Topic: Burnham Industrial School

Topic type:

September 1873- June 1918


The establishment of an Industrial School is of such importance that a few particulars concerning the one at Burnham will no doubt prove generally acceptable. Though a very few months have elapsed since it was opened for the reception of children, there is reason to assume that much good has been done, and that, if the institution is conducted in the manner it has been hitherto, the good will  increase with each succeeding year. Mr and  Mrs Colee, the master and matron, seem thoroughly able and willing to discharge the onerous duties devolving upon them. Of course, the number of children placed under their care, is at present small, but still it is sufficient to test the qualifications of both  master and matron.

The first committals to an institution of this kind must necessarily represent the worst types of youthful delinquency, from the fact that as soon as it is open the police naturally look up those who have attained special distinction for conduct punishable by a term at an industrial school, and on whom they have had an eye for some time previous. The early arrivals, though numerically small, are thus  to require the most careful management, and any person who may visit the Burnham School must be satisfied that its pupils are in good hands. The children appear happy and contented with their lot. and their general bearing affords a marked contrast to what can be remembered by anyone who was acquainted with them before they were placed under Mr Colee's charge.

More or less objection to the discipline of the establishment was manifested by each arrival during the first week or two alter admission, but firm, yet kind treatment, gradually produced obedience. The punishment imposed for controverting any of the rules, or telling untruths, has been the temporary deprivation of those articles of food in the dietary scale most attractive to youth, and an earlier retirement to bed for a certain number of days, instead of corporal punishment, and the result has always been satisfactory. Many of the children, as shown by the official diary, indulged in their propensities for stealing and evading the truth after admission to the school, but have been gradually cured of it, and as one instance of the good achieved it may be mentioned that a boy, who was completely unmanageable when at large, is now trusted as messenger, often to places miles away from the school, and shows no inclination to resume his old vice.

These are facts which must give pleasure to all who take an interest in the welfare of children. The school buildings are about a quarter of a mile distant from the Burnham railway station in a westerly direction, and they have a south-eastern aspect. The buildings were intended for a reformatory, until it was found that an industrial school was more in keeping with the requirements of the province, and an alteration was accordingly made. The contract was originally let to Messrs Price, Bros, but the work progressed so slowly that the Government ultimately took possession of the buildings, and called in Messrs England, Bros., to complete them. The total cost of erection was upwards of £5000, and, though Mr Colee took possession in September, 1873, the workmen did not finish until February last.

A block of land 243 acres in extent was originally set apart for the reformatory, but since then 750 acres adjoining have been reserved, thus 1000 acres are attached to the school. The design of the buildings is plain, yet they have a neat appearance, and are evidently of a substantial character. The master's residence, with store rooms, offices, lavatory, and bath rooms, occupy the centre, the boys' wing being on the right, and the girls' on the left, with no means of communication between the two, excepting through the master's rooms. The total length of the main building is 136 ft, with a depth of 78ft in the centre and 25ft in each of the wings. The studs are 22tt, and the total height to the apex of the roof is 30ft, thus affording ample space for two floors. The building is erected of timber and corrugated iron on a concrete foundation, and the intervals between the studs are filled in with concrete, making altogether a very substantial structure. The main entrance, which looks towards the railway line, is approached by a broad drive from the main road. Through the main entrance access is gained to a hall, the area of which is singularly limited for such a large building. On the right of the hall is the master's parlour, 16 ft x 14ft, with a bay window, which gives a good view of the railway and Banks Peninsula. In rear of this room is the staircase leading to the upper floor, and beyond that again the kitchen, which is 19ft 6in by 16ft, and is provided with all the necessary appliances for cooking, inclusive of a large range made by Mr T. Williams, Christchurch. This is 6ft 6in wide, 2ft 7in high, and 2ft deep, with an oven 2ft 6in by 2ft and a boiler proportionately large. The range is equal to cooking for eighty children at once and has thus far acted exceedingly well, A door on each side of the chimney gives access from the kitchen to a store room and a scullery. The store room is 14ft x 10ft and is fitted with lockers for sugar, peas, currants, &c, and shelves for other groceries. There is also a large medicine chest in the room, well stocked ; and school materials also find a place in the room. The scullery is 14ft x 10ft, and a large baker's oven is provided in one corner, though until the number of inmates considerably increases, it will not be called into use. There is a roomy larder in rear of the scullery, and a store room for clothing in rear of the grocery store. In the latter is, a good supply of clothing, - as also a supply of bed linen. From this room a verandah leads to the girls' bath room, which is fitted with a slipper bath, and a number of wash basins, all of the most approved kind.

Returning now to the entrance hall, access is gained to the boys' wing of the building. Passing the master's office, the visitor reaches the boys' dining-room, which is 29ft by 25ft, and beyond this is the boys' schoolroom, 29ft 9in by 25ft. This is well furnished, and supplied with a complete stock of materials, including maps and books of the best description, indeed the details could not have been better attended to if the school had been one of the leading district schools in the province. At present both sexes are taught together in this room, and with the present number of inmates it can be done without the least chance of their mixing together. By the programme of work for each day, it is evident Mr Colee understands the important matter of scholastic tuition, and a comparison of the work done recently by some of the children with their first efforts on admission to the school showed that they have made satisfactory progress, when 'it is considered that only the mornings are devoted to school.

Proceeding back to the boys' dining-room, a passage leads to a staircase, near which is the boys' bathroom, where there are two slipperbaths and a number of wash handbasins of the usual style. Ascending the staircase, the visitor reaches the boys' dormitories, of which there are two, each being 70ft x 12ft 6in, and capable of holding 20 beds each. The beds are made of very light ironwork, and cauvas, and shelves are provided above them for the boys to keep their clothes on. Proceeding through the master's quarters to the girls' wing, it is found that the ground floor it occupied by a school and dining-room all in one, 36ft x 25ft, and that the upper floor is divided into two dormitories, furnished in a similar manner to that of the boys. All the rooms throughout the building, it may be observed, are very well lighted and lofty, those on the ground floor being 10ft 4in from floor to ceiling. The ventilation is also good in all parts of the building, but more particularly in tho bedrooms. The whole of the internal fittings are of native woods, the principal portions being of red and white pine, which afford a very pretty contrast. All the windows are provided with locks, so that they can be secured at night. Ample provision is undo for any emergency in the event of fire. A strong flow of water is carried by pipes to all the landings, added to which, india-rubber hose is kept in a convenientplace for use in different parts of each building, and the panes of glass in the windows are so largo that if one is broken a boy or girl could easily get through. The inmates are also 'drilled' into a system for effecting their escape from the building. These details complete the description of the main building.

Directly in rear of the master's portion of the main building there is a yard with high corrugated iron fence, and the play-ground for the boys is on one side, while that for the girls is on the other, the separation being as complete as between tho two, wings of the building. In the yard there is a wind-pump, by means of which an excellent supply of water is provided. The well attached to the pump is 56ft deep, and the pump raises the water into six 400-gallon tanks ou a platform 251 ft above the level of the ground. Pipes are laid on from the tanks to all parts of the premises, and the elevation at which the tanks are placed ensures a strong flow on the upper floors of the main building. The wind-pump is constructed according to an American patent, and was supplied by Mr T. Williams, of Christchurch, who also fixed the well apparatus. The platform for the tanks being'enclosed with corrugated iron, it provides a very commodious and useful store for coal and firewood. In addition to the wind-pump, a good supply of water is also obtained by means of underground tanks, into which the rain water from all buildings is drained. The tanks have a holding capacity of about 10,000 gallons, and the water is raised from them for use by means of pumps placed in convenient positions. Adjacent to the yard is a large building, which contains a commodious workshop, tool-house, straw store, potato store, coal store, and wash-house, the latter being fitted with a large boiler, washing and wringing machines, washing troughs having hot and cold water taps, and an oven for heating flat-irons.

Besides this structure, there are also stables, piggery, and other out-buildings. The boys and girls' play-grounds are each about four acres in extent. They are provided with swings, and each ground has a building in which the children can play during wet weather. About a quarter of a mile from the school, a piece of land, six acres in extent, has been enclosed, and is now under cultivation for a garden. A site nearer at hand would of course have been selected for tho purpose if anything like a suitable'one.had offered. The soil at Burnham is, however, very poor, and even the so called garden impresses one with the opinion that it will be a long time before it can be made to present anything like an attractive appearance. Irrigation on a small scale is much required and might be obtained at no very great cost. Tho garden is entirely worked by the boys, and, considering the nature of the soil, tho crops now in, look very well. On each side of the drive from the main road to the school buildings there is a paddock seven acres in extent, broken up and sown with oats praparatory to being laid down in grass. The rest of the original reserve of 243 acres is divided into four paddocks, which are all neatly fenced. Planting has not been neglected for a belt one chain wide has been fenced off all round the 243 acres, ploughed to a depth of ten inches, and sown with blue gum seed. Each side of the drive has also been planted a chain wide with rows of pines and sycamores, behind which blue gum seed is sown. Finally, a belt the Barae width as the outer one has been formed round tho school buildings, ploughed ten inche3 deep, and planted with ???????????. A great many of these are looking anything but well, and men are now employed loosening the earth along the rows where it had become very much caked.


The school, it may be said, is established under the Act of 1867 for providing for the care of neglected and criminal children. There are at present twelve inmates. The first arrivals were in March last, during which month one boy, 11 years, was admitted for five years, as being unmanageable ; one boy, 12 years old, for five years for larceny and one boy, 13 years, for three years, who had been residing in a brothel. In April the admissions were one girl, 10 years, for 5 years for larceny and one boy, 14 years, for 3 years, also for larceny. In May only one was admitted, that being a girl aged 9 years, for 5 years, her offence being that of obtaining money by means of false pretences. There were no admissions in June, and in July there was only one - a boy, 14 years, for 3 years for larceny. In August there were no admissions, and in September there was one only, a boy 11 years, who had been convicted for larceny, and committed for 5 years. During the present month, two have been admitted, these being a brother and sister, respectively 6 and 8 years, who were committed from Timaru for seven years each as neglected children.

Besides the children thus enumerated, there is a girl 14 years of ago, the daughter of a woman of ill-fame in Christchurch. She has not been formally committed to the school, but was sent there from the Orphan Asylum as incurable, and gives so much trouble that she has to be kept apart as much as possible from the other girls.

Adverting to the general treatment of the children, it can fairly be said that no reasonable parent could but approve it. They are well clothed, well fed, have good schooling, light work, and plenty of play. The clothing for the boys includes strong blue striped shirts, with corduroy suits, for work days, and dark cloth suits for Sundays. Scotch caps are worn every day, but those for Sundays are of a better quality. Tho boots are strong, bluchers, yet they are not too heavy for comfort. The girls wear dark winciette frocks in winter, and dark blue and white check frocks in summer, with straw hats having blue trimmings for all the year round. Their boots are strong, but not clumsy, lace ups, and it should be said that both sexes are supplied with leather slippers for indoor wear. The light sewing connected with articles of wear is done by the girls, several of whom, though unable to do a stitch when they first entered the institution, can now sew neatly.

The dietary scale is very liberal, much more so, in fact, than the one adopted for the Otago Industrial school. For the morning meal, the children have generally oatmeal porridge followed by a little tea (cocoa on Sundays), bread and butter and at dinner, they have, most every day, except Tuesdays and Fridays, with puddings every day (principally of rice) ; and the evening meal, is generally bread and tea, or cocoa.

The daily routine for boys is somewhat as follows : - Rise at 6 a.m., air beds, wash, make beds, drill, military or fire, prayers, breakfast, clear up and play for one hour:; 9.30 to 12 noon, school: 12.15 to 1 p.m., dinner: play one hour: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. work, principally of an agricultural character: 5.20 p.m. tea: learn lessons for the following day, after which play until 8 p.m. and then prayers and to bed. When the weather is wet, the boys spend their afternoon at school instead of work, provided there is no inside work to do.

For the girls, a similar routine is followed, excepting that instead of outdoor work in the afternoons, they are instructed in sewing by Mrs Colee. They have also tho various rooms to keep clean. The military drill in which the boys are instructed has already had a good effect on their deportment, and the importance of the fire drill, in which both boys and girls are instructed, cannot be over estimated. Mr Colee kindly put tho boys through this during Saturday visit, and they showed considerable smartness in the various movements. The boys having undressed, and placed their clothes in such a position on the shelves as to be easily found in the dark, they retired to bed, and Mr Colee gave the word "fire." Immediately on hearing this, the boys sprang up and dressed themselves one in the meantime running along the line of beds to see that all had risen. When dressed one boy connected the hose with the water tap on the landing, while another opened the window and threw out a species of rope ladder, one end of which was securely fastened to hooks under the window. While these measures were being taken the other boys were packing up their beds, and placing them ready for removal and, this done, the boys descended by the rope ladder to the ground. As showing the celerity with which these movements were carried out, it may be mentioned that the hose was laid on in a minute and a half from the time of the alarm being given, and in little over a minute more the beds were all packed up and the boys descending by the rope ladder to terra flrma, which was reached by all of them within four minutes from the time of alarm. Of course, it is not to be expected that boys would act with so much coolness and promptitude if the place were really on fire, but there can be no doubt that periodically drilling them in this manner will impart a degree of confidence which in the moment of danger would be extremely valuable and facilitating escape.

In conclusion, it may be said that the whole interior of the building was scrupulously clean arid neat. Several gentlemen of position and ministers of religion have visited the institution since it was opened, and the entries made in the visitors' book show them to have been thoroughly satisfied with its condition and general management.

 Papers Past : Star, 28 October 1874, Page 3. THE INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL.

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