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