Index  (i)  (ii)  (iii)  (iv)  (v)  Preface.  (1)  (2)  (3)  (4)  (5)  (6)  (7)  (8)  (9)  (10)  (11)  (12)  (13)  (14)  (15)  (16)  (17)  (18)  (19)  (20)  (21) 


Better Times.

About this time the reformatories and industrial schools got together through their Society and urged the Government to increase the maintenance allowance for boys; eventually an extra two shillings a week was allowed. The Norfolk County Council was one of the local authorities that agreed to do the same; this made a very great difference at Buxton for it came at a time when the numbers were coming up well. Many improvements now became financially possible; salaries were increased, a periodic dental inspection was started and the committee sanctioned a number of Margaret's recommendations. Hot and cold water was laid on to the wash tubs, boys were to have night-shirts and counterpanes would be purchased for the beds. She asked that boys who left in winter should be given greatcoats; leavers had long received a new suit, two new shirts, five shillings and a box for their belongings.

The Committee arranged for the boys to have a winter outing; the first one was to Norwich where they visited the Castle Museum which delighted the lads. The Castle had continued as a goal until a new prison was ready in the 1880's. At that time the father of Eustace Gurney had started a movement to have the old castle converted to a museum; when this had been done the Duke of York, later to become George V, came to open it. Everyone approved the conversion of this grim prison to a museum which was exceedingly popular with the young. In the early days many of the boys who came to Red House had first served a spell in the Castle goal; persistent absconders were also returned there. Some boys actually preferred to spend the winter months in the Castle rather than do winter work in the fields at Buxton. Of course, in the early 1900's young boys were no longer to be found in English prisons but there were a large numbers of youths aged 16 and over in our goals.
The lack of facilities to train young offenders, who were beyond reformatory age, had worried one young man in the Home Office as long ago as 1980. He was Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, a friend and relative of the Buxton and Gurneys; he became private secretary to the Home Secretary at the early age of twenty-six and served four ministers in this capacity. Evelyn's concern for young offenders became more widely understood with the publication of the Gladstone Committee in 1895; this reminded that offenders who were between the age of 16 and 21 should be trained in a penal reformatory. In these places should be training which would be based on " a system of progressive trust, with provision for education and training to acquire a useful skill and to improve mental and fitness."

Ruggles-Brise was made a Prison Commissioner and before he was forty he became their Chairman. Even before becoming a Commissioner he had set about implementing the recommendations of the Gladstone Committee; without his drive it was said that nothing would have happened. He took over an old convict prison which was near the village of Borstal in Kent; here he started the first training centre for young offenders who were over the age of sixteen. This training seemed to be a success so others were started by the Commission. The law of the land really should have been changed before this, because youths who had been given prison sentences by the courts were, instead, being put into training centres. Eventually an Act of Parliament of 1908 allowed courts to sentence youths to Borstal training.
Evelyn Ruggles-Brise was knighted and continued as Chairman of the Prison Commissioners until 1921. It was his early research which caused the Red House and similar institutions to be pestered for information about success rates. They were asked for facts about the proportion of boys that kept out of trouble after leaving. There were arguments about the value of such information without considering the earlier history of each case. One conclusion seemed to be this: the proportion of boys who kept in touch, after leaving the reformatory or industrial school, was a good indication of the success of the school. This may be why so many letters from old boys were preserved or recorded.

Some of these letters were accompanied by a photograph of the girl to whom the young man had become engaged. The Governor and his wife were so pleased to receive these snapshots for they knew the secret fear of their boys; this was that no nice girl would have anything to do with them because they had once been in trouble with the law. Although Ruggles-Brice was sure that the reformatory system had been a success, and worth copying, it was hard to prove it. This made it difficult to get the 1908 bill through Parliament. A study of the Red House record shows that it is often necessary to follow a man's career for many years before concluding that the time spent in the reformatory or industrial school had been worth while.

Some 80 boys who had been sent to Buxton by the courts, completed their time and left the school in the four years 1902-1906. Until reaching the age of 18 they were sent out on licence to a named employer but were still under supervision of the Red House. The occupations of these 80 youths were as follows;-
                  Farming        16         Blacksmith         1
                  Gardening       9         Carpenter          9
                  Army           13         Domestic (hotels) 10
                  Navy            5         Errand Boy         1
                  Merchant Navy   3         Artisan            4
                  Dock Labourer   1         Organ Builder      1
                  Died            1         Fisherman          2
                                            Labourer           6
                                            Total             80
The school was required to keep records to show if old boys again appeared in courts; more often than not the register recorded much happier events such as a request to return for Christmas or to stay for a few days during leave from overseas. In the case of those who were licensed to farmers or hotels there were often a lot of entries during the first two years. These employers would accept a lad for two years but they frequently tried to find an excuse to get rid of him when the harvest was in or when the hotel season had come to an end. Sometimes a trumped-up charge would land the lad in court:

Babington would attend if he heard about it, or write to the local police who were usually very understanding and would return the youth to Buxton.

A glance at the records which Babington kept for these particular years shows two cases with a great many post-school entries. One entry refers to someone who is now aged about ninety and known to the writer. It may be possible to obtain his permission to tell his story; not long ago he was awarded a medal by the Queen. The other refers to a boy who is here called Clive. He was sent to Buxton when just thirteen, small for his age and underweight, but intelligent. He could read, write and calculate so the Governor recorded. When he reached the age of sixteen he went to a farmer in the East Midlands who wrote in the following October that Clive was lazy and stayed out all night. He wished to get rid of him. The school had the youth back to Buxton for Christmas and then placed him with another farmer. This farmer kept him until he was eighteen when he would have had to pay him full wages. This farmer then said he was "awkward" and must go. Clive then tried the army but was rejected as underweight; he came to see Babington and Ted Sewell found him a place on one of his farms. Shortly before the first World War Clive was accepted for the army; he was now a stronger youngster. The register reads thus; "Visited us on leave. Wrote from the front on an Army Field Postcard, promoted Corporal. Stayed for five days. Writes from France, now a Sergeant. In hospital with shrapnel in head. Awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery - demobilised, married, brought wife to see us and sent to see Mr Sewell. Farming near Aylsham."

In a study of boys who had recently left the Red House young Clive might have been classed as a failure up to the age of nineteen. It was only when he got to Ted Sewell's farm that he put on weight and developed into a strong young man.

Now this story must leave Clive's case-history and the 194-18 war and return to the Red House of 1910. Ted Sewell had at last got his father's affairs wound up and could now afford to build a water tower to improve the school's water supply; later he and Margaret built the new dining hall in memory of their father. The Home Office inspected the accommodation and when an extra dormitory had been added, the place was relicensed for a total of 96 boys. The new certificate arrived some months later; it had been signed by the Home Secretary who was then Winston Churchill. Soon after that he moved on to be the First Lord of the Admiralty. At that time England feared Germany for she had started a great programme of naval expansion; the energetic young Winston had been selected to build up the British navy to counter this threat.