Edgar Street Day Industrial School, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire
In 1881, the Leeds School Board opened a Day Industrial School at Edgar Street, Leeds, for children "whose education is neglected by their parents, or who are found wandering or in bad company." The premises had, until 1879, housed the Edgar Street Industrial School, a residential institution which had been taken over by the Board and relocated to new buildings at Shadwell Lane. Following alterations to the Edgar Street site, it was formally certified to begin operation on July 22nd, 1881. The staff comprised the superintendent, Mr T. O'Connor; matron, Mrs O'Connor; and schoolmistress, Miss Blakey.
The School buildings were in two sections on opposite sides if the street, with the kitchens, dining and work rooms on one side, and the schoolrooms and play-yards on the other. An early inspection in September, 1881, reported that the schoolroom and dining room were spacious and well ventilated. There were separate entrances, playgrounds, and lavatories for boys and girls. The kitchen arrangements, however, were said to be far too small for convenience. No industrial occupation had yet been introduced. By following year, this had been remedied. The girls learned knitting and sewing, and the boys were mainly employed in wood chopping. It was noted that the caretaker was kept busily employed in hunting up the absent children. Some of the more ragged children are helped with clothing
The children began work at 8 a.m. although school was open from 6 for those who liked to come early. Breakfast was provided at 8.30, dinner at 12.30, supper at 5, and the children were dismissed at 5.30. There was a half-holiday on Saturdays, a week at Christmas, another at Whitsuntide, and a fortnight in August.
There was a high turnover of staff in the School's early years. In 1882, in addition to her schoolroom duties, Miss Blakey had become superintendent. The matron was now Mrs Anderson, with Mr Anderson as caretaker, and Miss Dawson as assistant schoolmistress. In 1883, Mr and Mrs Matson were superintendent and matron, but a year later, Miss Blakey was back in charge, now relieved of classroom duties. There were now three schoolmistresses, Miss Dawson, Miss Davidson, and Miss Maria Blakey, the latter presumably a relative of the superintendent.
In 1886, two new classrooms and a teacher's sitting room were added to the premises, although the kitchen facilities still received regular criticism in inspection reports. The average daily attendance was now 120 children. The best attenders received marks, which counted up for a prize at Christmas, if their conduct had been good in other respects. Classroom lessons included reading, writing, dictation, arithmetic and singing. The children were also instructed in musical drill.
In 1891, rug-making had been added to the boys' industrial occupations, while the girls continued their domestic tasks of house-cleaning, washing, knitting, sewing, and helping in the kitchen. In the same year, Miss Blakey was succeeded as superintendent by Miss Barber. The following year, Miss Barber was replaced by Miss A.E. Wren, who had taught at the School for several years.
Improvements to the kitchen were finally made in 1893, and a new range installed. Plan were also made for the construction of a swimming bath. Classroom subjects now included drawing and geography.
At an inspection in 1896, 84 boys and 20 girls were in attendance, of whom 42 were Roman Catholics. It was noted that the School served one of the poorest districts in Leeds. In the classroom, performance in recitation and mental arithmetic were rated as 'very fair', geography as 'good' and composition in standard V as 'very good'. Word-building and object lessons had begun, and hand and eye training introduced. The two upper standards of the boys went out once a week to a manual instruction class at a neighbouring centre. The wife of the caretaker gave the girls a lesson in plain cooking once fortnight, and in rough washing in the alternate week. Physical training included a weekly session of extension exercises with dumb-bells. The School's recreation contained some old gymnastic apparatus for use by the boys, though instruction was not given. Any punishment was required to be given either by, or in the presence of, the superintendent. Truancy, generally accompanied by sleeping out, was said to be the chief disciplinary offence. Over the previous 9 months, 10 In boys had been sent to a boarding Industrial School for stealing, begging, and not having proper guardianship, and one girl for begging. Prizes were given for for good conduct and attendance, and the chairman of the committee gave a prize for tidiness to a boy and a girl. The pleasant relations between staff and children were evident from the not infrequent visits of former inmates who were on licence or who had been discharged.
In 1897, there was a special outing for the day to Thorp Arch. Several of the boys learned to swim during the summer. Colouring and clay modelling had been introduced in to the classroom.
In 1899, sixteen of the boys attended a centre for manual instruction in woodwork. A new gymnastic apparatus was fitted in the hall above the dining room and a class of 22 boys was given training in its use. Edgar Street thus had the distinction of being the first Day Industrial School where systematic instruction in gymnastics was provided. This was initially restricted just to the boys, but was extended to the girls in 1905.
Miss Wren, the superintendent, left in January, 1904 and was succeeded on February 8th, 1904, by Miss Madeline A. E. Milnes. In 1908, Miss L.M. Mitchell took charge of the School. The girls were by now receiving cookery lessons continue at the Victoria council school, where 'plain useful dishes' were taught. Laundry work was taken alternately with cookery and curtains, blouses, and stiff linen were all noted as being well done. All the girls in turn assisted with the cooking for the staff and took part in doing the school's washing. Boys and girls attended the public swimming bath and at Christmas fourteen certificates for swimming were presented. The boys' cricket team had regular practice in the park but no matches had been played
In February, 1913, the Leeds Education Committee announced that the School was to be closed. The decision was blamed on the unsatisfactory nature of the Edgar Street premises, the establishment's relatively high running costs, the falling numbers of pupils, and a decline in the necessity for such an institution. The School's Industrial School certificate was resigned as of April 14th, 1913, and the children were then all licensed to attend ordinary elementary schools.
The Edgar Street buildings no longer exist and Haslewood Drive now covers the area.
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- West Yorkshire Archive Service - Leeds, Nepshaw Lane South, Morley, Leeds LS27 7JQ. Holds the School's log book (1895-1913).
- 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.