Ancestry UK

Bolton Industrial School, Bolton, Lancashire

The Bolton Industrial and Ragged Schools were originally opened on 19th June, 1854, at Commission Street, Bolton. In 1863, the establishment became a certified Industrial School, allowing it to receive children committed by magistrates for a period of up to five years.

An early report on the School was not encouraging. The inspector found that 'The premises were in but indifferent order, and the children were both dull and backward... The master seemed to me to want more life and energy.' Another problem was that local magistrates, clearly misunderstanding the purpose of the School, had committed half a dozen children to the School for a period of detention of only one month.'

By 1865, Mr J.T. Rathbone (previously chief assistant at the Manchester Industrial Schools) and his wife had been appointed as superintendent and matron. Under their charge, the School soon began to improve, both in the classroom and in the industrial training. The boys were now employed in paper-bag making and printing, wood-cutting etc. while the girls did needlework. The children who were Roman Catholics attended worship at a Catholic chapel on Sunday, and were instructed once or twice in each week by two Sisters of Charity.

In 1868, the School's Committee succeeded in obtaining an out of town site and funds sufficient for erecting a new building. The scheme came to fruition in 1870 when the new premises were opened in a high and open situation at Tempest Road, Lostock Junction, three miles to the west of Bolton, in the parish of Rumworth. The site was formally certified om June 13th, 1870, for the accommodation of 200 boys.

A report on he new buildings, which had cost upwards of £4,000, found them to be 'well arranged and convenient' apart from the basement storey which, only used for workshops, kitchen and offices, might have been better dispensed with. The schoolroom and dormitories were described as 'very cheerful and well planned' although some extension of the farm buildings and workshops would probably be needed. The 21 acres of land attached to the school was also judged as too limited for the permanent employment of the boys, but more could be obtained when wanted.

The School site is shown on the 1894 map below.

Bolton Industrial School site, Bolton, c.1894.

In the summer of 1875, 'some painful personal circumstances' resulted in the resignation of the superintendent, Mr Rathbone. He was succeeded by Mr Richard Gorst, assisted by his wife, Isabella, as matron.

In 1877, the School became a boys-only establishment and the remaining girls, who had always formed a minority of the inmates, were transferred to institutions at Everton Terrace and Sale.

Additions to the buildings in 1888 included large new school room, a wash room with a 60-bed dormitory above, and a swimming bath measuring 42 feet by 11 feet. About 20 boys now learned tailoring, and a knitting machine in the tailor's shop kept the school supplied with stockings. About 60 boys worked as half-timers in a neighbouring mill. 17 boys worked in the shoemaker's shop, and another 16 worked outside in the garden and farm. Some were employed in chopping wood. The boys did all the washing, and helped in the house and kitchen.

New workshops were constructed in 1893-4 including a technical instruction building, 58 feet by 16 feet by 9 feet, with 32 benches for training in tools and woodwork.

An 1896 report noted that the approach to the School from the small railway station was on a road that had been constructed by the boys. There were now 35 acres of land, over 30 of which were farmed. The stock consisted of 12 milk cows, 5 horses and some pigs. The farm buildings adjoined the workshops, and were objectionably close to the school. The usual distribution of work was as follows: tailors, 24; shoemakers, 24; farm, 15; garden, 5; attending to stock, stables, etc. 8; joiners, 4; engine boys etc., 6; half-time workers at neighbouring mills, 23; half-time workers at private houses, 11. Wood-chopping was carried on in spare time. A brass band was in course of formation. Situations were found for boys on leaving, many going to Wales. All those on licence were regularly reported on for some time after discharge, and where practicable visited by officers. There was a good playing-field for football and cricket, with football matches being played against outside teams. The old schoolroom had become a recreation room, and was fitted with gymnastic appliances, occasional instruction being given by one of the schoolmasters. Good use was made of the swimming bath, and more than half the boys could swim. A mark system was in operation giving rewards and privileges for good conduct. Occasional treats were given by private gentlemen, but only the good conduct boys (48 in 96) were allowed to visit the seaside. Entertainments of all kinds were arranged in the winter, including magic lantern shows with special slides made by superintendent. The library had got into a low state, however.

By 1911, horticultural lessons were being given in the schoolroom. Fourteen boys were entered for Royal Horticultural Society certificates, all of whom were successful.

Richard Gorst continued as superintendent until 1917, having served in the post for over thirty years. He was succeeded by Mr J.H. Jones.

Following a steady decline in the number of boys being placed at the School, it was closed in 1924.

The site subsequently became Lostock Open Air School Farm. The School buildings have now been demolished and replaced by a modern housing development.


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