Ancestry UK

Industrial School Ship 'Havannah', Cardiff, Glamorgan, Wales

Up until 1860, Cardiff's ragged school was based at Union Street in an old cavalry barracks. Following a request from the school's committee to the Admiralty for an old ship on which to open an Industrial School, the Havannah was offered on condition that the committee pay for her to be towed from Plymouth to Cardiff, and to be fitted out as a school ship. The required funds were raised and on July 9th, 1860, the vessel, which had served during the Napoleonic Wars, arrived at Cardiff. After spending a couple of months in East Bute Dock, with the ragged school now operating onboard, she was moved to a mooring on the River Taff, at the south side of Penarth Road. A wooden bridge was subsequently constructed to allow access from the road

Eighteen months later, on December 18th, 1861, the vessel was officially certified as an Industrial School Ship, allowing her to take boys committed by the courts. Havannah was the first such institution to be established. She could accommodate 90 boys aged 10 to 14, with a payment of up to 7s. a week required for boys placed by magistrates. Destitute and neglected children could attend the School as day scholars, without charge. Within a few months, the ship ceased to act as a ragged school.

As well as learning nautical skills, boys on the ship found local employment as errand and messenger boys, market porters, shoeblacks and knife cleaners. Some also chopped firewood which was sold in the area.

An inspection report in 1896 recorded 87 boys on board, of whom 24 were Roman Catholic. The superintendent and matron were Mr and Mrs James Colman, and the schoolmaster was Mr David. It was noted that most of the ship's upper deck was roofed in, forming a schoolroom and other offices. There were two sick-rooms, washroom, and bath on the same deck. Adjoining the ship was a plot of garden producing vegetables for the use of the School. A hydrant had been fixed in the garden with sufficient force of water to cover the ship. Judged by the rate of mortality over a number of years the health here was said to not compare favourably with that in more substantial buildings of brick or stone. In the classroom, mental arithmetic, geography, and singing were all rated as 'very fair' while recitation was 'fair'. The allocation of boys to various industrial tasks was as follows: 20 tailors (making and repairing all clothes and linen), 6 shoemakers (mending only by the boys), 12 sailmakers. 6 carpenters, and 8 doing laundry work. The boatswain instructed about 12 boys in steering at the wheel, the use of the compass, and splicing. Some of the boys learned a little gardening. There was a fife and drum band of 24 performers. The boys were instructed in gun drill and sword exercise, as well as in gymnastic exercises and fire drill. Extension motions and dumb-bell drill were carried out in lessons of one hour per month. The school had the use of a ground for football and cricket in their seasons, which were played about twice a week. The only outdoor exercise besides that taken daily in the small playground round the ship was an occasional walk on Sundays. A mark system was in operation, whereby good conduct resulted in monetary rewards each month.

The ship was closed in 1904 and sold for scrap the following year. Most of the boys on board at the time were transferred to the Industrial School Ship Formidable, moored on the Bristol Channel at Portishead.


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  • Glamorgan Archives, Clos Parc Morgannwg, Leckwith, Cardiff CF11 8AW. Has a few odd items.


  • None identified at present.