Ancestry UK

Chester Ragged and Industrial Schools for Boys and Girls, Chester, Cheshire

Chester's Ragged and Industrial Schools for Boys and Girls were founded in 1851 and began operation on 17th January, 1852, with premises at St Olave Street, Chester, and at Boughton. The institution included both day schools and also some residential accommodation. On 10th November, 1853, the Marquis of Westminster laid the foundation stone for a new building on what is now Tarvin Road, Boughton.

In his 1860 report on the Schools, the master, Thomas Pearhouse, recorded that there were then 146 children on the roll at Boughton and 54 at St Olave Street. The children's weekly dietary was as follows:

 Breakfast 8 o'clockDinner 12 o'clockTea 4 o'clock
Sun.Coffee & breadMeat and potatoesSeed bread
Mon.Seed breadBread & cheese or drippingThickened milk
Tues.Thickened milkPea soupSeed bread
Wed.Coffee & breadCold meat and potatoesThickened milk
Thur.Thickened milkRice milkSeed bread
Fri.Seed breadPea soupBread & treacle
Sat.Thickened milkCold meat and potatoesBread & cheese

The weekly timetable of industrial work undertaken by the children was also presented:

Monday1 to 4AfternoonTailoring1 to 4AfternoonHousework
Tuesday1 to 4AfternoonTailoring2 to 4AfternoonSewing & knitting
Wednesday1 to 4AfternoonTailoring2 to 4AfternoonSewing & knitting
Thursday1 to 4AfternoonGardening2 to 4AfternoonSewing & knitting
Friday1 to 4AfternoonGardening1 to 4AfternoonHousework
Saturday9 to 1MorningGardening9 to 1MorningHousework

In 1859, the tailoring class made 32 pairs of trousers, 18 jackets, 12 vests, 30 caps, and repaired more than 40 garments.

On July 3rd, 1863, the Boughton establishment was officially certified as an Industrial School allowing it to receive children sentenced by magistrates to a period of detention. An inspection report at the time noted that it was a remarkably well managed institution. Around sixty children were being fed and taught, and some of the voluntary attenders were lodged on the premises and clothed. A girls' dormitory, an infirmary, and a dining room had recently been added.

In 1865, it was reported that the field garden had been extended and its cultivation had resulted in sales of produce of over £60 as well as that consumed by the School. The boys worked at gardening and firewood cutting, with the older ones trained in shoemaking and tailoring. The girls learned needlework and did the housework and washing of the establishment. There were 74 boys and girls attending the School, of whom 20 boys and one girl were under detention. The staff now comprised Mr Felix Thomas and his wife Harriet as superintendent and matron, a school assistant, and three industrial teachers. Further extensions being planned to the buildings included another boys' dormitory, new laundry and kitchen, and a girls' work-room.

The School site is shown on the 1911 map below.

Chester Industrial School for Boys and Girls site, Chester, c.1911.

The Thomases remained in charge until around 1895 when, following the death of Harriet Thomas, the couple's son Edward took over as superintendent, having previously acted as deputy superintendent. Edward's sister, also named Harriet, was also appointed as matron. In April, 1903, she was replaced by Edward's wife.

By 1900, a boys' brass band had been established, with industrial training comprising shoemaking, tailoring, gardening, baking and — rather to the displeasure of the School's inspector — wood-chopping. The girls did domestic work, laundry work, and cooking for the officers and themselves. Competence in 'plain cooking' was said to be guaranteed with the girls going out to domestic service. Drill exercises were carried out by both boys and girls, and the School apparently now had its own swimming bath although use was also made of the local municipal swimming baths. Indoor games were provided and a few pets were kept.

In the early 1890s, it had been suggested that the School should become boys only, with the girls being being moved to separate premises. This finally took place in 1902, with a short transition period while the remaining girls were placed elsewhere.

After becoming a boys only establishment, the School suffered from several bouts of absconding. On April 7th, 1904, a group of thirteen boys broke out of the School. During 1907, 11 ran away of whom four remained at large. A boy of 'wandering habits' was returned to the School after having been at large for 8 months, but absconded again soon afterwards.

In 1908, with interest in the establishment apparently languishing, the School's managers decided to resign its Industrial School certificate. From around 1915 the premises were used as a 'Place of Detention'. In 1918, the building was a depot for the Royal Defence Corps.

The School buildings no longer survive and the Boughton Health Centre now occupies the site.


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.

  • None identfied at present — any information welcome.



  • None noted at present.