Ancestry UK

Russell-Cotes Sea Training School, Parkstone, Dorset

The Russell-Cotes Sea Training School, run by Barnardo's, was opened in 1919 on Constitution Hill Road at Parkstone in Dorset. Barnardo's existing Watts Training School at Dereham in Norfolk had been preparing boys for the Royal Navy since 1903. Parkstone was intended to complement Watts by training orphan and destitute boys aged 13 to 16 for entry into the Merchant Navy.

The school was named after its benefactors Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes. Sir Merton was a prominent figure in nearby Bournemouth, having been mayor of the town in the 1890s, and also major contributors to charities such as Barnardo's and the Shaftesbury Society.

Sir Merton Russell-Cotes.

A site for the new school was provided by Sir Merton's donation of part of his 40-acre Parkstone estate, with the Shaftesbury Society's Russell-Cotes Children's Home as its neighbour. The school was well located, being just a mile from Poole Harbour where seagoing activities could be based. The scheme, designed by Mr W Ernest Hazell, was calculated to cost around £80,000 in total, made up from: the estimated value of the estate, £20,000; the central building, £8,000; four houses each accommodating 60 boys, £20,000; gymnasium and workshops, £6,000; dining hall, kitchen and stores, £8,000; open-air swimming bath; £2,000; roads, fences, etc. and laying out of playing fields, £6,000; and a seagoing tender, £10,000. Lady Russell-Cotes donated the sum of £8,000 for the central building which, in her honour, was to be called the Lady Russell-Cotes House.

Architect's sketch of Lady Russell-Cotes House, c.1919.

The official laying of the central building's foundation stone was performed by His Royal Highness Prince Albert on 8th May, 1919.

Prince Albert lays the foundation stone of Lady Russell-Cotes House, 8th May 1919.

The location and layout of the school site is shown on the 1924 map below.

Russell-Cotes Sea Training School, Parkstone site, c.1924.

In October 1949, the Watts Training School was closed and its activities amalgamated with the Russell-Cotes school at Parkstone. In 1951, the establishment was renamed Parkstone Sea Training School. The former Russell-Cotes Shaftesbury Society Home site at the north of the school was taken over and a number of new buildings erected.

Russell-Cotes Boys, 1920s. © Peter Higginbotham


The school closed in July 1964. The site was subsequently take over by the Bournemouth and Poole Technical College, now known as Bournemouth and Poole College. Many of the original buildings are still in use.


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  • Barnardo, Syrie Louise, and Marchant, James Memoirs of the Late Dr Barnardo (Hodder & Stoughton, 1907)
  • Batt, J.H. Dr. Barnardo: The Foster-Father of "Nobody's Children" (S.W. Partridge, 1904)
  • Bready, J. Wesley Doctor Barnardo (Allen & Unwin, 1930)
  • Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain's Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
  • Rose, June For the Sake of the Children: Inside Dr. Barnardo's: 120 years of caring for children (Hodder & Stoughton, 1987)
  • Wagner, Gillian Barnardo (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1979)