The New Governor Makes a Good Start.
The new Governor made a good start and old Philip Sewell was delighted when he received a very good home office inspection report; he drove over to the school that evening to give it to the Babingtons. Good news was most welcome because Mrs Sewell had been ill for some time and died on 22nd August. Philip who was in his 78th year, and had been showing marked signs of the strain but in spite of his age was still attending the bank and his many Norwich meetings; above all he was very much the manager of the Red House which he described as his first concern. It is interesting that the Home Office had noted that "no provision had been made for carrying on when Mr Sewell is no longer able to continue it." At this stage Ted Sewell who was the only surviving son, returned from Ceylon where he had been a successful tea planter. After this the Red House Committee was reformed and the Sewells were joined by young Mr Eustace Gurney of Sprowston and by Mr Louis Buxton of Bolwick which is only a mile from the school; both were members of the family that made up the original committee of 1852.
Perhaps this is a good time to have a look at the school and its buildings through the eyes of some home office visitors who had seen the place a year or two earlier. They recorded that "the school premises is a homely red-brick building of farm-like appearance, old fashioned and below modern requirements. Deficiencies in buildings do not seem to have affected the general health. There is a good garden, a farm of 51 acres and a considerable amount of stock including pigs and poultry". The report continues "health has been extremely good, the record of punishment light, the tone of the school sound, the appearance of the boys cheerful. Eighty boys were present in the school."
Old Philip made a great recovery after the strain of his wife's illness and death; once again he became remarkably fit and active for his age. His son Ted, who now became school treasurer, drove his father over to the Red House at least twice a week. With encouragement and advice from Louis Buxton they went ahead with building plans which Philip had made some years earlier. Work started in November 1899 and in that month the diary reports "Boys carting shingle for the new playing shed floor. Scaffolder away, he is too fond of drink!" After the huge covered playing shed was finished a new dormitory followed, then a new schoolroom, a carpenter's shop and a sick bay. Finally the swimming bath was completed and used for swimming lessons for the first time in October 1904.
This building programme had been delayed for several years due to the uncertainty about the number of boys who would be committed to the school. The need for places for delinquent boys had been declining because there were now fewer "young criminals" in Norfolk and Norwich than in earlier days. In other parts of the country many more reformatories had been opened and these now met local needs except in London and some other large cities. These trends had led the Home office to suggest that Buxton should become an "Industrial School", which would cater both for delinquent boys and for others who were only in need of care. The result had been the granting of a new licence in 1894 for Red House to take both categories, up to a total of 80 boys between the ages of 11 and 16. In the event it was several years before the vacancies for "Poor Law" boys were all filled because the Poor Law Guardians and other small authorities were often reluctant to pay the maintenance fee which had been stipulated by Whitehall as the proper contribution.
The Act of Parliament which governed reformatories and industrial schools stated that "Reformatory Schools are for the better training of juvenile convicted offenders; industrial schools in which industrial or agricultural training is provided, are chiefly for vagrant and neglected children not convicted of theft." Parliament had decreed that various authorities which dealt with neglected children should contribute towards their maintenance when they committed a child to an industrial school. Parents should also contribute if able to do so. Red House found themselves trying to recover fees from very many different bodies such as Parochial Boards, Guardians of the Poor, newly formed Local Authorities and School Boards. Philip Sewell had two daughters living at home and one helped with this correspondence; but he always had to make up the very substantial difference between fees collected and the actual cost of the school. No wonder the Home Office was worried about what would happen after his time.
It is interesting to note that the Home Office was having doubts about the wisdom of accepting in the same school "poverty children unconvicted of any crime together with juvenile delinquents." There were recommendations that each reformatory and industrial school should be more accurately classified, and that there should be a system of matching children to the most appropriate school before they were committed. This was in the 1890's. At that time there were in Great Britain, some 60 reformatories and 140 industrial schools; 15 of the latter were day schools and these seemed to be proving at least as successful as the residential ones. In connection with the Red House there were two matters which were noted in Whitehall when comparing the various industrial schools. One was the regard which old boys undoubtedly had for the Buxton school; the other was the running cost which was undoubtedly above the average and much in excess of the combined Treasury and Local Authority contribution. It is therefore worth studying the-day-to day events at Buxton, some of which cost a lot of money but may have been worth it in human terms.