Manchester and Salford Reformatory for Boys, Blackley, Manchester, Lancashire
A gentleman who was coming into Manchester one day, by omnibus from Cheetham Hill, observed a number of ragged boys running after the vehicle. He called upon the Rev. R.E. Brooke and offered to give £20 a year if a ragged school could be established in the neighbourhood. The Ragged and Industrial School for Boys and Girls was subsequently opened in July, 1854, on Mayes Street, in the Angel Meadow and Ancoats district of Manchester. Soon afterwards, applications for admission began to come from criminal boys, a few of whom were admitted as exceptional cases. After some debate, it was decided that criminals should be considered admissible and the School began to assume more and more of a reformatory character, raising the question of whether the institution should formally take on that identity. The sudden death of the master, from malignant fever, caused the temporary closure of the School, during it was decided to re-open it as a Reformatory institution, for boys only, and adopting the name of "The Manchester and Salford Reformatory." The establishment's committee decided that it should be relocated to new premises away from the centre of the town. Accordingly, in February, 1856, funds began to be raised for the scheme which soon amounted to almost £4,000. In October, 1856, nine acres of land were purchased at Blackley, and the plans of Messrs. Cawley and Radford were selected for the construction of a "plain but substantial" building, initially able to accommodate up to forty inmates, and with a governor's residence, workshops, and so on. The new establishment, situated on French Barn Lane near Blackley church, was formally opened on August 6th, 1867. Ten weeks later, on October 16th, it was formally certified for the reception of 50 boys. A contemporary report (slightly shortened) gave details of the building as follows:
The School site is shown on the 1893 map below.
The School's first superintendent was Mr. W. D. H. Antrobus. He was criticised in an 1860 inspection for report for over-severe discipline and resigned from his post, He was succeeded by Mr Henry Arnold who, although having had no experience of a Reformatory, had previously had charge of the Park Row Industrial School established by Mary Carpenter in Bristol. Arnold's wife, Sarah Ann, was appointed as the School's matron.
In 1886, the schoolroom and dormitory accommodation were enlarged, with a new bathroom and sick room added not long afterwards. The farming land had now been extended to 76 acres but was said not to be very profitable as it was too near the smoke of Manchester for good cropping. As well as farm work, the boys cultivated a large garden. There was also a class of eight for tailoring. Thirty of the smaller boys were occupied in the manufacture of matchboxes. A brass band had been started and had thirty members. A shoemaker's workshop was started in 1890, with carpentry and painting later being taught. In 1894, two of the boys worked in the village, one with a blacksmith, the other with a tinsmith. In wet weather, some of the boys were given wood-chopping to do.
Mr Arnold retired as superintendent at the end of March, 1889. Charge of the institution was then taken over by Mr and Mrs William Collins from Redhill. Mrs Collins died at the beginning of 1894 and was replaced by Miss Nunn. The other staff at this date comprised the schoolmaster, Mr Aldritt; farm bailiff, stableman, shoemaker, tailor, carpenter, labour-master and gardener. By 1896, Mr and Mrs J.S. Stephens had become superintendent and matron. In the same year it was noted that the School produced both flowers and vegetables, and a large new greenhouse. Its livestock now consisted of three horses, ten cows and four pigs. However, the proximity of a chemical works was having a detrimental effect on the productiveness of the grass land. The School now had a gymnasium and the boys learned physical and military drill. There was a swimming pond for them to bathe in during the summer. There was a football and cricket field and fixtures were arranged with other teams in the area. The School had a growing library and reading was allowed in the dormitories.
Mr Stephens died in the summer of 1900 and Mr B.H. Horth and his wife were appointed as superintendent and matron. Mr Horth died in the spring of 1904 and Mr and Mrs A.B. Waite then took over.
With the increasing encroachment of industrial Manchester onto the School's location, plans were made find a more rural situation. A suitable site was found at Poulton-le-Fylde and new purpose-built premises were erected. On June 1st, 1905, eighty boys from Blackley moved transferred to their new home.
The Blackley buildings were subsequently converted to residential use known as Pike Fold Cottages. The buildings were later occupied by a factory but have since been demolished. The site is now 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.
- Lancashire Archives, Lancashire Record Office, Bow Lane, Preston PR1 2RE. Holdings (covering both the Blackley and Poulton sites) include: Committee and Governors' Meeting Minute books (1853-1951); Printed annual reports (1856-1888); Superintendent's journal (1856-94); Admission registers (1881-1957, 1968-70, partially indexed); Admissions list (1857-72); Admission papers (1924-28); License and discharge book (1857-99); Register of inmates authorized for discharge on license (1978-1936); After-care books (1873-93, 1938-43, 1946-49, 1954-56); Punishment book (1915-38).
- Carpenter, Mary Reformatory Schools, for the Children of the Perishing and Dangerous Classes, and for Juvenile Offenders (1851, General Books; various reprints available)
- Carlebach, Julius Caring for Children in Trouble (1970, Routledge & Kegan Paul)
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- Abel Smith, Doroth Crouchfield: A History of the Herts Training School 1857-1982 (2008, Able Publishing)
- Garnett, Emmeline Juvenile offenders in Victorian Lancashire: W J Garnnett and the Bleasdale Reformatory (2008, Regional Heritage Centre, Lancaster University)
- Hicks, J.D. The Yorkshire Catholic Reformatory, Market Weighton (1996, East Yorkshire Local History Society)
- Slocombe, Ivor Wiltshire Reformatory for Boys, Warminster, 1856-1924 (2005, Hobnob Press)
- Duckworth, J.S. The Hardwicke Reformatory School, Gloucestershire (in Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 1995, Vol. 113, 151-165)
- Red Lodge Museum, Bristol — a former girls' reformatory.
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.