Ancestry UK

Magdalene Institution, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland

The Glasgow Magdalene Institution for the Repression of Vice and Reformation of Penitent Females was founded in 1858. The organization campaigned against what it viewed as the great moral evils of the day including the city's Parry's Theatre ('a hotbed of obscenity'), the shows at the annual Glasgow Fair ('a prolific source of evil'), the use of nude living models in schools of art, and brothels.

To further its efforts in trying to reform young women who had lost their virtue, the Institution began to look for premises in which to undertake this work. It struggled to find an owner willing to allow their property to be used for such a purpose but eventually managed to lease a house in Parson Street, which opened its doors in September 1859. The property was used to accommodate fallen females of 'a better class', while those of a 'lower social grade' were temporarily housed in the Magdalen department of the city's House of Refuge for Females at 286 Parliamentary Road. The Magdalene Institution subsequently opened a receiving house at Bath Street, followed by a lodging house at Chatham Place, 17 Stirling Road.

By 1863, the Institution had begun to look for a location at which to build its own permanent premises. It found a suitable site at Maryhill, about five miles to the north-west of Glasgow. The beginning of construction work was delayed for a time while plans were being finalised for the exact route of a new railway being constructed in the vicinity. A further development came in 1865 when the Glasgow City Parochial Board announced that it intended to make a compulsory purchase of the House of Refuge site for use as an extension to the City Poorhouse. As a result, the Magdalene Institution and the House of Refuge decided to amalgamate their efforts and both move to the Maryhill site, where each would construct its own respective premises — a Magdalen Home and a Reformatory.

The new buildings at Maryhill were both designed by the Glasgow architect John Honeyman. The first to be completed, at the east of the site, was the Magdalene Institution, which was formally opened on 19 October 1867. It was situated on a slight eminence, about 300 yards to the north of the Forth and Clyde canal, and commanded good views in almost every direction. The front of the house faced the south. It was three stories high, the ground floor being occupied by the directors' room, waiting room, business room, matron's room etc., and the upper floors by dormitories. At each end of this range of the building, a spacious staircase provided access to the various floors. Extending backwards from these were two ranges of buildings, two stories high, the ground floors being occupied as work-rooms, and the upper floors as dormitories. The space between these two pavilions was roofed over and occupied as the dining hall and the chapel, which being only separated by folding doors, could be used as one large apartment if required. The dormitories could accommodate a total of 100 inmates. Immediately north from the centre of the building was a large single-storey block the form of the letter T, the gable of the part represented by the lower limb being about 30 feet back from from the kitchen. This part was the laundry, measuring 90 feet by 30 feet, with windows along both sides. The other two arms of the T contained the public washing house at the west, and the washing house for the inmates at the east.

The Maryhill site was sometimes referred to as the Magdalene Institution's Industrial Home. Inmates, who had to be below the age of 25, were expected to stay for two years.

The building for the House of Refuge, at the west of the site, opened in 1868. When that institution moved to a new location in 1879, its premises were taken over by the Glasgow Girls' Industrial School. The Maryhill site is shown on the 1910 map below.

Industrial School / Magdalene Institution site, Glasgow, c.1910.

Magdalene Institution from the south-west, Maryhill, Glasgow, c.1905. © Peter Higginbotham

The Magdalene Institution appears to have continued in operation until the 1950s, by which date it was known as the Lochburn Home. The buildings no longer survive and the site is now covered by modern housing.


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