Ancestry UK

Meath Protestant Female Industrial School, Bray, Wicklow, Republic of Ireland

The Meath Industrial School for Protestant Girls was established in 1872. It operated on a charitable basis and was managed by a 'committee of influential persons'. Its existence owed much to the support of the Earl and Countess of Meath who provided a large property, Oldcourt House on Vevay Road, Bray, rent-free for two years, in which to open the establish the School. The institution was formally certified to begin operation on 4 October 1872 and the first girl was admitted on 20 November. The committee appointed Mrs Echlin as manager and Miss Huston (or Haslen) as teacher.

An inspection in 1873 noted that there were 18 girls under detention at the School. The majority of the first inmates had no knowledge of the alphabet, and were equally ignorant of all religion. They rapidly improved, however, with reading, grammar, writing, and geography by then being taught, together with vocal music using Hullah's system. The rector of the parish, the Rev. J.J. Scott, spent an hour at the School every Tuesday to carry out moral and religious training. The girls made all the clothing they wore except for boots and hats. They worked in the garden, and raised good crops of vegetables. They were proficient at the needle and in the laundry, and had begun to wash and do needlework for the public.

In 1874, the growing number of applications for places at the School had led to the erection of a new wing containing a dining hall and three dormitories. It was also proposed that a dairy, cow-houses, piggeries, and a poultry house be built in the farmyard, and an agreement has been entered into to convey water from the Vartry reservoir to the establishment. Miss Harding was now the schoolmistress and Miss Oxley the assistant matron. In 1875, the official capacity of the School was raised to 50 places. In the same year, Miss Sullivan took over as schoolmistress but was soon succeeded by Miss S.M. Coghlan.

By 1878, the School had two cows and six of the girls were instructed in dairy work, and make good butter. Some were instructed in the rearing of calves and the care of fowl and pigs. Those over 12 years of age were taught housemaid's work, washing, and to make up fine linen. The elder girls looked after the younger ones as part of their training to be nursery maids in respectable families.

Following Mrs Echlin's death in 1880, Mrs E. Vaughan was appointed in her place but was succeeded by Mrs McCullah in 1882. The need for the construction of permanent premises for the School was becoming increasingly pressing. However, despite the Earl of Meath having given the School back its rent payment each year, its building fund fell considerably short of what was required. It was not until 1892 that new premises were erected at a site on Main Street, Bray, close to the Town Hall.

The Main Street site is shown on the 1910 map below.

Meath Protestant Female Industrial School site, Bray, c.1910.

Protestant Female Industrial School, Bray, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Protestant Female Industrial School, Bray, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Protestant Female Industrial School, Bray, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

When the Heytesbury Street Industrial School in Dublin was closed in December 1901, 20 of its inmates were transferred to the Bray institution, where the official capacity of the School was increased accordingly. A further influx came in March 1920, following the closure of the Training Home Industrial School for Protestant Girls in Cork. Additional accommodation at Bray was provided in a new wing at the north side of the building and the capacity of the site was formally increased to 100 places on 31 March 1902. Bray was then the only Industrial School for Protestant girls outside the province of Ulster.

In 1911, the School's manager was Miss E. Gilbert, She was assisted by two schoolmistresses, a technical teacher, two sewing teachers, a laundry matron and a kitchen matron. An inspection that year recorded a total of 98 committed inmates plus 2 voluntary inmates. It was noted that a new laundry had recently been erected. In the classroom, singing and mental arithmetic were both rated as 'very good'; geography, grammar and recitation were 'good', and drawing was 'fairly good'. The girls were said to have given a good display of their cookery, needlework, and laundry work at the Ui Breasail Exhibition, while some of their needlework had been well placed in an inter-school contest in London. As regards physical training, the girls were given weekly drill by Colonel Hamilton. They had a good playground for games and recreation, and had frequent country walks.

During the First World War, the building was used as a convalescent home for soldiers. In 1918, the Governors of the Royal Drummond Institution, Chapelizod purchased the property. The Institution was an interdenominational school for soldiers' daughters founded in 1863 by Alderman John Drummond.

From 1939 to 1943, refugees from Belgium, Holland , France and elsewhere in Europe were housed and educated at the Institute. In 1944, the Governors sold the premises to the Loreto Order for the sum of £9,000. Following the addition of a new south wing, the building was re-opened in 1946 as St Patrick's School.

Former Protestant Female Industrial School, Bray, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

The school was enlarged in 1975 then totally restructured and refurbished in 1988. St Patrick's Loreto Primary School now has around 800 pupils.


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