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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree December 2017 > ANCESTORS IN INDUSTRIAL SCHOOLS


Adèle Emm steps back into the classroom to investigate a type of school introduced by the Victorians that was designed to keep abandoned and desperate children off the streets – and provide them with education and training for adult life


Childhood institutions

A busy classroom at Brook Street Ragged and Industrial School, Hampstead Road, London, from the Illustrated London News , 1853

Like any ordinary boarding school, scholars at an industrial school were under 16 and often born some distance away – but these weren’t ordinary schools.

In the first half of the 19th century, the public was increasingly concerned by hordes of homeless, wayward children rampaging the streets. Children abandoned by desperate parents survived as best they could, by begging, stealing and prostitution.

Although a handful of industrial schools were set up following the 1834 Poor Law, it was the Industrial Schools Act of 1857 that enabled children aged seven to 14 who had committed a crime to be sent to one until they were 16, the cost of boarding paid by their parents. Of course, many were homeless and/or orphans so it was often virtually impossible to reclaim the cost. By getting children off the streets, educating and training them for a trade, they were less likely to go astray.

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About Family Tree

Come on, it's time to roll up your sleeves, leave the pleasant pastures of the 19th century, the birth, marriage and death records, and the census - and trace your family lines further back in into the past. This is your chance to explore new records, stretch your research and revel in the lives and times of your Georgian, Stuart and even Tudor ancestors.