Ancestry UK

Liverpool Roman Catholic Female Orphanage, Liverpool, Lancashire

Liverpool's Roman Catholic Female Orphanage, sometimes referred to as the Catholic Orphanage Asylum, was founded in around 1816. Its object was to 'feed, clothe, educate, and train the destitute orphan daughters of respectable parents who have died in the city of Liverpool.' From 1819, the Orphanage occupied a former private house at 96 Mount Pleasant where about 80 girls could be accommodated, aged from 6 to 11 years.

In 1845, the Orphanage moved to new purpose-built premises, designed by A.W. Pugin, at 47A (renumbered as 65 in 1888) Falkner Street, at the junction with Catherine Street. The new establishment was initially run by the Sisters of Mercy but in 1851 it was taken over by the Sisters of Notre Dame with the support of local priest Father James Nugent.

On October 16th, 1868, the Orphanage was certified to operate as an Industrial School, allowing it to receive girls committed by magistrates to detention. The premises could initially accommodate 50 such girls, aged from 5 to 11 years at their date of admission. Voluntary cases were also received, with a payment of £5 requested on admission. In 1869, a wing of the building was enlarged to provide accommodation for up to 20 more girls. The superintendent of the establishment was Miss Julianna Powell, assisted by six Sisters of Notre Dame.

As well as classroom lessons, the girls received training for domestic service. In 1877, this comprised needlework, machine-work, and housework, with the older girls doing some laundry work. Many of the children, though, were too young for manual occupation. There were at this date, 108 girls in residence: 50 under detention and 58 voluntary cases.

Sister Julianna died in 1877, having directed the operations of Orphanage for many years. She was succeeded by Sister Mary. In 1881, the superintendent was Sister Ann Savage, and in 1884 Sister Jane Perry. From around 1888, the address of the institution was given 65 Falkner Street.

An 1896 report described the premises as a low Gothic building of two floors, standing in its own grounds at the junction of two roads in the better part of the town. The interior of the building, though not very bright, and in parts needing more better heating, was described as 'tasteful and convenient'. The schoolroom accommodation, however, was said to be defective. There were two paved yards, one having a shed. The latter, however, was said to be too exposed, and a recreation roam was much needed. Musical drill with wands and flags was carried on and walks were taken twice a week. A governess cart and donkey had been acquired to take the little ones out for a drive, 8 at a time. The donkey appeared to have as much freedom as a dog, and particularly liked the sewing-room, where he was discovered, on the occasion of a surprise visit, warming himself in front of the fire. There were 2 or 3 trips to the countryside during the year. Concerts and entertainments were given by the Kyrle Society and other friends. Several and books and indoor games were provided. The girls were trained for domestic service, and where practicable, for a superior class of situation. Plain and fancy needlework, machine stitching, and dress-making received attention, and superior work was produced. Washing was done for the School only. Most years, a group of 12 or 18 girls usually had a course of lessons in cookery. Good situations were found for the girls, especially in France, where the wages often began at £12 a year. It was noted that the girls did not give much trouble, and there was very little punishment. There was no regular mark system in use, but many little privileges that the girls valued were made dependent on good conduct.

In 1900, Sister Anne Editha was recorded as superintendent.

An inspection report in 1903 noted that the buildings were full of defects and really needed completely reconstructing.

In 1905, the imminent expiry of the site's lease caused some uncertainty over the future of the institution. Although this was resolved, the continued number of defects in the building led to a decision to resign the Industrial School certification and the inspections that that involved. From 1906, the establishment continued in operation as an orphanage for Roman Catholic girls.

Roman Catholic Female Orphanage site, Liverpool, c.1908.

Roman Catholic Female Orphanage, Liverpool, from the south-west, c.1907. © Peter Higginbotham

In around 1928, the institution finally left Falkner Street and moved into premises at Druid's Cross, Woolton, where it became known as St Catherine's Orphanage.


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