Hidden Lives Revealed. A virtual archive - children in care 1881-1981 * Image of handwritten text

About Hidden Lives Revealed - A Virtual Archive, 1881 - 1981

Hidden Lives Revealed is an exciting and unique resource for anyone interested in British social history. The website has something to offer if you are at school learning about the Victorians or even at university studying social work. Maybe you have an interest in Victorian architecture - or perhaps you'd just like to play the online games or download a screensaver.

'Waif' girl
'Waif' girl
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Although Hidden Lives Revealed has information on children's homes up to the 1980s, the site focuses on the period 1881-1918, and includes unique archive material about poor and disadvantaged children cared for by The Waifs and Strays' Society. The Society cared for children across England and Wales - in both the densest urban conurbations and some of the smallest rural villages.

To give an example of how many children The Waifs and Strays' Society looked after in its early years, about 22,500 children were cared for between 1881 (when the Society was founded) and the end of the First World War (1918). The Waifs and Strays' Society became the Church of England Children's Society in 1946 and is now known as The Children's Society.

Our site features a range of archive material, most not previously accessible by the public, as well as articles and learning resources that help interpret these stories for a modern audience. No other Internet archive gives you the opportunity to browse through such unique material - a kind of resource which has the type of information not recorded elsewhere.

This site features the full contents of around 150 case files of children in the care of the The Waifs and Strays' Society from Victorian and Edwardian times. Even though some of these cases are from over 100 years ago, they have been fully anonymised to prevent the children's identification. Each case is summarised, and linked to pages about the actual homes they lived in.

Photographs from The Children's Society archives illustrate some of the grinding poverty of the time, and also show how children's lives were turned round when they entered the Society's care.

Also featured on the site are the full browsable texts of various Society publications - these include the supporter magazines Our Waifs and Strays and Brothers and Sisters as well as the organisation's Annual Reports.

Hidden Lives Revealed not only gives you the chance to find out about the lives of individual people, but also about the Victorian and Edwardian social order. You can find out about:

  • The poorest and most disadvantaged sections of society
  • Peoples' lives at work
  • Family relationships and community networks
  • Laws relating to child welfare
  • How the Society cared for disabled children and integrated them into society
  • How social support charities worked with local communities

Hidden Lives Revealed was one of three projects funded by the New Opportunities Fund (now the Big Lottery Fund) that formed the Citizenship Past consortium. Together these three projects provided different insights into British social history and into the lives of a vast range of different people.

For further information about Hidden Lives Revealed or about records held by The Children's Society please contact us at Hidden-Lives-Revealed@childrenssociety.org.uk

There are also details about the Technical Standards of the Hidden Lives Revealed website and a list of contributors. We would also like to thank the Institute for Learning & Research Technology, University of Bristol for its help with putting the website together and its continuing support.

Hidden Lives Revealed has a Facebook page.

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