"I live next to Strangeways Prison!"

An account of a four year old boy admitted to the Refuge in 1889:
“The boy reeled on the floor and had to be assisted to a seat. We thought it advisable to have him examined by a doctor who pronounced the poor little baby-boy to be drunk and ordered an emetic to be administered and the child to be put to bed, as otherwise it might prove fatal. It may not generally be known that making children drunk is at present no offence under the English law.”
The Together Trust receives regular enquiries about the young people who have been in its care. Most are people researching their family history, trying to get some semblance of how their ancestors lived. Many are from Canada or America tracing those young children who were emigrated across the seas in search of a better life away from the slums of Manchester.

A ragged child
So what was life like for those children who ended up in one of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges and Homes residences? Today we concentrate on some of the children entering just one of them – the Central Refuge on Francis Street.

Central Refuge, Strangeways, Francis Street

For many who entered the Central Refuge located in Strangeways (a few streets down from the notorious Strangeways Prison) it was the result of utter desperation.

Comments about boys entering the Refuge include: 
  • “Both parents dead. Applicant has been living in the streets and sleeping in boiler houses.”
  • “Father a drunkard - ill uses the boy.”
  • “Living with an aunt who has neglected and ill used him in a dreadful manner. The boy has marks on his body and his head is filthy.”

Once admitted the boys were given shelter, a warm bed, food to eat, education and a chance to learn a trade. The Refuge itself (which by 1883 could accommodate up to 120 children) contained five workshops; printing; joinery; firewood; tailoring and shoemaking to which some of the boys were apprenticed.

Shoemaking department in the Strangeways Refuge

The Refuge also strove to allow the boys the freedom of play. For many struggling in the city slums prior to entering the Refuge, play was an alien concept. After dinner a range of activities was available including games, reading, swimming (in the Refuge’s own pool), concerts and music.

So what was life like inside the home? It was likely to have been structured, busy and tiring. But, it wasn't the streets, had plentiful food and no drunken relatives. Life inside the homes was hopeful.

There’s every chance one of your ancestors may have lived in one of our Manchester homes. Why not contact us to find out?


  1. I have discovered that on the 1911 census 4 of my ancestors were in the children's shelter Chatham Street Piccadilly Manchester. Their ages were 2,4,9,and 11. Two boys and two girls.As they were so young I am curious to know why they were in that refuge. I cannot find any information about their parents on the 1911 census.

    1. Hi,

      The Together Trust holds admission records for its Children's Shelter on Chatham Street. These give details such as name, age, reason for admission, subsequent referral and number of nights spent. If your ancestors were subsequently referred into one of our homes we may also have further details on them. If you send their details such as names, parent names and any other information you have on them to our email address, enquiries@togethertrust.org.uk I would be happy to send you any infomration we have on them.


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