Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 17, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 17, 2017




Laira House on the Embankment Road at the eastern end of Plymouth, was a large Gothic-looking building that was built for a Mr Johnson, an Alderman in the City of London, and was later the home of Captain Julian, who owned land in the Prince Rock area.   It was described as being 'a very quaint building inside', with a variety of different sized rooms.

The Plymouth School Board's Truant School, formerly Laira House

The Plymouth Truant Industrial School,
formerly Laira House, after closure.
Photo courtesy: Plymouth Library Service

On Thursday March 16th 1882 this building became the Plymouth School Board's Truant Industrial School, opened in pursuance of the Industrial Schools Act of 1866.  The superintendent was a Mr Kirk, who had thirteen years experience in running such an establishment.  He had the assistance of his wife and a Mr MacCarthy, an ex-naval man, all of whom lived on the premises.

A large dormitory room held 19 beds and there were also six cells in which errant boys could be confined if required.  All these rooms had either hot-water or hot-air heating pipes running through them.  There were ample lavatories and a hot and cold bath 'to gladden their hearts and clean their persons'.  A large dining-room and adjacent kitchens were also provided.

Outside was a large enclosed playground 'but the boys will not have so much play as to warrant the term'.  It would be used mainly for drill, the purpose of which was to 'turn them out strong and lusty youths'.  There were also workshops in which wood could be chopped to provide firewood for all the boys schools in the Town.   There was also a large garden in which vegetables for he kitchen could be grown.   It was apparently very open and there was little to prevent a boy from legging it away from the School, should their guardian fail to watch his charges.  However, such an escape might have attracted several lashings of the regulation birch.

The boys would be taught book learning for three hours a day, after which they would have a variety of work or play periods.  There seems to have been no set curriculum.

Although the School could care for thirty-six boys, they could only receive six in any one week, and indeed the School was opened with just six pupils.  The Regulations stated that no boy under eight, or over fourteen, could be sent there.

Upon arrival the boys were relieved of their own garments, which were washed and dried and kept aside for them to wear again when they left the School.  They had to wear a uniform upon the collar of which was a number.  For some days after starting the boys would work and sleep in separate rooms, only joining the other inmates for meals, drill and prayers.  They were allowed letters from home once a fortnight and visits once a month, unless they were being detained for misconduct.

On the day of opening the Plymouth Magistrate's dealt with an application to place the thirteen-years-old son of Mr James Bassett in the care of Laira House.  He had attended school only twice since the previous November and was termed a "micher".  Three other boys were dealt with at the same hearing.

As from April 1st 1903 the Plymouth Truant Industrial School was transferred from the Plymouth School Board to the Plymouth Local Education Authority.