Ancestry UK

Dalbeth Reformatory/Industrial/Approved School for Roman Catholic Girls, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland

In 1851, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd established a Magdalen Home in part of their convent at London Road, Dalbeth, about two miles to the south-east of central Glasgow. The building had originally been erected for use as a college. On 23 June 1858, part of the building was formally certified to begin operation as a Reformatory, with accommodation for 30 girls aged from 9 to 14 years at their date of admission.

The Reformatory occupied the whole of the second floor of the building, which provided four good-sized rooms for the inmates, plus two rooms for the sisters in charge. In addition to those rooms used as dormitories and work-rooms, there was a large room on the first floor used as a refectory. The convent's chapel, laundry and large garden were also available for the Reformatory's use. The discipline, diet, timetable etc. followed that already ins use at the Arno's Court Reformatory in Bristol, also run by the Good Shepherd Sisters. The first superintendent was Mrs Lockwood, assisted by several of the Sisters. By 1859, she had been succeeded by Mrs Newson.

The numbers admitted to the establishment rose rapidly. An inspection in November 1862 recorded 86 in residence. Several of the girls placed out in service had done well, but six of those who had left the school had been in prison in the past year. The industrial training of the girls was in needlework, and in the laundry and kitchen. Most of the girls were able to read and spell, and most knew more or less of their tables. Difficulties occurred the following year when Arno's Court became full and a number of girls from Liverpool, much to their displeasure, were committed to Dalbeth. By 1863, the superintendent was Miss Trumpler, replaced in 1864 by Miss Lawson, previously chief assistant as Arno's Court.

The 1872 inspection recorded that there were now 88 inmates in the institution. The premises were in very satisfactory order but the discipline of the house was rather lax and wanting in authority. Classroom performance was 'fairly satisfactory'. It was noted that every door was locked and bolted and every window barred as if the School was a juvenile prison — not the principle on which such institutions should be conducted. The School was too secluded for the class of girls it catered for. They needed greater freedom, and less restraint and confinement. Miss Lawson retired 1872 and was replaced by Miss Roskell. From 1873, however, the superintendent was recorded as being an unnamed Sister or Mother Superioress.

In 1878, new buildings were completed, providing a large new school room, and additional dormitory, and improvements to the workrooms etc. The School site is shown on the 1893 map below.

Roman Catholic Reformatory for Girls site, Glasgow, c.1893.

Laundry work continued to be the major industrial occupation for the older girls, and the laundry was re-organised and refurbished in 1886. All the inmates were instructed in knitting and plain needlework. Machine work also being taught, and the girls made their own clothing. The girls also helped with the housework, and in the kitchen and bakehouse, which produced all the bread for the institution.

By 1891, the number of girls under detention at the School had fallen to 41. As a result of this decline, it was decided to turn the establishment into an Industrial School. Instead of receiving girls who had committed imprisonable offences, its intake would now mainly include those committed for matters such vagrancy, begging, or parental neglect or ill-treatment. The School was formally certified to begin operation in its new role on 12 May 1892, with accommodation for 150 girls, aged from 6 to 10 years at their date of admission. The existing Reformatory inmates were either discharged, if suitable, or transferred to other institutions, the majority going to Arno's Court. At Dalbeth, various additions and modifications were made to the premises to make them more suitable for the younger class of inmates they were now to receive.

An inspection of the School in 1896 found 120 girls present, with one voluntary case and one girl out on licence. The interior of the building was described as fairly bright and comfortable, though not very conveniently arranged, and the rooms being of a good size. The laundry had been burnt down during the year and a new one had been erected on the old site. The school adjoins a Magdalen institution under the management of the sane sisterhood. Around the institutions were over 16 acres of land laid out as garden and pleasure grounds. In the classroom, composition, recitation, mental arithmetic and singing were generally rated as 'good' or 'very fair'. A class of sixteen of the older girls were receiving instruction in shorthand, typewriting and telegraphy. All the girls learned to knit and sew, and all their clothes were made in the School. A few of the older girls gained some experience in housework, and there were always two in the kitchen. The laundry employed several of the bigger girls. Musical drill with dumb-bell took place regularly. The little ones were taken out frequently, while the others had an occasional walk. Picnics in the grounds, concerts, and other entertainments were arranged from time to time. A mark system, giving rewards for good conduct, was about to be extended to all departments of the School. The staff of the School now comprised: the Superioress, Miss Rosa Maguire; Mistress of the school, Sister Mary; and nine Sisters of the Order of the Good Shepherd, with three lay assistants.

By 1898, a class of 24 girls was receiving instruction in cookery. A few also learned dressmaking. A new public park was opened nearby at Toll Cross which was of benefit to the School.

A new play and rill room was built in 1906, with a new dormitory being added the following year. Swedish drill now took place twice weekly. In 1910, a new bathroom with six porcelain baths was installed. That year's inspection report described the School as 'one of the very best of its kind.'

In June 1911, Miss Maguire was succeeded as superintendent by Miss J.A. Brand.

In 1933, the establishment 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. Renamed Dalbeth Girls' School, it accommodated up to 150 girls, aged from 4 to 10 years at their date of admission.

During the Second World War, the school was evacuated to Castle Huntly, Longforgan, Perthshire. In 1943, the practical instruction provided at the establishment included cookery, laundrywork, dressmaking and gardening. The headmistress was now Sister E. Dwyer.

The Good Shepherd Sisters left Dalbeth in 1949 and moved to new premises at Old Bishopton, Renfrewshire, where the School resumed operation, still known as Dalbeth School.

The 1968 Social Work (Scotland) Act aimed to bring Approved Schools in Scotland under the control of local authority social work departments. Unlike most other Approved Schools, which were then redesignated as 'List D' schools, Dalbeth appears not to have participated in this arrangement. The establishment did, however, continue in operation for a number of years as an independent girls' school.

The Dalbeth premises no longer exist but part of the Old Bishopton building still survives.


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