Ancestry UK

St Mary's / Kirkdale Industrial School, Liverpool, Lancashire

Liverpool's Kirkdale Industrial Ragged School (not to be confused with the Kirkdale Poor Law Industrial School) was established in 1856, largely through the efforts of the Rev. Thomas Major Lester, the incumbent of St Mary's Church. Its first premises were a room over a coal shed which were furnished with forms and desks and could hold 120 children. The institution was sometimes known as St Mary's School, after the parish in which it was located.

On August 18th, 1860, the Earl of Derby laid the foundation stone for a new building for the institution, on a site at 2 Major Street, Kirkdale, which had been donated by Mr John Shaw Leigh. The building was completed by the end of the following year and formally opened by local M.P. Lord Stanley on January 7th, 1862. The Object and Rules of the establishment, as published in 1869, are provided on a separate page.

As well educating, training and feeding poor children in the area, the establishment now also became a Certified Industrial School allowing it to receive children committed by magistrates to a period of detention. The premises were formally certified for this purpose on December 30th, 1861.

A report on the School in 1866 noted that there were about 450 children in attendance, of whom over 100 were of the infant class. The number under detention at this date comprised 10 boys and 3 girls. The industrial training consisted of tailoring, shoemaking, coffee picking, garden-net making, and printing for the boys, and knitting and needlework for the girls. The school instruction wass carried on entirely by female teachers. In 1868, the boys were also making and printing paper bags, and the younger children occupied in oakum picking, gum-sorting, and net-making.

In 1868, the School's shoemaker's room produced 570 pairs of clogs, with a further 80 pairs repaired and 200 pairs ironed. The tailor's room produced a total of 200 jackets, vests and pairs of trousers which were worn by the 'kept' boys. The printer's room, which was in need of better equipment, made and printed 33,390 paper bags, and printed 8,000 circulars. The girls of the Upper School produced 437 pieces including shirts, bonnets, frocks, petticoats, chemises, pinafores, stockings, and three quilts. The Lower School's output was 356 pieces. The total value of all the School's industrial work for the year was just in excess of £221.

Unusually for a certified Industrial School the children under detention were, for a number of years, boarded out with local householders, sometimes in groups of three or four. Not surprisingly, this arrangement led to a high absconding rate. In October, 1870, a house was taken on Stanley Road to accommodate the girls under detention, and another at 35 Walton Road for the boys. These soon became overcrowded, however, with many of the boys, as well as of the girls, sleeping two in a bed.

By 1878, a reorganisation of the whole establishment took place. The reception of boys committed by the courts was halted and those then in residence placed elsewhere. The girls under committal took over the boys' residence at 35 Walton Road, which then became known St Mary's Industrial School for Girls.

On August 27th, 1878, the Major Street premises became a certified Day Industrial School, allowing it to receive children whose daily attendance had been decreed by magistrates. It also continued to receive a large number of children attending voluntarily. The official capacity of the School (now usually known as Kirkdale rather than St Mary's, to avoid confusion with the Walton Street establishment) was set at 584 places. Unlike most Day Industrial Schools, which were operated by local School Boards, Kirkdale was run by a voluntary management and so did not benefit from government funding.

The industrial training provision at the School included a workshop for tailoring and one for shoemaking, a printing department, and a carpenter's shop. Match-box making was carried on by the juniors, and paper-box making by the girls. The girls were instructed in sewing, some also helping in the house and kitchen work.

In 1880, the staff comprised: Superintendent, boys, Mr L. Rowlands; assistant, Mr Smith; tailor, Mr Dobson; shoemaker, Mr Longmure; printer, matchbox maker, and general assistant. Girls' superintendent, Miss E. Williamson; assistant, Miss Aspinall, and staff of teachers; matron, Mrs Jones; assistant, Miss Davies. By the following year, Mr Mennie had taken over as the boys' superintendent, succeeded in 1882 by Mr F. Roberts, and in 1885 by Mr William Manson. In 1888, Mr David Manson superintended the boys, and Miss E.E. Haynes the girls. At this date, there were 295 boys on the register, and 378 girls.

An 1896 report described the premises as 'an old ragged school... in a squalid part of the town. The accommodation, especially of the smaller classrooms, is but poor and is severely taxed. The play-yards, too, are very small and confined.' It was noted that there were 12 boys working as tailors (including 4 full timers), and 7 as shoemakers, 7 (including 5 full timers). The tailors made clothes for the children out of discarded garments, as well as new material, while the shoemakers supplied the Girls' Industrial School with boots. There were 24 boys working as printers (4 full timers) producing programmes, bills and bags. The printers now had three machines and a fair quantity of type. The 80 matchbox makers turned out about 560 gross a month. There were 39 boys attending a manual instruction centre, and a brass band of 16 performers. On the girls' side, 8 girls were engaged in paper-bag making and produced about 1,500,000 bags a year. Knitting, sewing, rough washing, kitchen and scullery work, and general house cleaning kept the rest that could work employed. Musical drill with dumb-bells took place once a week for an hour, and there was company drill for the boys who had boots in the yard. There was an annual treat, and several managed to have a fortnight in camp. An annual concert was given by the children. The Kyrle Society and other friends provides a few entertainments. There was also an evening club with periodicals and indoor games for the benefit of the voluntary boys. About 50 of the boys were lodged out in 4 or 5 foster homes, and several others attended only for schooling, going home for their meals. The children committed by magistrates and so carrying a Government grant numbered only about 100. The superintendent was now Mr William Gorrie, and the matron Mrs Frances Smith.

Following the death of the School's founder, Canon Lester, in 1903, its management was taken over by the Liverpool Education Committee. The School was then changed from a departmental to a mixed school, the large upper schoolroom being turned over to use for drill, etc. On December 7th, 1903, the premises were re-certified to accommodate up to 550 children.

The Committee decided to provide new accommodation for the School and in the meantime, only essential repair work was carried out at the existing building. The drains were overhauled, the outside offices refitted, and a gas-stove and sink were fitted in the cookery- room.

In 1906, senior and junior squads (both boys and girls) presented displays of elementary exercises in free movements, and with dumb-bells and Indian clubs. Swimming was taken up, and in the Liverpool Teachers' Sports Swimming Association Competition, the School carried off one 1st class certificate, nine 2nds, and twenty-two 3rds. The school spent three weeks in camp at Frankby in August; and at Christmas the Committee and staff gave the children a tea and entertainment, with presents.

The School closed in November 1907, and the children transferred to the new premises at Walton Road.

The Major Street building was later occupied by Major Street School, later Stanley School. A medical centre now stands on the site.


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