Emma Heppingstall

Purple Unearthed

MS 244/1/5/2/1/10a Note of theft of books by Emma Heppingstall

MS 244/1/5/2/1/10a Note of theft of books by Emma Heppingstall

On 16th November 1855, Emma Heppingstall, aged 13, was sentenced to 3 weeks of hard labour in the House of Correction in Warwick for stealing fifty seven books worth 3d each from William Simmonds of Wheeler Street, Birmingham.

After her punishment, at the suggestion of Lord Calthorpe, Emma was sent to the Girls’ Reformatory School in Birmingham at 45 Camden Street, for a period of three years. The ‘Application for admission’ informs us that she was the daughter of Edward Heppingstall of Mary Street, Bordesley, brass founder, and that she was a servant at Mrs Hill’s, Great King Street. She had attended St. Thomas’s School and could read and write a little, but she left when she was six years old. She had been at Mrs Hill’s two years and seven months. She also attended the Sunday School belonging to the People’s Chapel, Great King Street.

MS 244/1/5/2/1/10h Application for admission for Emma Heppingstall

MS 244/1/5/2/1/10h Application for admission for Emma Heppingstall

There is a list of the clothing she had when she was at Warwick gaol: ‘1 Shift; 1 Black frock; 1 White Skirt; 1 Cloak; 1 Bonnett; 1 pair strong Boots; 1 pair of Stockings; 1 apron; 1 new Flannel petticoat’. The Application form for the Girls’ Reformatory School states that every girl was required to bring with her two complete suits of strong and good underclothing and also of shoes and stockings. The weekly payment required for each girl was 5 shillings.

The surviving papers give no further information about Emma’s time at the Reformatory School.

We know the details above from some papers recently purchased by Birmingham Archives, Heritage and Photography which appear to have been gathered by one William Morgan as a result of his position at the Reformatory and as Agent of the Secretary of State to take proceedings against the parents or step parents of juvenile offenders in order to obtain financial contributions for their children in the Reformatory schools. They cover 1851 – 1866.

MS 244/1/5/2/1/10c Letter from Harry Adkins

MS 244/1/5/2/1/10c Letter from Harry Adkins

William Morgan (1815 – 1899) was a solicitor practising in Birmingham. From an early age he was active in liberal and philanthropic causes. He was also Co-founder of the Birmingham Baptist Union and Secretary of the Birmingham Anti-Slavery society in the 1830s. From 1852 – 1854 he was Town Clerk of Birmingham. He was an Honorary Secretary of the Warwickshire and Birmingham Reformatory Institution from the first annual general meeting in 1854 until his death in 1899. He was also Treasurer for most of that period.

Warwickshire was pioneering in the development of reformatories to provide care for juvenile offenders. The first outside London was at Stretton under Dunsmore, the creation of John Eardley Wilmot in 1818. Boys there would learn a trade and girls would learn domestic skills.

A Reformatory School was started in Birmingham in 1852 by Joseph Sturge in a house at Ryland Road and the Birmingham Reformatory School Society was founded to manage the school. In 1853, Charles Adderley, M.P. (later Lord Norton) provided premises on his land at Saltley for a school. He was largely responsible for getting the Young Offenders Act passed in Parliament in 1854 and was a keen proponent of the ‘humanist’ approach to reforming young offenders. He remained associated with the School throughout his life.

The papers purchased by Birmingham Archives, Heritage and Photography  (Accession 2014/048) have been catalogued as MS 244/1/5/1-2 and include papers of William Morgan drafted for Acts of Parliament, Government returns for Reformatories, and papers about young offenders, male and female. The latter includes correspondence, applications for a place in the Reformatory, commitment forms, conviction papers etc.

Apart from a set of Rules for the Girls’ Reformatory School (11254 L43.94) Birmingham Archives, Heritage and Photography appears to have no other records specifically about the Girls’ Reformatory, so this new accession is a welcome addition to the other records of the Reformatory we hold [MS 244].

I just want to know what the 57 books Emma Heppingstall stole were!

Fiona Tait, Archivist


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