Ancestry UK

East London Industrial School for Boys, Whitechapel, London

The East London Industrial School for Boys was originally founded in 1854 as the East London Shoeblack Society and occupied premises at Mansell Street, Whitechapel. In 1859, the Society was certified to operate as an Industrial School, allowing it to house boys who had been placed under detention by magistrates.

In 1872, following increasing pressure from its government inspector to separate the two sides of its work, the Society secure new premises for the Industrial School at 43 Leman Street, Whitechapel (renumbered as 86 in about 1881). The School transferred to the new site early in 1883, with the Shoeblack Society remaining at Mansell Street. Mrs and Mrs Thomas Pitt continued as superintendent and matron at the new location.

The arrangement of the accommodation at Leman Street was somewhat unusual, with the kitchen and dining room being on the upper storey, the workshop and schoolroom on the lower, and the dormitories in between. Although providing much more space than the previous premises, the new site lacked an open playground. There was, however, a large covered playground, fitted with gymnastic apparatus, and the boys could take exercise in the neighbouring drill ground and at Victoria Park.

The industrial training provided at the School continued to comprise brush-making, paper-bag making, and tailoring.

In 1875, the School's plunge bath was enlarged. In December of that year, Mr J.J. Pitt was recorded as superintendent, with Mrs Kirby as matron. By December, 1876, Mr and Mrs Alfred Gilbee had taken charge.

In 1882, all the boys went to Margate for a week in the summer, and the change of air was said to have had a beneficial effect upon their health and vigour. t that date, 29 boys worked in the brush factory, 19 as tailors, 6 as shoemakers, and 47 in the paper bag manufacture. A class of little boys knitted, darned, and repaired clothing. A School band had by now been established.

At the end of October, 1884, the School moved to new premises at Brookbank Street, Lewisham.

The Leman Street building then became the Whittington Club and Chambers for Working Youths — a residential, social and recreational establishment for shoeblacks and others, including those on licence from Industrial Schools. The premises, which provided accommodation for up to 200 boys aged from 16 to 20 years, was officially opened in January, 1885, by Prince Albert Victor, later Duke of Clarence.


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