Blue Coat School & Almshouses

The Waterhouse charity was started in 1636 and for almost 300 years operated both almshouses for aged persons and the Blue Coat residential school for poor children.



In 1635, Charles I granted a charter to set up a workhouse and managing committee for Halifax.

In 1636, Nathaniel Waterhouse gave a large house in Halifax, to be employed as a workhouse and house of correction, in order to set the

idle vagabonds, ruffians, sturdy beggars, and other poor

within the town and parish to work. The workhouse originally stood in King Street, near the Parish Church.


The almshouses stood in Kirkgate – near the Ring O' Bells, Halifax. The building was inscribed

Theſe twelve dwellings, left by Mr Waterhouſe for twelve aged perſons, were rebuilt by the contributions of well-diſpoſed people, in the year 1724

These 12 were selected 3 from the town of Halifax, 1 each from the townships of Sowerby, Midgley, Warley, Ovenden, Skircoat, Northowram, Southowram, Hipperholme and Shelf.

The widows lived rent-free and received £2 and a black gown each year.

It is said the Old Tristram lived here.

The almshouses were rebuilt in 1812/13. They were relocated to Harrison Road in 1855.

In 1960, Parliament sanctioned the charity's rules being changed to concentrate on housing the elderly. The accommodation for Blue Coat children was then closed and demolished, as were the old almshouses.

The present almshouses were built in 1966.

Blue Coat School

A charitable institution – the Blue Coat School, so called because the children wore Blue Coats – was established under a charter from Charles I by Waterhouse's will of 1642. This provided for a house in which poor orphans – 10 boys and ten girls – were to live and work.

There was an inscription

Hoſpitium Mri Nath. Waterhouſe, viri ſupra exemplum pii, qui eccleſiæ at pauperibus ſus omnia legavit, 1678

The workhouse was administered by 13 of the ablest and most discreet persons of the town and parish led by a master and a governor. The master was to be paid out of any profit which might be made out of the children's labour.

The work performed by the inmates included spinning wool and making bone-lace. Anyone who idled or spoilt their work was whipped.

When it was established, the income of the charity amounted to about £130 per annum, but as the value of the property increased, it had risen to £1,380 in 1807. The governors obtained an Act of Parliament empowering them to extend this charity.

In 1848, the number of scholars was increased to 60.

Joseph Swift was master around 1835.

In September 1865, the building was demolished for the construction of Halifax Parish Church Day School.

In 1855, a new school was rebuilt by Charles Child next to Holy Trinity Church, Harrison Road on land belonging to John Waterhouse and Samuel Waterhouse. The foundation stone for the new building was laid on 26th June 1855.

This new building was built along 3 sides of a square. It provided for 20 local orphans at the school, and the almshouses were for the poor. On each wing were 12 almswomen, and the centre was occupied by schools for 30 boys and 30 girls, with residences for the governor and schoolmaster. The cost of building was £10,000.

Immediately outside the West Door of Halifax Parish Church is a memorial to 4 orphans who died at the School:

In 1861, the School was run by Ezekiel Wilkinson when Thomas Gill (aged 12) was a pupil.

The building was extended in 1885.

Officers of the Almshouses and the School have included:

From 1921, the children attended Holy Trinity School nearby.

The Blue Coat School became a residential home. For a time, the schoolroom was used by Halifax Girls' High School, pending the construction of Princess Mary High School.

With only 10 children – 7 boys and 3 girls – the school closed in 1958. The buildings were demolished in 1965 to make way for a sheltered accommodation development of 24 units for elderly ladies which opened in June 1967.

See Blue Coat School Memorial, Chamberlain's Charity, Charity Schools, Henry Douglas Gray, Thomas Lister, Arthur Thompson Longbotham and John Selwyn Rawson

This & associated entries use material contributed by Jeffrey Knowles & David Nortcliffe

© Malcolm Bull 2024
Revised 16:28 / 8th April 2024 / 9684

Page Ref: KK_3

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