Warwickshire Reformatory School for Boys, an Escape

Rounding up the absconders

Weston Boy's Reformatory circa 1920
Image courtesy of Sue Chambers

(continued from part one)

At a 4:15am Sergeant Walton met four boys in Fleet Street armed with sticks and with commendable pluck he went up to them and on accosting them was immediately set upon by a powerful young man of 18 years called Joseph Bird who struck him a heavy blow over the shoulder. Three boys ran away but the one who had struck the Sargent remained, retaining his weapon and after several times attempts he struck the Police Sargent on the arm.

Although believing his arm to be broken Sargent Walton attacked back knocking the Bird down and affecting his capture. The rest of the boys were captured after hiding in an outhouse.

Ten of the absconders were apprehended in Bedworth and bought back to Weston in an open wagon with their hands chained, this was quite a spectacle for locals. Five were returned from Kenilworth. In the end all 41 recalcitrant boys were safely rehoused in the institution within 24 hours of the leaving in such a horrid and unceremonious manner.

Bird gets hard labour

Authorities decided to prosecute Joseph bird the youth who had assaulted Police Sergeant Walton. At his trial Bird was asked “where did you strike Sargent Walton” Bird replied “anywhere I could”. It was explained that Bird was a Canal Boy and was bought to the institution two years previously, he’d been very ignorant and did not know who his father or mother were, nor his own age.

During the last few months Bird’s conduct had wonderfully improved and they had intended to send him to Canada next year if his good conduct had continued, but this affair had rendered that quite impossible. The judge considered giving Bird six months hard labour because he had behaved in a dastardly manner towards the Police Sargent. After some discussion they decided to commit Bird to jail for two months with hard labour

The investigation

The reformatory had an investigation as to what happened and to identify ringleaders. They came to the decision that the prime mover and instigator in the whole affair was Thomas Wyncote, ages 18 from Milverton. Thomas and five more ringleaders were sentenced to Warwick gaol jail and hard labour. Other boys receive punishments including whipping and solitary confinement, all according to the part they had played in the outbreak and in accordance with the rules of the establishment. The outcome of the investigation and punishments concluded that no fears were entertained of any repetition of the affair.

The Reformatory closed in 1928 and became Weston Hospital.


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