Ancestry UK

St Matthew's Industrial Home for Girls, Ipswich, Suffolk

The St Matthew's Industrial Home for Girls in Ipswich was founded in 1857 by Mr Samuel Belcher Chapman, a local magistrate and former businessman. The premises, at 8 Black Horse Lane, consisted of "three or four cottages, forming three sides of a small enclosure". On June 18the, 1858, the Home was officially certified as a Reformatory for up 20 girls sentenced by the courts to detention for up to five years. The Home also received voluntary admissions.

The Home's site is shown on the 1883 map below.

St Matthew's Industrial Home for Girls site, Ipswich, c.1883.

The Home gained an excellent reputation. An inspection report in 1869 described it as "one of the best managed, most economical, and most successful schools." Much of the credit for this was due to Miss Annie Strangways (sometimes given as Strangway or Strangeways) who, from its opening, had been the Home's superintendent.

As well as supporting the Home financially, Mr Chapman acted as its manager until his death in June, 1880. Miss Strangways died not long afterwards. She was succeeded by Miss M.L. Miller, who was assisted by a schoolmistress, Miss Webb, a laundry matron, and a general assistant. Following the loss of its long-standing superintendent, there was a sharp increase in the level of misconduct at the Home and many cases severe punishments meted out as a result, much to the displeasure of the Home's inspector. A new superintendent, Miss Julia T Taylor, was appointed in February, 1881, and remained in the post until June, 1904, when she was succeeded by Miss Lilian Hearne.

As well as classroom education, the girls were given industrial training to equip them for domestic service. This included needlework, knitting and working in the Home's laundry. All the work of the household and cooking was performed by the inmates.

The premises underwent a major reconstruction in 1885-6, with improvements to the dormitories and laundry. The Home could now accommodate up to 46 girls, aged 13 to 16 at their date of admission.

By the early 1900s, a large amount of outside washing was being done in the Home's laundry, with many of the older girls taking the clothes right through from the washing to the final ironing of stiff linen. Dressmaking and cookery lessons had been introduced and the Home baked all its own bread. A drill sergeant visited once a week to instruct the girls in marching and exercises with dumb-bells and barbells. Occasional walks were taken, and in the summer, the girls attended swimming baths and had a day's holiday at the seaside.

Miss Hearne departed on 26th May, 1906, and was replaced as superintendent by Miss Sarah Callaghan.

The Home regularly featured in the local newspapers such as the Ipswich Journal, whose reports give an interesting insight into its activities:

March 3 1880. A Mutiny at Home. Prudence Dutton and Mary Ann Perkins were charged with wilfully damaging one of the doors in the Girls' Reformatory, Black Horse Lane, of which the defendants were inmates, on the 1st of March. Miss Julia Taylor, superintendent of the Reformatory, said on Tuesday last, Perkins, misbehaving herself, she ordered her to go downstairs and not say a word. The girl went downstairs but was exceedingly riotous. Miss Taylor went and called the girl, but she refused to leave. In consequence of her disobedience the girl was placed in a room and locked up. In about ten minutes Miss Taylor saw the girl outside, and afterwards found that the door had been forced open by Perkins with the help of some of the other girls.
   Elizabeth Andrews an inmate of the Home stated that in consequence of the disturbance in the Home Miss Taylor locked 18 of the girls in the laundry, and the other girl, Perkins, who originated the disturbance, was locked in the room adjoining. The door which communicated with the two rooms was broken by Perkins, Dutton, who was on the other side of the door, having tried to force the lock with a knife. Alice Robinson, another inmate of the Home, gave similar evidence. Dutton pleaded guilty but Perkins contended that she was punished improperly and locked up. The girls on the other side of the door tried to unlock it, and the defendant was told to push. She put her back to it and the door gave way.
   Police-Sergeant Girling stated that on Tuesday application was made for the assistance of the police at the Home. He went, in company with a constable, and found the place in a state of mutiny, and they could be heard at the top of the lane. A crowd had collected in the street. Miss Taylor pointed out the defendants as the ringleaders, and Girling placed the two girls in the custody of a policeman in a room. He examined the door in question and found that the lock had been tampered with from the inside, and then burst open. There were marks upon the door as if kicked by the girls, who wore wooden shoes in the Home.
   The Mayor said it must be understood that discipline must be maintained in Homes of that description. This being the first offence of the kind, the Magistrates would sentence them to four days' imprisonment each.

January 4, 1887. The Girls' Home. The girls of the Home, Black Horse-lane, had what has now become their annual treat on New Year's Eve. The rooms were very prettily decorated. A large Christmas-tree, presented by Mr J. Dupuis Cobbold, was fixed in the schoolroom, and decorated with candles and presents of various kinds. There are at the present time 36 girls in the Reformatory, sent from various quarters, including Birmingham, Maidstone, Lewes, London, and Suffolk. The proceedings commenced by the girls walking two and two round the Christmas tree, singing, "King Wenceslaus.". Some of them wore marks of distinction, conferred on account of good conduct; silver medals with blue ribbons being the chief distinction, while bronze with pink ribbon represented the second order. Many friends interested in the Institute were present, including Canon and Mr Bulstrode and Mr H. Bulstrode, the Rev. L. D. Kenyon-Stow; Mrs Rouse, Mrs Chapman, Mr Chapman, Miss Baker, the Rev. J. Bell, and family, and the Misses Walker. The banners used in the decorations were worked by the girls. The presents were cut from the tree and distributed by the visitors, after which the girls sang "Walk into the parlour said the spider to the fly" a composition in which a cat by persuasive words tempted some little mice into her power, then incontinently ate them; and a carol, "Hark, what mean these holy voices?" Following this singing games were played in the laundry until seven o'clock when tea was partaken of, after which games were again resorted to until nine o'clock, when an adjournment was made for supper. This Institution is in exceedingly good order under the lady Superintendent, Miss Taylor. The new buildings are most convenient, and the arrangement for washing and laundry work are on the most approved plan. It is satisfactory to know that most of the girls who have left the Institution are doing well.

February 14 1881. Letter to the Editor. Permit me through your columns to say that the Trustees of the Girls' Industrial Home, Black Horse Lane, would gratefully receive from any of your readers, for the use of the inmates, old periodicals, such as 'The Day of Rest' or 'Sunday at Home', and disused children's books and puzzles. They are also desirous of obtaining a harmonium for the use of the institution, and Miss Taylor, the lady superintendent, will gladly receive subscriptions at the Home for that purpose. Yours faithfully James R. Turnock

September 18 1883. St Matthew's Girls' Industrial Home and Reformatory. This home, which was known as Mr Chapman's home, has just been inspected by Mr Rogers, H. M. Inspector, who has written the following very satisfactory report'... The girls appear to be in very good order, well disposed, obedient, tractable.... premises clean and comfortable.... The girls have to come out of over-heated apartments into the open air; the change of temperature, especially in Winter, is very trying to weakly children. At the present time there are two or three of the girls who are rather delicate.... I am glad to find that the need for personal chastisement has gradually diminished... Very good specimens of plain needlework were shown. I am also glad to find the laundry work succeeding.'

April 28 1886. Outing. On Friday the inmates of the girls' industrial home, Black-Horse Lane, had their annual outing, thanks to the donations of several kind-hearted ladies and gentlemen. Last year a trip was arranged to Dovercourt, but this year the rendezvous was Felixstowe. The party started by boat at ten o'clock in the morning, accompanied by all the mistresses, including the lady principal, Miss Taylor, who was most energetic in her endeavours to enhance the enjoyment of all the girls. The company arrived at Felixstowe, indulged in donkey rides, bathes, and other enjoyable amusements. A hearty meal was partaken of picnic-fashion at mid-day on the sands and in the evening the company came home by G. E. R. boat, after having enjoyed themselves greatly.

June 24 1887. A Runaway Girl. On Wednesday evening considerable excitement was caused in Black Horse and Lady lanes by the escape of one of the inmates of the Girls' Industrial Home in Black-Horse Lane. The girl, who was without shoes, climbed onto the roofs of some neighbouring houses and for a time defied the police, but was eventually recaptured and taken back to the Home.

The Home closed in 1920 and 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.

  • Suffolk Archives, The Hold, 131 Fore Street, Ipswich, Suffolk IP4 1LR. Has a Minute Book of the Trustees ( 1912-1975) which includes a wide range of material including payments, accident insurance, Christmas festivities, and lady visitors to the home but only occasionally briefly mentions inmates.




  • Thanks to Juliet New for the press cuttings.