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Workhouses, industrial schools and remand homes

Industrial schools

Historical background

The Industrial Schools Act 1857 empowered magistrates to send children who had committed an offence to an industrial school.

At first it was usually children aged about seven to 15, who appeared before a magistrate for vagrancy.

However, over time children were also sent to industrial schools for other offences. These were mostly:

  • Theft
  • Being beyond parental control or in need of care
  • Disruptive behaviour in, or absconding from, the workhouse

Children whose parents neglected to send them to school, children found wandering or those thought to be at risk from keeping bad company, could also be sent to an industrial school under the Elementary Education Act 1876. 

Very few industrial schools were government funded at their foundation and few records have survived.

In Norfolk, boys were often sent to the Red House Industrial School at Buxton, but many children were sent to schools as far away as Manchester and Stockport.

Boys from Norfolk were also sent to training ships, including HMS Formidable at Portishead, Bristol.

There was an industrial school for girls at Fakenham, sometimes called the County Industrial School. This closed in May 1903 and children were transferred to other schools outside Norfolk.

The managers did carry on with a laundry in Fakenham for a while to train girls as domestic servants.

Registers of Norwich children attending industrial schools

For Norwich, there are registers of children attending industrial schools by magistrates’ orders (1872-1948): see N/ED 7/1-4.

These registers usually provide the following information:

  • The child’s name
  • Date of birth
  • The name and residence of their parents or guardians
  • The date of the magistrate’s order and when it expired
  • Whether the order was served under one of the Industrial Schools Acts (later under one of the Children’s Acts) or the Education Act 1876

Sometimes there are observational notes on the child’s progress at the school, brief details of employment on leaving, or notes on their conduct and character.

Occasionally newspaper cuttings are included, usually about court cases or magistrates’ orders.

The registers are indexed by child’s name at the front of each volume.

Records of petty sessions

For the late 19th and 20th centuries, there are also records of the courts of petty sessions.

These were similar to magistrates’ courts today, in that they dealt with minor offences committed by juveniles.

  • For records of Norwich Petty Sessions, see list PS 1
  • For records of the various courts of petty sessions in Norfolk, see lists PS 2-31

For some, but not all these courts, there are separate registers of juvenile cases. Please note these records are closed to general public access for 100 years.

It can be very time consuming to search through these records and it helps to know the date of the trial or magistrate’s order.

  • For Norwich, you might be able to find this out by searching in the registers of children attending industrial schools by magistrates’ orders (1872-1948), see N/ED 7/1-4. 
  • For boys placed in the Norwich Remand Home, 1929-40, the home’s register sometimes gives dates of court cases: see N/ED 7/5.

There are also two earlier registers for this home, for November 1932 to May 1937, which give dates of court cases.

These are held by NRO but are not on the public catalogue. Please also note that these two registers are closed to general public access for 100 years.

If you are tracing a criminal case relating to a young offender who was sent to prison, you could also try searching records of HM Prison and Young Offenders' Institution Norwich, see list HMP.

For further information about prison records, see our guide to prisons and prisoners in Norfolk.

Records of Red House Farm Industrial School, Buxton

The county magistrates agreed at a meeting in 1852 that an establishment should be formed for the care and training of 40 boys under the age of 20. 

Land was obtained and buildings put up at Buxton. In 1894 a Home Office order confirmed Red House as an industrial school and in 1933 it was reclassified as an approved school.

On 1 April 1973, under the Children's Act of 1969, The Red House Farm School ceased to be an approved school and became a controlled community home under supervision of Norfolk County Council. This was known as The Red House Community Home School.

This closed on 31 July 1981 and Norfolk County Council’s involvement ceased on 15 October 1981.

The school's property then reverted to the foundation managers. An unsuccessful attempt was made to sell the property by private treaty in 1982.

The property was put up for sale by auction in 17 lots on 17 June 1983 and the agricultural land and staff houses found buyers.

The main complex was not sold until mid-1984 when it was purchased by the Faelleseje Private Foundation (better known as the Tvind School Cooperative of Denmark). For a copy of the trust deed, see C/SS 8/217/1.

This body set up a school for what it termed “deprived and disturbed children and adolescents”, known as The Small School at Red House.

Local education authorities from all over the country sent pupils to the school.

Tvind owned the Red House as a charity from 1984 to 1998, when the school was closed following investigations by the Charity Commission, education authority and police.

The proceeds from the sale of the Red House School to Tvind had been invested by the Red House School Foundation Managers and, on 31 March 1992, the Red House School Charitable Trust was established.

Its main objective was to further the education and training of any child or young person who had been in the care, or under the supervision, of the county council or any other child or young person in need. 

  • For a copy of the trust deed, see C/SS 8/216. 
  • For a history of the school see Derrick Mellor, A History of the Red House Farm School, Buxton near Norwich, a copy of which is at NRO; see C/SS 8/209.
  • For records of the Red House Farm School at Buxton (1853-1992); see C/SS 8. Please note that many of these records are closed to general public access.
  • There are also some conveyances of land, 1848 and 1883, relating to the school; see MC 366/1-3.
  • There are later records relating to the Small School at Red House, run by Tvind, reference ACC 2007/91, which are uncatalogued. Please note that many of these records are closed to general public access.