A More Homely Atmosphere.
Mr Cox, who had started at Buxton in 1901 as schoolmaster and Deputy Governor, now felt that he should retire; he was nearly sixty and had been unwell for the past year. It was agreed that he could have the full pension in view of his long service before the scheme was introduced and the fact that his health might have suffered because of the work. In August William and Maud Cox left Red House after 27 years; he recovered his health and lived to be a very old man, always keeping in touch with the school. His replacement was Mr Arthur Sparrow who had been with Mr Clement at Chislehurst; we read that he was "gentle and patient with the children"." He, too, was a keen hobbies man and was himself skilled in so many things. Mr Sparrow introduced puppets and the boys became so successful at putting on shows that they were in demand in neighbouring villages.
The year 1928 continued to be one of change and progress. With the numbers now up to 70 the appointment of an experienced clerk was at last approved. The builders were getting on fast with the first staff houses which Miss Sewell was having built. There were developments on the farm which was to have cows for the first time; by the end of the year the farm bailiff, Mr Rammply, had the boys milking. The competition on farm skills had recently been widened to include harnessing of the horses and driving; now milking the cows was added. Instruction in horticulture was going well and seven boys were entered for the junior examination of the Royal Horticulture Society which was for boys of 14 to 18. By Christmas a successful concert party had been worked up and they were invited to perform at Buxton, then at Hevingham. For the first time the school was gaily decorated and there was a large Christmas tree hung with presents and lit by candles. The one sad thing was the retirement, at the end of the year, of James Lusher, who had been baker and head cook for forty years.
The Managers were delighted with the more homely atmosphere which Mr & Mrs Clement had created in such a short time. Two factors now combined to make things easier at Buxton; the cost of living was falling while the number of boys in school increased steadily. Unfortunately the auditors now discovered that the school was receiving more for maintenance than the actual cost. The outcome was that money had to be refunded to several Boards of Guardians and Local Authorities. A new maintenance figure of £1.10s per week was fixed for all cases.
For many years the school had had their regular fire practices, and a few very small fires; then on 30th December,1929, they had a proper fire. The Head was about to inspect the dormitories, as usual at 9.30pm., when Mr Jarmy came to report a fire in the newly equipped handicraft shop. The boys got dressed and assembled in the office and surgery while Mr Jarmy smashed a hole in the door and tackled the fire with extinguishers. Mr Sparrow then entered through the hole while the boys bought pales of water from the swimming bath. Mr Sewell was phoned at Dudwick and he sent two men with his estate fire pump. This was used to tackle the wooden ceiling which was well alight. The fire was out and all the boys back in bed by midnight, after having hot cocoa and an exciting evening. There was no panic or undue excitement; Messrs Sparrow and Jarmy with the senior boys had done splendid work. The Aylsham Fire Brigade had been phoned and half an hour later the police phoned back to ask if it was still needed. A Police Officer and one fireman arrived later. The thoughtful Master of the Workhouse also came over with an offer to accommodate the boys should this be necessary.
One visitor whom Mr and Mrs Clement were delighted to meet was Mr Clarke Hall, the Magistrate of the Old Street Police Court in East London. This remarkable old man had for years tried to follow the progress of boys who passed through his court and were sent to Buxton. While they were at Red House he sent each one a card on their birthday; occasionally he visited the school, often making a generous contribution to some fund that helped the lads. Another visitor whom Margaret Sewell bought to the Red House, was Mrs Irene Ho Tung. The school was told that her father was one on the richest men in China; he was in fact a very wealthy Hong Kong merchant. Irene herself conducted a school for young Chinese in Limehouse; it was located over a Chinese restaurant in a part of London which many feared to visit. Her school took 40 children during the day and then continued in the evening for young Chinese aged from 18 to 21. In this part of London there was a large Chinese population which had gradually increased as ship's crews had been paid off at the London end of a voyage. Other interesting visitors to Buxton included Barbara Wooton but her visit lay well ahead. Margaret was interested in discussing with her friends the treatment of the wide range of boys now being received at the Red House; she warned against some fashionable lines of treatment which her own experience had led her to regard as dubious.
Dr Arthur Norris, the Home Office Chief Inspector with whom Margaret Sewell had such a considerable correspondence, had been busy preparing a new Children's Act. This became the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933; its entry into force was perhaps the most important event in the history of the treatment of delinquent and neglected children since the turn of the century. Great interest was taken by the public in the new Act and concern for the welfare of these unfortunate children continued to grow. Four years later the Home Office was able to report that there was now much closer co-operation between juvenile courts, local education authorities, the Home Office and the special schools; they all now collaborated in their efforts to straighten out the lives of the young people whose early environment had encouraged, if not actually caused, the commission of offences against the law.
The boys who were sent to Buxton now included young hooligans who had been seeking adventure, lads who had been unemployed and then drifted into a dishonest life, and boys with a real or imaginary grievance against the community. These were the categories which Dr Norris described as forming the bulk of the Buxton community; of the hundred boys at the school in 1932 only some twenty were of very low intelligence. In those days delinquent boys were often said to represent the failures of the educational system; however, it was the view of Miss Sewell that these boys' troubles could be attributed, in most cases, to the unsatisfactory social conditions in London and the great industrial areas. It was from these areas that the delinquent children usually came, but the rural areas could help because their Home Office schools had many places which were surplus to their local needs.
It had made a great difference at Red House when electric light had been installed; it was turned on for the first time on the 14th November 1931. The one disadvantage was that it showed up some dirty walls and ceilings! With the better light available a new timetable was prepared for winter evenings;
Sunday 4.50 Tea 5.45 Church for Choirs and Seniors 6.45 Instruction about religion for juniors Monday 6.45 Preparation of songs for Norwich music Festival Tuesday 6.45 Seniors only evening classes Art, Tapestry, Weaving Wednesday 6.45 Choir practice at school Baths for juniors Seniors hobbies. Gardeners class Theory of horticulture Seniors baths Thursday 6.45 Choir practice at Church Seniors evening class (English) Friday 6.45 Bible class once a week by Revd John Hare Seniors evening school Juniors country dancing Saturday 6.45 Junior baths Seniors free 8.0 Seniors baths
The changes which were made at Red House in the 1930's owed much to the vision of Miss Sewell with her life-long work for deprived families; having lived and worked in the poorest districts of London she really understood the problems. Fortunately she was whole-heartedly supported by Dr Norris at the Home office. At Red House Mr and Mrs Clement, with their new schoolmaster Mr Sparrow, were the right people to effect the changes. They were now joined by a young man, Tom Hurley, who was good at games and good with boys. The task of the school was to treat rather than to punish youthful offenders; the ultimate goal was to transform these youngsters into useful citizens. The first step was to get to understand the cause of each lad's problems so that he might be treated appropriately; this was far from easy because the hundred boys were of widely differing ability and background.
For more than twenty years Miss Sewell had interviewed each boy soon after his arrival and kept notes of his background and problems. Soon after Mr Clement's arrival he took over this task and the business of arranging reviews of each boy's progress. A very few of the "border-line" cases were subsequently certified as mentally deficient but these cases gave rise to considerable local unhappiness. It was appreciated that they would have a better chance of progress in a mental hospital with specialist care, but the Red house was not happy to see these unfortunate children go. The Clements sometimes had to deal with very distressed parents; a mother would confess to terrible feelings of guilt because she had produced a child who was mentally deficient. The idea was considered of having separate houses within the school for boys who required different treatment; however the money was not available to pay for the building alterations. By now the Home Office paid for most building work but the Sewells paid for a lot of extras. Ted Sewell, for instance, met the cost of all road maintenance and had the well deepened to 95 feet in 1934, when there were 112 boys at Red House. Their ages at the time may be of interest;-
Age 11 2
Age 12 6
Age 13 30
Age 14 44
Age 15 30
Age 16 10
The general idea at Buxton was that education, together with games and hobbies could provide the lads with an alternative to delinquency. The school now had a sufficient range of activities to offer something to every boy; each was free to try his hand at various hobbies and to choose between farm and horticulture for his trade training. The aim was that in everything a boy did at the Red House he had plenty of contact with adults who would encourage him to succeed. At this time they certainly did succeed and were proud of their achievements. The football, boxing and athletics teams won their way to Norfolk and regional finals; the garden lads continued to gain high places in the Royal Horticultural Society examinations and the farm had some noted success. In two successive years the dairy Shorthorn herd headed the Norfolk lactation average for small herds of this breed.
In their hobbies the boys achieved standard which allowed them to enter their work in local competitions; this brought the boys into contact with other young people. The marionette shows, which had been introduced to teach elocution, continued to be in demand in neighbouring villages. The country dance teams took part in Norfolk festivals as did the Red House mandolin band. Mr Clement was himself musical, so was his patron Mr Sewell; the school choir entered the competitions of the Norfolk and Norwich Music Festival. Many of the activities were to be seen on the Annual Open Day which was started in 1932; the programme included sports followed by tea and many side shows with stalls that made money for the boys' funds. Over one hundred visitors usually came, by invitation. In the evening there was a subscription dance open to the public; again the visitors usually numbered more than one hundred. The Red House had now been going for about eighty years; during this time the human problems had not changed very much, but the ideas about how to help the lads had changed enormously.