Thursday, March 29, 2012

Brutal exercise, hard work and strict education. . . topped off with a bit of musical theatre: The days when Borstals knocked yobs into shape..

At first glance, the pictures seem to show a group of keen young men enthusiastically taking part in a series of innocent, if somewhat old-fashioned, pastimes.

However, these extraordinary photographs actually depict daily life at Lowdham Grange, North Sea Camp and Rochester Borstals for boys in 1937.

The images, released to the Mail by the National Archives, show that life for young offenders nearly 80 years ago was a mixture of very hard work, intensive training, rehabilitation and self-improvement, with a dollop of fun thrown in for good measure.

Where else would you spend the morning scrubbing floors and praying in church, the afternoon laying bricks in the driving rain, and the evening agonising over stage directions for an all-male Gilbert and Sullivan operetta?

Borstals were introduced in Britain in 1902. The template was public boarding schools (with very secure locks) and the theory was that if delinquent youths (aged 16 to 21) were subjected to a similar regime of brutal exercise, house masters, dorms, endless lessons and the strict regime of the house system, they’d develop self-discipline and a sense of pride, and turn their backs on crime in a flash. Read More

And today? A game of pool and a lie-in