Ancestry UK

Grotto Passage Ragged and Industrial School / Home for Working Boys, London

The Grotto Passage Ragged and Industrial School was established in 1846 and named after the passage-way that led to its original premises at the rear of what is now 55-56 Paddington Street in the Marylebone district of London.

By 1848, the activities of the institution quickly expanded to include: an Infant Day School, with an average attendance of 95; a Girls' Evening School, where reading, writing, and needlework were taught; an Evening School for Males, from nine to thirty years of age; a Day School for Boys, from seven to fourteen years of age; Industrial Classes for such boys who regularly, and with good conduct, attended the Day School; a Refuge for Destitute Orphan Boys, who were provided with food, lodging, industrial, and other instruction; and a Library and Reading Room open nightly to the most deserving of those attending the Evening School for Males. On Sunday mornings, prayers and Scripture reading took place for the Refuge orphans and boys attending the Day School. There was also Sunday School for children of both sexes.

The Grotto School location is shown on the 1870 map below.

Grotto Passage Ragged School site, Marylebone, c.1870.

Refuge Department of Grotto Passage School, c.1858. © Peter Higginbotham

A detailed portrait of the School, published in 1858, can be read on separate page.

The growth in public educational provision, especially following the 1870 Education Act, led to a decline in Ragged Schools. By 1881, the premises had become the 'Grotto Home for Destitute Lads', sometimes also referred to as the 'Grotto Passage Refuge'.

Grotto Passage sign, 2014 © Peter Higginbotham

Former Grotto Passage School, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Grotto Passage School, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Grotto Passage School, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

By the 1890s, the Home had expanded into 55 Paddington Street, which then became its usual address.

55 (right) and 56 (left) Paddington Street, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1900, the Grotto was converted for use as an Auxiliary Home under the Industrial Schools Act of 1868. It provided supervised accommodation for up to 40 boys who were making the transition, under licence, to independent working life. The home received its official certificate to begin operation on December 4th, 1900. Initially, the Grotto acted as an Auxiliary Home for boys from the Boys' Home Industrial School at Primrose Hill, but later also received them from other establishments.

Grotto Auxiliary Home recreation room, c.1905. © Peter Higginbotham

Grotto Auxiliary Home boys and staff, c.1905. © Peter Higginbotham

By 1920, the Home had relocated to 19-21 Southampton (now Conway) Street in Fitzrovia.

Now run by the Children's Aid Society, it moved again in 1930 to 'The Homestead" at 110 Hornsey Lane, Highgate, where on March 21st it was certified as an Auxiliary Home for up to 50 boys. The official opening of the new premises was performed by the Duke of York (the future George VI) on April 10th.

The Duke of York at The Homestead, 1930. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1935, the Grotto was still operating as a home for boys in or needing employment.

The Grotto's premises at 55 Paddington Street are now occupied by a Pharmacy. The Hornsey Lane building no longer exists and Ashmount Primary School now occupies the site.


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  • None noted at present.