St Elizabeth's Industrial School for Roman Catholic Girls, Salisbury, Wiltshire
St Elizabeth's School of Industry for poor Roman Catholic girls was established in Salisbury in 1868 under the patronage of Lady Herbert of Lea. The School was run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, and occupied a large old house at 131 Exeter Street. Alterations were made to the original building including the addition of large refectory with a schoolroom above, a cottage in the garden for use as an infirmary, and some out-buildings fitted up for use as a laundry, bakehouse etc.
On December 19th, 1870, the establishment was certified for use as an Industrial School, allowing it to receive Roman Catholic girls placed under detention by the courts. The premises were sanctioned for the accommodation of up to 65 girls, aged 4 to 16 at their date of admission.
A new dormitory and schoolroom were added in 1874. An inspection report the following year recorded 58 girls in residence, of whom eight were voluntary cases. Their educational state was rated as 'very satisfactory'. Industrial training included needlework and knitting, and all the girls helped with the kitchen work, cooking and household work. There was also a laundry where the older girls were occupied. The staff at that date comprised the superintendent, Sister Gabrielle Chatelaine; schoolmistress, Miss King; three Sisters of Charity; and a cook and laundress, both of whom were former inmates of the institution.
On June 26th, 1875, the School became a Certified School, allowing it to take girls boarded out by the workhouse authorities. A payment was required of 5s. per week for girls over the age of 10, and 3s. a week for younger girls. For voluntary cases, the charge could be varied according to individual circumstances.
A new chapel was erected in 1889. The layout of the site is shown on the 1901 map below.
An inspection report in 1896 described the premises as having formerly been two private houses, joined by a building specially erected eight years earlier. At the rear were about eight acres of garden and meadow land, bounded on one side by the river. A short distance from the main buildings were two laundries 'scarcely adequate for the work done in them', and a cottage infirmary in which one room was fitted up as a bathroom. The old parts of the main building were said to be inconvenient and in need of rebuilding. The girls are trained for domestic service, and 32 of them were attending a course of lessons at the Salisbury School of Cookery. All the inmates gained experience in housework and occasionally a girl was licensed out to a private house in order to further fit her for a good situation. Needlework in all its branches, including dressmaking, was taught and many good specimens were shown off. Of the two laundries, one was for the school in which girls under 16 worked, and the other was for outside customers (including one of the leading hotels in the town), in which about 20 girls over 16 received training as laundresses. Very good situations were found for girls, especially in France, where nearly half the girls went, and did yell. Old girls were encouraged to visit the school and spend their holidays there. There was plenty of pleasant land behind the school as well the ordinary playground, but there was no play shed for use in bad weather, with one of the classrooms having to serve as a playroom. Musical drill was being taught to the girls by an officer of the Yeomanry. Walks were taken once a week. There were two or three treats during the summer and always a good one at Christmas. School work ceased for a couple of weeks after the examination. There were about 200 books in the school library, some suitable periodicals were taken, and indoor games were supplied in winter. In the classroom, singing (sol-fa) and composition were rated as 'good', recitation and geography as 'very fair', and mental arithmetic as 'fair'. Domestic economy was taken by the upper standards and object lessons given to the lower standards. The doctor called when sent for, but did not examine the girls on admission or at the end of each quarter. Corporal punishment was rarely resorted to, loss of privileges generally proving sufficient. Occasional gifts of pocket money were made to the girls. Although the School was regarded in a generally very positive light, it was suggested the girls seemed somewhat in danger of leading too cloistered an existence for the rough and tumble of the world which they would eventually have to encounter. To avoid this, it was recommended that they should be allowed as many opportunities as possible of going outside the school precincts.
In 1899, a new wing was added to provide a new schoolroom, dormitories and washrooms. The School's official capacity was raised to 100 places in November of that year. The use of straw bedding was now discontinued. That year's inspection commented that the girls were 'rather an under-sized lot', and attention should be devoted to making them hold themselves as straight as possible.
In 1902, the classroom and washroom in the old buildings were converted into a playroom. New mattresses with springs were provided for the old bedsteads.
Sister Chatelaine, who had presided over the School for many years, died in 1903. She was succeeded as Superioress by Sister Cecile. The other staff now included seven other Sisters of Charity and five lay assistants. The School's annual inspection report expressed disappointment at the schoolroom results, something that
Following some minor alterations, the School's official accommodation was increased to 110 places in September, 1904.
In 1911, the staff comprised: the superintendent, Sister Cecile; five Sisters of St Vincent de Paul, with a lay assistant in each industrial department; schoolmistress, Miss Schiman; and assistant schoolmistress, Miss L Hall. There was also a visiting drill instructor, and dentist, Mr Mackley. Classroom work now included the keeping of household accounts, and elementary science was taught in conjunction with domestic economy. Girls in the upper classes cut-out and made plain undergarments. In the workroom, the finest of hand-sewing was done, and practice on the sewing machine was also given. The cutting-out was done by the older girls, all of whom repaired their own clothes. Repairs are well done. A large amount of fine outside work was undertaken in the laundry. Cookery continued to be taught at an outside centre.
The number of places at the School was increased to 125 in October, 1913.
On February 19th, 1923, the School resigned its Industrial School certificate but continued to operate as a Certified School and accommodate pauper girls.
St Elizabeth's School continued in operation until 1972. Most of the buildings survive, with parts of the site now occupied by a Roman Catholic primary school and a conference/event centre.
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.
- Daughters Of Charity Of St Vincent De Paul, Provincial House, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London NW7 1RE. (Archivist: Sister Bernadette Ryder DC) Holdings include: Inmates' birth and baptismal certificates; Class registers; Admission registers (1893-1948); School registers (1871-1971).
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- Mahood, Linda Policing Gender, Class and Family: Britain, 1850-1940 (1995, Univeristy of Alberta Press)
- Prahms, Wendy Newcastle Ragged and Industrial School (2006, The History Press)
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