Reformatory Hulks/Training Ships

The government set up ‘nautical school ships’ as reformatories for wayward or neglected boys. On board these ships, the boys were given nautical and industrial training and instruction, elementary schooling and ‘moral training’. One of the key aims was to provide sufficient training to give the boys an opportunity to obtain meaningful employment after they left the ship.

The Industrial Schools Act of 1866 authorised the Governor to proclaim "any ship or vessel or any building or place together with any yards, enclosures grounds or lands attached thereto to be a 'Public Industrial School' ". Any vagrant or destitute child under the age of sixteen could be directed by two Justices of the Peace to attend an Industrial School and to remain the responsibility of the Superintendent until the age of eighteen, unless apprenticed out or discharged.

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Fitzjames Ship

Moored at Largs Bay & False Arm

Largs Bay & False Arm



Provider:South Australian Government

Year Opened:1880

Year Closed:1891

In 1876 the South Australian Government bought the Fitzjames, a Canadian three masted ship.

Unseaworthy, it had been moored in Melbourne’s Hobson’s Bay since 1866. The Government initially used the vessel as a quarantine hulk and then later, at the encouragement of the Destitute Board, had it refitted to serve as a Reformatory ship for ‘uncontrollable’ boys who were wards of the state. Prior to 1880 these boys were accommodated at Ilfracombe, a mansion in Burnside temporarily leased for the purpose.

Once brought to South Australia the Fitzjames was moored in shallow water at Largs Bay. On board the vessel, boys underwent ‘nautical’ training as well as regular schooling. They were under the control of a Superintendent. Boys made their own clothing and boots under the supervision of a tailor and a shoemaker. Other staff on the vessel included the schoolmaster, a carpenter and a cook. Clergymen from various faiths visited the Hulk every Sunday to conduct services. In 1888 a special arrangement was made for Protestant and Catholic boys to attend churches at Semaphore and Port Adelaide respectively.

Only a small number of boys ‘trained’ on this floating reformatory actually went to sea. The majority were placed out on farms.

During its life as a reformatory the Hulk was under constant repair, leaks being a continual problem.

Conditions on board for the boys were harsh and in May 1891 the boys were moved to a newly renovated Reformatory on the site of the Magill Industrial School. 

If anyone has any photos or information relating to this home could you please send it to CLAN.

From Finding Your Own Way Home - A guide to records of children's homes in South Australia

Largs Bay, SA

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