Ref NoMS 994
TitleRecords of Tennal School (formerly St Philip's Free Industrial School, Birmingham Free Industrial School, Gem Street Industrial School, Harborne Industrial School, and Ansell School)
Date1847 - 1984
DescriptionBy the time of its closure in 1984, the Tennal complex encompassed two linked institutions, Tennal Assessment Centre and Tennal Community Home. The Community Home was the last iteration of the institution which began as the Gem Street Industrial School in 1850, while the Assessment Centre was opened in 1971. It appears that the majority of records in this collection date from before 1971 and therefore relate to the Community Home and its predecessors. Several items relate explicitly to the Assessment Centre (see MS 994/5/5), and other items which date from after 1971 could relate to either or both. According to MS 2838/1/8, there was one overall management structure at Tennal but the two parts of the institution remained relatively separate on a day-to-day basis.
FormatCubic metres
AccessStatusPartially closed (Content)
AccessConditionsSome items in this collection have restricted access for 100 years because they contain sensitive information about individuals under the DPA (1998). See item level descriptions for closure details.
AdminHistoryIn 1846 the rector of St Philip's Church, Birmingham, the Reverend Grantham Munton Yorke, founded a ragged school in rented premises in Lichfield Street. This followed a survey of several streets of the parish, which found that many poor parents were unable or unwilling to make any provision for the education of their children. The school was popular, and the premises in Lichfield Street were unsuitable for long-term use, so, in 1848, the governors of King Edward's School made a grant to the governors of land in Gem Street, on which was built a new school.

The Birmingham Industrial School, Gem Street, opened in 1850 to cater for the children of indigent parents, orphans, and neglected children. Children whose parents were considered to be able to pay the fees for parochial schools were not admitted. The school consisted of three departments: the first was a day school for children above seven years of age; the second was industrial classes for children over seven; and the third was an asylum for deserted and orphan children. The day school taught reading, writing and arithmetic, and gave biblical instruction, although lessons were sometimes varied to include English history, geography, and singing. The industrial school taught skills in subjects such as tailoring, shoemaking, or needlework. Children were provided with meals as wages for their work. The asylum was originally designed to accommodate 15-20 boys and the same number of girls, and orphaned or deserted children could be committed there for a payment of £8 per annum. The number of boarders rose rapidly, and by the mid-1850s expansion of the sleeping quarters was already necessary.

The school was funded largely by subscriptions and donations, along with the board and lodging payments for asylum residents, and the income from the children’s labour. In 1858 the school began to take in a large number of children of soldiers killed during the Crimean War, who were paid for by the Patriotic Fund Committee. By 1864, however, income from this source was beginning to decline, and the school began to suffer financial difficulties; this led to the decision of the governors, in 1868, to certify the school under the Industrial Schools Act 1866. This meant that children between the ages of seven and 14 could be placed in the school by magistrates if they were vagrants, if they were under 12 and had committed an offence normally punishable by prison, or were beyond the control of their parents. The maintenance of each child was then paid for by the state, although the school continued to rely on donations and subscriptions for further expenditure.

As time went on the school added different types of work to raise money. One activity which brought in considerable income was selling firewood, where the children chopped wood into sticks and then tied them into bundles to be sold. By the 1870s around 200,000 bundles of firewood were being sold annually. Boys also worked in local factories while still living at the school. They were allowed to keep a proportion of their wages, with the rest being paid to the school. Girls were trained to enter domestic service.

By 1873 there was an increasing view that girls and boys should not be accommodated in the same industrial schools, and this, along with the overcrowded state of the Gem Street premises, prompted the governors to seek separate accommodation for the girls. Accordingly, in December 1873, the girls were removed to a board school at Sparkhill, and from then on the Birmingham Industrial School took only boys. The school by this time was licensed to accommodate 152 children.

In the 1890s further subjects were added to the school curriculum, including geography, technical drawing and woodwork, and the governors had purchased a site in Harborne which was used largely for recreation. By this time the yearly inspection reports had become critical of the Gem Street site, describing it as "dingy and institutional" and blaming the poor accommodation for regular outbreaks of sickness. The inspectors urged the governors to relocate the school to the Harborne site and so, in 1901, work began on a new school building. In December 1902 the school relocated to Harborne and became known as the Birmingham Industrial School (Harborne), or sometimes Harborne Industrial School. The premises in Gem Street were sold to the Birmingham School Board. The new school initially covered seven acres, including two and a half acres of garden and a large playing field, and over the next several years adjoining plots of land were bought.

By 1904 the subjects taught were singing, mental arithmetic, recitation, geography, and composition, along with a course of lessons in natural science and use of history readers. Industrial training was given in drawing and manual instruction, shoemaking, tailoring, and gardening, while wood chopping had been abandoned. Boys did physical training in the gym and swimming pool, and there was a school band.

The school was renamed Ansell School in 1925, following the death of Joseph Ansell, JP, who had been chairman of the school governors from 1907 to 1923. Following the 1933 Children and Young Persons Act the school became a junior approved school, providing education and industrial training to boys over the age of 10 who were committed there by magistrates. In 1933 the school was renamed again, becoming Tennal School. (The school's own centenary publication states that the name change came in 1938, but this is contradicted by evidence within the collection, which includes headed writing paper with the name of Tennal School from 1933.) The school was divided into four houses named after former governors - Ansell, Gilbey, Knox and Yorke.

In August 1939 the school was evacuated to Bourne, in Lincolnshire, but returned to Birmingham at the beginning of January 1940, and spent the rest of the war at its site in Harborne. Tennal School celebrated its centenary in 1949 with a programme of celebrations including a visit from the Chief Scout, Lord Rowallan.

The Children and Young Persons Act 1969 abolished approved schools, reclassifying them as community homes with education (CHEs) and bringing them under local authority control. CHEs provided accommodation for children between the ages of 10 and 18, including those subject to care orders and those convicted of offences, and provided education on the premises. Accordingly, in 1974, Tennal School was transferred to the control of Birmingham City Council’s Social Services Department. Three years earlier, in 1971, an assessment centre had been opened on the Tennal campus, which operated alongside the training school/CHE; this centre was a regional resource taking in children from all over the West Midlands. Following its transfer to Birmingham City Council control the complex was known as the Tennal Community Home and Assessment Centre. The site by now included 26 houses (most of which were occupied by members of staff), workshops, craft rooms, a sports hall, a swimming pool, gymnasium, hall and a hard court area in addition to seven self-contained residential units. The community home retained three units, Ansell, Gilbey and Yorke houses, while the Assessment Centre had four units: Sergeant House was for juniors, aged 11 to 14 years; Knox House housed the boys of the middle age range; and Yates House was for seniors. There was also a secure unit, Appleton House, based in the former sick bay of the approved school and opened in 1975. The community home accommodated 75 boys, the assessment centre had 80 spaces, and seven boys could be housed in the secure unit.

By the early 1980s CHEs had fallen out of favour, with other forms of care deemed more appropriate for most children, and Tennal Community Home and Assessment Centre closed in August 1984. The building became the Martineau Centre.
ArrangementMS 994 Records of Tennal School and predecessor bodies

MS 994/1 Records of the governing body of the school
MS 994/2 Administrative records
MS 994/3 Financial administration
MS 994/4 Legal records
MS 994/5 Records of pupils
MS 994/6 Staff records
MS 994/7 Printed material and publications
MS 994/8 Photographs
MS 994/9 Framed pictures and plans
MS 994/10 Miscellaneous documents
MS 994/11 Records of the Association of Managers of Schools Approved by the Secretary of State (Midland Branch)
Related MaterialBirmingham Industrial School (Gem Street) Annual Reports, 1850-1902, and '1849-1949: Souvenir of the Centenary Celebrations of Tennal School, Birmingham' are in the Local Studies collection at L48.114.
CreatorNameTennal School (formerly St Philip's Free Industrial School, Birmingham Free Industrial School, Gem Street Industrial School, Harborne Industrial School, and Ansell School)
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