In­dus­trial schools

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Re­for­ma­tory Schools Act al­lowed un­der-16s con­victed of im­pris­on­able of­fences to spend up to five years in a re­for­ma­tory, be­gin­ning with up to two weeks in an adult prison.

By 1875, 54 re­for­ma­to­ries were in op­er­a­tion, most run by char­i­ta­ble or religious groups. Op­po­si­tion to the prison el­e­ment of re­for­ma­tory sen­tences led to the 1857 Act, which al­lowed seven- to 14-year-olds to be com­mit­ted to an in­dus­trial school un­til the age of 16 for va­grancy, beg­ging, be­ing be­yond their par­ents’ con­trol, or for an im­pris­on­able of­fence if un­der the age 12.

By 1875, there were 82 in­dus­trial schools, sim­i­lar in char­ac­ter to re­for­ma­to­ries but in­tro­duc­ing an el­e­ment of be­ing ‘taken into care’. Both types of in­sti­tu­tion could also ad­mit vol­un­taryv in­mates. In 1933, re­for­ma­to­ries and in­dus­trial schools were merged to cre­ate the new ‘ap­proved schools’ sys­tem that con­tin­ued un­til 1973.

A num­ber of other homes were run by religious groups, par­tic­u­larly those of the Ro­man Catholic and Jewish faiths. Some were es­tab­lished specif­i­cally to re­ceive Catholic chil­dren from work­houses where, it was feared, they were in dan­ger of los­ing their faith.

Catholic homes were gen­er­ally or­gan­ised within in­di­vid­ual dio­ce­ses, and run ei­ther by a branch of the Catholic Chil­dren’s So­ci­ety or a religious or­der such as the Sis­ters of Char­ity of St Vin­cent de Paul or the Sis­ters of Nazareth. Their records may also be of as­sis­tance in your search. Peter Hig­gin­botham hosts the Chil­dren’s Homes web­site (chil­dren­shomes.org.uk) and is the au­thor of

Boys work­ing in a car­pen­ter’s shop at Bar­net’s In­dus­trial School, Hert­ford­shire

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