Ancestry UK

Industrial School for Girls (St Hilda's), York, East Riding of Yorkshire

Up until 1874, York's Industrial School on Marygate was a mixed establishment. After being condemned, the premises were rebuilt for use as a boys-only institution, with the girls then in residence being transferred being transferred to the Leeds Industrial School for Girls.

At the beginning of 1877, a movement was formed to re-establish a Girls' Industrial School in York. Fund-raising began with a donation of £100 by Major Stapylton, the High Sheriff of the county. Within a few months, sufficient money had been raised to purchase the house for the purpose at 28 Monkgate, a property previously been used as a hospital for the 2nd West York Militia. Alterations were carried out under the direction of the city architect, Mr Taylor, and the premises were formally certified for use on June 25th, 1877, with accommodation for 30 girls. The first inmates were a party of 19 girls transferred on 11th June from the Grafton Street Industrial School in Liverpool which was also becoming a boys-only institution. Normally, however, preference for admission to the Monkgate School was to be given to girls from the city and county of York. The institution was conducted by a ladies' committee, the president of which was Mrs Lockley, and Miss Gray acting as secretary. They were assisted by a small committee of gentlemen, Dr Lockley being corresponding secretary, and Mr Feltoe the treasurer. Mrs Mitchell was appointed superintendent and Mrs Boyes as matron,

28 Monkgate, York. © Google.

The ground floor of the house contained the kitchen and scullery. One of the rooms on the first floor of the house was used as a general store, reception, and committee room. The other, whose window overlooked the playground at the back, became the dining-room and could set all of the thirty- five children which the School could accommodate. The front room on the first landing was initially used as a schoolroom, but became a dormitory after building work was completed. The matron's apartment and a bath-room were on the same level, and above these were the dormitories and washrooms, The enclosed space at the rear of the house served as a recreation ground, a small portion at one side being reserved for a garden. At the far end was the newly constructed schoolroom, connected with the house by a covered way.

An inspection report in 1879 recorded 29 girls under detention and a further 5 out on licence. In the Schoolroom, the first class of 10 girls read very well, wrote a very good dictation, but failed altogether in arithmetic. A similar lack of accuracy in their sums was noticeable in all the other classes. Reading and writing were generally satisfactory. The religious instruction was looked after by clergymen and also by some of the ladies who took an interest in the school. Some of the girls went out to work as half-timers, assisting in domestic work in neighbouring houses. The remainder did the usual housework, cooking and laundry work, and learned sewing, knitting, etc. The superintendent was now Miss Lucy Neale, and the schoolmistress, Miss Mary Gatt (or Galt), while Mrs Boyes was described as assistant matron.

In 1882, Mrs Boyes was succeeded as assistant matron by Mrs Birkett. A mark system was now in operation giving small monetary rewards each month for good conduct. The older girls could earn up to four marks a day, the younger ones three; these marks were worth ld. a dozen. One half of what they earned could be spent by the girls, the other half being banked, and given after discharge.

The School's inspector made increasing criticism of the Monkgate building's confined space, its lack of sick-room, and inadequate schoolroom. In 1883, it was decided to make a move to larger premises and the former militia barracks on Lowther Street were purchased for the purpose. In the same year, a great deal of trouble was caused by two girls who were persistently insubordinate and refused to obey orders they were given. One of the pair, Jemima Cunningham, aged 15, appeared before magistrates but on promising to amend her behaviour had been allowed to return to the School. On October 15th, following a repetition of her misconduct, she was brought back to court and was sentenced to a month's hard labour followed by three years in a Reformatory. Miss Wright had now taken over as assistant matron, and Miss Smith was schoolmistress.

The Lowther Street building cost £1,700, with the necessary alterations and additions costing a further £1,000. The premises were formally certified for use on July 17th, 1884, with accommodation for 50 girls. In fact, the existing inmates at Monkgate had already transferred to their new abode on July 9th, along with all the furniture from the old house. It was not until December 15th, however, that the official opening ceremony took place, performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The alterations to the premises were designed by Mr Demaine. As the building had previously been equipped with a recreation room and a laundry wing, it was already fairly well adapted to the requirements of the school. The main addition was a new wing containing three dormitories, a workroom, larder, stores, etc. The kitchen and scullery were enlarged, the rooms above also extended, and a washroom and bathrooms installed. Washing facilities were plentiful, with an average of one wash-basin for every three girls. The water-closets were on Messrs. Bowes and Reed's automatic flashing system. A contemporary report noted that the principal rooms on the ground floor were the matron's room, work rooms, committee room, kitchen, scullery, labour mistress's room, larder, stores, lavatory, coal house, shed, wash-house, laundry, recreation room, play shed, and fuel house. On the first floor were four dormitories, the matron's bedroom, lavatory, and bathroom, labour mistress's bedroom, sick room, and linen and other stores; and on the second floor were the mistress's bedroom, and a large dormitory. Over the recreation-room was the schoolroom, whilst above the laundry was a spare room. In front of the building was a large yard, and to the rear was an extensive garden, the original garden having been more than doubled in size. The wash-house wing was connected with the main building by a covered way. Subsequent descriptions of the buildings reversed the positions of the schoolroom and playroom, placing the former below the later.

The School site is shown on the 1891 map below.

Girls' Industrial School site, Lowther Street, York, c.1891.

Girls' Industrial School frontage, York, c.1901. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Girls' Industrial School, York, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Girls' Industrial School, York, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

As before, the girls were trained for domestic service. They learned to sew and knit, and were employed in the laundry, housework, and kitchen.

The staff in 1886 comprised the superintendent, Miss Neale; assistant matron, Miss Hall; schoolmistress, Miss Smith; labour mistress, Mrs Wright. The following year, Miss Shaw had became assistant matron. In 1889, the schoolmistress was Miss A.L. Noyes, and the sewing mistress was Mrs Lister. The average number of inmates was now 44.

An inspection report in 1896 described the premises as comfortable and homelike. Educational attainment was generally good, with the upper Standards having taken history and geography, while the lower Standards had taken courses of object lessons and word-building. Recitation, mental arithmetic and singing all received positive comment. The girls went through a thorough course of plain sewing, assisted in making their own dresses, do the housework, and helped in the kitchen and laundry. Special lessons, however, were not given either in cookery or in laundry work. Extension exercises were given, and the girls went out for walks once or twice a week, according to the weather. The older girls went out freely on errands. Every year the whole school went to Scarborough for a week, which was said to have a beneficial effect on their health as well as spirits. Occasional excursions into the country were taken, and the girls are invited out to various entertainments in the town. Health was generally good, with the doctor calling from time to time and as often as required. The girls appear to be managed without much use of punishment. Obstinacy and temper seemed to be the greatest difficulty which had to be contended with. In such cases, confinement in a small isolated room was found to be effective, and was resorted to 10 to 12 times a year. The staff now consisted of the superintendent, Miss Neale; schoolmistress, Miss Parkinson; general assistant, Miss Pudg; matron in charge of kitchen and laundry, Miss Hartley.

The 1897 report noted that musical drill had been introduced. Good specimens of knitting and sewing were shown. Prizes were given annually for the best work in all departments. It was said that there was no difficulty in obtaining situations for girls on leaving, wages usually starting at £6 a year. Each girl celebrated her birthday by having a small tea party of her special friends. The girls returning to London were supervised by MABYS. The inspector suggested that something might be done to add a little brightness to the school dress of the girls, dependent either on seniority or good conduct.

In October, 1898, Mrs Rogers succeeded Miss Parkinson as teacher, but Miss Parkinson returned to her post the following January. In March, 1899, Mrs Auty took over from Miss Pudg as what was now referred to as industrial trainer. She, in turn, was quickly succeeded the by Miss Bradley, with a new post of sewing mistress being created at around the same time.

After 21 years of service, Miss Neale retired on 26th February, 1901, and was succeeded as superintendent by Miss Parkinson. Miss Effie Brett was appointed schoolmistress on 15th April, 1901, with Mrs Wiseman having held the post temporarily since Miss Parkinson's promotion. Miss Brett left in September, however, and was replaced by Miss Bolton. The industrial trainer was now Miss Holehouse, and the general assistant, Miss Lockwood. Another change in 1901 was an improvement in the girls' dietary. with the addition of milk and a greater variety in the food. Cookery lessons were now being given to the older girls by the industrial matron.

In 1903, physical drill with wands and hoops was being taken each week by the schoolmistress, who was now Miss Chalmers. The inspector noted that in marching, the girls still failed to turn their toes out properly and that many of them did not seem to know their right foot from their left. One girl who had absconded from her situation had been sent to a Reformatory.

Miss R.A. Salsbury took up the duties of superintendent on 10th April, 1907, in succession to Miss Parkinson. On the same date, a new assistant matron and sewing matron were appointed, and the schoolmistress, Miss Chalmers, left — subsequently replaced by Miss C.F. Austin. The roof of the playroom was raised and the room converted into a schoolroom, with the old schoolroom becoming a playroom. An open shed was closed in and made into a workroom. The house was been re-furnished throughout 'in a tasteful manner'.

An inspection in 1908 rated the girls' needlework as good, noted that knitting and sewing had received careful attention; the cutting-out tests were very satisfactorily done. A fair number of girls could operate the sewing machine and were able to assist with dressmaking. A quantity of fine work, for which prizes were given, had been done early in the year, and fancy work had also been attempted. Each girl, including laundry girls, mended her own clothes. Laundry work had improved and the washing and ironing are well done. A little outside work was taken, and the girls were taking a keen interest in this, as it provided them with more variety. Cookery lessons on practical lines were given weekly by the assistant matron. the dishes cooked on examination day were carefully managed, and all the older girls took their turn at cooking the Sunday's dinner. A sergeant took the girls in free gymnastics weekly. There were frequent walks and occasional entertainments. The annual fortnight's holiday Scarborough continued, and the girls went, a few at a time, for week-ends as at a country cottage at Knaresborough.

Inmates at the School could receive a one hour visit from a relative or friend, once in four months. They were allowed to write to their friends once every two months. Below is a letter sent by inmate Jane Duckworth to her mother.

York Girls' Industrial School, inmate's letter, date unknown. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1910, a nearby cottage at 42 Lower Eldon Street was taken for the use of old girls from the School. (Due to a later renumbering of the houses on the street, its precise location is unclear.) The head schoolmistress was now Miss A. Colbert, with a non-resident assistant. This year's summer holiday was at Filey.

The superintendent, Miss Salsbury, left at the end of May, 1911, and was succeeded by Miss Sarah Jane Bell. The schoolmistress, Miss Colbert departed on 29th April, with Miss M. Parsons appointed in her place. The non-resident schoolmistress was now Miss A. Wrigglesworth. Other staff were a house matron, sewing matron, laundry matron, and matron in charge of the cottage home. Mr L. Glaisby was appointed as the School's dentist.

By 1920, the School had adopted the name St Hilda's. The superintendent at that date was Miss W.L. Custance, who was till in post in 1930.

On February 6th, 1932, it was announced that St Hilda's had resigned its Industrial School certificate. The site was then taken over by the York Council Public Assistance Committee as a home for pauper children.

In the 1950s, the building became an occupation centre for mental welfare services. In the 1970s, the premises were bought by the then York Boys' Club, whose previous site at Redness Street, Layerthorpe, was being redeveloped. The right-hand side of the main building was disfigured at around this time by the construction of a first-floor gymnasium.

The property is now a social and activity centre for young people aged from 8 to 17 years.


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.

  • York City Archives, York Explore Centre, Museum Street, York YO1 7DS. Holdings not known.



  • None noted at present.