Huddersfield Ragged and Industrial School / Industrial Home, Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire
The Huddersfield District Ragged and Industrial School was established in March 1861. It initially operated as a night school in a small room in Northumberland Street, Huddersfield, staffed by voluntary teachers. It operated from 7p.m. till 9p.m. on three nights a week — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays — and on Sundays from 5p.m. till 6.30p.m. On the weekdays evening, the lessons included reading, writing, arithmetic and singing, while Sunday was devoted to religious instruction. The pupils were aged from eight to twenty years and comprised sellers of salt, sand and brick, none and rag pickers, and beggar children, together with some who were partially employed during the day. Girls were admitted from January 1862.
At the end of 1861, Mr George Higginbotham was engaged as superintendent and in January 1862 a day school was also opened at the premises. To begin with, there were 26 boys and girls in attendance at the day school. By May 1862, the number of pupils had risen to 40: 15 between six and eight years of age, 18 between eight and ten, and seven over ten. Of these, 23 had never been to any school, and seventeen had been at some school, though rarely in the previous twelve months.
In May 1863, the school's new premises were opened at 21-24 Fitzwilliam Street (later renumbered 41), Huddersfield. The purchase of the site and construction of the building were funded by Joseph Sykes of Marsh House. Designed by Mr W. Cocking, the centre portion of the building contained a school room, 52 feet long by 25 wide, and 16 feet high. Above the school room in left-hand wing was a spare room, intended for future conversion into a dormitory. The right wing, which was divided from the school room by an entrance passage, contained the superintendent's quarters. At the rear of the school room was an enclosed yard. Out-buildings attached to the right wing contained bathing facilities for the children, cooking appliances, etc.
In September 1864, the establishment was visited by an inspector to examined its fitness to be licensed as a Certified Industrial School. On that occasion, the school was attended by about 60 children, more than two-thirds of them boys, and most of them very young. In addition to their classroom lessons, the children were receiving industrial training. The master instructed the boys in the making of mats, paper and canvas bags, etc. His wife, who acted as matron, taught the girls needlework and knitting. The same room served for school and meals. There were now two dormitories in the upper storey, one for girls and one for boys, each holding 7 beds, and superintended by the female servant who sleeps in the girls' room. The school was formally certified on 11 October 11 1864. In 1865, however, the managers of the school resigned their certificate on finding that the reception of children committed by magistrates was inconsistent with the provisions of the trust deed on which their premises were given to them.
The school's stated object then became 'to reclaim the neglected and destitute children of Huddersfield by affording them the benefit of a Christian education and by training them in habits of industry so as to enable them to earn an honest livelihood and fit them for the duties of life.' From 1874 onwards, the children were educated at Beaumont Street Board School. By the 1880s, the school had become known as the Huddersfield Industrial Home and its running relied on public subscriptions, donations and fund-arising events..
In 1899-1900, the Home was extended and refurbished, doubling the number of beds to forty. It was also renamed the Orphan Home. The official re-opening, on 4 April 1900, was performed by Mrs. F.W. Sykes. Another speaker noted that each child at the home cost about £15 a year for food and clothing.' Tributes were also paid to Miss Mary Bickerstaff, the then Matron, who 'made such a pleasant home for the children who were happy with her as she was happy with them.' Miss Bickerstaff stayed at the Orphan Home until its closure in 1924.
The premises were subsequently used as the Dyers, Finishers and Textile Workers Club, are now occupied by a Muslim Association.
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.
- West Yorkshire Archive Service - Kirklees, Central Library, Princess Alexandra Walk, Huddersfield HD1 2SU. Has Committee minutes (1861-1915), Attendance register (1869-1874), Financial records (1862-1920), Annual reports (1907-1920), Correspondence (1865-1923), etc.
- Minter, George and Enid Discovering Old Huddersfield (Part Three) (1998)
- 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.