Sunday, 11 July 2010

The History of Tennal School - 1849-1949

I am a member of a local campaign group called Martineau 10 in my local community on the border of Harborne and Quinton.

We are trying to keep a historic building from being sold or demolished by Birmingham City Council, called the Martineau Centre, which is on Balden Road near the Court Oak pub / Hagley Road.

One of the members of the Martineau 10 group is Percy Lea, who was the former principal of the centre when it was an approved school called Tennal School. Percy and I are going on the Carl Chinn show on BBC radio WM next Sunday lunchtime to talk about the history of the centre and the campaign to keep it open for community use.

One of our group members has loaned me an old book published in 1949 which details the history of Tennal School between 1849 and 1949. The book also gives a lot of interesting background to social policy and legislation around young offenders from the early 1800s and the development of industrial and reformed schools which later merged to become approved schools in the early 20th century.

From a personal point of view I think there could well be strong connections between this area of history and my family history research as I have come across at least two ancestors who were round up off the streets of Birmingham in the early 1900s - one becoming a home child migrated to Canada by Middlemore Homes and the other apparently spending time working on a farm in Worcestershire - though I am not sure what kind of institution this was. I am also aware of at least one adult ancestor spending time in Winson Green Prison.

So who knows?

I have begun transcribing the book (which is out of copy right restrictions) onto a blog at the following website (note that I have to work from the rear of the book backwards because of the blog format):

Other links for Martineau Centre:



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  2. When the school closed in the 1970s Percy as the last principal was instructed to destroy all records but instead donated a lot of general material to Birmingham Central Library archives and kept his own historical materials (obviously not sensitive confidential information).