Staffordshire County Industrial School for Boys, Werrington, near Stoke on Trent
The Stafford County Industrial School for Boys was established in 1868 at Werrington, about four miles to the east of Stoke on Trent. The proposal for the institution had come from a local magistrate, Mr J.E. Davis, with the support of Mr James Edwards, who contributed £200 towards the scheme. The premises — an old farmhouse and an adjacent barn and cottages — were certified for use on March 21st, 1868, with accommodation for 107 boys aged 10 years or over. However, due to further additions and alterations being required, the School did not come into practical operation until January, 1870. Mr Benjamin Horth and his wife Emily were appointed as superintendent and matron, with James Horth as schoolmaster and assistant.
The School originally had seven acres of land attached and a further 26 acres were rented in 1873, with field and garden work providing the boys' main industrial employment in the School's early years. Training in tailoring and shoemaking was also provided, with basket-making also introduced to provide work in the wet weather and winter.
By 1875, Frederick Horth had taken over as schoolmaster. In 1877, some cottages adjacent to the School were purchased, one of which could be used as an infirmary in case of illness. Additions and alterations were also made to the School buildings including a new washroom, bath room, and hot water apparatus.
The School site is shown on the 1899 map below.
A brass band was established in 1879. Within a year, two boys had been sent from it to join regimental bands.
By 1884, the School's annual inspection resulted in glowing reports, with a suggestion that the premises could easily be expanded to accommodate up to 150 boys. A mark system was now in operation, giving monetary rewards for good conduct and the withdrawal of privileges for misbehaviour. A good library had now been established for the use of the boys. training. The farm, now extended to 46 acres, gave a valuable amount of outdoor occupation, and the large garden provided much practical training. Several cows were also kept. There were now 25 boys working in the basket shop which, as well as being a valuable trade for the boys, was also remunerative. A junior class knitted the boys' socks, and darned and mended the clothing. Another 16 worked as tailors, and 8 as shoemakers. A band had now been established. Apart form Mr and Mrs Horth, the staff comprised the schoolmaster, Mr Mark Heslop; assistant teacher, Miss E. Heslop; tailor, shoemaker, basket maker, bailiff; two labourers, gardener, workmaster, cook, domestic, laundress, and bandmaster.
In 1889, the administration of the School was transferred from the Potteries Quarter Sessions to the new Staffordshire County Council. In 1902, responsibility for the institution passed to the newly created Staffordshire Education Committee.
A report in 1896 noted that the School was now accommodated 160 boys. The establishment was lit by electricity which was made on the premises. There was now a special dormitory for the little boys, which was under female care. A manual instruction workshop for carpentry etc. had recently been added. The allocation of boys to industrial occupations was recorded as: 15 in the basket shop; 15 in the tailor's shop; 14 shoemakers; 32 small boys knitting and darning; 55 in the farm and garden; 13 in the house and laundry; 10 in manual instruction; and 18 in the brass band. The farm stock now included 10 cows and calves, 3 horses and 8 pigs. The boys had regular drill and extension exercises, and horizontal bars were fitted in the playground. The play-field was used every fine day. The boys were taken on biennial day trips to New Brighton, and all good-conduct boys whose homes were suitable went home for one or two nights each year.
A new gymnasium and schoolroom were erected in 1903. A fresh water supply for the School when pipes were laid to a strong spring three-quarters of a mile away. In 1905, the laundry was fitted with new equipment.
On November 1st, 1911, Mr and Mrs Horth retired after more than forty years as superintendent and matron. They were succeeded by Mr W.O. Braid and Mrs Braid. By 1920, Mr J.D. Johnstone had become superintendent. In 1923, the capacity of the institution, now known as the Werrington School, was reduced to 150 places.
In 1933, Werrington 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 School accommodated up to 120 Junior Boys aged below their 13th birthday at their date of admission. Mr Johnstone was still in charge in 1835, now styled headmaster of the School.
In February, 1954, the School moved to new premises at Rocester, near Uttoxeter. The following year, the Werrington site was acquired by the Prison Commissioners and re-opened in 1957 as a Senior Detention Centre. It became a Youth Custody Centre in 1985, then a Young Offenders Institution in 1988.
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.
- Staffordshire Record Office, Eastgate Street, Stafford, ST16 2LZ. Holdings include: Admission and discharge books (1893-1975); License and discharge books (1870-1923); Approved school licensing registers (1951-70); Punishment books (1933-63); Medical officer's report books (1871-1929, 1964-66); Log books (1914-1979); Visitors' (i.e. Inspection) books (1870-87) Committee/managers' minutes (1891-1949); Letter books (1916-18); School rules (1933); Photographs etc.
- 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)
- None noted at present.
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.