Whitehall Industrial School for Girls, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
The Whitehall Industrial School for Girls was established in 1881 at Whitehall Road, Aberdeen. It provided new accommodation for girls previously housed at the old School of Industry premises on Skene Square. The School's superintendent, Miss Mary J Reid, and school teacher, Miss Hay, also transferred from Skene Square to Whitehall Road. The new building was formally certified for operation on June 27th, with accommodation for 80 girls.
There were a few teething problems with the new building. The school room was not properly fitted with desks, and there were only 72 beds for 84 girls. The playground needed to be asphalted, and there was no facility for heating the large dormitories in winter.
The girls washed their own clothing and received instruction in plain sewing and knitting. They also carried out the work of the house and assisted in the kitchen and scullery. Sock-making by machinery was also introduced. An inspection in 1887 noted that many of the girls were now employed in matchbox-making. Although this was financially remunerative for the institution, the inspector did not consider it a suitable occupation for the girls and it had been dropped by the following year's inspection.
Miss Reid departed from the School in 1887 after 36 years of service to the establishment in its different forms. Miss Hay also departed at around the same time. Miss Reid was succeeded as superintendent by Mrs Anderson, with Miss C Buchan appointed as school teacher. Miss Buchan went on to become superintendent in September 1899.
The usual destination of the girls was domestic service, though some found employment as dressmakers, stocking-weavers or shop assistants. The girls could also gain experience of housemaid's work in attending to the staff quarters. By 1897, a class of 10 or 12 of the older girls were going out for cookery lessons at a School Board centre during the winter. At the same date, the girls were having musical drill on Friday afternoons. Once a week they went out to a neighbouring park or to visit friends if within reach and 'fairly decent'. The School's own playground was equipped with a swing and there was a playshed where 'treasures' could be kept. Various treats were organized in the form of picnics, concerts etc. and there was provision for indoor games. The School had its own library and books could also be borrowed from the free library. A mark system was in operation with money rewards for good behaviour ranging from 1d. to 6d. a month.
Following a decline in the number of inmates at Whitehall and at Aberdeen's Female School of Industry (North Lodge) the two institutions were formally merged on January 1st 1903. The North Lodge premises, on King Street, were closed and the Whitehall Road site adopted the name of the Female School of Industry. Miss Helen Melvin, previously superintendent at North Lodge, took charge at Whitehall, assisted by her sister, Miss Mary Melvin. After Helen Melvin retired in 1911, her sister succeeded her as superintendent.
In June 1912, an Auxiliary Home for nine girls was established at 33 Springbank Terrace.
Following a further decline in the number of inmates, on 18th January 1924 it was announced that the School surrendered its certificate of operation. The School's assets subsequently passed to the King Street Home for Girls.
The Whitehall Road building no longer exists.
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.
- None identfied at present — any information welcome.
- 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.