Up until the 20th century the word ‘teenager’ did not exist. In fact it was not until the Second World War that the term began to stick. Before that children began work at the age of seven. Childhood for the poor was a grim affair, after the factories were established. However, In the hand-loom-weaver days children often assisted at home.Advertisement
An area known as New Preston became a colony of hand loom weavers employed by Horrocks. This was at the Stanley Street end of New Hall Lane. They were known as a ‘rough lot’.
Orphanages frequently had schools attached, one such was Shepherd Street School in Preston. This was part of Shepherd Street Mission.
This area of Preston was one of the poorest. In the image below, note the short hair. This was to encourage uniformity and assist with the treatment of lice.
State schooling was not compulsory for children until 1880, and even then it was only from the age of five to ten. This was an attempt to stop child labour in the mills. However, it was not popular with parents, who lost income.
Later, children often attended school for half a day and then worked in the mill for the rest of the day.
Gradually the school leaving age was raised and some youth support began to appear.
Historically, youth offenders received some fairly brutal punishment, including birching. Birching involved beating the offender with birch twigs. This punishment was not abolished until 1948.
In the 19th century children were often sent to adult prisons, transported or even hanged. In 1880 over 800 children under the age of 12 were in adult prisons.
An influential report from 1815 – the Report of the Committee for Investigating the Alarming Increases of Juvenile Crime in the Metropolis – began to change attitudes, as did Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. His portrayal of youth crime eventually led to reforms.
Additionally, The Reverend John Clay worked with young prisoners in Preston during the 1830s. The Children Act 1908 stopped children being sent to adult prisons.
Later the Borstal system was used for young offenders. These were youth detention centres. If you were sentenced to Borstal you would receive ‘Borstal training’. The system began in 1902 and ended in 1962. Birching was still used as a punishment, but this was rare.
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