Reformatory schools


Reformatory schools were opened from the mid-nineteenth century as an alternative to the general practice of treating children found guilty of crimes in the same way as adults in prison.



Reformatories were for children only and children were sentenced to time in them by the courts.


Initially, they would also be sentenced to a time in prison before going to the school although this practice was stopped in 1899. It was usual for children to spend up to five years in the reformatory.

In the reformatory, the regime would be very strict with children afforded few, if any, freedoms. Children would be educated and taught a trade useful for their return to their outside lives - perhaps farming, tailoring etc.


Reformatories are often confused with industrial schools but there was a very important difference when they were first established. While reformatories were for children who had already been found guilty of crimes, industrial schools were for children who had not yet committed a crime but were thought to be in circumstances which made them likely to do so in the future.


Please visit this page for more

on reform schools

and industrial schools


By the end of the end of the nineteenth century the role of reformatorie and industrial schools had merged to such an extent that it ws hard to tell the difference between them. In 1933, both types of institution became known as approved schools.


Examples of reformatories:

Redhill Reformatory School

opened 1849

Redhill, Surrey


Saltley Reformatory

opened 1852 (became Norton Boys' Home in 1905)

Saltley, Birmingham

(founded by Lord Norton)



Our page on

1891 institutions

lists many of the  reform schools in

England, Wales and Scotland