Ancestry UK

Barnes Home Industrial School for Boys, Manchester, Lancashire

In the late 1860s, a proposal was made to provide additional premises for the Manchester Ragged and Industrial School at Ardwick Green whose accommodation had become inadequate. The fund-raising activities for the new School came to the attention of Robert Barnes, a wealthy cotton baron and former Mayor of Manchester. Barnes stumped up the money to finance the scheme whose total cost, including the purchase of land, was in the region of £14,000. The foundation stone for the new building, located on Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey, was laid on 29th June, 1870 by Mr Henry Hodgson. The establishment, known as the Barnes Home, was opened on July 2nd, 1871 by the Bishop of Manchester. Robert Barnes died just a few months later.

The Home was originally intended as a mixed establishment but it was subsequently decided to make it boys-only. On June 14th, 1871, the Home was formally certified to operate as an Industrial School, allowing it to receive up to 200 boys committed to detention by magistrates. The Home could also take voluntary cases, however. Some of the first inmates of the Barnes Home boys transferred from the Ardwick Green School. The superintendent of the Home was Mr Donald Ross, with his wife Jane as matron.

The Home and its surrounding garden and farm occupied nearly nearly seven acres. The main building enclosed a large central courtyard as shown on the 1907 map below.

Barnes Home Industrial School for Boys site, Manchester, c.1907.

Barnes Home Industrial School for Boys, Manchester, aerial view from the south, 1930s. © Peter Higginbotham

Barnes Home Industrial School for Boys, Manchester, aerial view from the south, 1930s. © Peter Higginbotham

The industrial training at the home included tailoring, shoemaking, gardening, carpentering and wood-chopping. The boys also assisted in the kitchen and bakehouse, stable, piggeries etc.

A report in 1896 noted that the allocation of boys to the various industrial occupations was as follows: shoemakers, 50; tailors, 50; farm, 20; garden, 20; joiners, 10; painters, 8; smiths, 2; stokers, 2; bakers and cooks, 12; knitters, 2; house etc, 31. There was a brass and reed band, and a drum and fife band all receiving good training as musicians (45 boys in total); full time in school, 20; manual instruction class, 60. On the farm were 4 horses, 25 head of cattle, and a number of pigs. The boys learned to milk and attend to cattle generally. A few also learned hedging and ditching. The play-shed was fitted with gymnastic apparatus and all the boys passed through a course of instruction. A playing field adjoining the farm was used for cricket and football. The Home had a good swimming bath but no regular instruction was given. The boys were supplied with various games and books for use in the evenings. The senior boys had bagatelle and chess. The library comprised 180 books together with Boys' Own Paper, Athletic News and several other periodicals. In the winter, a monthly concert was got up by the boys. There were other entertainments — magic lantern, dramatic etc. — almost weekly, given by dramatic societies and others. In addition to the superintendent and matron, the Home's staff now included: the schoolmaster, Mr W.M. Powell; assistant matron, Miss M.L. Ross; assistant schoolmistress, Miss A.E. Ross; Assistant schoolmasters, Mr F.G. Bradshaw and Mr Robert Barlow; a clerk, 2 tailors, 2 shoemakers, bandmaster, carpenter, mechanic, painter, baker, gardener, carter, 2 seamstresses, laundress, cook, lodge-keeper and night watchman. The farm staff comprised: the bailiff, Mr Preston; a cowman, ploughman and a labourer.

Since the mid-1880s, a 'mark system' of rewards had been in operation, with various prizes, including silver watches, being given from time to time. Monitors received about £24 a year, and numerous prizes were given for proficiency in the school room, workshops, farm and gymnasium, as well as for personal cleanliness and general good conduct.

Mr and Mrs Ross departed from the Home in October, 1903, after more than thirty years as superintendent and matron. They were succeeded by Mr and Mrs B.C. Housden, who were still in post in 1920.

The Barnes Home made use of the Auxiliary Home at 59 Ardwick Green, close the Ardwick Green Industrial School, which had been established in 1900. It provided supervised hostel-style accommodation for older boys who were making the transition from the Barnes Home to independent life, working for employers in the area. This practice continued after the Ardwick Green's School's closure in 1922. In October, 1924, the Auxiliary Home — address now recorded as 61 Ardwick Green — was certified to accommodate 32 boys.

In 1933, the institution became an Approved School, one of the new institutions introduced by the 1933 Children and Young Persons Act to replace the existing system of Reformatories and Industrial Schools. The Barnes Home could then accommodate up to 175 Junior Boys, aged under 13 at their date of admission. The headmaster in 1935 was Mr J.H. Rowe.

The Home closed in December 1955. The buildings no longer survive and the site is now covered by modern housing.


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  • Greater Manchester County Record Office (with Manchester Archives), Archives+, Manchester Central Library, St Peter's Square, Manchester M2 5PD. Holdings include: Admission registers (1867-1928); Discharge registers (1918-28); Punishment book (1939-1955); Monthly Returns of Admissions, Discharges, Licences (1879-1935).
  • Admission registers (1866-1908) are also available online on Find My Past.



  • None noted at present.