Four days’ hard labour

Victorian child prisoner, Albert Cullum (PCOM 2/300)
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What was life like for a Victorian child criminal?

This workshop introduces pupils to documents about Victorian child criminals and the background of Victorian crime and punishment. Working in groups, pupils study documents relating to a particular Victorian child who was sent to prison. The documents contain a photograph of each child, with details of their name, age, address, crime committed and punishment received.

For the first part of the workshop, pupils will feed back what they have found out about their child. They will look at additional documents relating to Victorian prisons to investigate what conditions and punishments were really like. The education officer delivering the workshop will lead a discussion on the social and economic background of these children´s lives, and Victorian attitudes to crime and punishment, to provide a context for understanding these cases.

For the second part of the workshop, pupils will learn to write a poem about their Victorian child criminal in the first person. The use of metaphors to help them describe their thoughts and feelings as this child will be explained and discussed. They will then use these ideas to write their own poem and demonstrate their empathy with their Victorian child and understanding of the period.

The workshop gave our students a unique opportunity to look at original documents – they went away with a real feeling of having been treated as ‘historians’.

Year 5 teacher

This session is delivered as a workshop. Find out more about the types of session we offer.

Session options

This session is delivered as a:


at The National Archives

2 hours

Virtual classroom

in your classroom

1 hour


in your classroom

1 hour

Available: All year

Cost: Free to UK schools

Suitability: Key stage 2

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Contact us

All activities must be booked in advance.

Tel: +44 (0)20 8392 5365

Fax: +44 (0)20 8487 9202

Contact the education team