Guest post from Peter Bathe
The Philanthropic Society was formed in 1788 to aid the reformation of boys who had been engaged in criminal activities. In 1792 it transferred to Southwark and in 1849 to a farm school of 133 acres, later expanded to 350 acres, at Redhill in Surrey. Boys accepted at the school early on were either voluntary cases at expiration of prison sentences, voluntary cases part paid for by parents who could not manage them at home, or very young boys sentenced to transportation.
The Reformatory School Act of 1854 made changes that meant that in place of these three categories the school began receiving boys directly from the courts. The numbers of boys at the school rose considerably, and at the end of their time at the school many Victorian era boys were sent to parts of the British Empire.
The basic training for the boys was working on the land, although tailoring, carpentering, shoemaking, and blacksmithing were also taught.
Reform, or Reformatory, schools became Approved Schools under the 1933 Children’s Act. Later changes in legislation took control of the school – although not ownership of the property – away from the Society and eventually the school closed in 1988.
In 1861, it was reported: “Since the year 1849, 1,484 boys have been received, of whom more than 600 have emigrated. A large majority of those who have left its walls are now filling situations with credit to themselves and the good report of their employers. There are now 260 inmates, who are lodged in six separate houses, or ‘homes’.”
Of those who emigrated, most went to Canada, but several sailed to Natal.
For example, of the 95 boys admitted to the Farm School in 1861, five emigrated to Natal at the end of their sentences, but 21 went to Canada (plus three to Australia and one to New Zealand).
The records of the Farm School show that some 27 former inmates who had been sent there between 1852 and 1865 emigrated to Natal, and a further 18 from those sent there between 1866 and about 1890.
The year 1865 is only significant in that my great grandfather, George William Bathe, who was sent to the school from Maidstone Quarter Session in November 1861, sailed to Natal after completing his sentence and arrived there on 25 October 1865. He did not prosper as a colonist and in 1869 enlisted in the British army with a regiment then stationed at Pietermaritzburg, and returned to England with that regiment.
|Harvest home at the Philanthropic Society's Farm School, Redhill, Surrey|