Nautical School Ship - Sobraon

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    N.S.S Sobraon
    Dated: No date
    Digital ID: 4481_a026_000001

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    The ships Vernon (est. 1867) and Sobraon (est. 1892) were Industrial Schools for Boys. Boys received a combination of moral training, nautical and industrial training and instruction, and elementary schooling. The ships were made use of this way as there were no separate boys' reformatory schools until 1895.

    The Vernon was docked at Cockatoo Island. The Sobraon, which replaced the Vernon in 1892, was used until 1911, when the remaining boys were set to the Mittagong Farm Home for Boys and the Brush Farm Home for Boys.

    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.

    More information can be found in Archives Investigator -> Advanced Search -> Agency -> 411

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    BobMeade, Dictionary of Sydney, and 4 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. jo.carpenter1 57 months ago | reply

      The house I currently live in is named after this ship as the original occupant did his training on board.

    2. jricho50 51 months ago | reply

      My Grandfather John Ashley was committed to this Ship in 1899, at the age of ten. He was found by Police sleeping out at night and charged at Balmain.

    3. State Records NSW 51 months ago | reply

      Thanks, jricho50, for adding this history. You might be interested in other Sobraon images on Photo Investigator.

      jo.carpenter1 That is interesting to know how your house came to be named!


    4. Purcell 1895 47 months ago | reply

      My grandfather (Wilfred Purcell) was committed to the Sobraon on 1 January 2010 at age 14 years, 9 months. His cousin (Roy Purcell) had been commited there 3 years earlier.

    5. State Records NSW 47 months ago | reply

      Thanks, Purcell 1895, for sharing; you might be interested in some other images of the Sobraon in our image catalogue, Photo Investigator and some information on the records we hold.


    6. John McDonald2011 47 months ago | reply

      We are American relatives of James Alonzo Kilcup who was on the Sobraon I think in 1896. At age 17 he was arrested again in Coonamble as a horse thief. Did he escape from the Sobraon or was he released? The next record I have is him being killed in Turkey as part of the ANZAC effort in WW1.

    7. State Records NSW 46 months ago | reply

      One of our Senior Archivists in Public Access has a reply for you:

      "We have Entrance Books for the Vernon Training Ship 1867-97, Reels 2884-2887; and for the Sobraon Training Ship, 1897-1911, Reels 2888-2890. The Entrance Books are available on, and may show how your ancestor left the training ship. Alternatively we also hold a Placement Book for the Sobraon covering the years 1904-11 on Reel 2890 in both of our reading rooms. If your ancestor escaped, he may possibly be listed in the NSW Police Gazette. Police Gazettes are arranged chronologically and are available on microfilm in both our reading rooms and at the State Library of NSW."

      Hope this helps,


    8. pammp63 36 months ago | reply

      I've just found 2 of my great-great-uncles were sent to the Vernon, both for being uncontrollable and sleeping rough. Robert Mathers was sent in 1886, aged 11y 1 month, and his younger brother Henry in 1893, aged 12y 3months. Both boys were apprenticed on leaving the Vernon, and seemed to lead regular lives. Thanks for the Information.

    9. rsmall2007 36 months ago | reply

      Hello My Grandfather Henry Reginald Small was sent to the Sobraon on 18th September 1895 aged 10 fror "Sleeping Out" and released 13th Oct 1900. Is there any detailed information about the occupants of Sobraon during their stay on the ship or when released? I know he married my Grandmother in Cornwall England in 1919. Thanks Richard Howard Small

    10. State Records NSW 36 months ago | reply

      NRS 3902, Sobraon Entrance Books might provide you with some additional information. These are available on mircofilm in our Reading Rooms (reels 2888-2890) and online through

      There is also a series, NRS 3903 Correspondence and documents relating to committals, which could be of interest. This series can be viewed at our Western Sydney Reading Room in Kingswood. You can pre-order records in advance of your visit. Please see
      You might also be interested in other Sobraon images on Photo Investigator.

    11. Bounja 32 months ago | reply

      After nearly 20 years research tonight I have just found a SMH Newspaper Clipping dated the 16th september 1885 in Police Rounds Colum reading that William Abbey aged 9 was ordered to the TSS Vernon for having been found wandering the streets without employment. William was my great grandfather and the same story was an'urban myth' passed down in our family until it could be proved today!!! Now the hard work begins to find more records of how long he was there, if he was visited by his family who owned the famous Abbey's Shoes/bootmakers of 350 George Street Sydney...I can't wait to get to Sydney next year to search the records/archives....what a great find ! Will Barrett Esq.

    12. State Records NSW 32 months ago | reply

      Congrats on your discovery and good luck with your research!
      - AG

    13. beachcomberaustralia 32 months ago | reply

      There is an early (Feb 1871) photo of the 'Sobraon' at west Circular Quay in her days as a "tea clipper" -

    14. searching27 31 months ago | reply

      Herbert Taylor was sent to the TSS Vernon in 1905. How do you find any information on when he was released.

    15. robbiemac53 30 months ago | reply

      I found information on Henry Joseph "Harry" Benham who married my great aunt Ivy Swadling. At first I thought he would have been too young to enlist until I realised it was a retraining facility for boys.

      New South Wales, Australia, Entrance Books for the Vernon and the Sobraon, 1867-1911 Record for Joseph Benham
      Item #07-53-5511-94 page 281-282
      "On the 27th November 1907, at Bondi Beach, in the Metropolitan Police District, he the said child did attempt to steal from the pockets of a person unknown." Ref: Mr Jospeh Benham, 135 Eveleigh St, Redfern. There was no statement taken by the boy.
      The date of committal at the Children's Court was 2 Dec 1907 before Stephen Murphy JP Special Magistrate and his name was recorded as Joseph Benham, born 1 October 1896 in Sydney and was a Presbyterian.
      The list of character was "bad", he had been before a Bench of Magistrates on three previous occasions - the first for damaging property, the second for indecent language and the third for stealing. He had been fined and released on probation for 18 months. The police report considered his companions to be "bad".
      He had been placed under State control at an Industrial School "only while on probation" because of his "attempt to steal from pockets of person unknown at Bondi dressing sheds on 27th Nov 1907.
      His parents' full names were Joseph Benham, a railway employee earning 45/- per week and Mary Benham. There were five other siblings but none in any other institution.
      There was "nothing known against parents" about their general character and he had been arrested without their presence.
      The evidence stated "On the afternoon of the 27th ultimate this boy was seen by a constable and another man in the dressing sheds at Bondi Beach. He was going round among the clothes of bathers and searching their pockets. On his being arrested he gave a wrong name and address. This is the third time this boy has been before the Court, and he is at present on 18 months probation. His parents seem to take but little interest in him."
      His state of health was good, there were no marks or bruises on him.
      On 9 Nov 1910 there was a petition for his release and he was "conditionally discharged on 15 Dec 1910 to 135 Eveleigh St, Redfern."
      height: 4'3¼" to 4'3 5/8"; chest 25" to 26 ¾"; weight 62 lbs to 70 lbs.
      On his release he signed J Benham.
      You have to feel for these kids who would have been living in tough times and trying to survive the best they could in the circumstances. Maybe they were not 'bad' but just resourceful in trying to survive.

    16. jmibo1975 30 months ago | reply

      I have just found a relation that was on the Vernon 1888 at the age of 12 his name was Charles Splatt

    17. elaine481941 26 months ago | reply

      I have just found this site although I knew that my 1st cousin 3x removed, David George Small, had spent time on this ship. It was great to see something of the live of the children who lived on board.

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