Image: Detail from G E Butler

Emma Williams

The Wicked Girls of Red Lodge

Bristol Poetic City/
Thu 17 December 2020

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Emma Williams

The Wicked Girls of Red Lodge

Image: Detail from G E Butler
Thu 17 December 2020,

Zoom

In 1854, Mary Carpenter set up the first ever reformatory school for girls at Red Lodge.

It provided board and training to female ‘delinquents’ under the age of sixteen. An alternative goal was to prevent children from becoming hardened criminals.

Carpenter wrote two journals describing the day-to-day running of the first six years of the school. They reveal her ongoing battles with the older girls.

She describes the ‘wickedness, daring and vulgarity’ she encountered, and the punishments she was forced to use to keep the girls on a righteous path. These included placing them in separation cells which can still be found in the basement of The Red Lodge Museum.

Commissioned by A Poetic City, Emma Williams was writer in residence at Red Lodge in September. She researched these ‘wicked girls’ and using monologues and poetry created voices for individuals whose only significant historical mark was a surname in Carpenter’s journal.

This talk will investigate the lives of the Red Lodge girls between 1854 and 1860. It will explore the techniques Williams used to transform archive material into dramatic text and discuss the ways in which the museum itself, the oak room and isolation cells, influenced the research.

This is a UWE Regional History Centre talk in partnership with M Shed seminar series.

A Poetic City is a city-wide programme that explores the legacy of the Bristol-born poet, Thomas Chatterton. Four local writers were appointed to work in selected cultural venues in Bristol as part of the wide-ranging programme celebrating the city’s literary and poetic heritage.

Image: Detail from G E Butler’s painting ‘Mrs Mary Carpenter and her First Reformatory Girl, Annie Woolham, at Red Lodge, October 10th, 1854’ (1922) K4578 (c) Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives.

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