Naval Training Ships for Manchester Boys

The training ship, the Indefatigable, New Ferry, Birkenhead, has been mentioned once before in the early days of this blog. It was often used by the Committee of the Manchester Refuges to give a trade to some of the sturdier boys who came under their care. As new photographs come to light, showing the workings of the ship, we delve back into this little known service.

Positioning the cannon
Training ships were not for the faint hearted, life on board could be extremely tough. As well as teaching the usual subjects like reading and arithmetic (education was compulsory after the Elementary Education Act 1880), the boys also learnt about practical seamanship, such as navigation, use of the compass and reefing and furling sails. They slept on board in hammocks, cleaned the ship themselves and washed and mended their own clothes.

Although the Refuge was sending boys to the Indefatigable as early as 1872, other ships were also used by the Committee to train the boys for a life at sea. One of these was the HMS Warspite, which was anchored off Woolwich, Kent. The Warspite had accommodation for 500 boys on board. A yacht was attached to the ship, and a shore establishment included swimming baths, hospital, laundry and storehouses.

Working on the 'Idefatigable'

These images, found in one of the Together Trust’s photograph albums, show some of the physical work carried out by the boys. They provide an insight into one of the lesser known services provided by the charity in the nineteenth century.


  1. One of my great great uncles was a teacher on the indefatigable. Samuel Brown.


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