Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The boys, the monk bench and the wardrobe

It is said with fashion that when it goes out of style the look will invariably come back into use at a later date. This idea is not only restricted to fashion. Many things come in and out of popularity largely due to the successfulness of advertising at the time. 

When the Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges and Homes began in 1870, despite the recognition and advantages the charity saw in the education of children, most were taught skills or a trade in order to be able to look after themselves and their future families. We’ve spoken before about apprenticeships within the blog but we’ve not shown our readers the type of work actually produced. Let’s take the joinery department as an impressive example. 


Wardrobe made in joinery department


The image above shows a wardrobe created by the boys in the joinery department and advertised in the annual report to its readers. This particular type of furniture was built just before the First World War and sold to people all over Manchester. The money generated went back into the household kitty, whilst the wages paid to the boys was placed into an account for them. From as early as 1872 the boys were taught the value of saving and were encouraged to place a portion of their money into a savings account. It was deemed by the committee that not understanding the value of money had a direct correlation with pauperism and crime so they strove to reverse this.

Monk’s Bench made in the Joinery Department

The items themselves were high quality, well crafted pieces. The skills taught in the workshops ensured the boys had a craft for life. This brings us back to the idea of things going in and out of fashion. Although apprenticeships have always been available, the desire by more school leavers today to move into this type of work is increasing, and the Together Trust continues to support its young people to access these apprenticeships, as well as work based training and higher education. I wonder if any of the pieces shown above still survive in someone’s home today...

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