Wolverhampton Day Industrial School, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire
The Wolverhampton Day Industrial School was established in 1881 by the Wolverhampton School Board. It occupied the buildings of a former elementary school on Salop Street, Wolverhampton, which had been standing empty for some time. The premises, having been converted for their new role, were formally certified for operation on September 2nd, 1881, with accommodation for 150 children, aged 7 to 13 years. The School began practical operation on November 2nd.
The School site is shown on the 1886 map below.
An inspection report in 1882 noted that there were 58 boys and 14 girls in attendance. The premises were airy and commodious, and a new work room had recently been constructed. There was a separate playground for boys and girls. The educational performance of the children was said to be perfectly satisfactory, their order and attention very commendable, and their singing very good. Industrial training was at an elementary stage. A little mat making, shoemaking and wood chopping had been accomplished by the boys. The girls assisted in the kitchen, washing, and general work of the house, and learned to knit and sew. Miss Newman was the School's superintendent, Mr and Mrs Steer were labour master and cook, and Miss A. Vicars and Miss B. Cliff assisted in the school.
In May, 1883, Miss Newman, was succeeded by Miss F.E. Readman from Gateshead Day Industrial School. Miss Kate Kirby took over from Miss Readman in 1886. Regular physical drill was now provided for the boys.
On August 9th, 1887, two boys at the School were punished for some offence by Miss Kirby, who confined them for five hours in a small and dark disinfecting chamber, with only bread, treacle and water for sustenance. The boys were also given six strokes with a birch rod. This was in direct contravention of several clauses in the rules of the School Board. At a special meeting of the Board to discuss the matter, it was also alleged that the other staff at the School had no confidence in Miss Kirby, a number being said to have resigned during the previous year because of her tyranny. Despite some Board members calling for Miss Kirby's resignation, she was instead reprimanded and allowed to remain in her post.
In 1890 it was reported that special prizes were awarded to the children by the School Board: 1. For regularity of attendance at school. 2. For general good conduct and obedience. 3. For personal cleanliness and tidiness of dress.
An inspection in 1896 commented that the School's location, though central, was in a very bad quarter of the town, with Italian lodging-houses close by. The School was hemmed in on all sides and, in spite of the site of several adjoining cottages having been taken over, was much cramped for space. In the classroom, composition, geography and singing (sol-fa) were all rated 'very fair', while recitation and mental arithmetic were 'good'. Object lessons for the juniors had just begun but drawing was not taught throughout as happened in most Day Industrial Schools. Wood-chopping was the staple industry of the school and employed nearly all the boys. Shops and private customers were supplied and a fair profit made. Manual instruction (carpentry, etc.) had recently been introduced and six boys had a lesson for a half day each week from qualified instructor. There was also a little mat-making.. The girls did the house and kitchen work as well as the washing for the Board's cookery classes, even though they did not benefit from this instruction themselves. Needlework and knitting receives attention so far as the children's own clothes, towels etc. were concerned. Dumb-bell drill took place for the boys once a week, although the girls had no equivalent exercise. The play-yards were small but the children were occasionally taken out to the public park for games. The boys had obtained the shield for physical drill against all other Board schools in the town for three consecutive years (1891-3) and then relinquished it as the other schools were becoming discouraged. The life-belt for swimming was still in possession of the school. A member of the Board provided a treat for the whole school each year. Truancy was regarded as the chief disciplinary problem, and punishment with the birch mostly administered for this offence. Two or three cases of stealing front stalls in the market end a case or two of idleness and disobedience completed the record in punishment book. There was a general mark system in operation, with half-yearly rewards for good conduct. Attendance was mostly very good good except at certain times when there were special attractions in the district, such as races and fairs.
The School was regularly praised for its work and in 1903 was commended as being 'brimful of well-directed energy'. Praise was also given to the 'pluck and enterprise' of the boys, the majority of whom, on their own initiative, had learned to swim — a local canal providing the venue. In June, 1903, the certified accommodation at the School was reduced slightly to 140 places.
By 1915, Miss E. Cumming had taken over as superintendent.
Despite its excellent reputation, the number of children on the School roll steadily declined, with only 28 present at an inspection in 1910. Eventually, the Wolverhampton Education Committee, who now managed the School, decided that it should close and its certificate was formally resigned on November 18th, 1919.
The buildings no longer survive and the site is now
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.
- Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies, Molineux Hotel Building, Whitmore Hill, Wolverhampton WV1 1SF. Holds Admission register (1895-1919); School log-book (1881-1919).
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- Mahood, Linda Policing Gender, Class and Family: Britain, 1850-1940 (1995, Univeristy of Alberta Press)
- Prahms, Wendy Newcastle Ragged and Industrial School (2006, The History Press)
- None noted at present.
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.