Northumberland Association's Industrial Home for Girls, Plenmeller, near Haltwhistle, Northumberland
In 1885, the Northumberland Association for the Protection of Women and Children established an Industrial School for Girls to serve Newcastle and the surrounding area. The School was opened in a house on Plenmeller Road, Plenmeller (sometimes spelled Plainmeller or Plainmellor), near Haltwhistle, some thirty miles to the west of Newcastle. The premises, a small disused school and garden, belonged to the Rev. Dixon Dixon-Brown, who offered them on a 21-yar lease to the Association at a nominal rent. After the required alterations had been made, the building was formally certified for use as from July 9th, 1885, with accommodation for up to 26 girls, aged 6 to 12 years. A local committee of visitors was formed to oversee the practical working of the school whose staff comprised: superintendent, Miss Mary Mayers; assistant and teacher, Miss Frances Mayers; and an occasional labourer.
The School site is shown on the 1896 map below.
As well as classroom lessons, all the girls learned to knit and to sew. Some of the older girls helped with the housework, washing and needlework, and learn something of plain cooking.
A nearby cottage with five rooms could be used as an infirmary when required. Presumably this is part of the house to the east of the School, labelled Hospital on the 1896 map.
A report in 1896 described the School as a homely and comfortable building, situated in the midst of moorland scenery. The house was arranged so that the staff were constantly with the girls, creating a family-style home. The girls made their own clothes and also did some fine work for private customers. There was a laundry in which only the School's own washing was done. The girls helped in the small garden, weeding, tending flowers, etc. There was a small playground with a covered shed. Every fine Sunday, besides going to the church (a mile off), there was a walk over the hills or along the country lanes. An occasional half-holiday was granted, when the girls had a walk to Haltwhistle or into the country. In Haltwhistle they were allowed to spend any little pocket-money they might have. During the previous winter, the girls had gone to three concerts given in Haltwhistle. There were a few books and some old periodicals for the girls to read. Most of the girls had small play-boxes and toys which they were allowed to keep where they liked. Several presents were given to the girls by various friends of the School, including game from the Duke of Northumberland. The older girls were occasionally sent on messages to the post office etc. There was a mark system, small money rewards being given for good conduct. The money earned was banked in the Post Office Savings Bank, each girl having a pass-book.
In 1906, Miss Spiers and a lady friend began to visit the School each week to teach the girls drill and games. The sessions were said to have resulted in a great improvement in the carriage of the girls.
Miss Frances Mayers appears to have given up her post of school teacher by 1907. In the same year, it was decided to close the School and it resigned its certificate as of July 31st, 1907.
The former School is now a row of cottages known as The Homes.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- None identfied at present — any information welcome.
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- Mahood, Linda Policing Gender, Class and Family: Britain, 1850-1940 (1995, Univeristy of Alberta Press)
- Prahms, Wendy Newcastle Ragged and Industrial School (2006, The History Press)
- None noted at present.
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.