My grandfather was a prison warder. Can you tell me when and where this photo was taken and if moustaches were obligatory for the workers!
QThis photograph of a group of prison warders includes my grandfather, Edward Charles Mills Morris (1882-1970), standing top left. In 1910, Edward was working as a warder at Wormwood Scrubs Prison and by the census of 1911, he had transferred to the County Gaol and Convict Prison, Maidstone. Can you tell me when this photo was taken, and which prison it might be? Were the moustaches obligatory, or just the fashion?
David Lindsey Emptage, by email
AThe Prison Service as we would recognise it today was formed after 1878 when the local prisons (previously administered by local authorities) were brought under the control of the government through the Prison Commission. The two arms of the service, the local prison service (held those sentenced for periods up to two years) and the convict prison service (held long-term prisoners sentenced to penal servitude) did remain distinct, though the hierarchical structure of staff grading was similar and all warders experienced a vast range of rules that governed their lives outside the prison as well as the daily routine of their duties. From 1902, all warders were on probation for their first year.
My impression is that this photo was taken around 1900-1910. Based on the fact that the stamp imprint in the top left-hand corner states Chelmsford, I would surmise this is a photo of the probationary class your ancestor was in during initial training at Chelmsford prison. If so, the gentleman in the suit was the then governor, Captain Conor. Training schools for officers had been established in 1898 but by 1902 there were only two, at Chelmsford and Hull prisons. Probationers were sent to the schools for four months. If successful, they were sent either to a local or convict prison or, after 1908, a borstal institution. The term ‘prison officer’ (rather than warder) was officially adopted in 1921, moustaches were very much in fashion but to my knowledge not obligatory!
Dr Helen Johnston
Edward Morris (top left) possibly during his time as a prison warder in Chelmsford