Ancestry UK

Macclesfield Industrial School for Boys, Macclesfield, Cheshire

The Macclesfield Ragged and Industrial Schools were founded in 1858 by the Rev. Henry Briant, the vicar of St Paul's Church, who set up an establishment for about a hundred poor children in a run-down wheelwright's workshop at the corner of Turnock Street. Some of the children attended on a daily basis, while a few were also provided with accommodation. The Schools gradually gathered support in the town and in 1860, an appeal was launched to erect a permanent building.

The building fund received an unexpected boost in 1864 after the Marquis of Westminster, from curiosity about its operation, stopped by at the establishment to take a look around. Impressed by what he saw, though saddened by the dilapidated state of the premises, the Marquis made a donation of £500 to the appeal. The new building, opened in 1866, was erected on the same site as the original Schools, bounded at the north by Brook Street, at the west by Turnock Street, and at the south by Parker Street.

On May 7th, 1866, the Schools were certified as an Industrial School, allowing them to receive boys and girls who had been sentenced by the courts to a period of confinement. An official inspection at the time noted that the new building comprised workshops and offices on the ground floor; a school room, dining room, and master's rooms on the first floor; and dormitories on the second floor. At the rear was an enclosed yard and a playground. There were then 40 boys and 20 girls in attendance, most of them very young.

The School site is shown on the 1874 map below.

Macclesfield Industrial School for Boys site, Macclesfield, c.1874.

Former Macclesfield Industrial School for Boys from the north, Macclesfield,2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Macclesfield Industrial School for Boys from the west, Macclesfield,2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Macclesfield Industrial School for Boys from the south-west, Macclesfield,2013. © Peter Higginbotham

The Schools were superintended by William Heaps (or Heap), with his wife Jane as matron. The industrial training for the boys consisted of shoe-making, mat-making and wood-cutting, later extended to include cabinet making and gilding, turnery, brush-making, and brace and belt making. The girls learned needlework and housework, with the older ones working in the laundry.

As the number of girls at the Schools had always been much smaller than the number of boys, with only 2 of the 75 inmates in 1874 being female, it was decided that the institution should become a boys-only establishment. The remaining girls were found places elsewhere and the School could then accommodate up to 140 boys, aged 8 to 15 years at their date of admission.

A number of changes and extensions were made to the School premises over the years. Additions in 1874-75 provided new workshops, a bakehouse, laundry, engine, engine-house boiler and store rooms. In 1877, a new playground of about half an acre was added, with cricket also being played on an adjacent common. In 1880, a large open playshed was erected with a range of workshops over it, together with a lavatory and bathroom, a new engine house, and band room which could also serve as an infirmary. A new separate infirmary was added in 1884, followed by a gymnasium.

Former Macclesfield Industrial School for Boys from the south-east, Macclesfield,2013. © Peter Higginbotham

A major benefactor to the School was Charles Brocklehurst, a local silk mill owner and philanthropist who became Mayor of Macclesfield in 1878. Several of his gifts are recorded in tablets in the walls of the School.

Former Macclesfield Industrial School for Boys, Macclesfield,2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Macclesfield Industrial School for Boys, Macclesfield,2013. © Peter Higginbotham

The School site in 1898 is shown on the map below.

Macclesfield Industrial School for Boys site, Macclesfield, c.1898.

Former Macclesfield Industrial School for Boys from the north-east, Macclesfield,2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Plumbing was added to the industrial training activities, and basket-making was also tried but was given up as unprofitable. The School carried out all the tailoring for a nearby large asylum. Wood-carving and drawing were taught in the evenings. From the late 1880s, the boys made camp for two weeks in the summer at locations such as Alderley Edge. The School had its own military-style brass band. Following improvements to its fire escape facilities in 1891, the School was presented with a manual fire engine. A brigade was formed with 5 staff and 30 boys, and regular fire drills carried out.

A report in 1897 described the School as a 'plain, serviceable red-brick building' with a long range of workshops at the back, at the end of which was a large and comfortable reading room, well provided with books and papers. The School fire engine was housed in a corner of the gravel playground against the street. The boys now had physical and military drill once a week, with football and cricket matches arranged with outside teams. Some gymnastic apparatus was provided in the covered playshed and swimming now formed a regular activity. In the winter, entertainments were organised from time to time. In 1898, the School received a stock of BSA air rifles and the boys were taught to shoot. The brush-making workshop was now said to produce 20 articles per shift, the boot-making department 25 per shift, and the tailoring section 12 items per shift.

In 1899, a club for old boys was opened under the management of Mr J.W. Heap, who was now acting as assistant superintendent to his father. A building near the School had been fitted up for the purpose with living and recreation rooms.

On August 1st, 1901, the Heaps retired after 35 years' service and were succeeded by Mr and Mrs R.W. Hind (or Hinde).

Alterations to the buildings in 1903 included a new entrance hall and staircase, and enlargement of the dining hall and dormitory above. Because of the building works, that year's summer camp was extended to five weeks. Further additions in 1904 included a sick-room, schoolmasters' and officers' rooms, and accommodation for female staff. In 1910, two 'cottages' adjacent to the School were acquired, one of which was used as a home for little boys. Presumably, these were two of the properties on Brook Street at the north side of the School site.

Former Macclesfield Industrial School 'cottages'?, Macclesfield,2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Due to a continuing decline in admissions, the School was closed in June 1922. The premises later became a dress factory and still continue in light industrial use.


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.

  • Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, Cheshire Record Office, Duke Street, Chester, Cheshire CH1 1RL. Has a few volumes of Managers' minutes, Log books and a Report book dating from 1860 onwards.



  • None noted at present.