Ancestry UK

Abbot Memorial Industrial School, Gateshead, County Durham

The Abbot Memorial Ragged and School was founded in 1867 by Mrs Catherine Abbot, in memory of her husband, John George Abbot, and father-in-law, John Abbot, proprietors of the Park Iron and Brass Works. In March, 1867, a competition was launched for a design for the new building whose construction was to cost about £2,000, with a prize of £25 being offered for the winning submission. The winning submission was by Alfred Swan and work on the building, at a 2.5-acre site near to Cramer Dykes on Durham Road, Gateshead, began a few months later. The ceremonial laying of the foundation stone was performed by Mrs Abbot on October 17th, 1867, and the building completed a year or so later.

The School site is shown on the 1897 map below.

Abbot Memorial Industrial School site, Gateshead, c.1897.

Abbot Memorial Industrial School, Gateshead, c.1900. © Peter Higginbotham

An 1867 account of the building recorded that:

The building as seen from the main road is of the shape of an inverted T. The lateral branches comprise the schools and industrial departments, and the branch to the east forms the dining hall, while the central portion contains the apartments of the master and the offices connected with the house department generally, The principal front and entrance will be towards the west, facing the main road. The entrances for scholars will be at the back, towards the east. Owing to the fall of the ground from west to east, the principal floor of the building has been sufficiently elevated to allow of a basement or sub-storey level with the ground behind. This arrangement secures the additional advantage of increased open space behind for garden and play-ground. Upon the basement floor are placed the various workrooms and kitchen offices. On the south, or boys' side, is the general workroom, 58 feet by 22 feet; also rooms for printer, tailor, and work stores. The north wing, corresponding with that which forms the general workroom on the south side, serves, in connection with wash-house, laundry, &c., the purpose of a covered drying-ground. The kitchen, scullery, and store-rooms take up the rest of the accommodation on this floor. A covered play-ground is provided for both boys and girls, the continuation of which forms covered a passage to privies, coals, &c. The privies are designed upon the earth system. The lavatories are placed near each entrance, convenient for the use of the children before going into school. The school rooms, with class rooms connected, form the north and south wings upon the principal floor. The schools are calculated to afford accommodation, each respectively, for 150 boys and girls. The central division of the building from this floor upwards is occupied with the master's residence, committee room, &c. The principal entrance is upon this level approached by a bold flight of steps leading into an outer lobby, and thence upon the principal staircase. The dining hall, which forms the east wing, also upon this floor; it is in size 50 feet by 27 feet, and approached from both boys' and girls' sides by distinct entrances, also from the principal staircase. There is a serving room attached to the hall, which has communication with the kitchen by means of lift. The dormitory accommodation is calculated for boys and girls, having special provision for matron, assistant matron, and warden. The reading rooms are on this floor, and are so placed in relation to the dormitories to admit of supervision on the part of the warden and matrons. The style of the building is modern Gothic; moulded and coloured brick being introduced for architectural effect.

On January 27th, 1869, the establishment was certified to operate as an Industrial School, allowing its inmates to include children placed under detention by magistrates. The School commenced operation on February 8th, with Mr George Higginbottom (or Higginbotham) as superintendent and his wife, Frances, as matron. Other staff appointed were a schoolmaster, warden, tailoress, shoemaker, workmistress, cook and assistant.

The children attend schooled and worked alternately morning and afternoon, one half each time. Industrial training for the boys included firewood cutting, tailoring, shoemaking, gardening, and a little carpentry. For the girls, the it was the usual employment of housework, needlework, and the school's washing. The firewood was sold to local householders and generated a significant income. The boys were trusted with its delivery and bringing back the money from the customers.

In 1882, Miss Anderson replaced Mrs Higginbottom as matron. The following year, Mr Higginbottom was succeeded as superintendent by Mr Charles G. Nicholls who was to hold the post until July 1910, alongside a number of different matrons.

A report in 1896 described the School as not particularly well-built or conveniently arranged, with some of the rooms being rather gloomy. There were two play-yards and about half an acre of garden at the back of the property. New workshops had recently been built. The allocation of boys to different tasks was as follows: Tailors, 13; Shoemakers, 12; Gardeners, 11; Sawmills, 4; Boilers 4; Joiners/carvers/wood-turners, 13; Wood-chopping, 31; Office boys, 2; In full-time school, 13. The boys' brass and reed band now numbered 40 players. Evening classes were being held in machine and building construction and drawing. The girls learned to knit and sew. They made, mended, and washed for the boys, and scrubbed and cleaned the whole house. A class of 18 girls received weekly instruction in cookery. There were a few small garden plots, in which, however, the girls were said to not take much interest. For recreation, the boys were supplied with soft balls and the girls with skipping ropes. The boys attended Gateshead swimming baths twice a week in the summer and learned to swim. There were about 120 books in the boys' library and 40 or 50 in the girls'. Games were also supplied to the boys, but they took too much interest in their drawing to pay much attention to them. Inmates from Gateshead of good conduct were allowed to visit their own homes once a week, the girls on Saturday and the boys on Sunday afternoons. Those from further afield could go home once a fortnight. Mrs Abbot provided a Christmas dinner and there was an annual trip to a sports event at South Shields. Magic lantern entertainments and other treats were provided by lady friends of the School. very few serious offences. A mark system was in operation, where the inmates' conduct affected their leave and privileges and annual prizes. A 'troublesome party' for extra work had replaced minor corporal punishment, and the home visits were said to be a great incentive to good conduct.

Inspection reports for the School expressed increasing dissatisfaction with the adequacy of separation of the sexes, and suggesting that the girls be moved to a separate establishment. This eventually took place in 1905 and the girls were dispersed amongst other institutions, The School was re-certified to accommodate 150 boys on July 1st, 1905.

In 1910, Mr Robert Barlow took over as superintendent, with Miss Mary Bryers now as matron. It was reported that a number of structural alterations and improvements had been made, including male and female officers' rooms, recreation room, band practice room, gymnasium, additional lavatory accommodation and bathroom. The garden had been rearranged, plots having been formed for 12 boys on the site of old carpet-beating frames.

The School closed in 1929. The building, later known as Red Stamp House, was demolished in 1968.


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