Adel Reformatory – Leeds


Adel Reformatory

A Visitors Description Of Adel Reformatory 1887

Adel Moor may be a very pleasant place when summer skies are bright, but in dreary November it is not calculated to inspire enthusiasm. My path to the moor led by the brawling beck that tumbled all muddily on its course until I reached the famous “Seven Arches.” Then across a tract of rugged moorland, until I came upon a most courageous artist who was painting at a tremendous rate, as if entirely oblivious of the mist laden breeze and the threatening sky. A little further on I saw planted against the face of the hill a diminutive structure on the side of which was inscribed ” Ye hut of ye three jolly painters.” There were two jolly painters in the hut. One was extracting clouds of smoke from a wooden pipe, and the other appeared to be warming himself before an unframed summer landscape. This imaginative artist volunteered to act as my guide to the Reformatory and in a few minutes we stood without the gate of the school. Mr Twigg, who has for twenty four years held the post of superintendent at the Adel Reformatory received me with the utmost cordiality, and leading the way to his own sanctum, at once plunged into details respecting the institution , over which he presides.

One hundred and fifty boys are now under instruction, and during the term in which Mr Twigg has held office upwards of one thousand boys have passed through the school, and have gone out into the world fairly equipped for the battle of life. An album, in which the superintendent takes much pride, contains many photographs of lads whose training at the Adel school enabled them to reach a social level which would not have been extremely difficult if not impossible, of attainment without the moral and intellectual aid afforded them during their enforced sojourn at Adel. Here, for example, was the portrait of a warrant officer in the army. This officer had been sent to the reformatory on account of a by no means serious larceny. He was rescued from the demoralising custody of dissolute parents, and being placed in the band, speedily exhibited that passion for music and close application to the study of its principles which has led to his occupying the honourable position of bandmaster in Her Majesty’s service. The portrait of a sergeant in a line regiment is also here. Whilst still very young he had three convictions recorded against him before he reached the reformatory. His conduct was in all respects satisfactory, and after he joined the army only one year elapsed before he attained the rank of non commissioned officer. Scattered through this interesting album of not a few old scholars who fell at Abu Klea and on other battlefields of the burning Soudan. Others are here depicted wearing the garb of fisherman or seamen. Numbers of the boys have gone to Grimsby on their release and have under the vigilant supervision of a paid agent , engaged to serve aboard fishing smacks on the Dogger bank. The calling seems to suit the lads, for many of them – grown in a few short months into broad shouldered toilers of the deep – have revisited the school and expressed to the superintendent their satisfaction with the arduous and honourable calling which they had adopted. One lad communicated to Mr Twigg, the singular fact that he had served on Board a North Sea fishing smack, the entire crew of which, from the skipper to the cook had been educated in the Reformatory at Adel.
Passing through the dining room, from the walls of which the fierce lion, the stealthy panther, and other notable animals in mezzo tint or chrome, look down upon the boys at meal times.

I was shown into the office where the register is kept. In the register is recorded the name, age, height, &c of each boy committed to the school . A record of previous convictions is also kept and it struck me on looking through that record, that a very large percentage of the boys had come under the ban of the law before the commission of the specific offence which led to them being sent to Adel. I found on consulting the superintendent that my observation was correct. It is most unusual to find that a boy has been convicted over and again before blindfold Justice gropes her way to a sentence which will give the youthful depredator a chance of mending his ways. On the one page of the register I found the subjoined record of previous charges against a boy recently admitted to the Reformatory. (1) Stealing cigars – discharged. (2) Stealing sweets – discharged. (3) Stealing can of condensed milk – birched. (4) Attempt to steal – birched. (5) Stealing silk handkerchief – discharged. (6) Attempt to steal money from a till – twenty one days imprisonment followed by five years in the Reformatory. The ingenious young person had been treated with considerable leniency in the early stages of his enterprising career, and he showed his appreciation of magisterial mercy by operating on other people’s goods at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Twigg, speaking with the authority which comes with the experience of more than a quarter of a century’s reformatory work, is of opinion that the discharge of a juvenile offender on his first conviction is a wise move and judicious method of procedure; but he contends that only mischief results from treating boys in the manner indicated by the foregoing record. When a boy exhibits unmistakable signs of a bias towards theft, he should be removed from the scene of temptation. But this removal in Twiggs opinion should not include a term of imprisonment in a common gaol. There does not appear to be any reason founded on experience which makes the commital of a boy to gaol a necessary preliminary to his detention in a Reformatory. The tendency of that imprisonment is to harden the boy; to transform a child of weak moral fibre into a callous criminal, and too often to brand with the stamp of a gaol bird a boy whose sin against society could be adequately punished without resort to methods employed against hardened offenders.

The influence of the school does not close when the boy is discharged, for in addition to the valuable technical instruction and moral instruction imparted to the lads during their stay in the institution, inquiries are made annually for a period of three years concerning the conduct of discharged lads and a report is forwarded to the Home Office. The duty of making enquiries is easily enough performed when the precise address of a discharged boy is known. He can be communicated with and asked to furnish the name of his employer or other responsible person who will report upon his conduct and prospects. But when the town in which the boy is residing is only known, the duty of making the requisite inquiries is transferred to the police. Mr Twigg is emphatic in declaring that this duty is generally performed in such a way as to inflict no injury upon the social prospects or the feelings of the lad. But there have occurred a few cases in which the duty has been performed in such a blundering, thoughtless fashion as to expose the lad to disgrace and humiliation. A short time ago the superintendent had occasion to make the inquiry respecting a boy in a Staffordshire town. The boy’s exact address was not known, and the police authorities of the town were asked to discover the lad’s whereabouts and report. They performed their task in a manner which showed a deplorable lack of discretion. Two constables in uniform entered the blacksmith’s shop where the lad was at work and in the presence of his master and fellow workmen told him that “Mr Twigg, of the Adel Reformatory,” wished to know how he was getting on. The lad subsequently wrote to Mr Twigg, bitterly complaining of the conduct of the police in the matter. Mr Twigg, had relied, as a matter of course, on the discreet action of the police, but he was disappointed.

In the dormitories the beds are arranged in rows, the rooms are as clear as energetic scrubbing can make them, and on the walls are placed simple, pretty pictures, which impart a cheerful air to the dormitory, and relieve the monotony of a white washed wall. As we descended the broad staircase from the dormitories, I heard the musical tinkling of bells, and entering the school room, found half a dozen boys under the tuition of a master, extracting sweet sounds from hand bells. The performers were fully alive to the gravity of the occasion. The little fellow who was responsible for the treble part worked away in the most untiring manner, now with his right hand, then with his left, then with both hands together, never once relaxing his study of the score which lay on the table before him. The alto and tenor performers had occasionally a few bars’ rest which was not much of a rest after all, for they went on counting ” One, two, three, four” in a muffled monotone while the bass ringers chimed in with profound sonorosity. These campanologists were terribly in earnest, and, if each one of them had not a furious headache their escape from that infliction was by no means due to lack of energy.

Crossing the recreation ground and covered playground we entered the “Chip shop” where about a score of boys were engaged in preparing firewood for sale. A big boy at a circular saw reduced the large pieces of timber to manageable sections, other boys sliced the blocks into splinters, and the smallest boys with a rope and lever made the chips into bundles into readiness for transport. In the boiler shed were seen the boiler and 5-h.p. engine which would drive the circular saw, and which will eventually drive the lathes which are to be placed in the joiner’s shop. In charge of the engine – which was splendidly kept, and ran with the accuracy of an eight day clock – we found a lad who left the school several months ago, and who, finding himself out of employment a few weeks ago, returned to the school and sought shelter until some employment offered to him. This willingness to temporarily lodge boys who have been discharged is not the least noticeable feature of the beneficent management. Lack of employment and the straitened means which follow enforced idleness might easily lead a boy back into the bad old way, from which danger he is saved by taking refuge, for the time being, at the school. In the joiner’s shop, eight boys under the superintendence of a work master were engaged with the chisel, saw and plane in the making of plain deal furniture; and the dexterity with which the boys did their work was a practical lesson on the value of an education which is not confined to the “three Rs”, but which takes into account the need for educating the hand and eye in coordination with the reflective faculties. In the tailor’s shop, twelve boys as sedate as pashas far from Stamboul were stitching away at a great rate. The tailor boys, under the eye of a master, make the clothing which is worn by the inmates and I was shown a material for the boys’ Sunday dress which would have delighted by its velvety sheen and textile strength a Flemish burgomaster of the seventeenth century. In the shoemaker’s shop the sons of Crispin hammered and stitched with unexampled industry, till at the blast of a fog horn or some such unmusical instrument, boots, shoes, hammers and all were thrown down, and the shoe-makers rushed pell mell downstairs to man the fire engine. The fog horn blast was the signal for “fire drill”. With a rush the boys dragged the manual engine out of the shed and trundled it off to the spacious swimming bath. Lengths of hose were quickly stretched along and coupled and in less than three minutes from the sounding of the fire signal the pumps were clanging beneath the sturdy pull of the lads, and a jet of water was mounting high in the air. This sort of exercise is invaluable, not only as a precautionary measure, but as a disciplinary lesson to the lads. A brief visit to the greenhouses and a cursory glance at the wide tract of land which has been brought under cultivation by the boys, and where they acquire such knowledge of husbandry as fits them for farm work after their probation is over, brought us up to school time. But before I visited the classes under instruction, I heard the well trained band perform a selection from “Masaniello”. I have heard that particular excerpt performed by a goodly number of bands at one time and another, and I have heard it rendered by grown up musicians in a manner which would give no cause for envy to the band boys of the Reformatory at Adel.

In the first school room the boys at standard VI were seated at long tables in the mellow light of oil lamps, elucidating the mysteries of Standard IV, were writing in their copy books; most of the boys being capable of calligraphy which excited my envy, and which would have brought sunshine into the lives of the hapless compositors who are doomed for their sins, to translate the appalling hieroglyphics inflicted upon them by the present writer. At my request, Mr. Black, the senior assistant schoolmaster, set a practical sum for the consideration of Standard VI :- ” The rent of 42 acres of land is ? how many acres of land of the same quality can be rented  I essayed that problem, and had the satisfaction of seeing an arch looking youngster turn his slate over and fold his arms just two minutes and a half before I finished the working and discovered that I was wrong to the extent of six acres. I fear that land-buying is not exactly in my line. In the school room over which Mr. Walker, the headmaster, presided, Standards V., III, and the junior classes – under Mr Hustler were being instructed. The work done by the boys in this department was remarkable for its neatness and in both departments the discipline of the boys reflects credit upon the teachers.

At the close of the school hours the boys were marched to the lecture hall, where, to the accompaniment of a small organ, they sang several hymns with considerable vigour and expression. Soon after I took my leave of the superintendent, who is in my judgement, a man fitted by gifts and attainments for the responsible position that he holds. Avoiding the low road, where danger lurked from rugged ground and darkness, I struck across the moor by the highway, leaving behind me the twinkling lights in the school, where so many boys have been guided to the path of duty and shielded from imminent danger of social and moral destruction.


January 13th 1894.

A boiler explosion occurred at Adel Reformatory, near Leeds, on Saturday, and one boy was instantaneously killed and another had a painful and lingering death. Both boys were engaged in attending to the heating apparatus. It is the custom at the institution to put into operation every Saturday during the winter months the heating the chapel in which the Sunday services are held. Two boys, named Wm Paley and Frederick Smith, were told off to the duty of lighting a fire under the boiler, from which the hot water is obtained for the purpose of warming the chapel. The fire was lighted, and no danger was anticipated, as it had been noticed that the taps on the surface of the ground were not frozen. After performing their duty the boys did not go away, but stayed near the boiler. Three quarters of an hour later after the fire had been lighted, there was a frightful explosion, heard by all the inmates at the institution. They describe it as something like a quarry blast. The officials of the institution, including the superintendent, Mr C. G.Twigg, the assistant schoolmaster, Mr James Twigg, and Mr John Menmure rushed into the chapel, and were witnesses of the serious damage that had been done. The lad Paley was killed outright, and his dead body, greatly disfigured by the effects of the explosion, was found lying on the floor. The boiler and the supporting masonry were displaced, fragments having been blown all over the place. Smith was lying terribly scalded all over the body by the steam and badly hurt on the head. There was some difficulty in obtaining the services of a doctor. None could be found immediately in the neighbourhood, but Police Constable Clarkson, of the West Riding Constabulary, who soon arrived on the spot, but to practical use, the medical knowledge he had gained at ambulance classes. Oil was applied to Smiths wounds, and then the boy was wrapped in cotton wool saturated with oil. A cab was obtained, and he was taken by the constable and Mr James Twigg to the Leeds Infirmary. The unfortunate lad suffered great agony, and he succumbed to his injuries at three o clock on Sunday morning. While Smith was being attended to, the body of Paley was removed to the chapel to await an inquest, which was held on Monday. Both lads, who were each about 15 years of age, were considered among the smartest in the school. It appears that the pipes which fed the boiler had become frozen, and as the steam generated by the fire could not escape, the boiler burst.

Mr JC Malcolm held an inquest on Tuesday at the Leeds Town Hall on the body of Fred Smith (18) of Sedgewick Street, Bradford who was killed by the explosion of the boiler of a heating apparatus on Saturday under circumstances already given. It transpired in the course of the inquiry that Smith had no right to be near the apparatus. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.