Ancestry UK

Hardwicke Reformatory for Boys, Gloucester, Gloucestershire

The Hardwicke (occasionally spelled Hardwick) Reformatory for Boys was founded by Thomas Barwick Lloyd Baker of Hardwicke Court, near Gloucester. In addition to being a member of the local gentry, Baker was a county magistrate and a prison visitor, who developed a particular interest in reforming juvenile criminals. In 1851, Baker became friends with George Henry Bengough, a wealthy young man of Wotton-under-Edge, who encouraged him to set up an establishment for the purpose. Bengough also offered to become personally involved in its operation, and the two men financed the setting up of the institution.

The School was opened in an old cottage on Baker's Hardwicke estate, situated between the River Severn and the Gloucester & Berkeley Canal, on what is now School Farm. Its first admissions, on 24th March 1852, were three boys — all recurrent offenders — about to be released from the Westminster House of Correction, and who were willing to participate in the scheme. Later in the year, they were joined by two boys from Bristol, one from Gloucester, and one from Horsley.

The location of the home is shown on the 1903 map below.

Hardwicke Reformatory for Boys site, Gloucester, c.1903.

The School's constitution, drawn up at the end of March, 1852, adopted the name 'The Children's Friend School' for the establishment, which was to be run by two managers, assisted by an advisory committee. The ongoing funding would come from charitable donations, with a shilling per week contribution from the parents of each inmate's parents of guardians and, it was envisaged, some income resulting from the boys' labour on the farm. Baker and Bengough became the first managers, with Bengough also occupying the role of schoolmaster for two years.

The Reformatory soon began to attract attention, including visits from several Members of Parliament, and was the subject of a report in The Times at the end of January, 1854.

It is a small brick building, with a few rough sheds round it. At one end of the building is the dwelling of the overlooker, and at the other the apartments of the schoolmaster. There are at present 17 inmates, who are properly taken care of, and taught and employed. A recent visitor states that when he went there most of the boys were at work, at spade husbandry, but two or three were occupied in household work. One was on his knees, scrubbing the bedroom floor, and another, who appeared to be the tailor of the establishment, was sitting cross-legged mending his trousers. The history of this boy is a melancholy one. Although only 14, he was seven times convicted as a thief in London, and was brought to Hardwicke by Mr. Bengough, one of the most active supporters of the institution. The boy seemed willing to answer questions, but did not exhibit the least compunction for his misdeeds. It appears that he was neglected by his father, and in order to indulge his taste for cheap theatres he began to rob shop-tills, which soon procured him a cell in Westminster House of Correction. A note is taken of the character and conduct of the boys, and the utmost exertions are used to reform them. The boys have a regular routine of duties to perform, but time is allowed for recreation. They are, of course, instructed in religion. Their studies comprise writing, reading, and elementary geography. On one day a-week, drawing is also taught. Their work consists of outdoor agricultural labour, and in wet weather they are employed at basketmaking indoors, and some of them at tailoring and shoemaking. They are punished if they behave badly, and rewarded for good conduct.

Former Hardwicke Reformatory for Boys from the north-east, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1854, the passing of the Youthful Offenders Act, set the operation of Reformatory Schools within a statutory framework, giving them the legal power to detain boys, and to receive a state contribution to their funding, subject to their being open to official inspection and certification. The Children's Friend Reformatory School was officially certified on October 4th, 1854,to accommodate 30 boys aged from 13 upwards. In 1856, the establishment changed its name to the Hardwicke Reformatory for Boys.

The daily timetable at the School in 1870 is shown below:

A.M. A.M. 
5.30-6.00Rise, Dress, Private Prayers, Wash, &c.7.00-8.00Rise, Dress, Private Prayers, Wash, &c.
6.00-7.45Schooling, Winter months. In Summer, out to Work.8.00-9.00Breakfast, Family Prayers, &c.
7.45-8.45Family Prayers, read Psalms for the day, and Breakfast9.00-10.00Religious Instruction
8.45-1.00 Industrial Employment. On wet days, schooling.10.00-1.00Church
P.M. P.M. 
1.00-2.00Assemble. Wash, Dinner, Recreation1.00-2.30Dinner and Recreation
2.00-5.30Industrial Employment2.30-4.30Religious Instruction. Collects and Gospel, or Church in Winter
5.30-6.30Assemble, Wash, Supper4.30-5.30Supper and Recreation
6.30-8.30Schooling5.30-6.00Prepare for Church
8.30-8.45Family Prayers, Private Prayers, and bed6.00-8.00Church or Religious Instruction, Singing Hymns, Reading, &c., and bed
*Stock boys, Cooks, Tailors, rise at 5.30 a.m., in charge of Officer, and changed alternately. Stock boys rise at 6 a.m., with Officer in Charge, also Cook and Post Boy.
NOTE:—On Saturdays, the boys cease work out of doors at 1.30 p.m. Saturday afternoons and evenings are spent in preparing for Sunday — bathing, changing lines, recreation, Scripture, and learning Collects and Gospels, &c., &c.
Every inmate is thoroughly bathed once a fortnight, and during the summer months the boys are allowed to bathe once or twice in the Canal, and learn to swim.
August, 1870.(Signed) THOMAS GEE, Governor.

The School's diet comprised skimmed milk, bread, vegetables, rice, cheese, and soup, with a helping of 4 ounces of meat served three times a week. The boys wore a uniform of a corduroy suit whose jacket was replaced by a short smock on work days. They slept in a dormitory containing twenty hammocks, each provided with a stuffed straw mattress, sheets, blanket and counterpane.

A marks system was instituted in 1854 whereby rewards of up to 6d per week could be earned for good work and conduct. The marks earned over time also affected how soon a boy was eligible for release on licence after serving at least half of his sentence.

The range of industrial training was gradually increased to include tailoring, baking and drawing. However, most of the boys continued to be engaged in agricultural and horticultural work. this included the keeping of poultry, pigs, horses and other livestock. Some of the younger boys were employed in making match boxes.

In 1879, a cottage was erected a little distance to the north of the main building. It was to be occupied by one of the farm men and his wife and also able to be used as a hospital facility for the School.

Former Hardwicke Reformatory for Boys - hospital cottage, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1904-5, a major expansion of the accommodation took place with a new school-room, large dormitory, lavatory and bathroom. Acetylene lighting was installed and the old farm buildings near the School were replaced by a new steading a little way off. On May 30th, 1905, the School was officially certified to accommodate up to 100 boys.

The location of the home is shown on the 1923 map below.

Hardwicke Reformatory for Boys site, c.1923.

Despite the building improvements in 1905, the premises were increasingly viewed as old-fashioned. The School was closed on March 25th, 1922.

Former Hardwicke Reformatory for Boys from the east, Gloucester, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham


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.

  • Gloucestershire Archives, Clarence Row, Alvin Street, Gloucester GL1 3DW. Holds the Hardwicke Reformatory archive (1837-1922) [exact contents unclear].