To apply to see records of your own time in Shawbury, send a letter detailling the time you were in the School to:

Data Protection & Freedom of Information Team

Children, Young People & Families Directorate

Birmingham City Council

Martineau Centre

Balden Road

Birmingham B32 2EH


Shawbury Approved School

aka Shustoke Industrial School (pre-1926)


The School was opened in 1868 in the grounds of 'The Shawberries', a private country house.


As an approved school, many of the boys Shawbury took in were sent their by the courts. In 1876, farmland was purchased so that the boys could farm the land and the produce could be used in the school.


In the 1950s, the proportion of boys coming in from the courts declined and more boys came in because of mental health problems, learning disabilities or family problems.


The school closed in 1980 and was then demolished.





Shawbury - a personal perspective


"I was put in Shawbury in 1978 and left in 1979, after three months assessment in Tennal.  Whilst it hard to believe, I was put in there for something I had not done.  The charge was 'attempted TDA' and on the day in court, I was persuaded by a Barrister to plead Guilty in order that it could be dealt with as a fine.  Little did I know, that when I said guilty, the barrister would ask for an immediate 'care order'.   


"I was no angel, but I wasn't expecting to be taken by car to Tennal in Harbourne.  I stayed there for three months assessment and had to dig deep to be aggressive with what are now called paedophiles.  I was in Knox and had a family, so I was safe.  Unfortunately, the kids in Sargeant that were born in care, were beyond help.  From Tennal I was sent to Shawbury, which looked grim, but was a great experience and without doubt a positive intervention in my life.    


"I tried my hand in the Gardening Department and the Farm, but I didn't like being out in the weather. The farm boys had to get up before everyone else and go and milk the cows. I settled for the painting department and worked there until I left in June or July 1979. I became Senior boy, which meant you were being considered to leave. We had parade several time during the day, before and after breakfast, work, dinner, tea and supper.  


"Fights weren't that common, but from time to time, you had to secure your place in the pecking order, or what was yours could end up being someone else's. We wore a uniform, which was like a military uniform, but after a few months it would show signs of work, with paint or oil and get ripped. I never remember having any conversations with staff, except at my reviews. My reviews were pretty good and I never got beaten up by any of the staff, who were quick to give a boy a slap if he stepped out of line. There was virtually no bullying. If you had a sense of humour you were popular because you made everyone's time a bit easier. You went were you were told and did what you were told or you got smacked about a bit. There were two cells side by side, which you were put in if you bunked (run off) or did something considered too serious. It was referred to as pin down. You were stripped naked and put in the cells without clothes, so you wouldn't run. 


"On the outside of the cells was a balcony, which could be climbed up to from the outside with handles which would open the windows, so if you had someone on the outside you could escape. 


"We did cross country runs from time to time and played the odd game of football against a visiting police team.  After about nine months, I was given leave every week until I found a job.  I remember I got a job labouring on a tarmac gang in Birmingham and the headmaster (Mr Owen) got angry saying I should hold on until I got a better job and that I could do better.  But I didn't want a career, I wanted out and a job got me out.  He was right, the job didn't last long, but I was free.  We had one afternoon a fortnight for school lessons, which were sort of primary school level education, so I got nothing out of that. There were a few characters in the school, which closed about a year after I left.   


"We had a boot room which we used to exchange our work boots for our house shoes on our way out to and from work.  I got paid a pound a week and used this to buy sweets.  I used to get 40 fags from my dad when I went on home leave, which were all you needed in there. The food wasn't bad, not great, but all in all, it was a good place.  It's a shame it closed.  


"The staff were pretty genuine and lived in staff houses located on the school grounds, which were built by the boys (building department), so it was real work.  I learned to paint and paper on the paint department (badly) and we would paint the houses and various rooms, walls, doors and parts of the school and school buildings.   


"I have had relatively successful life and did not become a criminal.  I was so determined when I left, not to allow myself to be in such a position of vulnerability again, I never did.  I am grateful to Shawbury, because although I was innocent of the crime I was accused of, it was only a matter of time before I get into real trouble.  It was an intervention."