Ancestry UK

North Lancashire Reformatory for Boys, Bleasdale, near Garstang, Lancashire

The North Lancashire Reformatory School was founded by Mr W.J. Garnett, J.P., of Bleasdale Tower who, with the help of subscribers from the county, built and fitted-out its premises at Bleasdale, near Garstang. The main building, arranged around a small quadrangle, included three dormitories, a dayroom and a room for worship and religious instruction. On September 2, 1857, the establishment was certified for the reception of up to 45 Boys. Mr Grant King and his wife Hannah were appointed as superintendent and matron after having received several months' training at the Philanthropic Society's Reformatory at Redhill.

The School site is shown on the 1893 map below.

Former North Lancashire Reformatory site, Bleasdale, c.1893.

Former North Lancashire Reformatory from the south-east, Bleasdale, c.1900. © Peter Higginbotham

Former North Lancashire Reformatory from the south-east, Bleasdale, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

In November, 1857, a few weeks after its opening, three boys escaped from the institution due to the fenced wall not yet having been completed. They were all apprehended in Preston the same evening and returned to the Reformatory.

An inspection report in 1859 found that the garden and playground had now been completed and the boys were constructing a bridge and road through the farm. It was noted that wooden bedsteads used in the dormitories were made by the boys themselves.

Former North Lancashire Reformatory from the west, Bleasdale, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1866, it was recorded that the premises had been enlarged and that a large shed, previously used for industrial purposes, had been converted into a school and dining room. The tailors' and shoemakers' workshops had also been enlarged, the laundry and oven better arranged, and another dormitory provided by the removal of the superintendent's office and a store room. The farmland had been extended to 165 acres and the livestock now comprised 49 cows and calves, 70 sheep and a good number of sheep. As well as Mr and Mrs King, the staff included a labour-master and two under-labourers, a tailor and a shoemaker. The village schoolmaster attended each evening to assist in the instruction. Of the 51 discharges for 1863-5, 33 were doing well, 12 were convicted, one was dead, and five were unknown.

Former North Lancashire Reformatory from the north, Bleasdale, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Former North Lancashire Reformatory dining-room, Bleasdale, c.1891. © Peter Higginbotham

Former North Lancashire Reformatory from the west, Bleasdale, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Grant King died on January 26th, 1880, after 22 years as superintendent.

Grant King, superintendent of North Lancashire Reformatory 1857-1880, Bleasdale. © Peter Higginbotham

Grant's son, Alfred, took charge at the beginning of March, together with his wife Alice. In the interval, the School had experienced considerable disturbance and some time elapsed before it regained its usual quiet and good order. In that year, 15 boys were working as tailors and 12 as shoemakers, with the others working on the farm and in the garden, tending cattle and sheep, and cutting turf from the moss.

The School was closed in 1905, with Alfred King still in charge. Between them, Grant and Alfred King had served for 48 years.

In 1924, the reformatory building was converted into five cottages. The property is still in private residential use.


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.

  • Lancashire Record Office, Bow Lane, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 2RE. Has a number of Committal Orders, receipts etc. relating to individuals being admitted to the Reformatory.