Ancestry UK

Sutcliffe Industrial School, Bath, Somerset

On January 12th, 1846, a Ragged School was opened in Bath in a school-room provided by the Rector of St Michael's. The School was also referred to as a Fragment School because it collected together small lots of children from outlying parts of the town. The establishment operated three nights a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In the first week, there were two pupils; the next week there were two more. By the end of three months, the number had increased to 50, and after six months to 100. The following year, industry was added to the instruction. First, a little sewing work was introduced among the girls, and after a short time the whole of Tuesday and Thursday evenings were devoted to work. The best disposed boys were now allowed to attend and received instruction in tailoring and shoemaking. Before long, the tailors were able to make clothes for the shoemakers, and the shoemakers to make shoes for the boys. The girls made shirts for the boys, and the boys made shoes for the girls. Many of the School's former pupils went on to do well in employment, some also emigrating to Canada and other British colonies.

In 1848, with financial help from one of the scheme's supporters, William Sutcliffe, the Industrial School became a separate establishment for boys only and moved into the Walcot Buildings on London Road, Bath, previously home to the Walcot parish workhouse. The property, originally dating from the 18th century, had been rebuilt in 1828. In 1853, following William Sutcliffe's death, his widow donated £400 to enable the School to purchase the premises. The School was then renamed the Sutcliffe Industrial School.

The School site is shown on the 1884 map below.

Sutcliffe Industrial School site, Bath, c.1884.

Former Sutcliffe Industrial School, Bath, c.2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Sutcliffe Industrial School, Bath, c.2013. © Peter Higginbotham

In return for financial support for its teachers' salaries, the School now also came under the inspection of the Committee of Council on Education, who noted its purpose as being "for the reformation of juvenile offenders, and of youths in imminent danger of becoming criminal." Their report for 1854-55 recorded that out of 77 youths who left the School between January 1st, 1852, and October 31st, 1854, 46 had been reformed, and were living honestly by their own labour; 6 were living at home with their parents; 4 were in the workhouse; 8 were uncertain; and only 13 were known to have returned to "their evil practices". The average number in the School was 30. The employment provided included shoemaking, tailoring, gardening, mat-making, knitting, wood-cutting, washing, baking, and hair-picking. Out of the 65 inmates recorded during the year, 3 had been sent to Canada as emigrants, 2 apprenticed to traders, 5 apprenticed to H.M. Navy, 1 apprenticed in the Merchant Service, 1 entered as a seamen H.M.S., 7 sent to situations, 5 returned to their parents, 11 absconded or left without leave, 2 sent to the workhouse. The other 28 were still at the School.

On April 13th, 1859, the School was certified as an Industrial School, but its certificate was resigned the following January after the management decided that they wished the institution to continue on a purely voluntary basis. Its funding continued to be through payments from the families or friends of inmates, and by donations and subscriptions of supporters of the School.

From around 1851 to 1861, the headmaster of the School was Mr George Drago. He was succeeded by Mr George C. Cowen. Instruction in drawing had now been introduced, with tuition arranged without charge by the Bath School of Art. The teaching of singing was well established and the boys could take a prominent part in Sunday church services.

From around 1876 to 1888, Mr William Gigg served as headmaster, with his sister, Mary Ann, as matron. The Giggs were succeeded by Mr William Henry James and his wife, Annie Kate James.

In 1884, the School provided accommodation for 34 boys aged 11 or over at their time of admission. The industrial training now included wood-chopping, tailoring, shoe-making, and farm and garden work.

In 1919, it was recorded that 1,600 boys had passed through the since its formation in 1848. Seventeen boys left the school during the year, two for situations, three for the Gordon Boys' Home, two for Australia, and the remainder for their parents or guardians. Twenty boys were admitted and the average number of inmates was 40. Sixteen boys attended the Long Acre Technical School, and the younger ones going to the Central School. Tailoring and mending the boys' clothes were carried out, and the gardens were worked under the direction of the labour master, with good crops being produced.

William James continued as superintendent until April 5th, 1920, holding the post for over thirty years. Mr R.H. Waller and his wife then took charge of the School. By 1930, Mr J. Sullivan had become superintendent. In 1935, the school could house up to fifty boys who were 'troublesome to their parents or in danger of becoming criminal'.

In 1947, the Walcot Buildings were given up, with the school eventually finding a new home at Winsley, near Bradford-upon-Avon


In more recent times, the Walcot building was adapted as retail premises but has now been converted to residential use.


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