In 1872 William Towers was 12 years old. He was caught stealing two rabbits — possibly for food for his family. As punishment William was sent to Wandsworth prison. He was Prisoner 4099.

A group of students created and performed a play inspired by William's experience using real historical documents. The actual records still exist and are kept in The National Archives. This website tells the story.

William was probably just like many other Victorian working-class boys. He wore shabby, dark old clothes, held together with buttons and stitches.

To be sent to prison at such a young age must have been simply terrifying. Try to imagine how you would feel to be away from your family and in a strange place full of people you do not know.

He looks unhappy and may have been biting back the tears. The untidy, handwritten sign, held around his neck with string, shows his prison number; 4099.

Prisoner 4099 was run in partnership with students, teachers and youth workers from the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) New College Worcester and LOOK. Youthcomm Radio recorded and edited the performance.

Download a short radio feature about the project.

This is the first time that The National Archives has worked with young people to create a resource for our Learning Curve website.

We are very proud to make it available online and hope that you enjoy it.

Meet the people behind the radio play.

Go and meet the cast

Learn about William's life from original documents at The National Archives.

Go to the Historical Background section
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