Philanthropic Society Farm School


The Philanthropic Society was founded in 1788 by Robert Young. Its focus was on helping the children of convicted felons or child criminals. The reformatory farm school opened at Redhill, Surrey, in 1849. It operated like a school of industry, with its residents employed in farm and garden labour.

After receiving training at Redhill Farm School, many of the boys were helped to emigrate to the British colonies as apprentices.

As early as the 1850s, boys were sent to Canada in small groups. The Society did not have a receiving home. The boys were sent directly to work placements across the country, including Saskatchewan, which was then part of the Northwest Territories.

An estimated 2,000 Redhill boys had emigrated by 1919.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files (RG76 B1a)

This series contains correspondence between the Immigration Branch and many of the sending organizations. The files contain a variety of documents relating to the activities of the organizations, often including annual reports, lists of children's names and medical certificates. The documents within each file are arranged by date. Microfilm reels can be viewed on site.

Most of the microfilm reels in this series are digitized on the free website Héritage. Enter the reel number in the search box, e.g. C-4715. If the reel is digitized, click on the reel title to see the images. The page contents are not searchable, but you can skip ahead through the images to find the volume and file of interest, then browse through the pages in that file.

File title: Philanthropic Society Farm School, Redhill, Surrey, England, 1898-1910
RG76, volume 104, file 16900, microfilm C-4768

Royal Philanthropic Society's Farm School fonds (MG28 I496)

This fonds consists of copies of the annual reports, 1848 to 1871, which include the rules of admission, reports of the activities of the Society, numbers of boys and general information about their welfare. Included are letters from boys who emigrated to Canada and elsewhere. The boys are identified only by their initials and country of residence (microfilm A-2082, second item on the reel, must be viewed on site).

Research in Other Institutions

The records of the Royal Philanthropic Society and Farm School are held at the Surrey History Centre and include Registers of Admissions (1788-1967). A nominal index was created, covering the years 1788 up to 1906. See Registers of Admissions for a link to the online index, links to other record descriptions and information about how to access the records.

The collection also includes an emigration letter book, 1857-1874, which contains material related to Canada West, the Red River settlement, New Brunswick, and a list of boys sent to Canada in 1866 (Reference 2271/33/2).

Research Online

Published Sources

  • The golden bridge: young immigrants to Canada, 1833-1939 by Marjorie Kohli, pages 389-393. (AMICUS 28334219)

  • Charlotte Neff studied a group of boys who emigrated to Ontario in the article "Youth in Canada West: A case study of Red Hill Farm School emigrants, 1854–68", Journal of Family History, vol. 25, no. 4, 2000, pages 432–491.

Other Resources

See our Home Children 1869-1932 page for links to other research sources, websites and institutions in Canada and the United Kingdom.

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