Ancestry UK

Durham County Council Industrial School for Boys, near Durham, County Durham

The idea of establishing a boys' Industrial School to serve the county of Durham was agreed by local magistrates in 1877 but it was not until 1881 that a committee was formed to put the plan into action. In July, 1881, committee paid the sum of £5,000 for a 57-acre site at Earl's House Farm, Witton Gilbert, to the west of Durham, and commissioned plans for a building to accommodate 150 boys. Four years later, on July 2nd, 1885, the new building, whose construction had cost £8,000, was formally opened by the Bishop of Durham. Three days earlier, on June 29th, the establishment was granted its certificate to operate as an Industrial School to accommodate boys aged 10-12 who had been placed under detention by the courts. In March 1881, Mr Walter James Goodenough and his wife, Ann (or Annie), previously at Feltham, Middlesex, were appointed as superintendent and matron.

Like the Cumberland County Industrial School at Cockermouth, erected at around the same date, the new building was two storeys high and adopted a U-shaped layout.

Former Durham Industrial School for Boys from the west, 2012. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Durham Industrial School for Boys, main building from the south-west, 2012. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Durham Industrial School for Boys, main building from the south-west, 2012. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Durham Industrial School for Boys, main building from the south-east, 2012. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Durham Industrial School for Boys, main building from the north, 2012. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Durham Industrial School for Boys, outbuilding from the north, 2012. © Peter Higginbotham

By the mid-1890s, two lodges had been erected at the entrance driveway to the site.

Former Durham Industrial School for Boys, West Lodge, 2012. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1896, it was reported that around 50 acres of the site were under cultivation as market garden, farm and pasture. The livestock comprised 8 milk cows, 4 calves, 2 horses, 10 pigs and a quantity of poultry. The distribution of the boys to various work tasks was as follow: 19 tailors, 19 shoemakers, 6 joiners, 4 engine and boiler boys, 10 farm hands, 17 garden workers, 24 darners and menders, 25 kitchen and laundry boys, and 7 house and pony boys. The School's brass band numbered 24 players. All the School's clothes and bedding were made in the tailors' shop, and the shoemaker supplied the boys with slippers. Company drill was carried on once a week, and dumb-bell and physical drill were about to be introduced. There was a six-acre field which was used for football in winter and for cricket after the hay season. There was plunge bath in which the boys learned to swim. A mark system was in operation with monetary rewards of between 3d. and 1s. a month being given for good behaviour. In the winter magic lantern and other entertainments were organised about once a fortnight, and in the summer the boys were taken to regattas, flower shows, or any public amusements taking place in the district. An annual day trip to the seaside was organised; the following year, this was extended to became a fortnight-long holiday.

Walter and Annie Goodenough held the posts of superintendent and matron until Annie's death in February, 1910. Their daughter, Elizabeth Emma Goodenough then succeeded her mother as matron. The other staff at this date comprised the schoolmaster, Mr. L. Newton; the assistant schoolmaster, Mr. J. Gray; the shoemaker, tailor, joiner, blacksmith, baker and cook, farm bailiff, gardener and assistant gardener, bandmaster, visiting drill and gymnastic instructor, seamstress, and laundress.

The School was closed in 1922. The site subsequently became Earl's House Hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis (TB) and then became a home for the 'mentally defective'. The buildings now form part of Lanchester Road Hospital.


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