Ancestry UK

Hightown Truant/Industrial School for Boys, Hightown, near Liverpool, Lancashire

In 1878, the Liverpool School Board established one of the country's first Truant Industrial Schools. It was intended to enable the Board to deal more effectively with a class of troublesome children known as 'incorrigible truants' because of their persistence in absenting themselves from school attendance. The new School occupied purpose-built premises on what became known as School Road, Hightown, near Liverpool, which were formally certified for operation on December 13th, 1878.

The School included arrangements for, first a disciplinary stage, and second a probationary stage. In the disciplinary course of treatment the boy was kept in solitary confinement for a short period. In the probationary course. the discipline was much the same as in an ordinary Industrial School, with somewhat stricter regulations as to exercise and disposal of time. Detention at the School was for a limited period only. The children could be placed out on licence after a month's probation, on condition of attending a certified efficient school. If the conditions of licence were broken, a child could be brought back to the Truant School for another term of discipline and probation. The Hightown School was divided into two departments, one for Protestant, the other for Roman Catholic children. At the outset, the superintendent and matron of the Protestant section were Mr and Mrs Henry Hartland, and those of the Catholic section were Mr and Mrs Gilhooley. Each section had its own cook, labour-master, and laundress.

Because of their relatively short stays at the School, finding suitable industrial occupation caused some difficulty. Slipper and mat making were tried, and the boys assisted in the cooking and household work. Wood chopping was also introduced and outdoor work was provided in the vegetable garden. Regular drill formed part of the exercise regime.

In 1881, Mr and Mrs William Downing took charge of the Catholic section. The following year, superintendence of both departments changed with Mr and Mrs William Tyers appointed on the Protestant side, and Mr and Mrs T.B. George on the Catholic side. During an outbreak of scarlet fever in the Catholic section in 1882, the whole of the Protestant section was sent home for a period.

In January 1886, Mr and Mrs J.K. Leitch became superintendent and matron of the Protestant department.

An 1896 report noted that two sections of the School were identical, each having a corridor of 19 cells, 2 dormitories, a dining ball, schoolroom etc., with an ornamental garden at the front and a vegetable garden at the rear. The sea shore was within 5 minutes' walk. On the Protestant side, the industrial activity consisted of gardening (about a quarter of an acre), wood chopping, and some slipper making in the winter. On the Catholic side, there was an extra half acre of garden land, and enough vegetables were grown to supply the section, and even to make up any shortfall on the Protestant side. Peat from the shore had been used to improve the School's sandy soil. Besides the gardening and the ordinary house and laundry work, the Catholic boys had no other occupation. Both sections carried out daily drill with extension motions. The yards were too small for much play, so the boys are taken out two or three times a week to the shore where the sands provided plenty of room for recreation. The cells were now all fitted with beds and just used as as single dormitories.

The School site is shown on the 1908 map below.

Hightown School for Boys site, Liverpool, c.1908.

Hightown School for Boys, Liverpool, c.1878. © Peter Higginbotham

Hightown School for Boys (detail), Liverpool, c.1878. © Peter Higginbotham

Hightown School for Boys plan, Liverpool, c.1878. © Peter Higginbotham

Hightown School for Boys plan, Liverpool, c.1878. © Peter Higginbotham

From May 24th, 1907, the School was certified to also operate as an ordinary Industrial School, receiving boys that had been committed to long-term detention. The total capacity of the School was set at 160 places.

Hightown School for Boys, Liverpool, from the north, c.1907. © Peter Higginbotham

On April 1st, 1911, the Protestant and Catholic sections were placed under one superintendent, with Mr Leitch being appointed to this position.

By 1930, the establishment was known simply as Hightown School, with Mr F.J. Beswetherick as superintendent.

In 1933, Hightown became an Approved School, one of the new institutions introduced by the 1933 Children and Young Persons Act to replace the existing system of Reformatories and Industrial Schools. The School could then accommodate up to 120 Junior Boys, aged under 13 at their date of admission.

In 1939, the School relocated to Penketh, near Warrington, and became known as the Sankey School. During the Second World War, the Hightown premises were used to house evacuees from Liverpool. The building then stood empty for a time before re-opening as some kind of school. The building was demolished in 1963 and modern housing now covers the site.


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  • Liverpool Record Office and Local History Service, Central Library, William Brown Street, Liverpool L3 8EW. Holdings: Hightown Truant School Log Book with headmaster's reports (1932-33); Aftercare book (1936-56). (75 years closure on personal records.)



  • None noted at present.