20 March 2017

Urchins, Sprogs and Guttersnipes - The Facts!

Here are a few facts taken from our new displays which tell the tales of not so lucky children in Victorian Ripon…

#1 An Urchin is a young boy or girl, especially poorly or raggedly dressed

#2 A Sprog is a youngster, child, a baby, from the word ‘sprag’ meaning a slip or cutting from a plant

#3 Guttersnipe, is a street urchin, a gatherer of refuse from the street gutters

#4 Children were put into the Workhouse on their own because they were abandoned, orphans, physically or mentally disabled, illegitimate or left by parents unable to feed the child

#5 Ripon Workhouse appointed a trained teacher to give 3 hours schooling a day

#6 Regular excursions to Hackfall, Studley and Harrogate were organised.

#7 Innocent children of convicted women were transported with their mothers to Australia.

#8 Girls sent to prison worked long hours in laundry, picking oakum and plaiting straw for hats.  Punishment for misbehaviour, unlike the boys who were whipped, was to be put in a straitjacket or given a diet of bread and water.

#9 Children of the poor were often organised into criminal gangs and taught to steal such as in Fagin’s gang in the Charles Dickens novel, ‘Oliver Twist’

#10 The worst punishment for children was to be put in the ‘dark cell’.  This was a specially built very small cell with no furniture and totally without light.

Visit the museums, see our new visual displays, take a look inside our new dark cell at the Prison and Police Museum and follow the family 'picture' trail … 


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