Field Lane Industrial School for Boys, West Hampstead, London
The Field Lane Industrial School for Boys was originally opened in 1870 in part of the Ragged School premises at 65 West Street, Clerkenwell. In 1878, after a brief residence in temporary premises on Wilderness Row, the School moved to a newly constructed building at Hillfield Road, Hampstead. On October 12th, 1878, the new establishment was certified to begin operation and could accommodate up to 100 boys, aged under 10 at their date of admission. The superintendent and matron at Clerkenwell, Mr and Mrs F. Owen, moved with the School to Hampstead.
An inspection of the School in December, 1878, found many faults at the establishment. The house was untidy and the boys looked dirty, neglected and not properly cared. Records had been indifferently kept. There had been several cases of absconding, and a good deal of severe punishment administered, to the extent that the School's Committee of Management had actively interfered to ensure that punishment was kept strictly within regular limits. Not surprisingly, a change of superintendence followed, with Mr George Peall and his wife Maryann placed in charge on March 8th, 1879. A report in November, 1879, found that things had been transformed, with the boys now clean, orderly and cheerful. A total of 25 boys were employed in tailoring, 25 in shoemaking, and a class of boys were employed as carpenters. Wood-chopping was introduced the following year and the establishment's large garden brought under cultivation. The boys began to bake their own bread and also assisted in the kitchen and laundry.
In November, 1890, there were 20 boys occupied in the tailor's shop, 34 in wood-chopping, 9 in gardening, 18 in shoemaking, 13 in the needle-room, and 6 in the bakehouse. About 11 or 12 sacks were baked each week, with some other schools being supplied and a good private trade. A good band had now been established. The boys had been taken for a holiday to Ramsgate, with 20 staying for three weeks, the remainder for a week and a half each.
In February 1891, the Pealls left to take charge of the new Highbury Truant Industrial School. They were succeeded by Mr and Mrs S.J. Taylor. In the same year, a number of additions were made to the premises including a covered playground, an additional dormitory and a good infirmary. On November 7th, 1892, the School's official accommodation limit was increased to 130 places.
An 1896 report described the interior of the School as bright and cheerful, but with an extra classroom, a carpenter's shop, and additional officers' accommodation all needed. The market garden, at either end of the main building, extended to almost two acres. The boys' classroom performance was uniformly good. Drawing was now being taken and had received an 'Excellent' award in 1895. Singing, which had lately been in abeyance owing to a change of master, was now to be taken on Saturday evenings. The usual distribution of the boys at work was: 22 tailors, 20 shoemakers, 14 in the needle-room, 10 gardeners, 3 bakers, 16 house boys (including laundry) and 37 wood-choppers. Outside work was undertaken by both the tailor's and shoemaker's shops. It was hoped that the wood-chopping would soon be supplemented by a carpenter's shop, where manual instruction would be given. The brass and reed band now had 30 members. band of 30. The School had a good asphalted playground, and on Saturday afternoons the boys went onto the Heath. Military and physical drills were given for 20 minutes daily. From 20 to 30 boys went out each day on messages, unaccompanied by an officer. The School spent a fortnight by the sea in the summer in a house at Ramsgate lent by Lady Rose Weigall. Entertainments are got up from time to time in the winter, but a library of books interesting to boys was lacking. About a dozen of the older boys went fortnightly in summer to a swimming bath. The doctor called once a week and oftener if necessary. The boys' teeth were examined once a month by a dentist.
The following year, it was reported that a library of 117 books had now been added to the schoolroom. The superintendent of the School was also about to begin a half-yearly visit to their homes of all boys who had left the school during the previous 3 years.
The Taylors were still in charge of the School in 1920. By 1930, Mr R. Jones had become superintendent.
The School closed in 1931. The site was then sold off by its owners, the Field Lane Refuges Association, and the proceeds used to buy land adjoining their Vine Hill headquarters, for use as a children's playground.
The Hillfield Road premises were subsequently occupied by the Berridge House Domestic Training College. The building no longer exists and the site is covered by modern housing.
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.
- London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R OHB. (The Ancestry website also has LMA records relating to workhouses and other institutions — more details.)
- 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.