Ancestry UK

Kibble Reformatory for Boys / Kibble School, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland

The Kibble Reformatory was established as a result of a bequest by Miss Elizabeth Kibble of Paisley, for the purpose of founding an institution 'for the purpose of reclaiming youthful offenders against the laws'. A three-acre site was purchased on the east side of the Greenock Road and a suitable building erected. The institution was origiginally intended to have separate sections for boys and girls, but it was subsequently decided to make it a boys-only establishment. On 2 July 1859, the premises were formally certified to operate as a Reformatory, with accommodation for 60 boys aged from 11 to 14 years at their date of admission. The new school began practical operation on 31 August 1859. Its first inmates came from the Paisley Ragged and Industrial School, which had previously operated as a Reformatory for both boys and girls but was now removing its Reformatory boys. The boys' previous superintendent, Mr Allan, moved with them to their new home.

The upper floor of the new building contained a large dormitory with a separate bed for each inmate, a sick ward, an apartment for the assistant, a lavatory, and other necessary conveniences. The lower floor was occupied by workshops, dining-hall, schoolroom, kitchen, and governor's house. A block at the rear conatined facilities for cooking, washing, drying, etc. The building was designed to be capable of being extended if required by adding one or two wings to the front building. The staircases were arranged to suit such an extension, while the kitchen and cooking-house and other offices were ample for a larger establishment.

An inspection in 1865 noted that ome useful alterations to the premises had been carried out. The schoolroom and laundry had been enlarged, and a joiner's shop, a drying room, and two cells added. The educational condition of the school was good, the reading of the boys throughout the classes being much above the average, and their ciphering and dictation very good. The industrial training comprised tailoring, shoemaking, and cultivation of the garden. The average number of boys in the school that year was 53.

In 1867, Mr Allan left to take charge of the Glasgow House of Refuge. He was succeeded as superintendent by Mr John Rae, with Mrs Rae as matron. The following year, fifteen acres of rough land were rented about thre-quarters of a mile from the school, with the aim of providing the boys with outdoor employment through its reclamation and cultivation. A further 15 acres of adjoining moss land were added in 1871.

In September 1872, there was an attempt on the part of many of the boys to make their escape from the school. The affair appeared to have been unpremeditated and to have been brought about by the unwise conduct of an assistant member of the staff. All the boys were soon recovered, with four being punished by imprisonment.

In 1878, Mr Rae resigned to follow in his predecessor's footsteps and take charge of the Glasgow House of Refuge. He was replaced by Mr John Grant from the Inverness Reformatory, with Mrs Grant as matron. In the same year, new tailor's and shoemaketr's workshops were added, together with an outdoor playshed for use in wet weather. The farmland cultivated by the school provided plenty of employment for the boys. They were also occupied in the garden and each boy had a plot of ground for himself. Three cows and a pony were kept. The were now 17 boys working as tailors, and 15 as shoemakers. Others worked in the large joiner's shop.

In 1885-6, a number of alterations and additions were made to the buildings including a new dining room, bathroom and wash-house, and an extension of the schoolroom and classroom. There were now 24 boys working as tailors, 18 as shoemakers, 35 in the joiners and wood-chopping department, 20 working on the farm, 4 in the garden, and a few in the kitchen and laundry. A band had been established. In addition to Mr and Mrs Grant, the staff comprised: schoolmaster, Mr John Gemmill; assistant schoolmaster, Mr A. Campbell; assistant superintendent, Mr. James Adam; cook; bandmaster, occasional; farm bailiff, tailor, assistant tailor, shoemaker, assistant shoemaker, and joiner. Mains water and gas supplies were laid on from the town.

The School site is shown on the 1898 map below.

Kibble Reformatory for Boys / Kibble School site, Paisley, c.1898.

By 1896, Mr and Mrs James Love had taken over as superintendent and matron. Physical and military drill has been introduced. Boys were allowed out to visit their friends about once in 9 weeks. On Saturdays they were allowed out in pairs to visit the museum. The boys went to the public baths for swimming every Thursday. There was a mark system in operation, marks being given for work and conduct, and a boy was able to earn as much as 1s. 6d. a week. In August 1896, the school camped out for a week on the coast of Ayrshire.

By 1901, the physical training exercises consisted of extension movements, dumb-bell and maze drills, single-stick, and high jumping; the school's 60-strong pack of harriers regularly turned out in appropriate costume for a run of 5 or (6 miles across the countryside. Swimming was also encouraged, and out of football 15 matches against outside teams only 4 were lost by the school.

In October 1902, an additional wing was completed which provided a new schoolroom, a gymnasium, and a dormitory. The dining hall was also enlarged. At an inspection the following year, it was intimated that the new gymnasium was still regarded by the school as somewhat of a toy, 'its polished floor suggesting show rather than business.' In 1904, however, things improved when a visiting drill instructor was appointed to train the boys in free and applied gymnastics. The school now had a good record for football, five gold medals having been won for beating no less than 20 different teams under the auspices of a district sports association. Cricket was also played, and the school won pride of place in a swimming competition. In the summer of 1904, the boys camped out for a fortnight on the seashore at Skipness, Kintyre. The school's indsutrial training now included drawing and manual instruction.

In 1907, the laundry was fitted with new appliances consisting of an engine, washing-machine and extractor. Twenty-eight boys were now engaged on the farm — four of them were milkers, and four others were reported as being able to plough. The smaller boys worked in the kitchen garden. Lessons on the principles of agriculture were given to the farm boys. Six boys regularly worked as carpenters and joiners, and a small outside trade was being cultivated. About 30 out-workers were engaged in local box-making, turning, and rope-spinning works. The boys gave their annual concert in the Clark Hall to a large audience, and friends gave concerts and entertainments to the boys at the school. After a lapse of some years, a mark system was being re-introduced. Eight boys had been emigrated to Canada during the year, and one to Australia.

In 1911, the premises were considerably extended with the provision of two new dormitories, a nurse's room, dining hall, kitchen with pantries and store-room, lavatory and plunge-bath, needle-room, convalescent sick-room, and laundry. The extensions were formally opened on 22 October by the Right Hon. Lord Pentland, Secretary for Scotland. A new greenhouse was erected to the west of the joiner's shop, the work being done by the boys under the direction of the joiner. A playing field of six acres adjoining the school was rented. A school troop of boy scouts was established. The school was in camp for three weeks at Bilchattan Bay. In addition to various concerts and entertainments, the school dramatic society has proved beneficial. A school council was now in operation. Of 38 boys who had left since the previous annual inspection, 28 had entered skilled or progressive callings, seven had been emigrated, and one had entered the army. Thirty-four of the situations had been found by the school.

In the 1920s, the school became known as Kibble Farm School. In 1933, the establishment became an Approved School, one of the new institutions introduced by the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act to replace the existing system of Reformatories and Industrial Schools. It now accommodated up to 130 Senior Boys, aged from 14 to 17 years at their date of admission. The superintendent was now Mr G. Gardner. In 1943, the school was described as providing specialised training in market gardening, dairywork, pig and poultry rearing, carpentry and shoemaking.

The 1968 Social Work (Scotland) Act aimed to bring Approved Schools in Scotland under the control of local authority social work departments. As a result of a title in a list drawn up by the Scottish Education Department, Kibble became referred to as a 'List D' school. In 1996, following a re-organisation of local authority boundaries and funding, Kibble became an Education and Care Centre. It now operates as a social enterprise, selling services to local authorities.

The original school 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.

  • The Kibble Centre has undertaken research into its own history and records, now available online,