London School Board Industrial School (Davenport-Hill Boys' Home), Brentwood, Essex
The London School Board established its first Industrial School in 1874 at Rose Valley, Brentwood — its location is occasionally given as Shenfield, the parish in which it stood. The School occupied a property known as Prospect House, previously used as a private boarding school. On July 7th, 1874, the new establishment received its Industrial School certification allowing it to accommodate up to 100 boys, aged 6 to years at their date of admission, who had been placed under detention by magistrates. The School was opened for the reception of inmates on August 24th, with Mr Henry Saunders appointed as superintendent and his wife, Phoebe, as matron.
Its previous use as a boarding school meant that the building was equipped with dormitories, school room and dining hall. It also had a large swimming bath. Apart from being rather close to a railway line, its main deficit was in having little in the way of facilities for the boys' industrial training and it was several years before adequate workshops were provided. The boys received instruction in tailoring, shoemaking, gardening, and wood-chopping. They made their own clothing, washed, baked, and cooked.
The School site is shown on the 1896 map below.
On May 25th, 1882, Mr and Mrs Henry Hartland took over from Mr and Mrs Saunders as superintendent and matron.
A report in 1896 noted that the School building was comfortable and home-like. There was a good detached infirmary, but the laundry was in the basement and lacked space and labour-saving equipment. In both the tailor's and shoemaker's workshops, 23 boys worked in 2 shifts. There was a good playing-field at the rear of the School, where football and cricket were played, with outside matches arranged. playing field for cricket and football. A gymnasium was lacking, however. There was a library and 'wholesome' reading and indoor games were encouraged. A mark system was in operation whereby good conduct could earn monetary rewards, which amounted to about 15 shillings a month. Special prizes, such as silver watches, were given to the most popular boy and best behaved boy.
In 1897, the School was renamed the Davenport-Hill Boys' Home, in honour of Miss Rosamund Davenport-Hill, a long-standing member of the School Board, who took a keen interest in its welfare.
In 1898, an infant teacher, Miss Bowers, with special experience of kindergarten work, was appointed to take charge of the large number of very young children who were committed to the School. In the same year, following increasing concern about sanitary conditions in the basement laundry and also in the School's kitchen, plans were made for alterations to address the problems. However, in December, 1898, the School Board decided instead to vacate the Brentwood site and to erect a new building at a more healthy location. As a temporary measure, the School relocated to a property referred to as The Sanatorium on Wilderness Hill, Margate. The premises there were formally certified for use on 4th November, 1899.
A report on the Margate site in 1899 notes that the premises were known as the Metropolitan Infirmary for Children, an establishment which stood on Northumberland Road. The building was said to have good dormitory accommodation, a very fair dining-room and a play-yard. A disused dormitory served as a band room and workshops. The inmates, who now numbered 65, attended local Board Schools — their influx causing some concern to the local School Board who felt aggrieved that the cost of teaching the boys should be borne by the town's ratepayers.
The Metropolitan Infirmary site is shown on the 1873 map below.
Not long after taking up residence at the Metropolitan Infirmary site, the School relocated a short distance to a detached building in the grounds of a convalescent home on Wilderness Hill, Margate. The site, owned by the Metropolitan Asylums Board, was in the process of being developed as Princess Mary's Convalescent Hospital.
It appears that there were plans for the School's permanent new location to be at Hither Green, near Lewisham. However, the site eventually chosen was at Portslade, near Brighton, and run in partnership with the Brighton and Preston School Board. The new purpose-built premises were opened in 1902.
Prospect House in Bentwood was later used as a warehouse but no longer stands. The Metropolitan Infirmary was subsequently taken over by the West Ham Poor Law Union as a convalescent home.
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.
- The Ancestry UK website has two collections of London workhouse records (both name searchable):
- The Find My Past website has workhouse / poor law records for Westminster.
- London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R OHB. Has registers of children, giving heights, weights etc. (1874-1885, 1900-1902); Old boys register, giving particulars of employment (1898-1902).
- 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.