A Brief History of Events and Trends from 1695 to 1969 in the Residential Care of Young Offenders in the UK

1695         August Hermann Francke (1663-1727) opened an orphan asylum at Halle in Germany, the first reformatory.

1706         Jean Baptiste de la Salle (1651-1719) started a boarding school at St. Yon, France, which evolved into a reformatory; several Roman Catholic approved schools are still run by the Brothers of St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle.

1735-1811 Robert Raikes founded the Sunday Schools to instil an unquestioning respect for the social order.

By this time the Industrial Revolution was well under way. Previously, country communities had been able to absorb their orphans and difficult children, and town parishes had been responsible for coping with their own: problems. Now, there was an influx of Irish, an increase of population, and a move to the towns, as a result of the 1760 Enclosures Act. There was  overcrowding, illness, child labour, loss of social stability and new temptations. The poor rate rose, as did the price of corn.

1756 (or 1758)  Jonas Hanway founded the Marine Society to help boys join the navy; a school for convicts’ children was founded which did good preventative work. When the war with France ended in 1763, Hanway’s excellent aftercare system was used to find alternative employment for the boys.

1777         John Howard wrote The State of the Prisons in England and Wales, which stirred the public conscience.

1783         The Marine Society bought a ship, which became the model for reformatory training ships.

1788         The Royal Philanthropic Society started the New Asylum for the Prevention of Vice and Misery among the Poor for the care of convicts’ children; it also received children sentenced to transportation but released on conditional pardon.

1792         The Society moved to St. George’s Fields, Southwark, where a special building was provided, complete with punishment cells. In the early history of the Society, there were problems of control, staffing and finance. Robert Young, the first superintendent, embezzled a large sum; and the children, being held without legal sanction, had to be treated as “refractory apprentices”  when they absconded. By 1796, 51 of the 176 had absconded, and it was felt that boys over 13 years of age were too advanced to afford much chance of reclamation. In 1797 the Society decided to undertake aftercare.

1801         Examples of punishments typical at this time are the 12 year-old child sentenced to death at the Old Bailey for stealing a bale of cloth valued at 39/-, and the 13 year-old boy publicly executed for stealing a spoon. In 1808 a 7 year-old girl was executed in public at Lynn, and in 1814, five children aged 8-12 were sentenced to death for burglary and stealing shoes.

Meanwhile, in 1801 there were 1,500 Sunday Schools, and in 1806 it was estimated that 30,000 children attended them.

1806         The Royal Philanthropic Society was incorporated by Act of Parliament.

1816         Thomas Buxton founded The Society for the Reformation of Prison Discipline, which paved the way for subsequent reforms.

1817         Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) founded Newgate School.

1818         Loca1 magistrates founded Stretton-on-Dunsmore Asylum in Warwickshire, where agricultural training was given to juvenile offenders.

In the same year John Pounds (1766-1839), an apprentice shipwright from Portsmouth, founded a school which attracted and contained the wild children of the poorest families. They were taught cookery and shoemaking, and the success of the school led to the Ragged School movement, which led in turn to the Industrial School system.

1820         Warwickshire magistrates discharged prisoners to the care of employers and friends, the first example of a probation system.

1823-44   J.R. Capper ran a notorious prison hulk for juvenile offenders.

1826         The Royal Philanthropic Society appointed a schoolmaster, having previously relied entirely on work to fill the children’s time.

1828         Suggestions were put forward in Warwickshire that juvenile offenders should be dealt with summarily and not in open courts.

1832         Mary Carpenter (1801-1871), “a lady of extreme piety and great capacity”, resolved to devote her life to saving the delinquent and destitute, and in 1835 she became founder-secretary of the Working and Visiting Society in Bristol.

1833         Dr. J H. Wichern (1808-31) founded the Rauhe Haus in Germany. It was run on family lines and the young offenders were expected to become respectable citizens and work as prison officers themselves. Dr. Wichern was appointed Chief Inspector of Gaols in Prussia.

1834         Brenton Juvenile Asylum and Victoria Asylum were founded by Captain Brenton. Backed in 1836 by Lord Russell, these asylums became popular and trained many children.

1835         The state Reform School of Massachusetts was founded at Boston, and it proved a successful forerunner of the American system.

1836         The Glasgow Society for the Repression of Juvenile Delinquency raised £10,000 and founded the first purpose-built reformatory.

1837         The Parkhurst Prison Act was passed and in 1838, the prison for juvenile offenders was opened. Initially boys were held in solitary confinement, and leg irons were used; this image remained through Mary Carpenter’s writings, but Parkhurst was not the failure she suggested and its treatment of boys was an improvement on prison conditions elsewhere. By the same Act, committal of some boys to the Royal Philanthropic Society became official.

1839         After an unfounded scandal in which Captain Brenton was accused of selling children as slaves for the Boers, his Asylum closed; many of his boys had been placed in Cape Colony on release.

1840         M. de Metz, a former French judge who had resigned through disagreement over the sentencing of juveniles, founded the reformatory at Mettray near Tours; it was organized on the house principle and the inmates had to work hard, with kindness as their only luxury. M. de Metz put considerable emphasis on staff training, which was undertaken before the institution opened.

In Great Britain, the death penalty was removed for most offences, while it was in September that leg irons were last used at Parkhurst.

1841         Sheriff William Watson of Aberdeen (1786-1878) opened an industrial school, to cope with the children who begged and wandered in the area; it was a tremendous success and the preventative work done cut down vagrancy and delinquency dramatically.

Rev. Sydney Turner (1814-1819) was appointed resident chaplain at the Royal Philanthropic Society. He objected to the indiscriminate violent punishment and suggested educational improvements.

It was also in this year that public funds were first used to finance a reformatory when a Local Act of Parliament authorised payment to help the Glasgow Society.

1843         Lord Ashley (later seventh Lord Shaftesbury) attempted unsuccessfully to introduce two Bills “to provide moral and religious training for the working classes” , and in so doing attracted attention to the conditions in which many children lived.

Sydney Turner took over the Royal Philanthropic Society’s school.

1844         11,348 persons aged 10-20 were in prison at this time, which amounted to one out of every three hundred and four of this age group in the total population.

1845         Girls were no longer admitted to the Royal Philanthropic Society’s School.

1846         Lord Roughton made an unsuccessful bid to pass a law to establish reformatories. Meanwhile Mary Carpenter founded a Ragged School at Lewin’s Mead, Bristol, for 20 boys. She later moved to the city centre where riots necessitated police intervention; soon, however, her school became “an oasis in the desert of disorder in which it was situated” .

1846         Sydney Turner and Mr. Paynter, a London Police Court Magistrate, visited Mettray and were highly impressed by M. de Metz’s system. Turner formulated five principles:

1) the use of trained staff, 2) the division of institutions into group homes, 3) the use of persuasion instead of force in training, 4) education in work habits through outdoor work, and 5) the combination of voluntary and governmental interest in administration and supervision.

1847         A Lords’ Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the treatment of juvenile offenders.

Dr. Guthrie (1803-1873) founded the Ragged Schools of Edinburgh, which proved most effective, but which created opposition through their religious bias.

1848         Over 500 children passed through Mary Carpenter’s school.

The Royal Philanthropic Society decided to move to Redhill, Surrey to allow the boys complete freedom without repression; the chapel foundation stone was laid by Prince A1bert on 30th August 1849, and the school was run on Mettray lines, adapted for English boys.

1849         Outdoor work was begun at Parkhurst and immediately 34 boys tried to escape. As a result of the public outcry, military guards were posted with muskets at the ready; these were removed soon afterwards but the image remained.

In this year 10,703 children under 17 were sentenced to imprisonment or transportation; it was generally agreed that prison never succeeded,. Meanwhile in Aberdeen vagrancy convictions had dropped from 1,472 in the years 1841-5, to 29 in the years 1846-50.

1851         Mary Carpenter wrote Reformatory Schools for the Children of the Perishing and Dangerous Classes and Juvenile Delinquents, a most influential book.

The First Birmingham Conference met under the chairmanship of Matthew Davenport Hill (1792-1872), the Recorder of Birmingham. Mary Carpenter and Sydney Turner also played leading parts, and it was agreed that the Ragged Schools could not cope with the difficult and delinquent children, for whom the local authorities should provide industria1 schools, while for more serious cases the state should provide reformatories. Prisons were clearly deterring no-one, and intellectual, moral and religious education were thought necessary. The Conference minutes were circulated to influential people. In Newcastle, juvenile offending had doubled since 1838, and a committee met to found a reformatory.

1852         Hardwicke Reformatory was set up, and soon afterwards Mary Carpenter took over some school buildings provided by Lady Byron and founded Kingswood Reformatory.

1853         Mary Carpenter wrote Juvenile Delinquents; their Condition and Treatment, containing principles of treatment and an attack on Parkhurst.

The Second Birmingham Conference recommended that attendance at Industrial Schools should be compulsory, as absconding was proving a problem, but decided that the punitive principle was to be excluded. Voluntary management was also recommended. A House of Commons Enquiry, set up in 1852, took note of these observations and included practically all their ideas in their legislation.

27.04.1853    Edward Andrews died in Birmingham Gaol after being maltreated; the resultant public outcry provided the reformers with useful propaganda.

1854         The Youthful Offenders Act was passed with difficulty; reformatories were legalised, with voluntary managers, under the authority of the Home Secretary. There were already schools at Redhill, Kingswood, Bromsgrove, Buxton, Newcastle and Saltley, but certificated schools were clearly expected to adhere to strict discipline and formal routines, while advanced ideas of family units, relaxed atmosphere and the removal of corporal punishment were thwarted. Children also had to spend at least 14 days in prison as a punishment prior to reformatory treatment, and in fact they were often awaiting placement for longer periods. Saltley was the first recognised Reformatory, certified on 20th August 1858.

Co-education at Kingswood was not working, and so the girls were moved to Red Lodge, where a hostel was provided for girls who need placement on release.

1856         In Scotland, Dunlop’s Act established Industrial Schools officially.

Most early reformatories were financed privately, but grants now covered 50% of rents and teachers’ salaries, plus a capitation grant for food.

The “Akbar” was founded at Heswall, the first reformatory ship, and after early difficulties, its success aroused great enthusiasm.

1857         Rev. Sydney Turner was appointed the first Inspector of Reformatories in England and Scotland, and his early policy was to assess the methods used by other people and impose minimum standards, which in many cases were lower than those he had sustained at Redhill.

At this time the enthusiasm of the voluntary managers led to much innovation and a high degree of individual attention. The Certified Industrial Schools Act was passed, but proved unsuccessful as managers were expected to collect parental contributions, and the class of inmate was not defined. By this time there were 45 reformatories, with 1,966 inmates, including Castle Howard (opened 2.5.1856) and Eastmoor (2.12.1857).

Point Puer, a colony for young delinquents in Tasmania, was closed after considerable disturbance.

1858         Sydney Turner produced his first annual report as Inspector. These were continued until 1914, and in addition to descriptions of the schools for the use of committing magistrates, statistics and theory provided clarification of aims and results. Criticism of individual institutions was usually given informally on inspections. Turner visited each school annually, controlled finances and acted as spokesman through his report, a huge task.

Because of the uncertainty of their aims only two new Industrial Schools were certified, but the Reformatories were doing well, proving financially profitable as well as cutting the prison committal of young offenders by 40% even at this stage. School managers declined a government education grant, claiming that local people benefited and so were responsible.

1859         The second Reformatory ship was opened off Purfleet, called the “Cornwall”.

Reformatories now became a panacea, and Turner complained about the precipitous committal of young children with brief delinquent histories. Between 1859 and 1884 over half of those committed were first offenders, and many were aged under ten.

1860         The nineteen Industrial Schools were transferred to the Home Office by a short Act.

Committals to Reformatories dropped, (as did adult offending), as economic prosperity improved. The Sunderland Reformatory (the only mixed one in England) split and the girls moved.

1861         The Third Birmingham Conference met “chiefly to enlist state aid for Free Day Industrial Schools and Ragged Schools”, for children who had not committed offences but needed care. It was only by 1876 that public opinion had advanced enough to accept these principles. A two-year Experimental Act was passed defining Industrial School intake, stating that the children committed had to be under 12 and convicted of a felony. The Act was later amended and extended until 1867.

1862         Boys committed to Reformatories were no longer allowed to be whipped on committal.

1863         To prevent committal at too early an age, an Act refused maintenance for children under 6. Previously Industrial Schools had been used for children in need of care, even if only 3 or 4 years old.

1864         The Roman Catholic Reformatory ship “Clarence” was moored in the Mersey. Between 1861 and 1877, 9 Industrial Training Ships were opened. Parkhurst, which had taken many difficult recommittals from reformatories in its later years, was closed to juvenile offenders.

1865         Sydney Turner noted that reformatory management was now easier as the old hardened cases had disappeared.

1866         A Consolidating and Amending Act was passed for Industrial Schools and Reformatories in England and Scotland, repealing previous Acts. The children committed to both were of the same type except that the younger less delinquent were sent to the former and the older, more difficult children to the latter. After the Act, Industrial Schools expanded and out-numbered Reformatories. Both types of schools became too large for successful individual training as institutions of that size were more economical and as the managers were now taking less interest and leaving the running of the schools to the superintendents. Riots and immorality arising from the schools’ excessive size were suppressed and rigid harsh discipline took the place of planned training and individual attention.

1868         Mr. B. Rogers, Sydney Turner’s Chief Clerk, was appointed Assistant Inspector. The annual inspection of 130 schools containing 11,000 children was proving overtaxing, and inspection was becoming superficial.

1869         The managers of the Reformatories and Refuge Union, which had met triennially since 1857, now invited superintendents and matrons to join on equal terms for the first time.

1870         The Elementary Education Act allowed school boards to start and run Industrial Schools. Some of the Ragged Schools, which were now closed, became Industrial Schools.

At Stranraer the last attempt to run a Reformatory co-educationally was terminated.

1871         By the Prevention of Crimes Act, the children of women twice convicted of crime could be sent to an Industrial School.

1872         An Elementary Education Act was passed for Scotland to match the 1870 Act in England.

1875         The Home Office ruled that all new schools had to be run on the “distinctive” system, separating the sexes; there were still 18 mixed Industrial Schools. At this period, the success rates of the Industrial Schools were poorer than those of the Reformatories as they had sprung up too fast and relied on poor staff, routine jobs selected for their profit-making and poor aftercare.

1876         Rev. Sydney Turner retired through ill-health, knowing that through his enthusiasm and oversight “the schools had become an accepted part of the social system”. Major (later Colonel) William Inglis took over; he had had no experience of the work and he followed in Turner’s footsteps rigidly.

The Elementary Education Act increased the number of children in Industrial Schools and introduced Industrial Day Schools. It also allowed for the early release of truants but this caused unrest and in practice they were treated the same as the others. As on other occasions, such as 1881 and 1894, complaints were made to the Home Office about the running of the schools.

1877         The first two Industrial Day Schools were founded in Liverpool. The preventative work of Industrial Schools was proving valuable, but Reformatory committals remained high as the population increased. An Amending Act cut the compulsory prison sentence to 10 days for boys committed to Reformatories, and the Prison Act transferred local prisons to the State, though the Prison Authorities continued to contribute to the Reformatories.

Doncaster Reformatory girls rioted, and the police were called in to help control Duke Street Reformatory, Glasgow, an event which recurred in 1882 and 1904.

Mary Carpenter died, still superintendent of Red Lodge. Criticism of her Reformatory was consistently deflected from her through respect or fear of her sharpness of tongue, but after her death Red Lodge was heavily censured.

1878         Strict Truant Schools were also opened in London, Liverpool and Sheffield, which in fact made schooling hateful through rules of silence and solitary confinement. In all, sixteen were founded.

1880         An Act permitted children living in prostitutes’ houses to be sent to Industrial Schools. Children in certified schools now began increasingly to be apprenticed out to local tradesmen. Many children, however, were still sent to prison, and during 1880, 120 aged under 12 and 6,000 aged 12-16 were imprisoned. The Home Secretary, Sir William Vernon Harcourt, was attacked for granting remissions, and it was said that Queen Victoria disapproved.

A boy set fire to the”  Clarence”  and did much damage. In 1884 it was totally destroyed by fire, and in 1898 the ship which replaced it was also burnt completely.

1881         Col. Inglis, the Inspector, noted the success of the Reformatory and Industrial Schools in the drop in delinquency and the end of gang life. Lord Norton campaigned for the schools’ abolition, intending to replace them by “schools for neglected and destitute children”.

1882         In March a Royal Commission was appointed to review the schools. Col. Inglis asked for “a government penal reformatory to which the worst and most incorrigible cases could be drafted”.

1884         The Royal Commission reported its general approval of the system. It attacked early committal and the routine work such as wood-chopping, and matchbox making. The introduction of education was recommended and it was felt that there should be women on all boards of management. Preliminary imprisonment was maintained under pressure from English Reformatory managers, though all others disapproved of it. Indeed this disagreement was symptomatic of the widespread division between those who believed in individual treatment and those who held that reformation was reached through rigid discipline and punishment. This split weakened the Commission’s conclusions and many of the recommendations went unheeded.

1885         There were now 142 Industrial Schools, with 17,000 children and 1,321 officers, allowing for a 1 : 13 ratio of staff to inmates, without taking into account holidays and illness.

1887         The Probation of First Offenders Act allowed for young children or trivial offenders to avoid committal. Many of the children in Reformatories were by no means hardened delinquents and in order to remove the slur of being thereafter known as Reformatory boys, it was proposed to call all certificated institutions Industrial Schools. The Industrial Schools, however, firmly resisted this change in case the stigma was attached to their children.

The Inspector was so worried by the serious mutinies on training ships at this time that he doubted whether they should be maintained, and recommended that all such schools should have playing fields on land to be used daily for sport.

1889         The “Cumberland”, moored at Gareloch near He1ensBurgh, was destroyed by fire. Five of the 360 boys on board confessed to planning its destruction but they were found Not Guilty. The committal rate decreased as magistrates felt increasingly that the preliminary prison sentence was detrimental.

Hostel provision on release became more popular, and genera1y aftercare was good until 1914. Hostel standards varied, some being merely “cheap lodging houses”  which the police visited whenever offences were committed locally.

1891         By an Act, school managers were given limited powers of guardianship, being able to apprentice children or arrange their emigration if they agreed.

Only eight mixed schools now remained, owing to pressure exerted by Col. Inglis, and other schools were closing through lack of numbers.

1892         The Superintendent of a mixed school was exonerated after charges of immorality made by a servant girl. The managers decided to surrender their certificate and it was pointed out that such charges, frequently made in mixed schools, would be avoided if the staff dealing with girls were female.

An attempt was made to burn down the “Empress”  and the four ringleaders were sent to prison. There was dissatisfaction with nautical training at this time as only 66% of boys in Reformatory Ships and 50% of Industrial Training Ship boys went to sea, while the number who remained in the work was even lower. The training was expensive and conditions were hard. The placement of young boys (some aged 8) and the unwillingness of superintendents to transfer boys were blamed for their lack of success. Between 1896 and 1913, five ships were closed or transferred ashore.

1893         An Act known as Lord Leigh’s Act, made the preliminary prison sentence non-compulsory. Reformatories were limited to children of 12 and above and detention was fixed at 3-5 years, with a maximum detention age of 19.

A Scottish Day Industrial Schools Act was also passed.

1894         Committals to Reformatories increased, and 1,107 out of 1,487 omitted the prison sentence.

Truant Schools were being badly run and the Home Office laid down Model Rules.

1895         James Granville Legge took over as Inspector. He was forthright, forward-looking and volatile. He immediately laid down a uniform syllabus to stimulate the educational side of the schools’  training. Poor pay had attracted a poor standard of teachers, most of whom were uncertified. During the year, a girls’ school introduced shorthand and typing into its curriculum, school camps were commenced, and a programme of rebuilding and re-equipping was begun in which £500,000 was spent in six years.

Success rates were generally high; sixteen of the failures in 1895 were boys imprisoned for playing football in the streets.

1896         A Departmental Committee, set up to examine Reformatories and Industrial Schools, reported in detail on the practice and theory of the system. The Report was highly critical, stating that although the system was good, isolation and lack of funds had left the schools at a standstill and out of date. Lack of interest by managers left the children with an inferior status, treated in the mass, held too long for the sake of profit-making in too penal an atmosphere (as seen, for example, in the prolonged periods of silence and lack of physical care in schools without matrons). Sir Godfrey Lushington was chairman and again there was disagreement in the Committee, leading to nine qualifying memoranda. One suggested a change of names to remove the stigma attached to Reformatories. The Report was rejected by the schools, especially the managers. The Committee disapproved also of the preliminary prison sentence.

Home visits were now allowed, and 14 days’ leave per year was granted. Games were encouraged and in 1897 interschool games began.

Meanwhile admissions to Day Industrial Schools dropped considerably as economic conditions improved.

1897         Inspectors began to refer to Reformatories and Industrial Schools as Senior and Junior Home Office Schools respectively, and James Legge suggested a Central Aftercare System based on clubs.

1899         Preliminary imprisonment was at last abolished by an Amendment Act, though temporary detention continued. Whipping was also still allowed as many people felt that there was inadequate punishment.

1900         The Education Act raised the fine for non-attendance at school from 5/- to £l, but the main cause of decreased truancy was neither the threatening of school Board Officers nor the punishment of placement in Truant Schools, but the fact that most parents had by now accepted schooling themselves as a matter of course. The Truant Schools had by now found that harsh punishment was ineffective and they had begun to undertake supplementary teaching to help backward pupils.

About this time, junior republics were begun in the U.S.A. and their success attracted attention elsewhere.

1901         The Youthful Offenders Act allowed young children to be placed in the care of a Fit Person.

1902         In October, a prison for youths aged 16 and above was opened at Borstal. Early in its development, it was organised in houses, and this system became a distinctive and famous feature of Borstal.

1903         On the recommendation of the 1896 Committee, a woman inspector was appointed.

1906         James Legge resigned after a. forceful and stormy period as Inspector, leaving ultimately after a disagreement with a Reformatory Ship, whose certificate was withdrawn. T.D.M. Robertson was appointed as the first to be entitled Chief Inspector.

1907         572 children under 16 were imprisoned in England and Wales during the year, but treatment facilities were broadening. An Industrial School for mental defectives was opened; Truant Schools were extending their period of detention and becoming like Industrial Schools in treatment, type of inmate and results; a Central Aftercare Agency was begun, with aftercare planned to commence with committal; and the Probation of Offenders Act provided supervision and support under the aegis of the courts.

1908         The Children Act, known as “the Children’s Charter”, was passed when Rt. Hon. Herbert Samuel M.P. (later Lord Samuel) was Home Secretary. Described as “a model of legal draughtsmanship”, it was felt by some to be an intrusion of officialdom into the family and a confiscation of parental rights, but its aim was to strengthen the home wherever possible and to rely on voluntary philanthropism in social work. Twelve types of treatment were made available to children and special schools were officially set up for disabled children. Special Industrial Schools were also started. The intake and age ranges of Home Office schools, the duties of managers and inspectors, and regulations for recall, transfer, licence and finance were laid down. Increased maintenance payments by local authorities cut committal rates, which were further reduced by the use of special schools.

By now school buildings had reached a high standard, and attention switched to vocational training and education.

The Certified Schools Gazette was founded, later appearing under the title Approved Schools Gazette, to which it changed in 1933.

The Borstal system was established, following the success of the first institution.

1909         Truant Schools became Short Term Industrial Schools.

1910         Newcastle Industrial School, the last one to be mixed, surrendered its certificate and re-opened for boys only.

Dr. Branthwaite was appointed as medical adviser, and on investigating boys in the Certified Schools thoroughly, he concluded that many were undernourished because of their poor diet, that they were small for the comparable age group from their home areas, and that the many illnesses found in the schools were partly attributable to the harsh living conditions and excessive work.

By this time six special Industrial Schools had been opened in England and Scotland, catering for children with learning difficulties, epilepsy, physical disabilities or trachoma; thereafter local education authorities took over special schoo1s.

A Departmental Committee investigated success rates and considered them unreliable. If boys had not been heard of, they were deemed to be “doing well”. One school claimed 100% success.

22 Oct. 1910     John Bull published a story entitled “Reformatory School Horrors – How Boys at the “Akbar” School are Tortured – Several Deaths”. It was based on the evidence of an ex-deputy superintendent and told of boys being gagged before birching, sick boys caned for malingering and others made to stand all night as a punishment.

T.D.M. Robertson, the Chief Inspector, investigated the incident and rejected the charges, but he has been described as “a comparatively weak and ineffectual person”, and Winston Churchill, then Home Secretary set up a Departmental Committee under C.F.G. Masterman, the Under Secretary of State, to investigate the incidents in March 1911. His report also exonerated the “Akbar” staff but John Bull described the report as “Government whitewashing” and alleged reprisals against boys and staff.

The training ships never lost their image as harsh places. T.D.M. Robertson retired in the following October, and for 18 months there was only an acting Chief Inspector.

One further instance of the central authority’s lack of power was the total of 547 children under 10 still in Industrial Schools, (40 of whom were under 6), after repeated criticisms from the 1884 Commission and the 1896 Committee.

1912         It was generally agreed that changes in the system were necessary; there were only seven Inspectors to supervise 211 establishments and 29,349 children. Children committed were becoming more difficult and their records were longer. Standards in training were also due for improvement; the Turners’ Company, for example, had donated thirty lathes to the schools but there were inadequate staff to use them properly.

1913         Another Departmental Committee, after investigating the whole system of Reformatories and Industrial Schoo1s in detail, reported that “a constant pressure towards a progressive policy” was necessary. Under the chairmanship of C.F.G. Masterman, the Committee included Alexander Maxwell, Charles E.G. Russell and Mrs. Churchill. Russell dominated the Committee and its conclusions were mainly administrative, largely influenced by the “Akbar” affair.

The Inspectorate was to be increased while a Children’s Branch was to be formed at the Home Office. Improvements in staff, classification of boys and institutions, and a number of earlier recommendations, such as the appointment of women managers, were put forward. Confinement cells, barred windows, locked doors and the use of training ships were deplored. A dissenting minority, including Mrs. Churchill, wanted the schools to be placed under the Ministry of Education.

Charles Russell, although gentle by nature, was so keen to reform individual boys, believing fervently in self-respect, that his drive induced Churchill to appoint him Chief Inspector to carry out his recommendations. The intrusion of such an outsider led the managers to petition his removal but his enthusiasm won them over and soon the Inspectorate was increased, lucrative drudgery was cut out and boys were licensed earlier. Boys’ health improved in general also.

Influenced by the junior republics he had visited in America, the Earl of Sandwich and some friends induced Homer Lane, an American, to set up the Little Commonwealth, run co-educationally to help difficult children.

1914         Wartime was accepted as an excuse for low standards and for neglecting to implement the 1913 Committee’s recommendations. However, the Children’s Branch of the Home Office was set up, and the Chief Inspector issued the last of the annual reports.

An enquiry was made into the indiscriminate use of Welsh farm placements. Approved by the Inspector in 1910 as a chance for boys to settle at work well away from the cities, the farms had become a dumping ground with no supervision or aftercare and sometimes the added difficulty of a language barrier.

In the War, boys from Certified Schools gained three V.C.s in 1914 alone; the Army was one of the Schools’ main placements on licence, and in wartime the Navy admitted boys trained in the Reformatory Ships.

1915         The Scottish Departmental Committee Report was published, and there the schools were placed under the Education Department by the 1918 Education (Scotland) Act.

Despite decisions taken in 1896, only 66 of the 196 schools allowed home leave to the boys.

1917         In January Charles Russell, the Chief Inspector, visited the Little Commonwealth, and to his surprise, was greatly impressed; it was certified as a Reformatory in March. In April Charles Russell died, and in December Dr. A.H. Norris succeeded him. At the Little Commonwealth two girls alleged immorality on the part of Homer Lane, and although exonerated by a private committee, the Home Office felt that he could not continue as superintendent and the managers gave up their certificate. The Commonwealth closed in June 1918 but in its brief existence, the therapeutic community and Homer Lane’s personality influenced staff, inmates and visitors tremendously, and the impact of his ideas has since been considerable.

During the War, conditions were difficult as staff had been called up and there was gross overcrowding with higher committal rates.

1919         The 1913 Committee had instituted a pension scheme for staff, but in 1919 a Committee was set up “to inquire into the salaries and conditions of service of officers in the Reformatory and Industrial Schools”. Thereafter pay and conditions improved continuously.

1920         Dr. Norris instituted the “flat rate” payment system whereby the Local Authority paid half of a boy’s training fees and the Home Office paid half. With a secure financial basis and better staffing conditions, the schools were able to emphasise schooling and training geared to the individual, instead of uniform institutional routine tasks. To improve health standards Dr. Norris encouraged out-door work such as gardening and farming.

However, at this period there was a reluctance to split families and stigmatise the children, and so probation became the panacea. From 1910-1925, probation cases doubled, while from 1915-1923, 43 of the 130 Certified Schools closed. The inmates were described as “little factory hands in inefficient factories” and the schools were attacked on all sides. The Home Office did not support the schools publicly and Dr Norris used their unpopularity as a lever to obtain the changes he had planned. However, the remaining 26 Reformatories were said in 1926 to be “carrying out their difficult task with marked success”, and success rates of this period were the highest ever (85-90%).

1921         The Association of Voluntary Managers was formed to prevent their isolation under attack.

1925         Homer Lane was deported under the Aliens Act; he died shortly afterwards in Paris.

1926         Only two Day Industrial Schools remained, both in Liverpool.

Probation Officers were now made responsible for transferring boys to their Reformatories to improve liaison.

1927         Changes in outlook since 1913 had been fundamental and a Departmental Committee on the Treatment of Young Offenders was set up under Sir Thomas F. Molony. The Committee recommended that Reformatories and Industrial Schools should be classed together as schools approved by the Secretary of State, and thus known as Approved Schools. By combining the delinquent children with those in need of care and protection, a rather amorphous group of children in difficulty was formed and the imprecise aims and treatment apparent later stemmed partly from the uncertain nature of the inmates, for whom elements of punishment and treatment seemed equally appropriate. The Committee, unlike earlier ones, was in complete agreement and its recommendations were well received. Classification of boys was suggested but the London County Council prevented legislation to implement it.

1928         A Scottish White Paper on Protection and Training matched the English 1927 Report.

1932 and 1933         The 1932 Children Act had scarcely come into force when it was superseded by the 1933 Act. Described as “probab1y the greatest piece of legislation in the whole of the history of the treatment of the young offender”, it was based on the 1927 Committee’s recommendations, but Dr. Norris was its driving force. The welfare of the child had at last to be taken into consideration by law. Schools were classified by age groups; aftercare was systematised, and the emphasis on the children’s welfare renewed the demand for better staff.

The last of the Day Industrial Schools closed.

1936         Sir Vivian Henderson’s Committee published The Conditions of Service, Remuneration and Superannuation of Approved School Staff which reviewed the pay structure again.

Schools were now more crowded, with 3,579 committals, instead of 1,938 in 1933.

1938         The Boys’ Farm School, Godstone, was built on a lavish scale. It was the first purpose-built Reformatory or Approved School of the twentieth century, and all the other sixteen opened after 1933 were housed in adapted buildings.

1939         In general the Approved School system was unprepared for wartime evacuation but some new sites had been reconnoitred and several thousand children were moved.

1940         The training ship “Cornwall”, which was moored near Grays in the Thames Estuary was the last ship school. On moving ashore to Brandon in Suffolk, the unrest was such that the school was closed.

Dr. Morris retired and T. Patterson Owens was appointed Chief Inspector.

The committal rate increased and it became increasing difficult for the Courts to place children in Approved Schools, having relied previously on connections broken by evacuation or closure. In September 1939, there were 191 boys awaiting placement in Remand Homes; by July 1940, 1,235 boys were waiting and “indescribable confusion” reigned, with some Local Authorities booking places in advance in case of future need.

1941         John S. Gittins, an Inspector involved in opening new schools to cope with the sudden influx, advocated a centralised system of allocation to solve the problems of placing children as many were sent to the opposite ends of the country because of the shortage of places.

1942         Aycliffe School was opened experimentally to act as Classifying School for the North East of England. After observation and diagnosis of problems, the appropriate Training School in the area was selected. As a large Training School was also sited at Aycliffe under the aegis of the Principal, John Gittins, (appointed from the Inspectorate), considerable resentment arose initially because of the power in the hands of the Classifying School.

1943         Areas for which Aycliffe did not cater were served by a Home Office clearing-house which centralised allocation procedures. As a result of Aycliffe’s success, the system was adapted for use in other areas, with Classifying Schools sited at Redbank, Newton-le-Willows in 1950; at Kingswood, Bristol, in 1951; at Redhill, Surrey, in 1955 and with Stamford House as the London Remand Home and Classifying Centre.

It was also in 1942 that Approved School Welfare Officers were appointed to undertake aftercare, mainly in centres of dense population. Each officer had links with a number of schools.

1945         Following the death of Dennis O’Neill, in care at Newport, the Curtis Committee was appointed in March. It reported comprehensively in September 1946 on the care of children deprived of a normal home life, being the first committee to cover the whole range of such children. This inquiry touched on Approved Schools in passing and expressed general approval while criticising excessive regimentation and the lack of feminine influence.

1946         The Reynolds Report on Remuneration and Conditions of Service in Approved Schools and Remand Homes laid the basis for social casework by providing for the new profession of housemastering,

At first, however, pay was poor and training limited to a course at Sunderland and later an in-service course at Aycliffe School, in conjunction with Durham University.

Consequently the calibre of housemasters was inadequate and many posts went unfilled for many years. Their role at first was only to assist teaching staff.

15.2.1947      A master was murdered at Standon Farm School when nine boys stole guns and absconded. An inquiry was held in April and the report (by J.C. Maude and Dr. J. Cor1ett) was produced in June 1947. The school was closed as a result, and most of the blame for the disturbance fell on the headmaster.

5.7.1948   The 1948 Children Act became operative, setting up Local Authority Children’s Departments, staffed with Child Care Officers, and thus covering the complete field of child welfare officially for the first time.

1949         The 1933 Approved School Rules were amended to allow for more managerial involvement in training, and to counteract problems found at Standon Farm.

1951         T. Patterson Owens retired and Miss A.M. Scorrer took over as Chief Inspector. The Franklin Committee on Corporal Punishment reported.

1952         The first Detention Centre was opened at Campsfield House, Kidlington, near Oxford to give impressionable delinquents a short, sharp shock. Soon it was found that punishment could not be sustained for six months, and the increasing committal of ex-Approved School boys in need of strict treatment lowered success rates; impersonal punishment therefore gradually gave way to short-term training.

1955         By this time, Redbank, Redhill and Kingswood had opened Classifying Schools. Meanwhile a drop in delinquency led to the precipitate closure of eight schools, despite attempts by the Association of Headmasters to divert the use of the schools to other types of children.

1958         Stamford House, London, opened as a combined Remand Home and Classifying Centre for the city.

29-30.8.1959             Riots at Carlton School led to an inquiry in November and a report by Victor Durand in January 1960. The role of the managers was criticised, the lack of contact between boys and staff, the poor quality of the buildings and the lack of facilities for leisuretime and outside contact. As a result £5 million was spent on modernising the schools, and, to increase the staffing ratio, higher pay was granted to housemasters.

1960         The Ingleby Committee investigated in detail the whole penal system relating to children; of its 125 recommendations, the improvement of the Approved School aftercare service, the introduction of closed units and the ability to transfer boys to Borstal were the most influential, and the Criminal Justice Act of 1961 amended regulations to facilitate the latter.

The Approved School Welfare Officer scheme was absorbed into the Probation Service, and closed units were commenced soon afterwards at three Classifying Schools. A comparable investigation was made in Scotland by the Kilbrandon Committee.

1963         The Children and Young Persons Act raised the age of criminal responsibility to ten.

The Approved School Rules were again changed to grant more home leave.

1964-6      Following recommendations by Durand, three closed units were introduced at Redhill, Redbank and Kingswood Classifying Schools to contain habitual absconders and the most difficult boys, though such plans had been circulating since 1952.

1965         Miss Scorrer retired and the following year Miss J.D. Cooper took over as Chief Inspector.

Based on ideas from the Longford Report, prepared for the Labour party while in opposition, a White Paper on The Child, the Family and the Young Offender was produced to encourage discussion on the future of the Approved School system. Among other plans it suggested the abolition of the Juvenile Court, a proposal which attracted widespread criticism. In general the paper created unrest and many practitioners felt their jobs were threatened.

By this time proximity to home instead of the earlier criteria of personality type and vocational plans had became the major factor in allocating boys to Training Schools, and this became known as “geographical”  allocation.

1967         Anonymous letters in the Guardian written by an Approved School master led eventually to an inquiry into irregular corporal punishment at Court Lees School. Edward B. Gibbens found four cases of excessively severe caning, and a number of other irregularities proven, and after a misunderstanding between Roy Jenkins, then Home Secretary, and the managers, the school was closed. Much widespread disquiet and anxiety resulted in the service and other crises came to light. Other schools to gain press attention included Kneesworth Hall (which was closed), Loaningdale (where a boy murdered a local girl), and in 1968, St. Swithin’s (where the headmaster retired early after enquiries into caning).

1968         A White Paper Children in Trouble, based on discussion of the earlier White Paper, laid down plans for the residential child care system for the next few years, aiming to amalgamate Approved Schools with other facilities such as Remand Homes into regional systems of Community Homes, each with an Observation and Assessment  Centre and a variety of placements available. Changes in procedure in dealing with young offenders were also envisaged, calling for greater co-operation between police, childcare and education departments, residential establishments and parents.

1969         The Children and Young Persons Act 1969 was passed, introducing many of the changes in the White Paper, with all children’s residential units being termed Community Homes and the introduction of Care Orders to replace Fit Person Orders and Approved School Orders, thus doing away with the boundary between the treatment of young offenders and non-offenders with educational, behavioural or personality problems. (The Act was implemented by stages from 1971 onwards.)

4 thoughts on “A Brief History of Events and Trends from 1695 to 1969 in the Residential Care of Young Offenders in the UK”

  1. The article made harrowing reading in parts – but is a must to read for anyone working with children and young people.
    The story didn’t end in 1969 ……do we think it got any better?

  2. The article did not,of course,contain details of the perverts that were in charge of Stamford House remand home in Chiswick.There were several Masters,circa 1965-69,that were involved in sadistic beatings and annormal interest in the younger boys.

  3. i started to get into petty trouble at 11years of age,to get someones attention of the abuse i was undergoing.it worked and at 13 was placed into a small boys home and school.it saved my life.am 63 now and it was and is the best two years of my life,cos i was allowed to be a boy child.without that school,i would have gone to prison or be dead.cannot thank the masters and other staff enough.

  4. l had an interesting time at stanford house. As A 14 yeAr old boy I wAs locked up in cells, haven not been convicted of any crime, in 1973. Many of the younger boys coMplained of a sadistic pervert whose name begin with the letter s. Not a Nice place for youNg child.


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