King George III (1760-1820) to Queen Victoria (1837-1901)
The Prisoner’s Friend : Thomas Wright never earned more than a foreman’s wage, but he helped hundreds of prisoners back into society.
The Prisoner’s Friend

Information taken gratefully from: Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal No. 280 (1849) p. 296f., and ‘Household Words’ Vol. 4, No. 102 (March 6th, 1852).

Thomas Wright (1789-1875) was an ordinary Manchester workman who dedicated his life to helping prisoners back into society. He put up bail and indemnified ex-convicts against any relapse into their old ways with his own money, yet he never earned much over £150 a year, roughly £15,000 today.

WHEN Thomas Wright learnt that a fellow employee at the Manchester foundry where he worked was to be sacked just because he was an ex-convict, he put down £20 as a guarantee of the man’s good behaviour. But by the time Wright reached the man’s lodgings, bursting with good news, the poor fellow had packed up and fled.

This sad tale prompted Wright to begin touring Manchester’s prisons in his few free hours (he worked from 5am to 6pm six days a week), using his own money and acting as a character reference to obtain release and employment for prisoners.

Thomas’s work was soon recognised, but he declined a position as Inspector of Prisons at £800 a year, believing he worked better as a private citizen. In 1852, he did accept an annuity equivalent to his foreman’s wages,* and on that modest salary devoted all his time to helping hundreds of prisoners begin new lives, while bringing up his own family of nineteen children.

* That is, £3 10s per week, or £157 10s per annum. The pound in 1852 was roughly equal to £100 today.

Information taken gratefully from: Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal No. 280 (1849) p. 296f., and ‘Household Words’ Vol. 4, No. 102 (March 6th, 1852).

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Picture: © Steve Fareham, Geograph. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
A view across Manchester from the Lowry Hotel, with the tower of Manchester (formerly ‘Strangeways’) Prison soberingly evident.
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