Ancestry UK

East London Industrial School for Boys, Lewisham, London

The East London Industrial School for Boys was originally founded in 1854 as the East London Shoeblack Society and occupied premises in Whitechapel. In 1859, the Society was certified to operate as an Industrial School, allowing it to house boys who had been placed under detention by magistrates.

In October, 1884, the School moved from its existing premises at Leman Street, Whitechapel, to take up residence at 19 Brookbank Road, Lewisham. (Its address is also sometimes given as Porson Street.) The building, a former Congregational school, was set in four acres of grounds. The School was re-certified on October 28th, 1884, with accommodation for 140 boys. The superintendent and matron, Mr and Mrs Gilbee, transferred with the School from Whitechapel.

As before, the boys received industrial training in brush-making, paper-bag making, tailoring, shoemaking, needlework and mending. The grounds around the School were gradually brought under cultivation as a market garden. There School's reed band continued to develop.

In 1890, the School agreed to receive all Jewish boys committed to Industrial Schools and make appropriate arrangements for them to abstain from work on the Jewish Sabbaths and festivals, and conform to other religious observances. The Jewish Authorities on their part, subscribed to the funds of the school. Initially, 13 Jewish inmates were received, most of whom were transferred from other institutions. The arrangement continued until 1897. Jewish boys were then received for a while at the Mayford Industrial School, with a dedicated institution for Jewish boys being opened at Hayes in 1900.

After Mr Gilbee's sudden death, Mr and Mrs James Cartwright took charge of the School on October 1st, 1889.

An inspection report in 1896 noted that the distribution of boys to the various industrial occupations was as follows: 22 shoemakers, 20 tailors, 17 in the needle-room, 5 in the laundry, 26 making paper bags, 10 printers, 4 turning handwheels on presses, 25 chopping and bundling wood, 7 at circular saw, 13 small boys cleaning knives. a large number of the tailors were said to be in the brass and reed band which now numbered 40 members. Military and physical drill were given, and gymnastics were quite a feature of the School. At least once a week, the boys went out to play cricket on the Hilly Fields, and on Sundays they went out for walks. There was a very small swimming bath but the 80 oldest boys went out to the Ladywell baths to learn swimming. In summer, the School migrated in two batches, a week each, to Lady Rose Weigal's Park at Ramsgate. Boys were allowed home to see their friends if deemed 'fairly decent'. The School had a library and entertainments were got up by the boys in winter. A mark system was in operation, with money rewards for good conduct. Visits home were also regulated by the mark system.

The superintendent, James Cartwright, died on January 4th, 1910, and was succeeded on March 14th by Mr J Vaughan Cartwright who had previously held the post of head schoolmaster. Mrs J.V. Cartwright was appointed matron.

On June 14th, 1924, it was announced that the institution, now known as the East London School for Boys, had resigned its Industrial School certificate and was closing.

The former buildings no longer survive and the Viney Road flats now cover the site.


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  • None noted at present.