy Souls.

Initially, the Sisters established a refuge for 'the reformation of penitents, and preservation of girls of 16 and upwards from vice or danger'. In 1855, it was decided to extend the Sisters' work and set up a Reformatory School for Roman Catholic girls as an alternative to Bristol's Red Lodge Reformatory, opened in 1854, which was protestant in character. On November 20th, 1855, the Arno's Court Reformatory was certified to receive up to 200 Roman Catholic Girls, aged from 12 to 15, who had been sentenced by the courts to detention for up to five years. Those entering were required to be in good health, with a bar on those subject to fits or skin disorders.

The School site is shown on the 1904 map below.

Arno's Court Reformatory for Roman Catholic Girls site, Bristol, c.1904.

As well as classroom education, which included mental arithmetic, recitation, composition, geography and singing, the girls were provided with physical exercise in the form of 'drill with wands' and an official inspection in 1900 commented that there were few playgrounds better provided with equipment for vigorous recreation. Industrial training at the School included laundry work, needlework, embroidery, crochet work, dressmaking, knitting, baking, gardening and dairy work.

Arno's Court Reformatory for Roman Catholic Girls from the south, Bristol, c.1906. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Arno's Court Reformatory from the south, Bristol, 2103. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Arno's Court Reformatory from the south-east, Bristol, 2103. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Arno's Court Reformatory from the south, Bristol from the east, 2103. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Arno's Court Reformatory from the south from the north, Bristol, 2103. © Peter Higginbotham

In the 1920s, the institution was renamed St Joseph's Training School. In 1933, it 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. It accommodated up to 80 Senior Girls, aged 15 to 17.

Following severe wartime bombing damage to the premises in 1940-41, the School was evacuated to Eagle House, Bathford, then in 1946 moved to a new permanent home at Ashwicke Hall, Marshfield.

The Sisters disposed of the Arno's Court site in September, 1943. The Bristol Corporation subsequently bought 19 acres of the estate to use as a public park. In the 1960s, the main building became home to the Arno's Court County Club. In 1987, the premises were refurbished to become the Parkside Hotel, now renamed the Arno's Manor Hotel.


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.

  • None identfied at present — any information welcome.