Ancestry UK

St Joseph's Industrial School, Artane, Dublin, Ireland

A photo tour of the School in the early 1900s is available on a separate page.

On July 28, 1870, the Artane (or Artaine) Industrial School for Roman Catholic Boys, also known as St Joseph's, was officially certified to receive boys up to the age of 14 committed by magistrates for matters such destitution, neglect, truancy and minor offences. The School could also take voluntary admissions although the number of these was generally small.) Artane replaced the Industrial School at Inchicore, to the west of Dublin, which had opened in 1869 but closed in March 1870 after being deemed 'defective'. A committee of 'noblemen and gentlemen' was then formed and, at a cost of £3,000, purchased the former Artane Castle site with 56 acres of land, on Malahide Road, three miles to the north-east of Dublin. The School was run by the Irish Christian Brothers, with the Rev. Brother Thomas Hoope as its Superintendent.

Brother Thomas Hoope. © Peter Higginbotham

The new School initially accommodated 40 boys who lived temporarily in tarred sheds. The capacity of the School was rapidly expanded, however, with the construction of large new buildings and acquisition of additional land. In 1872, the average number of inmates was 336, rising to 433 the following year, with its official capacity eventually reaching 825. By 1890, a total of £80,000 had been expended on the buildings which covered an area of two acres. The School's main building was constructed on a grand scale and boated 'a magnificent corridor 365 feet long which ran the whole length of the building.' The refectory accommodated all 825 boys in a single sitting. A swimming bath was constructed in 1883 which measured 60 feet square and held 100,000 gallons of water. Although the School received government a capitation grant for the maintenance of each inmate, the cost of land and buildings had to be met by voluntary fund-raising.

The layout of the Artane site is shown on the 1911 map below.

Artane Industrial School site, Dublin, c.1911.

Former Artane Industrial School from the south-east, Dublin, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Artane Industrial School from the south-east, Dublin, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Artane Industrial School from the north-east, Dublin, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Artane Industrial School from the west, Dublin, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

The official rules for Industrial Schools required that the inmates were to receive religious instruction, a secular education and industrial training. The Schools was also required to develop a spirit of industry, pride and discipline amongst the children. Classroom education at Artane included reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, dictation, geography and drawing, with the more advanced classes being instructed in algebra, geometry, mensuration, book-keeping, commercial correspondence, shorthand and phonography. Drawing classes were provided in collaboration with the Kensington School of Art.

A wide variety of industrial training was provided in trades such as carpentry, joinery, cabinet making, painting, plastering, tailoring, shoe making, weaving, hosiering, harness making, baking, coopering, smiths' work, plumbing and engine fitting. Later additions to the list included printing, book-binding, woven wire mattress making, upholstering, hairdressing, concreting, brick making, butchery and flour-milling and cabinet making. Every article of dress worn by the inmates was made on the premises. In 1883, the production of the various workshops included: Shoe making — new boots and shoes, 1,691; soled and healed, 8,952; repaired, 12,286. Tailoring — new articles, 3,393; repairs, 7,577. Weaving — 4,934 yards of tweed and serge; plus a large quantity of blankets, ticken towels and web. Hosiery — 3,969 pairs of socks; shirts, 1,500; caps, 750; braces, 560; other items, 3,000. Tinsmith — assorted teapots, 12,655; water and oil cans, lamps etc., 6,937. Milling — over 1,400 barrels of wheat ground for the bakery, providing nearly half a million pounds of bread plus bran and pollard for use as cattle feed.

Tailors at Artane Industrial School, Dublin, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

By 1884, the School's own farm extended to 240 acres, of which 50 were used as meadow, 50 for grain crops, 50 for potatoes and other green crops, and 90 for market gardening, pasture and pleasure ground. Between 20 and 30 cows were kept for milk, and up to 50 fed for beef. Other livestock included 40 pigs, 80 sheep, and 12 horses.

Farm at Artane Industrial School, Dublin, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

As well as the educational and industrial activities, the boys at Artane were 'trained to a regular discipline' by a military drill sergeant and called to their various exercises by the sounding of a trumpet. The School also had a military-style band whose membership over the years ranged from 40 to 80 boys. The band performed regularly in Croke Park and also toured widely and made radio broadcasts. In 1962, they performed in New York and Boston and made a television appearance.

Gymnasts at Artane Industrial School, Dublin, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

Band at Artane Industrial School, Dublin, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

The growth in the School and its activities was reflected in its staffing. In 1871, the staff at the School comprised twelve Brother assistants, four outdoor servants, and six foremen of trades. By 1884, there were 18 Brothers in residence, assisted by an organist and singing master, a band master and assistant band master, a drill master, a drawing master, 3 assistant school teachers, 4 gangers, 1 night watchman, 1 travelling agent, 1 clerk of works, 1 office clerk with 3 assistants, 1 coachman, 2 gate keepers, 30 trade instructors, a chaplain and a doctor.

Artane, the largest institution of its kind, became something of a showcase establishment and received visits from all around the world. An official report in 1884 declared that 'there is a universal consensus of opinion that it is nowhere surpassed.'

From the mid-1950s onwards, a general decline in the number of children coming into institutional care, together with an increasingly unsympathetic view of Industrial Schools for the accommodation of those from deprived backgrounds, led to a steep decline in admissions to the School. This was offset to some extent by a rise in voluntary admissions and those funded by the Health Board which, between them, accounted for up to fifty per cent of the inmates during the 1960s. Eventually, however, it was decided that the School should close on 30th June, 1969. Of the 211 boys still in residence, 120 boys were discharged to their parents or placed in jobs, while the remainder were distributed to other institutions around the country.

Since 1973, the St Joseph's main building has housed the St David's CBS School. The former refectory is now home to the Artane School of Music and Artane Band. The School's former chapel existed until relatively recently but due to its deteriorating state has now been demolished. None of the other original School buildings survives.

Former Artane Industrial School refectory, Dublin, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

St Joseph's was the subject of extensive investigation by the The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse which published its reports in 2009. The Commission found that physical abuse at the School had been frequent and severe, that sexual abuse by members of the Brothers had been a chronic problem and not dealt with appropriately, and that there many examples of general neglect of the boys.


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.

  • Barnardo's Origins Tracing Service — for people (and their families) who spent all or part of their childhood in an Irish Industrial School and are interested in tracing information about their parents, siblings or other relatives.
  • Irish Petty Sessions Court Registers 1828-1912 (available online to subscribers of FindMyPast) include details of committals to Irish Reformatories and Industrial Schools.