Friday, 3 February 2012


Monday sees the start of National Apprenticeship Week, which takes place from 6th to 10th February 2012. National Apprenticeship Week aims to raise the profile of apprenticeships amongst employers, individuals, teachers, parents and the media. Of course Britain has a long history of apprenticeships, stretching back to the guilds of the Middle Ages. Here at the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges and Homes the charity partook in the training of apprentices for many of the boys who came into the Refuge on Francis Street, Strangeways.

Carpentry department, Central Refuge, Strangeways

Within the first few months of the charity’s formation on the 4th January 1870 it became apparent that some properly organised employment was needed. This was to teach the "golden lesson of self-help*" to the boys and allow them to become useful members of society. The charity's first deed echoed this sentiment stating the charity would; "Provide such with suitable food, clothing and Industrial training."

Within the Central Refuge itself five workshops were installed to provide a range of apprenticeships for the boys. These included printing, joinery, firewood, tailoring and shoemaking departments.

The success of the apprenticeships meant boys were leaving the charity equipped with skills to make a living for themselves. However, as always with the process of manual labour, there can be risks. Within the archive there are a couple of examples of accidents and insurance claims (they’ve been around a long time too!) from apprentices injured in the workshops. The documents below show details of an injury obtained by a printing apprentice.

Insurance claim, part one, 1917

Insurance claim, part 2, 1917

After feeding a printers jabbing machine, the boy aged 15, got his hand stuck, the result being the need for the amputation of his right hand. He received £10.12s. in compensation, the equivalent today of around £600.

Accidents can happen, but in general the workshops were a huge success. This was not only in terms of the skills learnt by the boys but also through the income generated. In the first fifty years of the charity, the workshops produced £107,000 (in 1920’s money) to be put back into the Refuge’s work.

*from 'Making Rough Places Plain' by William Edmondson, 1920

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