Category Archives: Crime and Punishment

FOCUS ON EDUCATION: Werrington Industrial School

Despite the harsh sentences which the courts imposed on young offenders, juvenile crime increased dramatically during the 1850s.

Parliament realised that a new method of dealing with juveniles was needed. It created industrial schools for boys and girls who were likely to become professional criminals. Magistrates’ Courts were given the power to send children who had committed criminal offences to these schools where they received an elementary education and were given vocational training.

Werrington Industrial School

An industrial school for boys opened at Werrington in January 1870. The school’s superintendent was Benjamin Horth, a certificated teacher, who used rewards and punishment to maintain discipline. Horth divided the boys into three divisions (first, second and third). He gave them good conduct marks at the end of each month if they had behaved themselves and obeyed school rules.

After six months at the school, a boy was placed in the third division and given a farthing for every 12 good conduct marks awarded. Continued good behaviour enabled him to progress to the second division, where he received a halfpenny for every 12 marks gained. When promoted to the first division, boys received a penny for every 12 marks they were given. After they had been in the first division for six months, boys were put in the merit class which entitled them to an extra 24 good conduct marks a month.

Boys worked on the school farm or in a workshop where they made shoes. Farm produce and the shoes were sold to help finance the school. Boys were paid wages for the work they did on the farm and in the workshop. The money they earned was given to them when they left school.

Spare the rod and spoil the child

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” was the maxim of Victorian parents and teachers.

Punishments at Werrington were just as severe as those imposed by the courts.

A list giving details of the penalty that would be imposed if a boy misbehaved was displayed in the classroom. For the first offence of dishonesty or falsehood, a boy forfeited 18 good conduct marks and received six strokes of the cane. A boy who was dishonest or told lies a second time lost 36 good conduct marks and was given four strokes of the birch on his bare bottom. If he misbehaved again, the boy lost 144 marks and received eight strokes of the birch.

Boys who ran away from school were the ones that were punished most severely when they were brought back by the police. The first time a boy ran away, he forfeited 36 good conduct marks and was given six strokes of the birch. The second time a boy absconded, he lost 72 marks and received eight strokes of the birch. Boys who ran away a third time lost all the good conduct marks they had been awarded and were given 12 strokes of the birch.

Despite the severe punishments they received, less than 5% of the boys got into trouble with the police when they left school at 16.

Copyright 2020 North Staffordshire Heritage

FOCUS ON KIDSGROVE: The Brutal Murder of a Little Girl

On Friday, July 31st, 1868, a 40-year-old furnaceman, William Hancock, stood in the dock at Stafford Assizes charged with the wilful murder of Mary Ann Whitehurst at Kidsgrove on June 10th, 1868.

The court heard that Mary, a little girl about ten years old, was the daughter of one of William’s neighbours.

On the evening of June 9th, Mary was playing with William’s children. She obtained permission from her father to sleep at the accused’s house overnight.

Mary went to bed at about 9.30pm. In the early hours of the morning, the household was woken by William. He was shouting and attempting to attack his wife. Terror-stricken, William’s wife and children ran out of the house, leaving Mary there.

William jumped out of his bedroom window into the street. Being unable to find his wife and children who had taken refuge with their next-door neighbour, William went back into the house where he saw Mary.

He caught hold of Mary and dragged her into the kitchen. He picked her up by the legs, held her upside down and battered her head on the kitchen floor until she was dead.

Medical evidence presented to the court showed that William was suffering from delirium tremens and did not know what he was doing when he killed her. The jury said he was insane and the judge ordered him to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Copyright 2020 North Staffordshire Heritage