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Kirkdale before 1850

Kirkdale lies on the north side of the city, between Liverpool and Bootle. In the early 19th century the land was still mainly in agricultural use, and the principal settlement, a small village with the chapel of St Mary, lay in the south-east corner of the township.  Even at this early date, however, before Kirkdale began to be absorbed into greater Liverpool, institutions - some charitable, some governmental - figured prominently in the landscape.

Purely local needs were served by two small institutions shown on the mid-19th-century Ordnance Survey map: in the south of the township, close to the fast-advancing front line of Liverpool’s expansion, was a small dispensary in Great Mersey Street which provided free advice, treatment and medicine to the poor; and close to St Mary’s chapel there was a small Anglican church school, built in 1814 to provide elementary education for a few of the children of the township.

The County House of Correction 1819, also known as Kirkdale Gaol

By the mid-19th century, Kirkdale had become something of a dumping ground for the problems of a wider area, and this had resulted in the construction of two large institutions. The need for a new prison had been satisfied in 1819, when the County House of Correction was built in the northern part of the township. A Sessions House was also built nearby to house the courts which dispatched criminals to the Gaol. The Gaol and Sessions House were imposing buildings, large in scale and of impressive architectural quality, and at first they stood in glorious isolation surrounded by fields. Both have been demolished, but Sessions Road is a reminder of their former presence.

The County Sessions House at Kirkdale 

Liverpool chose Kirkdale, newly taken within the borough, as the place to which it could remove one of its greatest social problems, that of pauperism, specifically ‘juvenile pauperism'. This reached a crisis point in the 1840s, and it was decided to construct ‘Industrial Schools’ to house and educate destitute children. Kirkdale Industrial School was built in 1843, at a cost of £32,000 and could accommodate 1150 children. The architects were Henry F Lockwood and Thomas Allom. It was an Elizabethan style building and was deemed 'one of the principal architectural ornaments of the vicinity of Liverpool' at the time. The building had a long entrance way with a porters lodge. The entrance was adorned with a tower and behind this was a Chapel. There was a large playground and at the rear of the building there was a hospital. 

The Liverpool Industrial School

The school was built to relieve the workhouse of a significant increase in child inhabitants. However it soon suffered overcrowding of its own and by 1866 it accommodated 1,250 children. At the same time the workhouse continued to house a significant number of children, more than 300 in 1850. A place at the school was highly desirable in 1850. Boys were taught tailoring, shoemaking, and carpentering whilst girls were trained in knitting, needlework, cooking and general household work, which enabled them to gain employment as domestic servants. In addition boys were also taught as sailors. A ship was erected on the grounds and a former sailor provided training. The boys also took part in a band. The popularity of this education meant that people who were not considered 'paupers' tried to get their children introduced to the school.  The severe Tudor style of the schools, their size and their proximity to the prison must have given this part of Kirkdale a grim character in the mid-19th century.



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