Ancestry UK

Newcastle Reformatory for Boys, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland

On January 6th, 1853, a meeting at the Royal Hotel in Newcastle upon Tyne led to the founding of the Newcastle, Northumberland, and Durham Society for the Repression of Juvenile Crime, and the Reformation of Youthful Delinquents. A committee was formed and funds raised for establishing a Reformatory School in the town. Premises for the institution were obtained in the shape of four cottages at Barrack Square — a block of houses so called from its proximity to the military quarters in Gallowgate. On September 8th, 1853, the School was opened under the charge of a well recommended master from Tunbridge Wells.

The School began with one pupil — a boy of 15, who that day had been released from his fourth prison term. The following day, he was joined by a boy of 9, but his stay was short as he absconded the same evening. By October 7th, eleven boys had been received, of whom five had decamped almost immediately after entering the Reformatory. A new master, John Craster, was then appointed, whose firm hand brought about some improvement in the success of the institution.

The School premises comprised a house for the master, and workrooms and dormitories for the boys. A small playground was provided at the back of the building. At a later date, three acres of waste land were leased from the town's Herbage Committee and brought into cultivation by the School's inmates. Their indoor work included carpentry, wood-turning, clog making, sack making, paper-bag making, hair-teasing, shoe mending, and a little tailoring. The daily routine began at 8.30 with washing and breakfast, followed by scripture lessons and worship, then indoor work until noon. After dinner and play until 1.30 came indoor work until 4, supper at 5, school until 7, then worship and bed at 9.

A report of the School's progress in March, 1854, noted that in its first 18 months of operation, the establishment had admitted 32 boys: two each from Newcastle and Durham Gaols, 17 from Newcastle Magistrates, 2 from Gateshead Magistrates, and 9 placed by relations or friends. Nine of the boys had both parents alive, five had a father only, twelve a mother only, and six were full orphans.

On November 15th, 1854, the institution was certified under the Reformatory School Act of that year to receive 50 boys. A subsequent official inspection criticised the School's premises and harsh discipline, with a suggestion that its certificate might be withdrawn. However, it was allowed to continue in operation until the full opening of its replacement, the new North-Eastern Reformatory at Netherton in April, 1858.

The former Barrack Square is now covered by the modern buildings of Holywell Close.


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