Ancestry UK

Oxford Day Industrial School, Oxford, Oxfordshire

In 1879, the Oxford School Board established a Day Industrial School at 60 St Aldate's Street, Oxford. The building, which was located in a poorer part of the city, had previously been used as a brewery and then as a saw-mill. It was converted at a cost of £2,800 to provide a house for the master and matron, school-room, dining-room, two class- rooms, a long shed fitted up as the boys' work-room, and laundry for the girls. There was also a yard for recreation partitioned off for boys and girls, and a large area of garden ground. The new premises were formally opened on January 2nd, 1879, and formally certified for use as an Industrial School on January 29th. The establishment came into immediate operation, with accommodation for up to 100 children, aged from 5 to 14 years. Mr and Mrs Clarke were appointed as superintendent and matron.

The children were admitted at eight in the morning, and earlier in the summer months, and kept on the premises until five in the evening, during which time they were provided with three meals. The School received a government grant of up to 1s. per week for each child attending, and the parents of children sent to the school by magistrates were also required to contribute to their maintenance, else could be severely punished. The same applied to the offences of keeping a child from the school, or in any way preventing their attendance.

An initial report on the School in 1879 recorded that there was a good play-ground, and at work and recreation the boys could be kept apart from the girls. There was also a good dining-hall and schoolroom. The girls learned plain needlework, assisted in the cooking and washing, and in the general household work. The boys made themselves generally useful, and worked in the large and well-cultivated vegetable garden adjoining the premises.

By the following year, Frederick Williams had become superintendent, with his wife Eliza as matron, and their daughter Miss J. Williams assisting in the schoolroom and needlework. A tailor now came in three days a week to provide instruction. It was noted that the School Board was experiencing great difficulty from the parents of the children removing just beyond the school boundary, which was two miles from the school, in order to evade the obligations of school attendance and the consequent liability. There appeared to be no legal remedy for this.

In 1884, another of the Williams' daughters, Theodosia, had become schoolmistress and the children's school performance was described as very creditable. Wood-chopping was now being undertaken by the boys. The average daily attendance was 33 children.

Theodosia Williams died suddenly on 12th April, 1886, and was succeeded by Miss E. Blakemore, who held the post until 1894. The Williams' son Frederick took over the position temporarily, with Miss Sparshell subsequently being appointed. She, in turn, was replaced by Miss Turtle who became schoolmistress on September 30th, 1896.

An 1896 inspection report noted that the School premises were straggling and with very little of a scholastic appearance. The house, which fronted onto St Aldate's Street, contained the School Board Offices and Superintendent's quarters. To the rear lay with the School's scattered buildings, with small playgrounds and a quarter of an acre of vegetable gardens. There was a small smith's shop where one or two boys worked occasionally under the superintendent, who also conducted a manual instruction and drawing class with 9 or 10 of the older boys. The principal occupation for the boys was fagot-chopping, which was suggested as being of little profit or use. The girls were taught knitting and plain sewing, did the housework, kitchen, and laundry work, but receive no technical instruction in cookery or washing. Places were found for girls who are of suitable age, on leaving. Some of the woodwork done by the boys was good and some no doubt benefitted by the experience they gained in smith's work, gardening, painting etc. Musical drill had been carried on until recent times. The boys' play-yard was fitted with a giant's stride. Bathing occasionally took place in Tumbling Bay (a bathing place on the Isis at Osney) in the summer. There was an annual trip up the Thames and a treat was given at Christmas time.

On June 5th, 1903, the School's official capacity was reduced to 50 places. The following year, the establishment was described by its inspector as a 'little old-world school' which 'distinguished itself in every point save one — the schoolroom.' It was also noted that many former pupils maintained contact with the school, some bringing their children and even grandchildren to visit the superintendent and his wife.

The School closed in 1905, having been superintended for almost all of its existence by Mr and Mrs Williams. The buildings no longer survive and offices occupy the site.


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