Ancestry UK

Shibden Industrial School for Roman Catholic Boys, near Halifax, West Riding of Yorkshire

The Shibden Industrial School for Roman Catholic Boys was established in 1877 in premises at 9 Shibden Hall Road, Shibden, near Halifax. The property was provided by John Lister, a supporter of the scheme, and owner of the nearby Shibden Hall. On November 1st, 1877, the School was formally certified to accommodate up to 60 boys who had been placed under detention by the courts for reasons such as vagrancy, frequenting with thieves, or being beyond their parents' control.

The School site was on high ground, facing Shibden Valley, about three-quarters of a mile out of Halifax. The nucleus of the building was a picturesque old hall, dating from about the year 1400, the ancient timbers of which still supported the dining room roof.

The School site is shown on the 1922 map below.

Shibden Industrial School for Roman Catholic Boys site, near Halifax, c.1922.

Shibden Industrial School from the north, 1920s.

An inspection of the School in August, 1878, gave a positive report. The dormitories were said to be airy and cheerful, and the washrooms spacious and well designed. There were good workshops for the tailors and shoemakers, a good-sized schoolroom, and a large playground. Six boys worked in the shoemaker's shop, and 13 in the tailor's. A certain number were employed each day in housework, some in the garden, and a few wood-chopping. The superintendent was Mr John Gosling, who also acted as schoolmaster, with Mrs Julia Gosling as matron. A shoemaker, tailor and labour-master were also employed.

By November, 1879, a large shed has been built for recreation in bad weather, and wood-cutting. About an acre and a half had been added to the garden, and the playground had been levelled. Some of the boys were now employed half-time in a neighbouring colliery also owned by John Lister, a development frowned upon by the School's inspector. Two boys were working in a brick field, and one was learning brass finishing. The remainder were employed in the garden and in wood-chopping. Produce from the garden was sold in the nearby town and was a source of profit to the School.

In 1881, a large swimming bath was built, with a schoolroom over it, and a dormitory above that. New store rooms were also added, and more garden land taken in. The following year, a new play shed was erected for exercise and play in wet weather. The official capacity of the School was subsequently increased to 150 places. By 1882, Mr O. Gosling had been appointed schoolmaster.

Boys released on license or who had left the school were given a general invitation to visit Mr Lister at Shibden Hall once a week. On November 4th, 1883, fourteen boys availed themselves of this privilege, and had tea there.

In September, 1883, after John Gosling had absconded with a large sum of School funds, the Rev. T.F. Downes was appointed superintendent, with Miss Gaunt as matron. The Rev. Downes subsequently reported that entering upon his duties, he found the boys literally starved, and that he suspected the records of punishments were untrustworthy. The School had also been left £500 in debt.

Following Downes' allegations, an official inquiry was held on 24th and 25th January, 1884. At the start of the proceedings, a former inmate of the School, John Fallon, aged 16, testified that on one occasion he had been confined in a cell from 3.30 on a Thursday afternoon, to 4 p.m. the following Sunday. During that time, he had received two meals a day, breakfast at 8 a.m. and supper at 8 p.m., each consisting of eight ounces of dry bread and a pot of water. The only clothes he had on were his shirt, trousers and stockings. There was no furniture in the cell, and when he tried to sit on the window-sill he had been told to get down. At 8pm a bed was brought. Fallon also said that he had been given the task of recording the punishments given to other boys. Some had received as many as thirty-six strokes but he had been told not to put down more than twelve on the slate. Another boy, Henry Goffney, aged 17, said he had received 31 strokes on his bare back for failing to spell the word 'armour' correctly. Daniel Conroy, the School's labour master for six years, said he had seen Mr Gosling birching boys for offences such as running away. Other witnesses testified as to having seen Mr Gosling drunk on a number of occasions in pubs in the area. Mrs Regan, the mother of a boy at the School, said she had complained about her son's treatment to Mr Lister, but he had taken no action. A number of witness, however, testified as to having visited the School and spoken to the boys, without being made aware of any problem or complaint. Most significantly, Dr T.M. Dolan, medical officer to the School since its opening, reported that the health of the boys during seven years had been exceptionally good. He had visited the School thirty or forty times a year and had had every opportunity of satisfying himself that the boys receive a sufficient quantity of food and that it was of good quality.

In July, 1884, the Home Office issued its decision on the evidence presented at the inquiry. It had concluded that, except in the matter of irregular punishments, the charges had not been borne out. There was no foundation for most of the serious charges made against the general management of the school, and that the statement that none of the boys who had left the school had turned out well, was absolutely untrue. Some suggestions had been made to the managers, particularly as to the necessity for more frequent visits from an enlarged committee, which had been accepted and acted upon.

The inquiry was followed by a change of officers at the School, with an assistant schoolmaster added. The staff then comprised: superintendent, the Rev. Thomas Worthy; matron, Mrs McEvoy; schoolmaster, Mr O'Hara, and assistant, Mr Boyle; shoemaker, labour-master, and gardener. In 1885, Miss Annie O'Flaherty succeeded Mrs McEvoy as matron.

A report in 1886, recorded 120 boys in residence, including 4 voluntary cases, with 28 out on licence. Eight half-timers worked in a neighbouring tile-yard. There were 20 boys learning tailoring; 15 at work in the shoemaker's shop; and a number of boys occupied in the garden. The School's practice of allowing the boys to hawk the produce of the garden in Leeds and Halifax was something that the inspector had previously criticised and he was assured that it was nearly given up. A drum and fife band had now been established. A mark system had been introduced by which a boy could earn a few pence each month for good conduct. The award and punishment lists were posted in the schoolroom.

In 1887, Miss M. O'Flaherty, was appointed as assistant matron to her sister. They briefly became joint matrons, then Miss M. O'Flaherty left the School.

In 1889, new buildings were completed to provide kitchens, matron's rooms, store-room, and a large infirmary and bathroom. Two years later, and enlarged dining room was constructed and part of the old dining room made into a chapel. In 1893, large new workshops were opened for the carpentry, tailoring, shoemaking, and for the newly introduced trade of printing. The carpentry workshop contained 9 lathes worked by steam power. A bakehouse was now in operation, Wire mattresses were being introduced. Over the previous year, nine boys had been sent to Canada. In 1894, telephone communication had been set up with Halifax.

In 1896, it was recorded that School now had 6 acres of gardens, and 14 acres of pasture. The livestock consisted of 6 cows in milk, 3 horses, and 2 goats. In the classroom, attainment in geography, composition and drawing were all rated as being 'very fair', while mental arithmetic ranged from 'good' to 'fair'. The allocation of the boys to industrial occupations included: 12 bakers, 8 shoemakers, 18 tailors, 6 printers, 22 turners, 4 farm and garden boys, 9 knitters and 8 japanners. The smaller boys were in school full time, or occasionally found light employment in the garden. Hand-sewn outside work was being done in the shoemaker's, and cutting-out in the tailor's. The bakery was said to be the most elaborate in any school, the boys being being trained to make not only bread, but also high-class confectionery. There was a good asphalted playground, with a fives or handball court. A field was available for football and cricket, and used daily in the summer. In the winter there were magic-lantern and other entertainments from time to time, and there was a library of 'penny' literature. Home leave was given to boys of food conduct who had a decent home. It was noted that Mrs Worthy, aunt of the superintendent, devoted herself to a general supervision of the management of the boys.

In March, 1906, Miss O'Flaherty left the School after 21 years as matron. The post then seems to have been discontinued and replaced by that of assistant superintendent.

At the end of September, 1911, the Very Rev. Canon Worth, as he was by now titled, retired from the post of superintendent after 27 years in office. He was succeeded by the Rev. P. Bethell. The other staff at this date were: assistant superintendent, Mr M. P. Doherty; head schoolmaster, Mr E. O'Byrne; assistant schoolmasters, Mr P. MacCartan and Mr W. Ferguson; three turners, two joiners, printer, tailor, shoemaker, bookbinder, baker, japanner, farm steward, knitter, cook, dormitorian, and domestic. Mr A. Robertshaw acted as the School's dentist.

In 1913, the running of the School was taken over by the Presentation Brothers. 1920, the superintendent was Brother Calasanctius.

In April, 1924, the School of the Good Shepherd as the institution was now known, had its official capacity reduced to 115 places.

The establishment's Industrial School certificate was terminated on 29th November, 1930, and it closed in 1932.

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the premises were taken over by the Royal Engineers. For a while, it also acted as soldiers' recuperation centre. Later in the war, a Polish Displaced Persons' Camp was established at the site and accommodated Polish and Yugoslavian troops. Aft the end of the war, the Polish Resettlement Corps used the buildings until 1948.

The buildings were then left empty and were demolished in 1981. In the 1990s, the site was redeveloped for housing on what is now Shibden Hall Croft.


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