History KS2/KS3: Life in prison for young Victorian offenders

John tells us how, in January 1876, he was sent to prison for 6 months and gives us an insight into the kind of punishments which were frequently used in Victorian times.

John, who is 14, has been accused of forging letters from his employer to allow him to get clothes on credit from local shops.

But John insists that he couldn't possibly be guilty as he cannot write.

As the story unfolds, John admits that he did indeed forge the letters, after running away from home and falling into bad company.

Picking oakham, being put to "the crank", being whipped and even being transported to Australia were all punishments that young criminals would have been subjected to in the 1800s.

Teacher Notes

This clip could be used as a starter for studying society and attitudes in the 19th century.

With the image of John Smith in the centre of the board, you could hand out post-it notes to students, who write down as many points or questions as they can that have been stimulated by the clip.

Curriculum Notes

Suitable for teaching History and Social Studies at KS2 and KS3 GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National Levels 2 and 3 in Scotland.

More from Victorian Villains:

How the Victorians introduced photograph police records
Life at a Victorian Reformatory School
Life at a Victorian Industrial School