Protestant (Male) Orphan School Register, 1850-1886

The Protestant (Male) Orphan School Register, 1850-1886 lists over 1,000 boys who were admitted to the school. Boys were usually admitted because one or both parents were dead or unable to care for them. The register is an important document in the history of child care and protection in New South Wales.

The Records

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The register - series NRS-21313 - records name, age, date of admission, date of leaving the Institution, parents’ name/s and remarks. It lists over 1,000 boys who were admitted to the Protestant Orphan School from the time the schools were amalgamated until it closed on 30 September 1886. Their ages ranged from one year to 15 years on admission. Boys were usually admitted because one or both parents were dead or unable to care for them. Many boys were apprenticed out to trades or bound as domestic servants. Some returned to family members as family circumstances changed or improved.

Index to the register

About the school

The Male Orphan School was established in 1819 in George Street Sydney. In 1823 the school was relocated to the Cabramatta farm owned by the Female Orphan School. Both the Female and Male Orphan Schools were managed initially by the same committee and from 1826 the Church and Lands Corporation. On 30 April 1850 the Male Orphan School was closed and the remaining residents were moved to the Female Orphan School site on the banks of the Parramatta River at Arthur's Hill (Rydalmere). The two schools were amalgamated to form the Protestant Orphan School.

Introduction of foster homes and closure of the school

The Royal Commission of Public Charities 1873-1874 observed that the barrack-type system of care was not in the children's best interests, believing they would benefit from the family environment of approved foster homes. From 1881 the State Children's Relief Board began boarding out suitable children from various institutions including the Protestant Orphan School and in 1886 the School was closed. The Orphan School buildings were converted to house Rydalmere Hospital for the Insane. When the hospital closed in 1995 the buildings were given to the University of Western Sydney and the Protestant Orphan School is now occupied by the Whitlam Institute.

Behind the scenes

This is another episode of Archives Behind the Scenes focusing on archival estrays: records that have strayed from official custody at some stage during their life but that are now back in the State archives Collection.