Our History

One of the oldest charities in the world focused on the welfare of prisoners and ex-offenders, Royal London Society (RLS) aims to provide prisoners and ex-offenders based in London and the South-East with the skills, equipment and positive attitude required to find appropriate and sustainable employment.

A brief history of
the royal london society

  • 1824

    RLS was founded

    The inception of Royal London Society (The South London and Surrey Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society) coincided with improvements in the treatment of prisoners in the United Kingdom. The society aimed to help reform prisoners of both sexes upon their release from county prisons.

  • 1857

    ‘ROYAL’ title awarded

    In 1857, the Assistance of Discharged Prisoners was founded, placing female convicts into hostels, to be taught a trade to aid in finding work. Queen Victoria became patron of the Society in 1875 and permitted it to assume the title of ‘Royal’.

  • 1864-1910

    A new society

    The Discharged Prisoners’ Relief Committee was founded to assist short-term prisoners. In 1910 these organisations formed a joint committee to deal with prisoners aged between 16 and 21, forming an official union in 1939 creating ‘The Royal London Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society.

  • 1927

    Work is commended

    In 1927 the Society received a letter of congratulations from King George V commending its work. In the post war years RLS began submitting written evidence on prisoner aftercare to the Government’s advisory council.

  • 1965


    In 1965 RLS began research towards the prevention of crime and the concern for problems faced and caused by young offenders considering issues such as alcohol, drug addiction and patterns of re-offending.

  • 1971-1985

    Individuals assisted

    Between 1971 and 1985 RLS operated a number of hostels, helping young offenders successfully reintegrate into society. In 1985 these hostels were sold to generate funding and RLS accepted its first applications for support and financial aid from individual prisoners.

  • 1988-2007

    Grant applications

    In 1988, 23 applications for financial aid were made and RLS developed a single application grant process.

  • 2008-today

  • Further development

    RLS further expanded its joint venture programmes as applications approached 1,000 a year.