LCC Truant/Industrial School for Boys, Homerton, London
In 1878, the London School Board opened its first Truant Industrial School at Upton House, 6 Urswick Road, Homerton, in north-east London. On October 8th, 1878, the School was officially certified to accommodate up to 60 boys aged 6 to 14 at their date of admission. It opened for the reception of inmates on November 6th. The superintendent and matron were Mr and Mrs Haddon.
The School received boys who, having persistently failed to attend ordinary school, were committed to detention for up to three years or until they reached the age of fourteen, whichever was the shorter period. In most cases, after three months at the School, boys were released on license on condition that they attended school regularly. Failure to do so would result in a return to the Truant School, this time for a slightly longer period. The parents of a boy at the School contributed two shillings a week towards his maintenance.
Following early complaints about the fitness of the premises for the purposes intended, an inspection of the School took place in April 1879. It concluded that the buildings, while very old, were adequate for what was understood to be a temporary occupation, although suggestions for improvement had not been carried out. Serious complaints had also been made about the discipline and good management of the school and, after investigation by the Board, a change of staff took place with Mr Alfred James Walker and his wife Sarah Ann taking over as superintendent and matron. Boys being admitted to the School were often found to be in a very neglected state of health and suffering from conditions such as ringworm, ophthalmia, chilblains, itch and various skin diseases.
The boys were occupied in wood-chopping and in the garden. They also contributed to the household work. During the hour between rising in the morning and breakfast, they were all employed in sweeping, scrubbing, window cleaning and bed making. Later in the day, small groups were engaged in laundry work, preparing the dinner, making bread or darning socks. They also had about 1½ hours drill every day, in three half-hour sessions. Silence was enforced at all times.
In 1883, plans were made to reconstruct the building and provide accommodation for 100 boys. To allow this to take place, the School was closed in July, 1884, and the boys then in detention were all licensed out. The building work was quickly accomplished and the new accommodation for 140 boys was certified for use on February 7th, 1885. An adjoining house and grounds were also taken over by the Board for use by the School.
Following the death of Mrs Walker in 1894, Mrs Emily Chandler, the wife of the head schoolmaster George Chandler, took over as matron.
A report in 1896 noted that the building stood almost flush with the pavement in a respectable and fairly quiet suburban thoroughfare, with houses of a respectable class are on two sides, the other sides being fairly open. The site comprised between 1 and 2 acres. There was a good, detached, and well-appointed infirmary, a covered shed, and in addition to the play yard, there was about half an acre of garden. The schoolroom was somewhat small, although and it was planned to enlarge this and the washroom, and also to provide a drill shed, new bath-room, and special quarters for head schoolmaster and matron. There were 2 stone staircases, and as an additional safeguard in case of fire, 'Bailey' escape chutes had been fitted to each dormitory. Each floor also had a fire main and hose. The distribution of boys for industrial training was now: tailors, 24; shoemakers, 24; sewing, repairing and darning, 6; laundry 24; bakers, 1; boiler, 1; house and kitchen, 36. All the School's suits and boots were made and repaired. Military and physical drill were carried on for about an hour each day. Play was allowed for half an hour on weekdays and for two hours on Saturdays. Cricket with soft balls was allowed in the play-yard. New swimming baths had recently been built near the School where swimming lessons would be given. The School's library, recently restarted, now had nearly 100 books, and the superintendent and teachers read to the whole school. A museum stocked with interesting items had been formed. A good Christmas dinner was provided each year. The cells had hardly been used for a number of years.
Extensions to the School buildings in 1900-1901 included an assembly hall, dormitories, a swimming bath measuring 28 feet by 18 feet, six tub baths and a spray bath.
On May 1st, 1904, control of the School passed to the London County Council who took over the work of the London School Board on that date.
On April 1st, 1909, the intake of the School was widened to included boys placed under the 1908 Children's Act. From this date, the establishment became known as Upton House Industrial School.
Alfred Walker and Emily Chandler were both still in post as superintendent and matron in 1911. Mr A.E. Winsor had become superintendent by 1920.
The School formally closed on December 2nd, 1925. The buildings no longer survive.
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.
- 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.