Ancestry UK

Surrey Girls' Reformatory, Clapham, London

The Surrey Girls' Reformatory was certified for operation on February 4th, 1862, at 6 Upper Belmont Place, Wandsworth Road, Clapham. The School site is shown on the 1876 map below.

Surrey Girls' Reformatory site, Clapham, c.1876.

The first superintendent of the institution was Miss Barnett but she did not perform well and was succeeded in September,1862, by Mrs Angelley. The other staff were a schoolmistress and a laundress. The housework and cooking were carried out by the older girls.

In 1864, due to unspecified "circumstances" at the School, the entire staff were replaced by "stricter and more suitable management". Miss Stockley was now superintendent and, according to inspection reports, the establishment began to make "very steady and satisfactory progress". In 1866, one of the inmates whose sentence had expired was taken on as laundress.

A regular concern of inspectors was the School's limited capacity of 30 places, its location ruling-out expansion of the buildings. In 1869, it was decided to relocate the school to larger and more convenient premises. On May 11th, 1870, its new home at Netherton House, 4 Old Town, Clapham, was certified for the accommodation of up to 50 girls. Admission to the institution was confined to girls aged from 10 to 15 years who had been sentenced under the Reformatory Schools Act for not less than 3 years.

The Old Town site is shown on the 1896 map below.

Surrey Girls' Reformatory site, Clapham, c.1896.

As early report described the new premises as very convenient and complete, except for the want of a drying room for laundry work. As before, the older girls were employed in laundry work, while the younger ones did housework and needlework. Miss Stockley continued as superintendent until November, 1874. Her departure was said to be due to a "misunderstanding" with the School's committee. Mrs Polley, the schoolteacher, was promoted to superintendent. She was succeeded by Miss McLean in 1876, who was then replaced by Miss Caroline Keene in the following year. In 1880, there was a marked decline in discipline amongst the inmates, with serious cases of insubordination. As a result, a new superintendent, Mrs Salmon, was appointed.

In the 1880s, inspectors increasingly criticised the School's premises: the schoolroom was too small, the dormitories too crowded, the storage space too limited, and the lack of a sick room. In 1884, the standard of the classroom education came under fire. In the same year, it was noted that a system of marks was in operation, with a girl able to earn up to 6d or 8d a week. Half of this could be spent, while the other half was banked. Girls who remained in their place for a year after leaving the School received an award of one pound. In 1885, Miss Bewley had taken over as matron.

The lease on the School's premises expired in 1890 and there were difficulties over its renewal. As a result, the institution was closed on June 30th, 1890. Fourteen of the girls under detention were transferred to the Limpley Stoke Reformatory, near Bath, while the remainder placed in situations or sent home to their relatives.

In 1898, the former School premises were turned into a laundry. In the 1990s, the property — renamed Sycamore House after the laundry company that occupied it for many years — was converted to residential use.


Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • None identfied at present — any information welcome.