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Manchester and Salford Reformatory for Boys, Blackley, Manchester, Lancashire

A gentleman who was coming into Manchester one day, by omnibus from Cheetham Hill, observed a number of ragged boys running after the vehicle. He called upon the Rev. R.E. Brooke and offered to give £20 a year if a ragged school could be established in the neighbourhood. The Ragged and Industrial School for Boys and Girls was subsequently opened in July, 1854, on Mayes Street, in the Angel Meadow and Ancoats district of Manchester. Soon afterwards, applications for admission began to come from criminal boys, a few of whom were admitted as exceptional cases. After some debate, it was decided that criminals should be considered admissible and the School began to assume more and more of a reformatory character, raising the question of whether the institution should formally take on that identity. The sudden death of the master, from malignant fever, caused the temporary closure of the School, during it was decided to re-open it as a Reformatory institution, for boys only, and adopting the name of "The Manchester and Salford Reformatory." The establishment's committee decided that it should be relocated to new premises away from the centre of the town. Accordingly, in February, 1856, funds began to be raised for the scheme which soon amounted to almost £4,000. In October, 1856, nine acres of land were purchased at Blackley, and the plans of Messrs. Cawley and Radford were selected for the construction of a "plain but substantial" building, initially able to accommodate up to forty inmates, and with a governor's residence, workshops, and so on. The new establishment, situated on French Barn Lane near Blackley church, was formally opened on August 6th, 1867. Ten weeks later, on October 16th, it was formally certified for the reception of 50 boys. A contemporary report (slightly shortened) gave details of the building as follows:

It has been constructed Mr. Robert Neill, builder, Strangeways, from plans furnished Messrs. Cawley and Radford. It is a plain brick building, with stone facings, and convenience of internal arrangement has very properly been more attended to than beauty of external appearance. The ground to be enclosed, and which has cost the committee £1,550, amounts to nine statute acres. The building has been erected so as to face the south-west, and thus looks towards Blackley Church. The entrance is by a large gateway, which runs through the building to a yard behind. To the left of this arched passage is a spacious entrance hall, from which the stair ascends to the dormitories, and from which a corridor leads to the centre the building, dividing the rooms in the front from those at the back. At the foot of the stair, a door leads into the committee room, 16ft. by 14ft., from which there is also a door leading into the dining hall and schoolroom, a spacious apartment, 40ft. long by 20ft. broad, and 16ft. high. The schoolroom is also entered by doors from the corridor, the one nearest leading to the teacher's desk, and the other entering at the further end of the hall. At the end of the dining-hall, but having no entrance from it, are a store-room, which may also perhaps be used as a probationary ward, and a cell for the punishment of the refractory. At the back of the ground floor of the building are, first, approached from the entrance-hall, and having a door also into the yard behind, a bath and lavatory; then, entering from the corridor, the laundry, 14ft. by l3ft., a store-room, and further on the kitchen, 17ft. by 14ft., with every necessary appliance, and then a convenient pantry and scullery. Behind the bath-room a line of building extends for 23ft., the largest part of which is a workshop, and the lesser and furthest removed, the foul washhouse. The master's house is in a line of buildings to the right of the entrance-hall. The door is in the front of the building, and the width of the sitting-room from the gateway. On the ground floor are sitting-room, kitchen, scullery, and pantry, and at the extreme right is an enclosed yard, from behind which a building extends which forms a spacious workshop, 35ft. by 11ft. The stair leading from the entrance-hall is of wood, with an iron railed wooden gate at the bottom, and with iron railings up the side. Immediately at the head of the stair, and over the lavatory and the workshop behind, is a dormitory, 35ft. by 16ft., fitted with iron bedsteads. Over the committee-room is an apartment, which is to be used as a sick ward. From each of the dormitory and sick ward, a door communicates with the master's bedroom, which is over the arched gateway, and also extends over part of the entrance hall; and by this excellent arrangement, the master has the command of the boys during the night, as well as in the daytime, and is within easy call of the sick who may desire his presence or require his aid. Passing along the corridor, there are no doors to the left, the centre of the front part of the building, which is occupied by the dining hall, being only one storey high. The first door to the right, after the boy's dormitory, is a linen store, and then comes a dormitory, 30ft. by 14ft. At the extreme end of the corridor a door conducts to a third dormitory 28ft. by 16ft., which runs across tho end of the building, being over the probationary and refractory wards. The corner left by these dormitories at the back of the building forms a comfortable apartment 16ft. by 11ft., which is entered from this third dormitory, and from which a window looks into the second dormitory. This is the assistant master's room, and it is so situated and so constructed that he has command of the boys in these rooms during the night, in the same way as the master has command of the principal dormitory and sick ward. The extreme length of the building is about 150 ft., and it covers an area of 482 square yards.

The School site is shown on the 1893 map below.

Manchester and Salford Reformatory for Boys site, Manchester, c.1893.

The School's first superintendent was Mr. W. D. H. Antrobus. He was criticised in an 1860 inspection for report for over-severe discipline and resigned from his post, He was succeeded by Mr Henry Arnold who, although having had no experience of a Reformatory, had previously had charge of the Park Row Industrial School established by Mary Carpenter in Bristol. Arnold's wife, Sarah Ann, was appointed as the School's matron.

In 1886, the schoolroom and dormitory accommodation were enlarged, with a new bathroom and sick room added not long afterwards. The farming land had now been extended to 76 acres but was said not to be very profitable as it was too near the smoke of Manchester for good cropping. As well as farm work, the boys cultivated a large garden. There was also a class of eight for tailoring. Thirty of the smaller boys were occupied in the manufacture of matchboxes. A brass band had been started and had thirty members. A shoemaker's workshop was started in 1890, with carpentry and painting later being taught. In 1894, two of the boys worked in the village, one with a blacksmith, the other with a tinsmith. In wet weather, some of the boys were given wood-chopping to do.

Mr Arnold retired as superintendent at the end of March, 1889. Charge of the institution was then taken over by Mr and Mrs William Collins from Redhill. Mrs Collins died at the beginning of 1894 and was replaced by Miss Nunn. The other staff at this date comprised the schoolmaster, Mr Aldritt; farm bailiff, stableman, shoemaker, tailor, carpenter, labour-master and gardener. By 1896, Mr and Mrs J.S. Stephens had become superintendent and matron. In the same year it was noted that the School produced both flowers and vegetables, and a large new greenhouse. Its livestock now consisted of three horses, ten cows and four pigs. However, the proximity of a chemical works was having a detrimental effect on the productiveness of the grass land. The School now had a gymnasium and the boys learned physical and military drill. There was a swimming pond for them to bathe in during the summer. There was a football and cricket field and fixtures were arranged with other teams in the area. The School had a growing library and reading was allowed in the dormitories.

Mr Stephens died in the summer of 1900 and Mr B.H. Horth and his wife were appointed as superintendent and matron. Mr Horth died in the spring of 1904 and Mr and Mrs A.B. Waite then took over.

With the increasing encroachment of industrial Manchester onto the School's location, plans were made find a more rural situation. A suitable site was found at Poulton-le-Fylde and new purpose-built premises were erected. On June 1st, 1905, eighty boys from Blackley moved transferred to their new home.

The Blackley buildings were subsequently converted to residential use known as Pike Fold Cottages. The buildings were later occupied by a factory but have since been demolished. The site is now covered by modern housing.


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  • Lancashire Record Office, Bow Lane, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 2RE. Holdings (covering both the Blackley and Poulton sites) include: Committee and Governors' Meeting Minute books (1853-1951); Printed annual reports (1856-1888); Superintendent's journal (1856-94); Admission registers (1881-1957, 1968-70, partially indexed); Admissions list (1857-72); Admission papers (1924-28); License and discharge book (1857-99); Register of inmates authorized for discharge on license (1978-1936); After-care books (1873-93, 1938-43, 1946-49, 1954-56); Punishment book (1915-38).