The use of cottage homes was pioneered at an 'agricultural colony' for delinquent boys at Mettray, near Paris, in the 1840s and 1850s. The homes were organised on the basis of "family" groups, and proved successful in providing a remedial environment for juvenile offenders.
The idea was then taken up by a number of organisations in Britain around 1871. Usually built in rural locations, cottage home schemes were based on the idea of a "village" of small houses (often set around a green or along a street) each home accommodating "families" of between twelve and thirty children. As well as houses and a school, larger cottage home sites could include workshops, an infirmary, chapel, and even a swimming pool.
For Poor Law unions, cottage homes offered pauper children an alternative to the physical conditions and "malign influence" of the workhouse accommodation. In addition to their classroom lessons, the children were taught practical skills to make them employable after leaving the homes. For girls, this included domestic skills such as needlework and cookery. The boys could be taught trades such as carpentry, shoemaking and plumbing. Homes also often had a boys' band, membership of which could sometimes lead to a later career as a military bandsman.
The West Riding had a number of cottage homes. Most of these were in the vicinity of the workhouse buildings. After the opening of the cottage homes in 1897 at Rothwell, the school was converted for use as a hospital. By 1914, the number of cottage or "small" homes (developments comprising just one or two homes)rose. Some records of Cottage homes only remain in minute books and administration records of the main workhouse. There are other records, such as for Netherton Cottage Homes (ref: Kirklees archives KC992) that contain other information.