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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A Fresh Start

As we saw in an earlier blog post, child criminals were treated extremely harshly during Georgian and Victorian times. Some people argued that if poor and criminal children were taught right from wrong, given religious instruction, and how to make an honest living, they might avoid a life of crime and perhaps a dreadful end on the gallows. And once a youngster had been in prison, they found it difficult to get a job.
There was no government funding for 'reformatories', but there were charities for boys and girls like the ‘Temporary Refuge’ attached to the London Refuge for the Destitute (more info here on London Lives).  
Another early charity was the Philanthropic Society (1788): it aimed to reform criminal boys and girls, and to provide religious and moral education for the children of convicts. The Society, initially based at Hackney (it moved to Southwark 4 years later), took children between nine and twelve years old and gave them industrial training. In 1845 the Society stopped taking in convicts’ children, and female offenders, and concentrated on rehabilitating young male offenders. Four years later, the Society moved from Southwark to Redhill, where it founded a farm so that boys could learn agricultural skills to prepare them for emigration. The boys cultivated the land and cared for cows, horses, sheep and pigs. 

The good work done by reformatories persuaded the government to confer official status on institutions approved by the secretary of state.  Under the Juvenile Offenders Acts of 1853 and 1854, magistrates could send convicted children over ten years old to certified reformatories for two to five years instead of imposing a long prison sentence.  You can find out more about reformatories and their records in Tracing Your Ancestors' Childhood.

Image from author's collection: The Philanthropic Society’s farm at Redhill.  Illustrated London News, 14 June 1851.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Book Launch News

The latest news about my forthcoming title, A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England, is here on my Jane Austen blog . My new book is a follow-up to Michelle Higgs' Visitor's Guide to Victorian England, published by Pen and Sword's history imprint.

Street Sweepers and Shoe-Blacks

In my earlier blog posts I wrote about the poverty suffered by many Georgian and Victorian children and orphans. Many swept streets or cleaned shoes to earn a pittance. The shoe-black brigades were voluntary organizations linked to the ragged school movement. (As I've mentioned previously, child labour was all part of growing up during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries).

This week author Michelle Higgs, whose new book A Visitor's Guide to Victorian England is out now, has very kindly allowed me to write a guest post for her blog, and you can find out more about child street-sweepers and the shoe-black boys here. Michelle gives updates on her work and fun facts about Victorian England on her Twitter feed @MichelleHiggs11.

Image from my collection:   
Homeless street-sweepers sleeping under a railway arch in London in the 1880s. Cassell’s Family Magazine, Cassell & Co. Ltd (London, 1883).