Who were these children?


Bristol Emigration Society




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This Society was founded about 1880 by Agnes Beddoe, wife of Dr John Beddoe, a Scottish doctor who came to live in Bristol.  She had helped Mary Carpenter with her work in the ragged schools and was a supporter of child emigration.  Margaret Forster was appointed Society Agent, she came to live at 27 Queens Square, a large house backing on to The Grove and the offices of the Great Western Steamship Company.  Margaret Forster made all the arrangements, she often accompanied the children, although usually travelling First Class she was still responsible for their welfare.  She worked alongside Mark Whitwill who also made many visits to Canada and the States.  In the latter part of the century the Society began to use the ships of the Allan Line so the children then sailed from Liverpool.  It does appear that the arrangements made for the welfare of the children, medical checks, payment for services and records about their welfare were not efficiently organised.  A number of children made the crossing to Canada unaccompanied and upon landing were taken straight to farms and put to work.  The Society was expected to set up a receiving and distribution home for the children; in spite of pressure from the Canadian officials the Society was unable to comply with these regulations.  Canadian immigration officials allowed the Bristol Emigration Society to continue bringing children to Canada; the need for farm workers being paramount.  Problems of funding and organisation brought the Society to a close and it appears to have ceased working in the early 1900's.  Records about the work of the Bristol Emigration Society are very limited, most are in the Canadian Archives in Ottawa.       


In 1871 100 orphaned and deserted children were sent to Canada by Bristol Incorporation of the Poor.   Canadian farmers working on isolated farms were unable to recruit from their own young men and desperately needed farm labourers and servants.  It was considered that the children would benefit from good farm food and healthy fresh air but would also be separated from unsatisfactory families and friends.  The first parties left Bristol in the charge of two women, Maria Rye took children to Niagara on the Lake and Annie Macpherson took her party to the Marchmont Home in Belleville, Ontario.  In 1875 a civil servant named Patrick Doyle, was sent out by the Poor :aw Commissioners to investigate complaints that children were not being adequately supervised, indeed a number of children could not be found.  His report was very critical of the system.  Consequently Bristol and Barton Regis Board of Guardians refused to send any more Bristol children, none were sent between the years of 1875 - 1883.  By the time the Guardians had consented to again support the emigration of the children a number of regulations had been imposed.  The children were to be medically examined, records were to be kept, indentures were to be signed and wages were to be paid after the age of 16 years.  The Board of Guardians were also to be kept informed of the name and address of the farmer caring for the child.

Barton Regis Workhouse - a drawing by Peter Loxton

The Industrial Schools of Bristol, Park Row School for Boys and Carleton House for Girls continued to send children to both Canada and the North of America.  The Rev. George Rogers had emigrated  from Bristol to Springfield, New Brunswick and organised places with the local farmers.  By 1876 there was quite a colony of Bristol boys working in the area of Kars, New Brunswick.

Children were sent to an Industrial School because they appeared to be without proper guardianship, some had been caught stealing, others were described as vagrants.  All had been sentenced by a magistrate to be kept in the school until they were 16 years of age.

Park Row Industrial School for Boys - a drawing by Peter Loxton by kind permission of Bristol Central Library

The permission of the Secretary of State, in writing was needed before a child could leave for emigration. 

Permission had also be given by any living parents.

All children had go before a Justice of the Courts to sign to say they wished to be emigrated.

Clifton Day Industrial School from a photo by kind permission of Derek and Janet Fisher of Bygone Postcards.
Children were sent from the following Institutions as well as from the Workhouses:

Park Row Industrial School for Boys - opened in 1859
Carleton House Industrial School for Girls - opened in 1874
Clifton Day Industrial School - opened in 1851
Red Lodge Reformatory for Girls - opened in 1854
Kingswood Reformatory for Boys - opened in 1852
St James Ragged School. opened 1846 by Mary Carpenter, it eventually became St. James Back Day Industrial School.

The Bristol Emigration Home for Girls - opened in 1881 by Annie Macpherson at 9 Bishop Road, St Pauls.  The home moved to Parkfield House, Beaufort Road, then in 1891 to Leigh Road South, 3 Aberdeen Road and finally in 1901 to 25 Richmond Terrace, Clifton.  This home also accepted boys under 8 years of age.  Both boys and girls were prepared for emigration.


Red Lodge Reformatory was started by Mary Carpenter as a school and home for girls who would otherwise have been sent to prison.  By kind permission of Bristol Central Library.

Link to Bristol & Avon Family History Society Website

  Shirley Hodgson 2006