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Harrowing look at life in tough 'school' on sale.

Byline: MIKE LOCKLEY Staff Reporter

ONE of Birmingham's most important social documents - a fascinating insight into Britain's first reformatory school - goes on sale tomorrow.

The box of manuscripts from Saltley Reformatory School, dated from 1855 to 1857, is the star item at the Book and Ephemera Fair at Edgbaston's Medical Institute on Harborne Road. It is priced at PS1,600.

The collection is being sold by historian Roger Knowles who purchased the papers at auction many years ago.

The pages provide a harrowing glimpse into how tough life was for kids within reformatory schools - the forerunner to borstals.

Saltley school, on Ryland Road, was launched in 1853 and housed 31 boys and 21 girls. Many had served hard labour in adult jails before being sent to Saltley.

Roger, chairman of Norton Canes Historical Society, said: "There was one 13-year-old from Somerset who was sentenced to 14 days' hard labour for stealing a waistcoat, followed by two years at the school.

"It was terribly harsh. These were children with hardened criminals who had to work like slaves."

A 12-year-old who stole a gown received 14 days' hard labour in an adult prison, then four years at Saltley.

A curt note on one offender warns school staff: "A very bad character, but free of infectious diseases."

Young offenders from all over the country, aged 11 to 16, were accommodated at Saltley. One forced city burghers to open Roman Catholic reform schools after repeatedly fleeing Saltley because of its Protestant teachings.

Roger, aged 72, added: "These are very important documents. I have hung on to them because I want them to go to an institute in the city.

"I've had offers for individual documents, but refused. The collection must be kept together."

The school was renamed Norton Boys Home in 1908 and in 1933 became an approved school.

The sale runs from 11am to 5pm and admission is PS1.


Roger Knowles has unearthed documents from the Saltley Reformation School. Inset, one of the papers.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:May 2, 2013
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