Ancestry UK

Bedford Juvenile Prison, Bedford, Bedfordshire

In 1894, Herbert Gladstone M.P., son of the long-serving Prime Minister William Gladstone, was appointed to chair a Departmental Committee on Prisons. One of the Committee's concerns was to keep young offenders out of prison or, failing that, to keep them apart from adult offenders. The Committee also recommended the establishment of a state penal reformatory — something between a Reformatory School and a prison — for those aged from 16 to 21. In 1899, an experimental scheme began at Bedford Prison to provided an alternative style of detention for such offenders. Its initial inmates were from London prisons and who were serving sentences of between one month and two years.

The young inmates were separated from adult prisoners and given a routine which included physical exercise, school lessons, work training, strict discipline and follow-up supervision after their discharge.

Bedford Juvenile Prison, Bedford, c.1900. © Peter Higginbotham

Inmates occupied in 'Swedish drill', Bedford Juvenile Prison, Bedford, c.1900. © Peter Higginbotham

Cell interior at Bedford Juvenile Prison, Bedford, c.1900. © Peter Higginbotham

Inmates learning gardening at Bedford Juvenile Prison, Bedford, c.1900. © Peter Higginbotham

Kitchen at Bedford Juvenile Prison, Bedford, c.1900. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1900, the scheme was extended to part of the convict prison at Borstal in Kent, whose name soon became adopted for establishments operating the new-style regime. These experiments led to the creation of a permanent system of Borstal Institutions in 1908.

Bedford is now a local 'Category B' prison.


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  • None identified at present.