About the Children


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 and would also be separated from their 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. Over the next four years large parties of children were sent out with these two women, but as nothing was heard of their arrival or welfare, the Boards of Guardians refused to send any more children.

Bartin Regis workhouse

Bartin Regis workhouse with thanks to Bristol Central Library

In 1875 a civil servant named Patrick Doyle, was sent out by the Poor Law 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, he was particularly critical of the work of Maria Rye and to a lesser extent of Annie Macpherson. He wrote that supervision was poor, children had been abused and lost. Sadly as emigration was seen as a chance to improve British children’s lives, the report was shelved for another 25 years.

No more children were sent until 1884 when a number of regulations were imposed and the Guardians now consented to support the emigration of the children again. 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.


Most Bristol children taken out by the Bristol Emigration Society landed in the port of St John, New Brunswick.

Most Bristol children taken out by the Bristol Emigration Society landed in the port of St John, New Brunswick.

The Bristol Emigration Society

This Society was founded in 1880 by Agnes Beddoe, she had helped Mary Carpenter with her work in the Ragged Schools and was a supporter of child emigration. Margaret Forster was appointed the society agent; she came to live at 27 Queens Square, a large house which she seemed to use as the offices of the Society. Margaret Forster was responsible for making all the arrangements for taking groups of children to Canada, She was to collect all the documents and arrange for suitable people to accompany the children. Often she traveled with the children while they were in steerage with their own bedding, Margaret was in a First Class cabin, and it is difficult to understand how she carried out her responsibilities for their welfare. The arrangements made for the supervision of the children, medical checks, payment for services and records about their welfare were not well organised. A number of parties of children made the crossing to Canada unaccompanied and any follow up visits were disorganized or didn’t take place. Bristol Emigration Society did not have a home where the children could rest, so upon landing, the children were taken straight to farms and put to work.St Johns Home


The Bristol Emigration Society claimed that they used St John’s Sailors Home.

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 about 1915. Most information about the work of the Bristol Emigration Society can be found in the newspapers of the time.

The Industrial Schools such as Park Row School and Clifton Day School both for Boys and Carleton House and Stanhope House for Girls continued to send children to both Canada and North America. The Rev George Rogers who had emigrated from Bristol to Springfield, New Brunswick organised places with local farmers for the Park Row boys. By 1876 there was quite a colony of Bristol boys working in the area of Springfield, Kars County, New Brunswick. The Rev Shipperley worked as an agent for the Clifton school; he also took boys to St John, New Brunswick. A large number of children traveled from these schools with the Bristol Emigration Society.

Children were sent to an Industrial School because they appeared to be without proper guardianship, some had been caught stealing, and 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

Clifton Industrial School 2

This is Clifton Day Industrial School situated in Hotwells Road.

Park Row School 4#

Park Row Industrial School for Boys situated in Park Row. My grateful thanks to Bristol Public Library.

The permission from the Secretary of State, in writing, was needed before a child could leave a school under the age of 16 years for emigration purposes.

Permission must also be given in writing by any living parents.

All children must go before a Justice in the Courts to sign to say they wished to go for emigration.







Red Lodge Reformatory#

Red Lodge Reformatory for Girls run by Mary Carpenter. My grateful thanks to Bristol Public Library.

Children were sent from the following Institutions as well as from the Workhouses.

  • Park Row Industrial School for Boys opened 1859
  • Clifton Day Industrial School opened 1851
  • Formidable for Boys opened 1869
  • Carlton House Industrial School for Girls opened 1874
  • Stanhope Industrial School for Girls opened 1865
  • Red Lodge Reformatory for Girls opened 1854
  • Kingswood Reformatory for Boys opened 1852
  • St James Ragged School opened 1846
  • Became St James Back Industrial School

In 1881 Annie Macpherson  opened “The Emigration Home for Little Girls” in St Pauls, Bristol

This Home was to take girls, train them for work in the houses in Canada and when ready they were taken to the Marchmont Home in Belleville, Ontario, there they would rest until places had been found for them. When it was found that many of the girls had small brothers the Home made arrangements to take boys but only until they were eight years of age. All children attended the local schools in Bristol


The Canadian Home for Girls in Richmond Terrace The Home moved several times because the house was not big enough; finally in 1901 they moved to 25 Richmond Terrace in Clifton.

Comments are closed.