St Mary's Industrial School / Home / Orphanage for Roman Catholic Children, Eltham, Kent
St Mary's Industrial School for Roman Catholic Girls was established in 1871 at Torrington Lodge, 128 High Street, Eltham. The property, formerly used as a private school for young gentleman, was bought by Father Cotter of Woolwich as part of a move to revive the Roman Catholic faith in the area. The premises were described in a report of the time as 'large convenient house, out-buildings, etc., good garden and exercise ground.' The School was formally certified to begin operation on March 20th, 1871, with accommodation for 100 girls, aged 5 to 12. As well as girls placed by the courts, St Mary's took voluntary cases for a payment of £13 a year. The School's first superintendent was Miss L.D. Haslewood.
In addition to classroom lessons, the younger girls did needlework, beadwork etc. while the older girls carried out laundry work. The laundry was located in the premises adjoining the refectory and was reported as being 'in very rough condition'.
Due to ill health, Miss Haslewood left in 1874 and was replaced by two Sisters of Mercy, later increased to three.
In 1876, the adjoining house was taken into occupation and a good refectory was now provided. The following year an adjoining out-house was converted to provide a good laundry and wash-house. Several of the girls assisted with the cooking and housework. The staff now comprised seven Sisters of Mercy.
In 1886, the Industrial School was transferred to new premises at West Croydon. Torrington House was then purchased by the Bishop of Southwark and on April 18th, 1887, was certified for use as a Certified School for Roman Catholic boys placed by the workhouse authorities. The new establishment, which was also known as St Mary's orphanage, was again run by members of the Sisters of Mercy and could accommodate up to 90 boys up to the age of 9 at their date of admission. It continued in operation until 1902 when it was relocated to Mottingham.
On October 20th, 1903, the High Street premises re-opened as the St Mary's Home for Roman Catholic Children Suffering from Diseases of the Scalp. This establishment, previously located at Eltham Park House, also gained Certified School status and continued to receive children from workhouses.
In 1928, the premises became St Mary's Roman Catholic day school, administered by the London County Council. Apart from a break in the Second World War, when the premises were requisitioned for civil defence purposes, the school continued in operation until 1984 when it moved to larger premises at Glenure Road, Eltham.
The High Street building has now been adapted for use as a community centre.
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- None identfied at present — any information welcome.
- 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)
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