Lowdham Grange. Borstal! by Jeremy Lodge.

lowedham-grange-borstalIn 1895 when children could be sentenced to hard labour in an adult prison for minor offences, a Home Office Committee  report envisaged for juvenile-offenders

‘… a halfway house between the prison and reformatory.  It should be situated in the country with ample space for agriculture and land reclamation work.   It should have penal and coercive sides according to the merits of particular cases.  But should be amply provided with staff capable of giving sound education, able to train inmates in various kinds of industrial work, and qualified generally to exercise the best and healthiest kind of moral influence.’

Eleven years later, a future prison reformer Alexander Paterson wrote after visiting a teenage offender in jail: that he was;

“deeply shocked by the sight of convicts with their broad arrow uniforms, closely shaven heads, and faces covered with a sort of dirty moss (they were only allowed to shave with clippers). No child could recognise their father in such a condition, no girl or wife could believe that they loved a man who looked like that. As they saw us coming, each man ran to the nearest wall and put his face closely against it, remaining in this servile position till we had passed behind him”

It took another twenty-four years of work by Alexander Paterson and many others to turn the Home Office Committee’s vision into reality.  That reality was Lowdham Grange, the historic borstal, which was opened in 1930.  Living initially in tents,  the young offenders, trained and supervised by local tradesmen built a pioneering  Open Borstal which had no walls or fences.  They and staff from the prison service, with the continued support of Paterson and others, created a building and a system that was to survive, against the odds, for some 50 years.  Lowdham Grange Borstal  was to attract professional, political, academic and press attention from around the world throughout its lifetime.

This richly illustrated book commences by describing the fate of young people in the English penal system in the 1800s; it then explores some of the challenges, developments and people who created this innovative institution in the Nottinghamshire countryside.  Also primarily, drawing on the testimonies of former staff and their families, former borstal lads and locals; the author draws a picture of what it was like to live and work at Lowdham Grange Borstal until its closure in 1982 and its demolition in the following decade.

Available for £9.99 + £2.80 p&p from Amazon.co.uk

The author, Jeremy Lodge, lived at Lowdham Grange where his father was a Prison Officer on his first posting in 1963.  He attended Lowdham Primary and Carlton-Le-Willows Grammar Schools then gained a degree at Lancaster University.  Returning to Nottinghamshire after several years, Jeremy spent most of his career in management, research and development roles for Nottinghamshire County Council and Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service; which included working with many of Nottinghamshire’s community, voluntary and statutory organisations.  During this time he lived in Arnold, Calverton, Collingham, Mapperley and Ravenshead. He has been awarded Masters Degrees by Nottingham Trent and Sheffield Hallam Universities.

Jeremy’s` long-term interest in history led to his voluntary work with the Southwell Diocese/Nottingham University Church History Project and his publication of  several e-books based on his wider research on a number of churches.  He is also a volunteer for the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln and is involved with The Nottinghamshire Local History Association, The Friends of the Centre for English Local History (Leicester), Collingham and District Local History Society, and is the Treasurer of a national nurses organisation (BARNA).   He has recently completed an MA in English Local History at the University of Leicester where an analysis of the origins and early years of Lowdham Grange  Borstal was the subject of his dissertation.   Jeremy has also written  books on the history of Collingham and its surrounds east of the river Trent and continues to research and write about Lowdham Grange Borstal where his current book is in its third print run.

12 thoughts on “Lowdham Grange. Borstal! by Jeremy Lodge.

  1. Jon Maycock

    I did 2years in lowdham grange borstal 1969 to 1970 I remember it as basically being based on the army it would not go amiss into days world it wasn’t easy but it taught me a few things to have respect for yourself and others which is lacking big time today something like that should be brought back in today’s world

    1. raymond stanley mcnally

      I’m trying to remember was there four houses there Patterson,stansfield, Malone which I was in can’t remember the other it was a trying time but put me in good stead some good mates we had our highs and lows was working in the kitchen started in bake house ended up in stores the chef was a huge man big belly but a very firm man, football was my love ,the games we had against the other houses were great, I’m seventy years of age the night before you are released you stand up before your house that you lived in and say something about what you have gained from your stay just thanked all then me and a lad named burke sang a couple of Irish ballads which went down suprisingly well would be nice to see if any lads remembered me thanks known as sugar Mcnally

      1. John Parker Post author

        Hello Raymond, I’ve passed your comment on to Jeremy Lodge, I’m sure that he will reply directly in due course.

      2. Jeremy Lodge

        Hi Raymond.

        Yes there were four houses at Lowdham Grange – the fourth was Warner. However, I don’t know who Warner House was named after. Paterson was named after Alexander Paterson who, as Prison Commissioner was a champion of the Borstal System and of Lowdham Grange. John Stansfeld greatly influenced Alexander Paterson when he was an undergraduate. Barney Malone was a Senior Officer at Lowdham Grange who was killed in Italy a few days before the battle of Monte Cassino (you may have seen his picture in the house when you were there?). But who Warner was I do not know. Jeremy.

      3. Newsletter Editor Post author


        We’ve had a comment posted in response to your query about house names, Paul (Paul Benton?) suggests that the name was WARNER

  2. Jeremy Lodge

    The book has now sold out although there may be a copy or two left at ‘The Bookcase’ in Lowdham and there is an early e-book on Amazon. I now have access to a lot of newly released material so I will probably write a substantially new edition after my current commitments lessen off in 2021. So if you have any thoughts memories/stories/documents/pictures that I could use, especially from the Lads perspective, please contact me – jeremylodge@yahoo.co.uk


    I went to Lowdem Grange 1975 good all the officers were kind and helpfully made me grow up Thank you MR Crisp , Mr TALBOT , mr Melbourne and everyone.

  4. Graeme Wright

    Good day- I arrive here, while researching someone on Ancestry.

    The research subject in question is one Albert Rosenfeld Junior, the son of Albert Rosenfeld Senior, a very famous Rugby League footballer, who played in the period around WW1.

    While Albert Sr was Australian- living, playing & plying his trade in the RL northern heartland, I feel sure Albert Jr was born in the UK- probably- Huddersfield- in 1914.

    Albert Jr was a mechanic- engineer, living between Halifax & Bradford in 1946, where he died- from injuries sustained in a motor cycle race. Albert Jr had not followed in his father’s footsteps, but taken up speedway racing.

    However & to my surprise, I find Albert Jr a resident of ‘Lowdham Grange Prison’ in 1939, & note it was a Borstal at that time. As a then 25 year old, I assume Albert Jr was not an inmate, & wonder if he may have been employed there in some capacity.

    I also question if the facility was being readied for the war effort during 1939, & how he may have found himself there. I found no other links between the Rosenfeld family & Nottinghamshire.

    I would be grateful for any information- or pointers, relating to the facility- in 1939. Albert Jr would die in July 1946, at the age of 32, following injuries sustained in a crash at Odsal Speedway, Bradford.


    Graeme Wright;

    1. John Parker Post author

      Hello Graeme
      Please see the attached from Eddie Shoesmith which was posted to our webpage on 10 August 2020

      In reply to Graeme Wright.

      Graeme — I’ve just come across your post about Albert Sydney Rosenfeld, who was my uncle. I never met him because he died the year before I was born. Nor, unfortunately, did I learn a huge amount about his life from my grandfather, grandmother or mother. My mother, Alby’s sister, was a year or so younger than him. She died about 18 years ago. A few months ago, I came across the record of Alby in the 1939 Register — as you say, at Lowdham Grange. On the Register, he is recorded as an inmate. I was very surprised indeed when I came across this record of him, and I am struggling to find an explanation. I’m curious as to why you were researching Alby, though looking at the family tree I’ve so far constructed on Ancestry, I’m guessing you may be a great-great-grandson. It would be good to get in touch.

      Graeme — I should have written great-grandson of Alby, not ‘great-great’ (so great-great-grandson of Albert Aaron, my grandfather). However, having done a bit more digging on Ancestry, maybe that guess about your relationship to my uncle was wrong. But I see there is a marriage between a Wright (not you) and a Rosenfeld (Alby’s granddaughter).

  5. Malcolm Calow

    I was an Officer at HMB Lowdham Grange from 1975 to 1979

    I then served in all types of establishments until 2008

    These first few years gave me the standards and abilities to both understand and control as well as a most important gift of being able to have that Prison sense of humour .

    My mentors , Wilf Marriott , Gerry Carver , Alf Robinson all left a part of themselves in my mode of controlling difficult people .

    A sad day when Borsalino system was replaced

    Malc Calow ex Prinipal Officer HMP

    Currently working as a part of the Prison Service National Assessment team at Newbold Revel

    1. John Parker Post author

      Hello Malcolm, I have passed your message on to Jeremy, You may be interested to know that late in 2018 the Ministry of Justice found some of the papers that it previously thought had been destroyed and made them available to the author, under restricted conditions. This facilitated the completion of an MA dissertation on Lowdham Grange. In 2020 the author was awarded a Thoroton Society grant to enable a further examination of Lowdham Grange Borstal and its people. He would therefore appreciate any further details, memories, stories, documents, photographs or other information that you may have, no matter how small or inconsequential they may seem.

      Jeremy can be contacted by writing to him at: 15 Satterley Close, Witham St Hughs. Lincoln. LN6 9QB or jeremylodge@yahoo.co.uk

  6. Helen Higley

    Hello, I’ve been trying to find out more about Lowdham Grange Borstal. My dad, John Cape lived there as a child while his father Charles Cape was the Borstal Governor.
    I recall my dad, who went on to become Governor at Usk prison in Wales attending a March commemorating a March linked to Lowdham grange, I have old photos of my grandfather , Charles Cape camping out on the grange site in tents. Sadly my dad John Cape died too young in 1981. I have recently been trying to find out more about his family history and came across this page.


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