Ancestry UK

Home in the East Reformatory for Boys, Bow, London

The Home in the East Reformatory for Boys was founded by Edward Poultney, a pocket-book maker by trade. In August 1852, Poultney hired a small house at Stepney Causeway, off Commercial Road in the East End of London, which he opened to give a home and employment to boys who would otherwise drift into a life of crime. Initially, there were just two boys who assisted him in his business. The following December, a committee was formed of philanthropic gentlemen who desired to assist in the project. At a public meeting, held in June, 1853, at the London Tavern, presided over by Lord Shaftesbury, the committee reported that seventy-four youths had received the benefits of the institution. The sum of £247, 10s. was subscribed at this meeting, and the accommodation enlarged by hiring an adjoining house. In December, 1854, Poultney died suddenly, aged only 32. There followed two months of disorder at the home while a replacement governor was found. Mr Julius Benn, a zealous city-missionary, who had been in the habit of visiting the institution, was persuaded to take on the role.

The Home subsequently moved to premises at Ford House, 618 Old Ford Road, Bow, with Mr William James Gordelier as superintendent. On November 29th, 1855, the institution was certified to accommodate up to 50 boys, aged from 13 to 15 at their date of admission, who had been sentenced to detention for at least three years. Voluntary cases were also admitted — in 1856 around half the inmates were in this category.

The location of School site is shown on the 1870 map below.

Home in the East Reformatory for Boys site, Bow, c.1870.

In May, 1859, eleven of the inmates absconded and engaged in serious misconduct. In 1860, following the sudden death of Mr Gordelier, Mr Somerset Spooner, previously schoolmaster at the Home, was appointed as superintendent with his wife as matron. Eight boys immediately then deserted but were soon returned and there was no further trouble. The boys were instructed in tailoring and shoemaking, and cultivated the land attached to the premises. They also did the household work and cooking of the establishment. The Home was generally well regarded by inspectors although the workshops were regularly criticised as being far too small.

The Home was officially closed as from July 15th, 1885. The building no longer survives.


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