This extension to the work of the Ragged School stood next to the School on the site of a private house, 4 St George’s Place. It was built in memory of Alderman Edward Palk, who had been the treasurer to the Ragged School Committee since its foundation in 1849, and who died 25 July 1872.
The Palk Memorial Fund committee met 16 September 1972 to discuss how to use the money that had been raised. While it was obvious that “could Mr Palk have had a voice in the disposal of the fund the Ragged School would have been the object he would have chosen” (Hampshire Advertiser 18 September 1872), it was also obvious that the new Local School Board “would soon provide the necessary education for the class of children for whom ragged schools were intended.” However, the School Board would not be able to provide the other services provided by the Ragged School: the philanthropic work of industrial training, shelter, food and clothing.
Successive annual reports of the Ragged Schools Committee chart the progress of the memorial. In 1873, the fund amounted to £324 6s 8d, £300 of which was used to buy the adjoining freehold premises. In 1874 James Lemon, the borough surveyor, had inspected the building and offered his services free to draw up plans to rebuild it. In 1875 the plans had been approved and a tender accepted, although there was need of more money to complete the work. In 1876, Mr Lemon reported that the Palk Memorial Home would be completed that week (Hampshire Advertiser 4 November 1876.) With the money available, they had provided sleeping room for twelve boys “as well as other accommodation” and there was room for an extension at the back when funds allowed.
The day schools were taken over by the School Board in 1877, but the charity planned to continue the rest of their work in the basement of the premises, and in the memorial hall. Later that year, the committee’s plans had not yet come to maturity, partly because the industrial training could not be provided in school hours. The committee started to look at other ways of using the premises: in 1878 they asked for ideas for “any useful work which might be carried on in them.”
The Southampton School of Cookery had been set up in 1877, using the Kell Memorial Hall in Belle Vue Road. In 1879 they approached the Ragged School Committee with a proposal for the use of the Palk Memorial Home that satisfied the original object of the home, to provide support and training for the sort of young people who had needed the Industrial Ragged School. The difference was, that where the support and training had been for boys, now it was girls who were being offered “1st .. a safe lodging for girls out of place, or coming as strangers to the town, where they can have entire or partial board; 2nd… reading writing and refreshment rooms, open to all respectable girls and women on payment of a small sum; 3rd,… the opportunity of attending classes for instruction in cooking and other useful knowledge.” (Hampshire Advertiser 29 October 1879) There would also be a servants’ registry, and the home would continue the work of the Southampton Soup Kitchen, and “the sale of food to the poor at the lowest possible prices.” The sadly underused building was repaired, furnished, fitted with gas pipes and fittings and extended with an iron room at the back for cookery and other classes.
In the new Palk Memorial Home and Cookery School, there were monthly concerts and entertainments, high cookery classes on Wednesdays, and plain cookery classes on Saturdays, provided by a team of lady visitors, and a paid matron. As with the boys, the residential provision was under-used: in the 17 months up to 30 September 1880 there had “only been six lodgers in the house, one for twenty-two days, another three days, and others one night each.” (Hampshire Advertiser 16 October 1880.) Three homeless girls had been given emergency shelter. The cookery school made a small profit, and had taught 1132 students, but finances were tight, as usual. The round of fundraising continued with a “Grand Miscellaneous Entertainment” at the Victoria Rooms, 11 November 1880, including cookery demonstrations, vocal and instrumental music, an exhibition of microscopes, “Magic and Mystery”, and “Curious Experiences in Cooking,” tickets 1s each.
There were no lodgers at the home on the night of the 1881 census, only the Matron, Mrs Emily C H Meheux, her children Florence (17), a daily governess, Margaret (14) and Henry (9), and Emma Evans, a general servant. Mrs Meheux’ husband Francis was a surgeon for the P&O line.
Mrs Annie Langstaff, the hon. sec. of the Cookery School, ran the Saturday plain cookery classes for children, with the help of a band of lady volunteers, not all of whom stayed the course. “On several occasions last winter I was left with from fifteen to twenty children, quite unassisted, except by the matron, whose duties often call her away.” (letter begging for help, Hampshire Advertiser 19 November 1881)
The South Stoneham Union Workhouse and the Southampton Workhouse lodged girls for training in domestic service. The training, the lodging house, and the servants’ registry were all part of the work to support the poorest young women. The annual reports emphasised the “kind care and helpful sympathy shown by the matron” and the fact that girls who had found work would “look in for a chat at the Home.” (Hampshire Advertiser 20 October 1883.) The girls could bring their friends to events such as the Sunday free teas. The matron and the lady visitors obviously kept in touch with their girls: ex-students and lodgers wrote to the matron from all parts of England, from Germany, and from the Cape, and even spent their annual holiday at the home. In the summer, the matron would take her charges on trips to Netley Abbey, Southsea and the New Forest.
Miss Charlotte A Barry was appointed Lady Matron in 1888, and continued in post until 1896, giving “her whole time and energy to promoting the interests of the Home,” (Southern Daily Echo 29 October 1896) She appears on the 1891 census, aged 35 and born Ramsgate, Kent. There are four boarders on the night of the census: Matilda Bishop (16), Elizabeth Coviston (13), Louisa Stacey (13) and Lily Winzer (10). The lodgings were no longers as full as in 1886, when the lodgings had often been so full they had to turn girls away.
Finances remained precarious, dependent on the voluntary efforts of Mrs Langstaff and her team of helpers, and the support of individuals paying for girls in the home, and donating food and clothing. Although the Workhouses sent girls for training, the School Board did not consider cookery essential to the curriculum, and would not permit cookery lessons in school hours. It was proving an uphill struggle, although some interest was shown by the Hampshire County Council, and some classes were held for school mistresses and pupil-teachers.
The Houndwell Board School had closed in about 1890, on the expiry of their lease of the old Ragged School premises, and the building had returned to the Committee’s control. In 1891, it was being offered to the Technical Education Committee of Hampshire County Council for classes in “domestic economy”: fine laundry and clothes making.
The Town Council’s Technical Instruction Council made a grant to the Home in 1892, and apparently received money from the Wulfris Bequest in 1893, but as the decade progressed money grew tighter and support less forthcoming. The long columns in the Hampshire Advertiser of the 1880s had dwindled to single paragraphs in the 1890s, reporting deficits and, in 1897, plans to sell the Ragged School buildings to support the work of the Palk Memorial Home. “One states this with a certain amount of reserve, lest it should be used as a reason for not giving help to the charity.” (Hampshire Advertiser 30 October 1897.) The Town Council and the Committee applied to the Charity Commissioners for permission to sell the premises at public auction in July 1899. The property “had been a source of trouble and expense” for many years (Hampshire Advertiser 28 October 1899.) It was hoped that the investment of the money raised would enable the Home and Soup Kitchen to keep going. However, the Home was forced to close “for want of public support,” (Hampshire Advertiser 3 November 1900.) Alderman Pearce regretted the decision, but said “it seemed to him that perhaps the time for such an Institution was passed … The School Board took lads off their hands, and young girls did not seem to desire to come to a Home of that kind as was formerly the case.”
The Palk Memorial Home and Cookery School had served “the young, the destitute and the friendless” for 22 years.
There was still a perceived need for lodgings for respectable women, and to support the work of the Girls’ Friendly Society. The next chapter in the history of the buildings on St Georges’ Place was about to begin, with the establishment of Battenberg House in 1904.


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