An apprenticeship was the practice of placing a child of school leaving age, who lived in a foster home or institution, with employers. Boys usually worked as farm labourers and girls as domestic servants.
The earliest child apprentices came from the Queen's Asylum. According to the Queen's Asylum Act 1861, they could be apprenticed to an employer who was a 'fit and proper person' between the ages of 12 and 18. The employer had to provide adequate food, accommodation, clothing, and medical care. Apprentices who did not work as the employer wished could be brought before two Justices of the Peace who, in extreme cases, could send the apprentice to a house of correction or gaol.
After 1896, when the government established the Neglected Children's Department, the Secretary of that Department and its successors signed an agreement with the employer. The agreement stated that, in exchange for the apprentice's labour, the employer would provide clothing, accommodation, food, and medical attention, if required, as well as a small wage. The Department banked half of the wage and gave it to the apprentice at the age of 21. Most children's Homes also followed this procedure. Apprentices who absconded or misbehaved in other ways might be sent to the Boys' Training School, if boys, or the Magdalen Home, if girls, but gaol was no longer an option.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 19 October 2011, Last modified: 12 March 2014