Ancestry UK

Liverpool Industrial Ragged School / Boys' Industrial School, Liverpool, Lancashire

The Soho Street Industrial Ragged School was opened on March 1st, 1849, at 68 Soho Street, Liverpool. It was established by the Liverpool Ragged Union, an organisation which founded a number of ragged schools in the city. The Soho Street School, which initially admitted only boys, was described by a visitor in June, 1849.

The door was opened by a ragged urchin, whose head and "shining morning face" bore evidence of recent scrubbing. The rooms inside were deserted, the whole of the boys, except two or three undergoing essential ablutions, were in the yard behind. We glanced round the several apartments, the doors of which stood ajar; the windows were open, giving evidence of attention to ventilation; and the forms, desks, and other furniture, betokened the utmost order and cleanliness On passing through to the yard, we discovered some sixty juvenile tatterdemalians, undergoing a drill by the teacher, assisted by one of the boys from the Kirkdale Industrial School. The appearance of the boys had probably been much improved by the regular diet and regimen of the school, short as is the time they had enjoyed such advantages. About one-half of them were barefooted, and the other half had on clogs, the manufacture of the school. A few who had sore feet, or were otherwise disabled, had been excused from the exercise, and were seated amusing themselves by the edge of the wall.

While the drill proceeded, we entered into conversation with the teacher, who is admirably qualified for his task. Great care seems to be taken that the benefits of the institution should be extended only to the class whose want and wretchedness point them out as the fitting objects of its care. To this end, the name, age, mode of life, and residence both of applicant for admission and his parents (if living) are taken down; and, before he is received in a regular manner, his statements are verified by personal inquiry and inspection. This duty generally, if not invariably, falls upon the teacher himself, who told us some affecting instances of destitution, which his visits to the residences of the boys had disclosed.

The doors are open for the reception of the pupils by six o'clock in the morning. The first operation to gone through on entering is washing; a clean skin m being justly considered promotive of a clean conscience. To facilitate this, an apartment is fitted up with small wooden troughs, having pipes and taps, where an ad libitum supply of the purifying element can be constantly obtained. Here the boys came by relays, until all have undergone thorough ablution. They are then assembled for morning devotions; after which they have a plain breakfast of porridge and treacle, and, this over, they are allowed to disport themselves for a short time in the yard. On certain days in the week, bathing is added to the ordinary ablutions, two large baths, capable of accommodating three or four at a time, being erected in the basement for this purpose. On their return from the yard, the general body re-occupy the room in which their meals are eaten, the tables in which, by a simple contrivance which economizes both machinery and space, are instantly formed into desks, and the usual induction into the mysteries of reading, writing, and accounts, is at once proceeded with. On the occasion of our visit, these operations were a gone through with a degree of order, precision, and intelligence unsurpassed in our experience of any other youths. The monitorial system is that necessarily pursued in the tuition of the boys, and, so far as our observation went, it was accompanied by as satisfactory results as is usual in similar cases, or as the inherent defects of that system would warrant us in expecting. The school books in use are those published by the Dublin Board for the Irish National Schools, which are, in our estimation, the best adapted, upon the whole, for the purpose of such schools. Those of the youths not thus engaged, are occupied in tailoring, cobbling, netting, or in superintending the operations of cleansing, the subordinate offices of culinary preparation, &c., proceeding in other parts of the house. One of the most serious difficulties which the committee have to encounter, is that of finding sufficient employment for the boys; and persons desirous of supporting the institution could not do so in a more acceptable or valuable form than by giving them work to do. Gentlemen requiring nets for the protection of their orchards, or analogous purposes would confer a boon upon the institution by having them made by the boys.

From twelve to one o'clock is the dinner hour. This meal usually consists of pea or other soup, which is made as savoury as a strict economy will permit. The afternoon is spent in similar operations as the forenoon, and the day concludes with a simple supper and a short religious exercise. It appeared that, at in the present market price, the expense averaged about a halfpenny a meal, or threehalfpence a day for each person. The other expenses of rent, salaries, &c., we are not in a position to speak to, but assuming that, being added, they trebled the amount, the sum would still be wonderfully small compared with of the benefits it purchased. It is questionable whether every boy, left to prowl the streets, and forage for himself by begging or stealing, does not cost society by more for his maintenance. We are wrong. It is not questionable: it is certain. He does cost more, and that, too, without computing the collateral expenses of police to detect, the machinery of law to convict, and prisons, penitentiaries, hulks, and he transportation, to punish him for the crime into which he is inevitably thrust.

In 1850, a separate section for girls was added to the School at 66 Soho Street. The superintendent and matron were Mr and Mrs Orris.

The School was funded by a mixture of donations, subscriptions, bequests and, from 1854, an annual government grant. The printing department established at the School also made a significant contribution to its income, amounting to £137 in 1856. The School's attendance steadily increased, rising from a daily average of 70 in 1849, to 128 in 1856.

As well as day attenders, the School provided some residential facilities as demonstrated by its daily timetable, published in 1856.

The School's daily timetable was as follows:

7 to 8.30Girls who sleep in the house engage in domestic duties.6 to 8.30 Boys who sleep in the house are engaged in cleaning and preparing the rooms for work.
7 to 8.30Girls who sleep at home assemble, wash, and prepare for breakfast7 to 8.30Boys who sleep at home assemble, wash themselves, and are employed at some industrial occupation.
8.30 to 9United devotional exercises, and Breakfast.8.30 to 9United devotional exercises, and Breakfast.
9 to 9.15Playground.9 to 9.30Playground.
9.15 to 10Mental Arithmetic, Tables, &c.9.30 to 10.45Classes in the School Room, and Bible Lesson.
10 to 10.30Religious Instruction.10.45 to 11Playground.
10.30 to 11Playground.11 to 12.15Classes in the School Room.
11 to 12.30Reading, Writing, and Slate Arithmetic.12.15 to 12.30Playground.
12.30 to 1Dinner.12.30 to 1Dinner.
1 to 2Playground, and preparing for work.1 to 2Playground.
2 to 5Sewing, and other industrial employment2 to 5Industrial employment
5 to 5.30Recreation.5 to 5.30Recreation.
5.30 to 6United devotional exercises, Supper, and dismiss.5.30 to 6United devotional exercises, Supper, and dismiss.

The elder girls are engaged on Mondays and Tuesdays washing in the Laundry.

On Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, the School-rooms and Work-rooms are scoured by the elder boys.

The house boys and girls are formed into classes in their separate rooms, for self-improvement, till 8 o'clock.

In addition to their daily ablutions, each child has the benefit of a bath once every week.

SUNDAYS.—In the morning, the Protestant children are taken by the Master and Mistress to Christ Church. At half-past one o'clock, all the children assemble for dinner, after which they receive religious instruction during the afternoon.

On November 19th, 1861, the establishment became a certified Industrial School, allowing it to receive children committed by magistrates to a period of detention. An early official inspection of the School noted that 'the manner of the schoolmistress seemed to me the only thing wanting improvement; she needs more of the matron's quiet kindliness to be fully fitted for her post.'

The industrial training provided for the boys now included shoemaking, paper-bag making, printing, and wood-cutting. The girls were taught needlework.

In 1864, the School moved to new purpose-built premises not far away at 19 Everton Terrace (numbered 33 by 1892). The building consisted of a large family house to which a school room, work room, dining room and dormitory had been added at one side, and a laundry, bathroom, and girls' schoolroom added at the other. There was a good open space attached to the house for use as playground, but no garden or field for out-door labour. On December 6th, 1864, the establishment was certified to accommodate 200 children. Although the School could also receive voluntary cases, these were generally very much in the minority. Mr and Mrs Orris continued in charge at the new location.

The School site is shown on the 1891 map below.

Industrial Ragged School site, Liverpool, c.1891.

Industrial Ragged School from the east, Liverpool, c.1877. © Peter Higginbotham

Industrial work for the boys now included making the boots and shoes for the establishment, and making and repaired most of their own clothing. Wood chopping and paper-bag making and printing continued as before. The girls were trained in plain needlework and made and repaired their own clothing, together with the boys' shirts. They also assisted in the general work of the house.

In 1869, following 'misunderstandings' between Mr Orris and the schoolmaster, and a neglect by Mr Orris of some of the establishment's regulations, his resignation was demanded by the School's management. Following the departure of Mr and Mrs Orris, Captain James Lovekin and his wife Rosalie were appointed as superintendent and matron but departed in 1871 and were succeeded by Mr and Mrs John S. Grant. The School's inspector suggested that the rapid turnover of staff might be due to too much interference by the committee. In November, 1875, following the 'sudden withdrawal' of Mr Grant, Mr Alfred King, previously schoolmaster at the Bleasdale Reformatory, was made superintendent, with his sister Emily as matron.

On 2nd June, 1877, a party of 38 girls was transferred from Liverpool's Holy Trinity Industrial School which had become a boys-only establishment. Another group arrived from the Bolton Industrial School which was making the same change. The following year, a similar reorganisation took place at Everton terrace with all the girls moving to new premises at Northumberland Terrace, Liverpool, and Everton Terrace becoming boys-only. A boys' band was started at around this date.

In 1880, Alfred King returned to Bleasdale to replace his recently deceased father, Mr Grant King, as superintendent of the institution. Mr and Mrs William E. Barclay from the Aberdeen Boys' Industrial School were then appointed as superintendent and matron at Everton Terrace. The School entered a much more stable period in its history, with William Barclay remaining in post until 1899.

An 1896 report described the School as a plain, old-fashioned building, standing flush with the pavement of a quiet thoroughfare in a populous part of the outskirts or the town. Its situation commanded an extensive view over chimney pots to the Cheshire coast. The accommodation was generally good, except for the laundry being located in the basement. An extra classroom was much needed. There were two play-yards, which were gradually being improved. A long recreation room (95 feet by 13 feet) had recently been built and fitted up with gymnastic apparatus by the joiner and his class. Drill with dumb-bells etc. was carried out for half an hour each day. The swimming bath was of modest size, and use was made of the public baths. Occasional use is made of the playing fields in a public park for cricket and football. Matches were played with outside teams in both sports, and not one game had been lost for two years. There was a six weeks' break of school work every year, when there were five or six day excursions. There was a good library, and indoor games were supplied. Good use was made of a magic lantern, with the superintendent making most of his own slides. Frequent entertainments were given on winter evenings by friends of the school. A class of small boys did knitting and light sewing under the charge of the matron. On the other side of the street was a workshop and yard, where wood was chopped and some lawn tennis and other nets were made. The band was in the course of re-organisation, the instruments having become worn out. In the classroom, singing (4 parts, sol-fa) was rated as 'good'; recitation was also 'good', while mental arithmetic and geography were 'very fair'. Drawing was taught throughout, and results from a Science and Art examination were 'excellent'. A mark system was in operation where monetary rewards could be obtained by good conduct.

The following year, it was noted that type-writing had been added to the industrial training. A new printing machine of modern design had been bought, together with two new sewing machines and a new gas cooking range. A telephone had also been installed. In 1898, a brass band was established and musical instruction given to 60 boys.

Tho Superintendent, William Barclay, left in June, 1899, although Mrs Barclay continued for a period as matron. The assistant superintendent, Mr A.R. Barclay, was made acting superintendent, and then made permanent in the post. After his subsequent marriage, his wife was appointed matron.

On December 2nd, 1902, formal approval was given for the opening of an Auxiliary Home, or Home for Working Boys, at Hornby House, 26 Village Street, Everton. The property was described as 'a fine, airy building on high ground close by the parent school.' Hornby House provided supervised hostel-style accommodation for up to 16 boys who were leaving, or on licence from, the School and taking up employment in the area. In 1912, the Auxiliary Home moved to new premises, which also adopted the name Hornby House, at 49 Shaw Street. The new establishment was formally certified to begin operation on July 26th, 1912, with accommodation for up to 40. It continued in use until July 15th, 1922.

In 1902, a building across the street from the School, previously used for wood-chopping, was converted into a gymnasium. In 1904, a new washroom and swimming-bath were constructed at the School. From around this date, the School began holding a camp on the Isle of Man for three weeks each summer.

Following a steady decline in the numbers being placed at the School, it was formally closed on July 15th, 1922. The premises were subsequently used as a police station. The building no longer survives.


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