Victorian children had a reputation for good behaviour, but there were plenty of orphans on the streets, and Dickens’ fiction had a lot of troubled children. Here’s an item from the 1853 Staffordshire Advertiser, a report on the Staffordshire Quarter Sessions. It seems the magistrates had run out of options for this child, but the child had run out of choice long before:
THOMAS HANSBRY, a very little ragged boy, 12 year’s old was found guilty of stealing a cod fish, 12lbs weight, the property of Joseph Elborough Bailey, fishmonger, Wolverhampton, on the 23rd February. In conjunction with his mother he was convicted of felony at the Midsummer sessions in last year, and sentenced to be imprisoned 3 months and whipped; and also under the Juvenile Offenders’ Act in December 1850, in August 1851, and in December 1851, for which of which he served a term of imprisonment. He was sentenced to be transported for 7 years, the Chairman remarking that it was the most merciful course he could adopt.