Ancestry UK

North London Truant/Industrial School for Boys (Northcotts), Walthamstow, Essex

The North London Truant Industrial School for Boys was established in 1884 and jointly managed by the Tottenham, Hornsey and Edmonton School Boards. On May 10th, 1884, the School was certified to begin operation in premises at 115 High Street, Walthamstow, with accommodation for 56 boys. The building was described as a large old-fashioned dwelling-house with large gardens, giving plenty of room for exercise and recreation. The School's first superintendent and matron were Mr and Mrs C.E. Kirk.

The School received boys who, having persistently failed to attend ordinary school, were committed to detention for up to three years or until they reached the age of fourteen, whichever was the shorter period. In most cases, after three months at the School, boys were released on license on condition that they attended school regularly. Failure to do so would result in a return to the Truant School, this time for a slightly longer period. The parents of a boy at the School contributed two shillings a week towards his maintenance.

Following extensions to the premises, including the provision of a separate infirmary, the School was certified to accommodate 120 boys in June 1894.

In 1897, it was noted that the only industrial training at the School was wood-chopping, which employed 40 boys, and gardening, at which another 40 worked occasionally. The boys assisted in the laundry, kitchen and house, and also in the making and repairing of shirts and socks. Military drill and 'extension motions' were carried out for about 1¼ hours each day. About three-quarters of an hour was allowed for play in the yard, extended to two hours on Saturdays. There was a plunge bath just large enough to see that some of the boys could swim. Boys were received from all parts of the country, from as far north as Yorkshire, and as far south as Dartford.

Following the death of Mr Kirk on June 29th, 1908, Mrs Kirk was appointed as superintendent. At around this time, a mark system was introduced where rewards and privileges could be earned by good conduct. Well-behaved boys were taken for weekly outings.

On August 18th, 1909, the School became an 'ordinary' Industrial School, receiving boys placed under longer term detention.

In 1933, the institution 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. Now known as Northcotts (North London) School, it was certified to accommodate up to 85 Junior boys, aged from 10 to 13. The headmaster in 1935 was Mr J.H. Cullen. In 1936, the Middlesex County Council agreed to take over management of the School.

Puppet theatre at Nortcotts School, c.1937. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1939, the increasing inadequacy of the High Street premises resulted in plans for its relocation to Pishiobury Park in Hertfordshire. The move was delayed when a fire in July 1939 at the St Nicholas' Remand Home led to that institution briefly being housed at Pishiobury. The Northcotts School's move to Pishiobury took place early in 1941, and it then became known as Pishiobury School.

The Walthamstow site was later used as a Civil Defence Centre. The building was demolished in 1965.


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