‘The best of both worlds’ – Independent Living in the north-east, 1970s-1990s

Another in the series of our blogs – written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper – that takes a look at the history of The Children’s Society’s former children’s homes and social work projects since 1881, this one featuring the charity’s work in the North East Region and the creation of new ‘Independent Living’ Projects.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, The Children’s Society was in the midst of a marked transition in the provision of front-line care. The number of residential homes for younger children was diminishing (many being closed, whilst others passed into the control of local authorities), and The Society – which was actively pursuing greater professionalisation of its staff – was in the process of shifting its focus towards the family unit and older, teenage, children (i.e. “young people”).

Reflecting society as a whole, this was an era of experimentation and flux for The Society, and these changes had a marked impact on its activities in the North East Region.

In the 1970s The Society recognised that young people who were about to leave residential care needed help to bridge the gap between the sheltered surroundings of a children’s home and the self-reliance needed for living on their own. These young people needed a positive setting where they could gain direct experience of housekeeping skills such as budgeting, cooking and shopping. In response, The Society set up a number of community based ‘Independent Living’ schemes during the 1970s and 1980s. These consisted of ordinary flats and houses that could be used by young people leaving care, where they could also get advice and support in preparing for adult life. Several of these were created in the North-East Region.

Nicholas House, West Boldon

Of particular note was the establishment of The Society’s first venture into the provision of bedsitter accommodation at Nicholas House, West Boldon, near South Shields. Formerly known as St Nicholas’ Home for Boys, this had been a children’s home since 1906. However, by the early 1970s the home had closed and the decision was taken to refurbish the property with self-contained bedsitter facilities for up to seven boys. The project re-opened in late 1974 as Nicholas House, and plans were soon put in place to expand provision and admit girls too.

Nicholas House was considered The Society’s first venture in the provision of “half way house” accommodation, and was viewed as a step change from the earlier establishment of hostel accommodation developed in recent years at Nottingham and Kettering. With on-site provision of qualified Children’s Society social workers, the scheme was a deliberate attempt to promote ‘independent living’, and set out to encourage residents (who had all previously being in local authority care) to look after themselves. As such, the residents paid their own rent, provided and cooked their own food, and were free to re-decorate their own rooms. Furthermore, the residents had their own front door key and were free to come and go as they pleased “within limits”. The “object of the experiment [sic] is to bridge the gap between institutional care with complete independence with some built-in safeguards.” (Gateway Magazine, Summer 1976, pp. 4-5).

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The majority of residents of Nicholas House Teenage Unit – as it was subsequently termed – were formerly in the care of the South Tyneside local authority. However, as residents came to leave the project at age 18, it became apparent to both The Society and local authority that there was a requirement for further after care and a need to ‘de-institutionalise’ residents. Hence, springing directly from the work at West Boldon, there developed a subsequent project in South Tyneside promoting independent living.

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The project closed in May 1992.

Project for Independent Living and South Tyneside Independent Living Project

The Project for Independent Living (PIL) or South Tyneside Independent Living Project (STILP) was initially established in 1986, as a satellite project allied to the work undertaken nearby at West Boldon.

Having identified the difficulties of residents leaving Nicholas House, and local authority homes in general, The Society and South Tyneside local authority – with the additional support of local housing associations and Barnado’s – provided additional support for up to six young people leaving care in South Tyneside. Described as an ‘assisted lodging scheme’, the project sought to provide continued support for young people leaving care for up to 12 months. It assisted them to find suitable accommodation, and provided practical help with moving and decorating. The project also provided tenants with a drop-in centre for the provision with support and advice.

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Financial provision for the project was mainly funded by the local authority, with local housing associations providing suitable flats for accommodation. At the outset, The Society’s input relied on the assistance and expertise of staff based at Nicholas House, though in time a dedicated office in South Shields with its own staff (which included a project leader and two social workers) were established for the project as it became independent. Perhaps as a reflection of the prior relationship with activities at Nicholas House and the sharing of staff and facilities, the project’s official opening wasn’t until October 1990.

The Children’s Society’s participation in the project continued until April 1998, after which time the project was taken in-house by South Tyneside social services.

Preparation for Independent Living On Tyneside

Mirroring the activities undertaken south of the River Tyne, a similar project was established to the north at Whitley Bay. Initially known as North Tyneside Flatlets, and subsequently termed PILOT (Preparation for Independent Living On Tyneside), the project was initiated during 1983/84 and as the fruition of an approach by North Tyneside social services to The Society to work in partnership to provide a ‘bridge’ for young people leaving residential care.

The project commenced on a relatively small-scale, starting with just four young people aged between 16 and 18, living in local housing association flatlets. However, with three full-time staff provided by The Society, the project soon developed to the point of providing accommodation for up to thirteen young people, located either in the PILOT hostel or in nearby flatlets.

By the early 1990s as many as six full-time staff were being provided by The Society, and the scheme was over-subscribed. Most referrals to the scheme came directly from North Tyneside (the local authority ‘purchased’ eleven of the thirteen places available) whilst others were sponsored by Durham and South Tyneside local authorities.

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With an anticipated residency of nine months, young people in the scheme were expected “to meet the pressures of unsheltered life”, and thus learn practical skills and “develop their full personal and emotional maturity”. However, the project clearly recognised the problems encountered in similar projects elsewhere and sought to provide aftercare “for as long as necessary”. By the early 1990s for example, whilst there were thirteen young people resident within the scheme, a further twenty were in receipt of further assistance following their participation. (All quotes sourced from North East Region Project Plans, 1988/89)

The Children’s Society continued to part-fund the project until March 1997. Thereafter, activities on Tyneside – in keeping with a general review of strategy – were redirected towards ‘floating support’ and attention towards a broader range of needs allied to The Society’s then operable strategic ‘Justice Objectives’.

Want to know more?

The growth and development of The Society’s new social work projects from the late 1970s onwards is discussed in the following blog ‘A New Reality’: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/blog/2015/06/new-reality-gateway-magazine-winter-1975/

Records relating to all of the projects and homes featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive – see the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

Helping Young Runaways Since 1881

Another in the series of our blogs that takes a look at the history of The Children’s Society’s former children’s homes and social work projects since 1881 – this one featuring the charity’s work with young runaways and their care and support.

Central London Teenage Project: a pioneering Project for young runaways

In 1985 The Society opened a pioneering new Project called the Central London Teenage Project (known as CLTP). This Project  accommodated young people who had runaway from home and were living on the streets of London.

The purpose of the Central London Teenage Project was to provide accommodation until the young person could be either returned to their parents or moved into suitable care, with the aim of achieving this as quickly as possible. This was an innovation providing a refuge for young people who had run away in the London area.

pamphlet for UK's first safe house - front page

One of the core functions of the Project was to address the reasons why children run away. The Project worked to gain the trust of the young person and resolve the problems before helping them to return home. In working with young runaways, this was a new direction.

The Project emerged as a key area of The Children’s Society’s work. CLTP intervened with children and young people who were at risk of exploitation or abuse and provided a safe refuge for them. In its first year the Project worked with over 200 young runaways – coming from places all over Britain to London.

In 1990 the Project established a Safe House to provide longer term accommodation for young runaways. This was known as CLTP 2. The extension of the Central London Teenage Project was due to recognition in The Children’s Society of the need for more work with young runaways.

Also in 1990 two similar Projects were opened by The Children’s Society elsewhere in the country to work with young runaways. These were Safe in the City in Manchester and Leeds Safe House. Like CLTP, these Projects provided a refuge for young runaways and worked with them to try and resolve the difficulties that had led to them running away.

'Safe in the City' pamphlet

Helping Runaways Since 1881 – the work of CLTP was founded on a century of working with young runaways.

In its early days The Children’s Society ran children’s Homes across the country, when it was known as the Waifs and Strays Society. These Homes looked after vulnerable children and young people, large numbers of whom had run away from their family homes.

Take the example of Lily, who came into the care of The Children’s Society in 1894. Lily’s mother had died, leaving Lily and two of her younger siblings in the care of her father, who was described as being a drunken and violent man. At the age of 14, Lily and her two younger siblings ran away from home to escape his ill treatment.

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Lily was referred to The Children’s Society by the NSPCC and went to live in The Society’s home, St Chad’s, in Far Headingley near Leeds. Here she was taught a trade to help her find future employment and support herself financially once she was old enough. After two years in St Chad’s Home, Lily went to live with her aunt in Normanton, Yorkshire.

A girl who has completed her training and is ready, with her uniform, to go out to work in domestic service, 1910

The Present Day

Unfortunately, the conditions that force children to run away from home were not restricted to the 1890s or the 1980s. Children who run away from home today face the same pressures and need just as much help.

The Children’s Society’s work with young runaways continues to this day, with the Make Runaways Safe Campaign

The growth and development of The Society’s new social work projects from the late 1970s onwards is discussed in the following blog ‘A New Reality’: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/blog/2015/06/new-reality-gateway-magazine-winter-1975/

Records relating to all of the projects and homes featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive.

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

In the front line – social work projects in Gloucestershire, 1987-1993

Today we have the second part of a blog post written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper, that looks at The Children’s Society’s work in Gloucestershire in the 1980s and 1990s, when new types of community-based social work projects were being developed. This follows on from a previous overview of The Society’s work in the county between 1897-1954: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/blog/2015/11/a-friend-to-friendless-children-the-childrens-society-in-gloucestershire-1897-1954/

Annual review for The Children's Society, dated 1977/8, and a magazine sent to supporters of the charity, dated 1975, showing the change in emphasis in The Children's Society's work

The Society became very active in Gloucestershire over the period 1987-1993. This activity generated three important projects: the Gloucestershire Drugs Project in Cheltenham; the Gloucester Diocesan Team; and Deakin House.

Gloucestershire Drugs Project

The Society used this project to pioneer its work in this particular field. Based in Cheltenham, it provided information and counselling for young people involved in drug taking, their families and friends, and other agencies working with these young people. Training and education was also high on the project’s list of priorities as it sought to influence Social Services, Local Authorities and the local community about drug use and related issues such as the link with HIV/AIDS, and reinfection in general.

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The project reached out to a large number of young people, and by the end of 1987 – its first full year of operation – the advice, information and counselling centre in Cheltenham had received over 100 referrals.

Throughout the life of the project, approximately half of the individuals seeking assistance were self-referrals, though a significant number were directed towards the project by the Probation Service and non-statutory and voluntary agencies; signifying the extent to which the project had established its presence and demonstrated its effectiveness.

The project team was not large, and at its outset comprised no more than three or four full-time staff. However, enhancing the effectiveness and breadth of the project’s impact, there were a significant number of volunteer helpers. Consequently the project was able to pilot such programmes as a needle and syringe exchange scheme, and undertake initiatives with the Prison Service and engage directly with soon-to-be-released prisoners.

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From August 1990 the project became an independent company, though The Society’s presence was maintained thereafter through the secondment of one of its key staff. Subsequently, the expertise developed by the project saw it being absorbed within the county-wide drugs service, for which Local Health Authority funding was provided, in March 1992.

Gloucester Diocesan Team

The Gloucester Diocesan Team was launched in 1988, and as such was one of several diocesan teams created by The Society in the West and Wales Region during the late 1980s. The aim of the team was to co-ordinate work with the Church (through the Diocesan Board for Social Responsibility) and local community groups, and to help people improve the quality of life in their own neighbourhoods. In the process of doing this it sought to achieve two main things; firstly to build a sense of community, and secondly to help people plan strategies and find resources to overcome problems within their communities. Once established, it was anticipated that such initiatives would run autonomously or with relatively little intervention.

Leaflets from the Gloucestershire Diocesan Community Team, 1990 [The Children's Society Archive]

Leaflets from the Gloucestershire Diocesan Community Team, 1990 [The Children’s Society Archive]

The range of activities undertaken by the Diocesan Team was extensive, and included such initiatives as the Northleach Deanery Youth Project, the Cheltenham Parents Support Group, the Matson Neighbourhood project in Gloucester, and Winnie Mandela House – a multi-ethic project for homeless young people, again located in Gloucester. The Team’s activities were spread throughout the diocese, and reached beyond the larger urban areas of Cheltenham and Gloucester extending to locations such as Stroud, the Forest of Dean and rural locations such as Cromhall and Dursley.

The Society’s formal involvement ceased in March 1993, when activities were transferred to the full control of the Diocese. However, to smooth the transition, The Society continued to fund the presence of a Community Development worker for a further two years.

Leaflets from the Gloucestershire Diocesan Community Team, 1980s-1990 [The Children's Society Archive]

Leaflets from the Gloucestershire Diocesan Community Team, 1989-1990 [The Children’s Society Archive]

Deakin House

The third strand of The Society’s activities in the county was this short-term project started in 1989. ‘Independent Living’ schemes – whereby young people leaving care are provided with their own rooms, shared facilities, and the opportunity to manage their own lives – were pioneered by The Society in the late 1960s, and Deakin House was established in this vein. The project was developed in partnership with Gloucestershire Social Services and the Gloucestershire Churches Housing Association, and The Society’s main area of input was the provision of a non-resident project co-ordinator. The hostel provided a home for up to 6 tenants with limited supervision. The project worked to provide advice and support in preparing for adult life, and allowed the young people residing there to have direct experience of housekeeping skills such as budgeting, cooking and shopping.

The Society’s involvement with Deakin House – which continued to be a bedsit hostel – was short-lived, and its responsibilities were transferred to the management of local agencies 1990/91.

Records relating to all three projects are held at The Children’s Society Archive.

The growth and development of The Society’s new social work projects from the late 1970s onwards is discussed in the following blog ‘A New Reality’: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/blog/2015/06/new-reality-gateway-magazine-winter-1975/

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

The First One Hundred Children – “there’s work to be done”

Today we have the second part of a blog post written by one of our volunteers, David Lamb, that looks at seven individual stories from the first one hundred children taken into the care of the Waifs and Strays’ Society – you can read the first part here: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/blog/2015/12/the-first-one-hundred-children-a-new-beginning/

The Waifs and Strays’ Society, the original name of The Children’s Society, was founded in 1881. Applications for children to be taken into the care of The Society started in February 1882 and are kept in case files for each child. The the first part of this blog was an analysis of the first hundred case files, all started in 1882. There is considerable variation in the amount and quality of information in the files, many containing just the application form often only partially completed, with brief notes of any subsequent moves on the back of the form. Some files contain correspondence, often about maintenance payments.

Individual children’s stories

Case 1: The Society’s First Boy – John was eleven years old and living in Brixton, south London, when the application was made by the parish visitor. His father was a labourer who earned sixpence (6d) an hour when he was in regular work. Their large family was poor and seldom remained in the same house for more than a few months. The parish visitor describes his parents as “two of the most wretched and degraded people in the neighbourhood”.

When John was seven, he fell on ice injuring his spine, and was then badly burnt. He never fully recovered from these accidents. He worked as a crossing sweeper at Clapham Common, but his health deteriorated with neglect. He was taken into an orthopaedic hospital and from there was moved to several convalescent homes. John was then taken into St Michael’s Hospital for sick and destitute incurable children in Shoreditch, but he could not be kept there due to his improving health.

He was received into the Clapton Home of the Society in south London, during February 1882, then spent seven months in a succession of privately run convalescent homes in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, followed by a similar time in a foster home in Balham, south London. After a further seven months in a training home for disabled children in Kensington (possibly the Crippled Boys Home, Wright’s Lane, Kensington, London), he returned to the Clapton Home. At seventeen, he was given a year’s trial as a clerk at St Mark’s Home, Natland near Kendal, making The Society’s first connection with that home.  He went on to develop a career in the printing trade in London, Redhill and Oxford.

His case file is unusual in that it contains regular correspondence up to his death at 59 from tuberculosis in Frome, Somerset, in 1930. He married in 1897 and had a daughter seven years later. He wrote verse and was fulsome in his praise and support for The Society. The Society also held him in high regard, given his success in life, achieved in the face of considerable adversity.

A photograph of John as a boy that appeared in the Our Waifs and Strays in magazine in 1901

A photograph of John as a boy that appeared in the ‘Our Waifs and Strays’ magazine in 1901

John Smith 2

A photograph of John seventeen years later as an adult, that appeared in the same edition of the ‘Our Waifs and Strays’ magazine.

Case 2: An Orphan Girl – Florence was seven years old when her maternal grandmother referred her into The Society’s care.  Her father, a bombardier in the Royal Horse Artillery, deserted from the army soon after marrying her mother. He was pardoned, but deserted again, went to sea and was drowned.  Her mother, a cook in the household of a Royal Artillery colonel, remarried but had died a month before the vicar in Woolwich applied to The Society to take Florence into its care.

Florence’s grandmother had children of her own to support and was looking after Florence’s half-sister who was very delicate. The vicar regarded her as “a really respectable woman only most unwisely married a very unsteady man who has been a constant expense to her. She is most anxious that her grandchild should be kept from evil and ready to give her up …”

Florence was received into the Dulwich Home, where she stayed for nineteen months. She then moved on briefly to a home in Harrow, before staying a while in a home not operated by The Society in Bayswater.

Case 3: A Destitute Boy  – John, 16 years of age, was found “quite destitute” on the streets in Whitechapel at 2am and was sent to the Clapton Receiving Home “by order of the Rev. R C Billing, Rector of Spitalfields and Rural Dean”.  His mother had died in Cardiff and his father “not known”, but thought to be living. He had a sister but did not know where she was.

He had been living in Kent, but had left his job in the ropeyard at Minster on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, eight months previously. He joined a troupe of tramps known to the police, but left them after four months. He had “been getting his living by working around the Billingsgate fish market in London, going to the Derby and other races and there assisting pedlars, coconut men, etc”.  He absconded from the Clapton House home after a month and joined the Notting Hill Shoe Black Brigade.

Case 4: Neglected Child to an Apprentice Carpenter –  Edward’s father, a compositor had died three years previously, and his alcoholic mother neglected her six children.  They were “left to run about the streets, almost destitute of food and clothing.”  His mother kept losing work through drunkenness and pawned clothes given to her for the children. Edward fell seriously ill brought on through neglect, ending up in Westminster Hospital.

Edward was signed over to the care of The Society by his mother just before his eighth birthday and was received into the Clapton Home.  He transferred to the Boys Home in Frome, Somerset, where at the age of 13 he was taken on as an apprentice for a local carpenter and builder.  The apprenticeship indenture commits Edward to working 57 hours per week for his Master  for seven years, starting at 2/6 per week (12.5p) rising to 10/6 (52.5p) per week in his final year, with two days annual holiday – Christmas Day and Good Friday.

Edward's apprenticeship indenture, dated 29 September 1887.

Edward’s apprenticeship indenture, dated 29 September 1887.

Case 5: Happy emigrant to America – Since William’s mother died of tuberculosis four years previously, his “seldom sober” father had led “a wandering vagrant life”, deserting, neglecting and ill-treating his children. Four of William’s older siblings had been rescued by the Perseverance Association and William was taken into the Clapton Home aged seven. Two and half years on, he was transferred to an orphanage near Banbury for a couple of years, before moving on to the Standon Farm Home in Staffordshire for three years.

He returned to London to the Jersey Working Boys Home in Blackfriars for four months before emigrating to a farm in Texas run by the brother of a lady supporter of The Society in Devon. In a splendid letter, half of which is reproduced below, William describes the journey and how different farming is in Texas.  “After a miserable voyage of eight days” from Liverpool to New York, “it was a delightful voyage” onward to Galveston – “we saw all the flying fish, jelleyfish [sic], porpoises, and a lot more things”. He went on by rail to Austin, then “had a drive of 35 miles, the roads allowing us to go about 4 miles an hour”.

“Texas is a very different place to what I thought it would be, it is very much better than I thought by the tales I heard in England … The horses, cows and pigs run wild … we have 215 sheep we had 252 but the wolves have ate the rest … at night we can hear them howl as though they ment (sic) to eat all the lot. … The pigs are very fond of watermelons which grow here to perfection and peaches. … The maise [sic] and cotton and grapes grow here too. … a thunderstorm in London is but a shower here. … I like my place very much – my master and mistress are very kind to me.”

Letter from William to the housemaster of the Henley Home, November 1890

Letter from William to the housemaster of the Henley Home, November 1890

Case 6: Army daughter left in care – Nine-year old Catherine and her little brothers were left living in the army’s Woolwich Barracks with only a thin partition dividing their bed from all the men when their father, a gunner in the Royal Horse Artillery, was put in prison. Their mother had died of sunstroke, probably when stationed abroad with her husband.

Catherine went into the Old Quebec Street Home in Marylebone in London, and the War Office deducted 3d (1p) daily from her father’s salary as a contribution to her maintenance. A little over a year later her father was discharged from the army (time expired) and emigrated to America with her eldest brother to live with her aunt and her sickly husband.  A letter from a company in Massachusetts indicated that her father had left their employ “in consequence of irregular and intemperate habits”.

When Catherine reached 14, she had a spell at the Sea Bathing Infirmary, Margate, which usually dealt with tubercular patients.  A few months after returning to the Marylebone Home, she went to work locally in domestic service, before going to India with a married couple, presumably as their servant.

 Case 7: A Familiar Route into Service – Twelve year-old Emily had lost her father, a merchant seaman formerly in the navy, who was washed overboard and drowned. Her mother struggled to support her four children and was constantly anxious when out at work about Emily who was pilfering small articles from the neighbours.

Emily was taken into the Marylebone Home for Girls for a couple of years under the terms of the agreement extract below, and then spent a few months in a foster home before going into domestic service in Bournemouth.

An agreement placing Emma in the Society's Central Home for Waifs and Strays, dated 6 December 1882.

An agreement placing Emma in the care of the Society’s Central Home for Waifs and Strays, dated 6 December 1882.

 

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

The Twelve Days of Christmas

A festive post written by one of The Children’s Society Archive team, Clare McMurtrie.

As the First Day of Christmas, or the 25th December, draws upon us we look at twelve Christmas traditions that have formed part of The Children’s Society’s Christmas celebrations for over a century, from the time when it was known as the ‘Waifs and Strays Society’. Discover twelve festive images and stories from The Children’s Society Archive, each one representing one of the Twelve Days of Christmas (or Twelvetide), as you open our visual Christmas calendar.

Stirring the Christmas pudding in The Society's homes , c1940s

Stirring the Christmas pudding in The Society’s homes , c1940s

1 – Christmas pudding: Stir-up Sunday is an informal term in Anglican churches for the last Sunday before the season of Advent. The Christmas pudding is one of the essential British Christmas traditions and is said to have been introduced to the Victorians by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. The meat-less version was originally introduced from Germany by George I in 1714. Traditionally children gathered together in the kitchen of some of The Society homes to stir the Christmas pudding on Stir-up Sunday. (Oxford English Dictionary, Second edition, 1989 (first published in New English Dictionary, 1917).

Children in one of The Society’s children’s homes in the 1940s alongside their Christmas tree

Children in one of The Society’s children’s homes in the 1940s alongside their Christmas tree

2 – Christmas tree: The custom of the Christmas tree developed in early modern Germany, with predecessors that can be traced to the 16th and possibly 15th century, in which devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. It acquired popularity beyond Germany during the second half of the 19th century. The photo above shows children in one of The Society’s children’s homes in the 1940s alongside their Christmas tree. (Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann (1978), Das Weihnachtsfest. Eine Kultur- und Sozialgeschichte der Weihnachtszeit (Christmas: A cultural and social history of Christmastide (in German). Bucher, p. 22.)

A large Christmas party, c1950s.

A large Christmas party, c1950s.

3 – Christmas party time: This photograph from the 1950s shows children from one of The Society’s homes enjoying tea at a large Christmas party.

Hanging up Christmas stockings, 1950s

Hanging up Christmas stockings, 1950s

4 – Christmas stocking: A tradition that began in a European country originally, children simply used one of their everyday socks, but eventually special Christmas stockings were created for this purpose. The Christmas stocking custom is derived from the Germanic/Scandinavian figure Odin. According to Phyllis Siefker, children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin’s flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir’s food with gifts or candy. (Siefker, Phyllis, Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years (chapter 9, especially pages 171-173, 2006).

Children in a Society home in the 1940s receive a present from Father Christmas

Children in a Society home in the 1940s receive a present from Father Christmas

5 – Father Christmas: This fascinating archive photo show eight small children in a Society home in the 1940s queuing to receive a present from Father Christmas, who is distributing toys from a Canadian Red Cross packing crate. (© Photo Press Limited)

Two girls looking at a nativity display in one of The Society's homes, 1950s

Two girls looking at a nativity display in one of The Society’s homes, 1950s

6 – Nativity scene: The tradition of constructing nativity scenes first flourished in an Italian context in the Middle Ages, and dates back to St. Francis of Assisi, who created the first living representation of the nativity in 1223 in Greccio, Lazio. The scene designed by St. Francis lacked Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus, however, and only the ox, the donkey and the manger with straw present in the cave. The first known complete nativity scene is that kept in the Basilica of Santo Stefano in Bologna. (http://www.swide.com/art-culture/nativity-scene-5-things-to-know-about-history-and-origin/2014/12/21)

Wartime festive spirit

Wartime festive spirit

7 – Wartime Girl Guides: Eight Girl Guides from Maurice Home for Girls in Ascot, Berkshire, show wartime festive spirit pulling a cart full of wood along a road in 1945.

Christmas fundraising flyer, 1890

Christmas fundraising flyer, 1890

8 – Feed My Lambs: This fundraising flyer, depicting an adult Jesus with two young ‘waifs’, was issued in Our Waifs and Strays magazine in December 1890.

Christmas flyer, December 1900

Christmas flyer, December 1900

9 – Our Family: This fundraising flyer from Our Waifs and Strays magazine in December 1900, features an angel and sleeping child. Alongside is a plea for donations to The Society’s funds to support its children.

Fundraising flyer, December 1911

Fundraising flyer, December 1911

10 – ‘A Christmas Gift’. An illustration in a fundraising flyer for Our Waifs and Strays magazine, December 1911, depicting the Dove of Peace being held by a child.

The Dove of Peace: According to the biblical story (Genesis 8:11), a dove was released by Noah after the flood in order to find land; it came back carrying an olive branch in its beak, telling Noah that, somewhere, there was land. Christians used Noah’s dove as a peace symbol.

Fundraising flyer, December 1917

Fundraising flyer, December 1917

11 – Christmas is the Children’s Festival: The fundraising flyer issued in Our Waifs and Strays magazine in December 1917, and features the Biblical image of mother and child.

Fundraising flyer, New Year 1912

Fundraising flyer, New Year 1912

12 – ‘They presented unto him gifts’: Twelfth Night is a festival, in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany. The Church of England, celebrates Twelfth Night on the 5th and “refers to the night before Epiphany, the day when the nativity story tells us that the three wise men visited the infant Jesus”. The fundraising flyer above was issued in Our Waifs and Strays magazine in the New Year of 1912, and is illustrated by Italian Renaissance artist Bernardino Luini’s ‘Adoration of the Magi’. (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1993).

See also:

268 years of Christingle: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-and-blogs/our-blog/267-years-of-christingle

The Children’s Society’s Christmas Bake and Brew campaign: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-you-can-do/fundraising-and-events/hold-a-bake-and-brew

Browse through publications of Our Waifs and Strays from 1882: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/waifs_and_strays/

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

 

The First One Hundred Children – a new beginning

Today we have the first part of a blog post written by one of our volunteers, David Lamb. The second part that looks at a few of the individual stories of the first one hundred children will follow shortly.

The Waifs and Strays’ Society, the original name of The Children’s Society, was founded in 1881. Applications for children to be taken into the care of The Society started in February 1882 and are kept in case files for each child. This piece is an analysis of the first hundred case files, all started in 1882, followed by summaries of sample cases. There is considerable variation in the amount and quality of information in the files, many containing just the application form often only partially completed, with brief notes of any subsequent moves on the back of the form. Some files contain correspondence, often about maintenance payments.

Age, Sex and Location

69 boys and 31 girls made up the first 100 cases. They included two families of three siblings, and one pair of sisters and one pair of brothers. Almost half the children were 7, 8 or 9 years old. Five were babies under 2; thirteen were 14 years or older. The ages of many children were estimated, particularly in cases of abandonment. Four of the children were declared illegitimate, although several more may have been.

Two brothers in The Society's care, c1890

Two brothers in The Society’s care, c1890

All but five applications were from London, mostly from inner London, particularly the East End. The others were from Sussex (2), Kent, Oxford and Suffolk. There are multiple applications by H Thornhill Roxby, a young man of independent means from Clapton, who found many destitute boys found sleeping rough around inner London, and worked closely with the Rector of Spitalfields Church in the East-End.

Family Circumstances

Most of the children had lost at least one parent, usually their father – 24 were orphans. Sixteen fathers had died in accidents, mostly at work; nine of them drowned, a common risk then of working on the Thames. Tuberculosis features regularly as the cause of parental deaths, particularly for mothers. Sunstroke was responsible for two parental deaths while on military service in India.

There are six cases of child abandonment, generally early teenage boys being left to fend for themselves. Parental desertion is mentioned in six other cases, three cases of paternal desertion and one of a mother leaving her three children.

Poverty and the sheer struggle to support large families come across in most cases. There are a few cases of children becoming difficult to control and falling into “bad company” with their widowed mother or widower father out of the home working from early morning until late evening. Truancy is mentioned a couple of times. There is one application to avoid the physical behaviour an aunt.

An element of moral guardianship by the church authorities that referred cases to The Society is evident in several cases. Drunkenness is mentioned in six times, in one of which the father “went wrong”, the mother “drinks” and the sister leads a “bad life”. “Perniciousness” of her new home is referred to in the case of a girl whose father had drowned. Theft occurs in ten cases.

Crossing sweeper in 1884 (by R L Sirus, courtesy of The National Archives

Crossing sweeper in 1884 (by R L Sirus, courtesy of The National Archives

The Children in Care

Most of the children initially went into the receiving homes in Clapton for boys and Dulwich for girls. They were then often transferred to other children’s homes, five of the first fifty going on to St Mark’s Home in Kendal, Cumbria. 22 went to foster homes, with five of them going to Dorset. Fifteen ran away from their placement. 42 eventually returned to their families or friends. Seven children emigrated, five to Canada and two to America. Six more were proposed or considered for emigration, but refused to go.

Employment

Compulsory school attendance had been introduced in 1880 for children aged 5–10 years. Ensuring children attended school proved difficult, as for poorer families it was more tempting to have them working if the opportunity to earn an extra income was available. Children under the age of 13 who were employed were required to have a certificate to show they had reached the educational standard. Many of the cases refer to children working in various jobs including crossing sweeper, working on sewers, and being in the shoeblack brigade.

This girl was just about to start her career in domestic service, 1910. During her 12 years at the Bolton-le-Sands Home, she would have been well trained for her new life.

This girl was just about to start her career in domestic service, 1910. During her 12 years at the Bolton-le-Sands Home, she would have been well trained for her new life.

Nineteen girls and twelve boys went on to become domestic servants, most of them well away from London. Nine boys went to sea, two of them in the navy, although one had to quickly abandon that career on account of acute seasickness. Other occupations mentioned were carpentry and hairdressing for boys and dressmaking for girls.

Part two of the blog will look at the stories of seven of the first one hundred children.

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

Fundraising, advertising and the First World War

We continue our series of blogs that look at the impact of the First World War on The Children’s Society. This post written by one of The Children’s Society Archive team, Clare McMurtrie, considers particular issues during the First World War – fundraising and advertising.

The Children’s Society’s Archive holds a fascinating collection of 523 fundraising flyers that were inserts in The Society’s former supporter’s magazine Our Waifs and Strays. The inserts date back to The Society’s beginnings in the 1880s, when it was known as the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society, and were often beautifully illustrated. The Society’s fundraising flyers chart not only the history of The Society itself, but also its place within history – from the workhouses and Poor Law of the nineteenth century, to the First and Second World Wars of the twentieth.

For Church and Country, October 1914

For Church and Country, October 1914

During the First World War fundraising was important to The Society (and other charities) as it sought to raise extra funds through advertising to support families affected by the War. Flyers included the one above from October 1914, which has a photograph of a young man in uniform who was formerly in the care of The Society, alongside the caption ‘For Church and Country’ inside a flag. Another First World War flyer is one which includes an illustration commissioned from Bernard Partridge. This insert was used in January 1918, at the tail end of the War, in the same month as British Premier and Liberal politician David Lloyd George (1863-1945) gave a speech to Trade Union delegates to outline British War Aims. The insert and its caption ‘Stick It!’ reflect the resilient and determined wartime spirit and the message of Lloyd George’s speech.

Sir John Bernard Partridge, known as Bernard, was born in London on 11th October 1861, the youngest son of Professor Richard Partridge and Fanny Turner. His uncle was John Partridge, Portrait Painter Extraordinary to Queen Victoria and he was educated at Stonyhurst College at the same time as Arthur Conan Doyle, before attending Heatherley’s and the West London School of Art.

Partridge had worked as a decorator of church interiors, but freelanced as a cartoonist. His first published work appeared in Moonshine, and he also contributed cartoons and illustrations to publications including Judy, Illustrated London News, Vanity Fair, Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News, Lady’s Pictorial, Pick-Me-Up, Quiver and The Sketch. On the recommendation of George du Maurier, grandfather of author Daphne du Maurier, Partridge first contributed to Punch in February 1891. He joined the staff later that year, going onto work for the magazine for over fifty years, producing political and joke cartoons as well as theatre caricatures. In 1910 Partridge succeeded Edward Linley Sambourne (1834-1896) as Chief Cartoonist, a position he held until his death.

Stick It! flyer, January 1918

Stick It! flyer, January 1918

Partridge’s style included being particular about figures in his cartoons and disliking using more than two in any cartoon, while tending to draw elaborate, statuesque figures in classical poses. The ‘Stick It!’ illustration is therefore an unusual example of his work in that it includes three figures; a Navy man, a soldier and a baby. Its message ‘To all at home’ was both a plea for donations at a time of economic hardship across the country and one of solidarity to reader’s plagued by war for four years. He was knighted in 1925 by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. Bernard Partridge died in London on 9th August 1945.

Browse through publications of Our Waifs and Strays from 1882: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/waifs_and_strays/

Browse the Punch Magazine Cartoon Archive: http://www.punch.co.uk

Learn more about conflict and the First World War: http://www.iwm.org.uk/

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

“A friend to friendless children”, The Children’s Society in Gloucestershire, 1897-1954

Another in the series of our blogs that take a look at the history of The Children’s Society’s former children’s homes and social work projects since 1881 – this time in Gloucestershire.

The Children’s Society has had a long association with Gloucestershire running a number of children’s homes and social work projects in the county over the years. This child care activity fell into two main periods, 1897-1954 and 1987-1993. These phases in part reflected the changes in the Society’s child care provision as it moved from residential child care into the new world of specialist social work projects and helping children, young people and families in their own communities.

This blog looks at the first of these phases, 1897-1954, when The Children’s Society ran two residential children’s homes in the county. During this time The Children’s Society was known as the Church of England Society for the Provision of Homes for Waifs and Strays – or, ‘Waifs and Strays’ for short. In 1946 the title changed to the Church of England Children’s Society.  The most important home during this period was St Monica’s Home for Girls in Cheltenham.

St Monica’s Home for Girls, Cheltenham

The Society took St Monica’s over in 1897. The home, which was originally known as the Frances Owen Memorial Home for Little Girls was founded in 1885 by a leading member of the Cheltenham Ladies College, Miss Sawyer. Situated at 2 Alexandra Villas, Hewlett Street, the home ran into financial difficulties during the 1890s and asked the Society to take it over.

The Society renamed the home the Gloucester Diocesan Home for Little Girls. During these early years the Society’s Annual Reports describe the home as being a ‘cottage home’ for 12 girls aged between 7 and 12. The cottage home or family-group home system was Edward Rudolf’s alternative to the large institutionalised children’s home that was so common in the nineteenth century. He wanted to establish homes that had only a small number of children cared for by a master and matron who would act like a mother and father to them. Every home was also supposed to have a pet cat or dog to complete the homely atmosphere!

A group photograph of the girls from the home taken in 1897

A group photograph of the girls from the home taken in 1897

By the early 1900s the Society was being asked to care for ever increasing numbers of children.  By 1906 it was clear that the home had outgrown its premises and needed to find a new site. In 1907 it moved to larger premises at Battledown Grange, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, and renamed St Monica’s. It remained here until it closed in 1954.

Order of service for the Installation of Matron to St Monica's, 1929

Order of service for the Installation of Matron to St Monica’s, 1929

This is not to say that nothing changed between 1907 and 1954. The most significant change during these years occurred in 1947 when a decision was made to convert the home into a residential nursery for children aged 0-5 and a training college for nursery nurses. The Society was a pioneer of both residential nursery provision and nursery nurse training. The Society’s ‘ABCD’ (Association of Baby and Child Welfare Diploma) course was started in 1942 and was used as the model for the Ministry of Education’s National Nursery Examination Board (NNEB) scheme.

The first term for the students at St Monica’s commenced in February 1948. They attended a specially devised nursery nursing course at the North Gloucestershire Technical College and were able to put theory into practice when they returned home to the nursery.

Charlton House, Gloucester

The Society acquired this home in 1905. The home had been set up by Miss Ellice Hopkins, who is described in the 1915 edition of the Society’s supporter magazine ‘Our Waifs and Strays’ as being “the friend of friendless girls”. Little is known about the history of Charlton House when it was managed by the Society, save that it was closed in 1915 on the grounds of “the immediate surroundings being detrimental to the proper upbringing of children”. Plans to build a new home in the town were defeated by the full force of the First World War.

Life at St Monica’s 1912-1937

What was it like to live in a children’s home run by the Society during these years? The survival in The Children’s Society’s Archive of correspondence, annual reports and inspection returns for St Monica’s makes it possible to compile a useful picture of daily life there.

The Daily Round

The girls at the home were expected to contribute towards a number of domestic tasks. These included housework, making beds under supervision, setting and clearing tables before and after meals and helping in the kitchen and scullery.

Education and Training

The girls at the home attended the local Anglican school, All Saints. Sundays were taken up with numerous visits to church and Sunday school. In 1915 and for much of the time up until the 1930s the children went to the morning and evening service at the Church of the Holy Apostle, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, and had Sunday school at the home.

The girls were trained mainly in the skills needed for domestic service. In 1912 there was mending of clothes after tea and in 1913 the girls were reported to be making clothes and knitting socks. The older girls who were nearing the end of their schooling were known as ‘house girls’. They were found positions with local people as trainee housemaids and domestic servants. Every girl that left the home was found a place either at one of the Society’s training schools or in work.

Leisure Activities

Outside of the world of school and domestic chores, the children had their ‘play nights’ with toys and a large play room. The inspection reports for the 1910s and 1920s reveal that the home had a library that the children could use, although the books had to be checked by matron before they could be issued. The 1912 report noted the children played croquet and skipping, and had the doubtful pleasure of drilling or physical exercise once a week. The 1920s saw the development of a singing class, which was followed in 1937 by a percussion band.

Seven girls playing 'ring-a-ring of roses' in the back yard of this home, 1897

Seven girls playing ‘ring-a-ring of roses’ in the back yard of this home, 1897

Members of the local community often provided entertainments for the home. In 1919 music and dancing was taught on Thursdays by Miss Booth, while Miss Atwell Parker played with the girls on Monday evenings and Mr Daniels entertained them on Tuesday evenings. The children would be treated to tea by the parish and its incumbent, something that the ladies of the Cheltenham Ladies College were keen to do during the 1930s.

The local community was generous in providing gifts of clothes, food and household equipment, and harvest time would bring in a wide variety of fruits and foods. ‘Pound Days’, when local people brought in pound weights of produce or gave a donation of £1, were particularly helpful on this front. Similarly Christmas brought donations of presents, food and a Christmas tree. The children would be entertained with singing and a nativity play.

During the summer there was an annual summer fete that the children were very much involved with, and, best of all, a holiday.

Girls from St Monica's sitting on a see-saw, 1897

Girls from St Monica’s sitting on a see-saw, 1897

Most of the Society’s homes had strong links with the Girl Guide and Scouting movements. It was not until 1925 that it was suggested that St Monica’s should form a Girl Guide troop. The troop was clearly successful and by 1929 there were 12 Guides and 10 Brownies. A year later in 1930 the St Monica’s Guides won the County Shield for sports.

Health and Welfare

The health and welfare of the children at the home during these years was above average when compared to standards of living and health care to be found in society generally at this time.

Regular inspections of the girls were made by the home’s medical officer. By the 1930s the children were being weighed quarterly, a record of their individual weights being kept by the medical officer. The home had its own isolation wing for treating infectious illnesses, and had an arrangement with the local fever or isolation hospital – the Delancy Hospital – to provide care and treatment for more serious cases.

Although the girls were given periodic dental inspections during the Edwardian period, this aspect of their health was put on firmer footing in 1919 when the home made a formal link with a dental practice, namely, Messrs Peake and Holmes Barnett “who give their services entirely free of charge”.

In terms of personal hygiene, the annual inspection reports indicate that all children were given daily baths (1912 and 1913 Inspection Reports). Hands were expected to be washed before meals and every girl had her own flannel and soap. The 1912 inspection report notes that every girl had her own hair brush, comb and toothbrush; by 1931 these items had to be given distinctive marks to ensure that they were always used by the same child.

Every child had a small ‘wardrobe’ of clothes that included two pairs of boots, a pair of slippers and a daily supply of hankies. Mealtimes at the home were 8am for breakfast, 12.30pm for dinner, 5pm for tea and 8pm for supper. Although no dietary record has survived the meals would have been similar to those specified in the Society’s procedural handbook ‘Rules for Workers’.

An extract from a menu, 1938 Handbook for Workers

An extract from a menu, 1938 Handbook for Workers

For other information about The Children’s Society Archive’s former children’s homes, visit the Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/homes/

or consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s stories today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

“Doing good work” – the Kitchener Memorial Home, Hornsey

To commemorate Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance Day we have a post written by one of our Archivists, Gabrielle St John-McAlister, that looks at a particular event during the First World War.

One of The Children’s Society’s most renowned supporters during the First World War was Herbert Horatio Kitchener, Lord Kitchener (Earl Kitchener of Khartoum, Secretary of State for War), possibly best known to the general public today as the face of the ‘Your Country Needs You’ recruitment poster.

Fundraising leaflet, July 1918

Fundraising leaflet featuring Lord Kitchener, July 1918

To show his support he sent a telegram to the Bishop of London in May 1915, noting “I know that the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society has done and is doing good work especially by their care of the families of those who are fighting for us”; this is indicative of the high esteem in which he held the Society. His influence cannot have failed to help raise the profile of the Society and bring its needs and aims to a wider public. The Society was then known as the Church of England Society for the Provision of Homes for Waifs and Strays; in 1946, the title changed to the Church of England Children’s Society.

Telegram from Lord Kitchener to the 'Waifs and Strays Society', 1915

Telegram from Lord Kitchener to the ‘Waifs and Strays Society’, 1915

Lord Kitchener died in June 1916 when HMS Hampshire, on which he was travelling to negotiations with Russia, hit a mine near the Orkneys and sank with the loss of almost all on board. His body was never found. Even in death there was a connection with the Society; Charles West, a Society ‘Old Boy’, also died on HMS Hampshire.

Extract from the Society's Roll of Honour - the entry for Charles West who died with Lord Kitchener on HMS Hampshire

Extract from the Society’s Roll of Honour – Charles West who died with Lord Kitchener on HMS Hampshire

Almost immediately the Society began to discuss how best to show its appreciation for Kitchener’s support. By June 19th, just 14 days after Kitchener’s death, the Society’s Executive Committee had decided that “a life so noble and an example so inspiring should have a monument entirely their own.” The intention for the memorial was noted in the Executive Committee Minutes of June 1916. The idea of the Lord Kitchener Memorial Home was born and a fund to pay for its construction was begun. Lord Kitchener’s sister wrote to the Executive Committee in July to express her approval of the plans. The Home, standing in an acre of land at Hillfield Avenue, Hornsey, was opened by the Duke of Connaught in July 1918, with a dedication led by the Bishop of London.

The Kitchener Memorial Home for Boys, c1920

The Kitchener Memorial Home for Boys, Hornsey, c1920

Fittingly, the Home initially took in 47 boys, all of whom had fathers killed or incapacitated in World War I, thus combining the dual purposes of remembering Kitchener and aiding the families of some of those who fell.

2456

For other information about The Children’s Society Archive’s former children’s homes, visit the Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/homes/

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

A shelter for children: the work of The Children’s Society in the north-east, 1881-1970s

Another in the series of our blogs that take a more detailed look at the history of The Children’s Society’s former children’s homes and social work projects since 1881 – this time in the north-east of the country.

Between 1881 and the 1970s, The Children’s Society had four main homes in the north-east of England, two girls’ homes – St Oswald’s, Cullercoats, and St Cuthbert’s, Darlington – and two boys’ homes -St Nicholas’, Boldon, and St Aidan’s, Tynemouth.

The first was St Oswald’s Girls’ Home, Cullercoats. This was opened in 1889 and until 1891 was based at Netherton, when it moved to new premises at Cullercoats. It remained there until 1939 when the children were evacuated to Natland in Cumbria. The girls never returned to Cullercoats as the home closed in 1946.

The exterior of St Oswald’s Home, Cullercoats, in1900.

The exterior of St Oswald’s Home, Cullercoats, in1900.

The Bishop of Durham opened the next home in 1893 – St Cuthbert’s Girls Home at Pierremont Cresent, Darlington. In 1923 the home moved to a new site in the town and was opened by one Lady Barnard; to quote from a report in the former supporter magazine Our Waifs and Strays, she was ‘handed a gold key, and opened the door in the presence of a large and interested concourse of friends of the Society’. In 1949 the home was converted into a residential nursery for 25 children between the ages of 1-5 years. It continued as a nursery until 1972.

At the opening of St Cuthbert’s in 1893 the Bishop of Durham noted that the Society was only just starting its work in the area and ‘he hoped in due time to see a shelter for outcast and desolate lads’. He had to wait seven years before being asked to open the area’s first boys’ home, St Aidan’s at Tynemeouth. St Aidan’s started out life at Whitley Bay in 1900. In 1906 it moved to purpose built premises in Tynemouth. Between 1947 and 1973 it served as a nursery for younger children.

The laying of the foundation stone of St Aidan’s Home, Tynemouth in 1905

The laying of the foundation stone of St Aidan’s Home, Tynemouth in 1905

The fourth home was St Nicholas’ Boys Home at Boldon which was opened in 1906. This remained a boys’ home until 1960 when it became an all-age group home for boys and girls.

What was life like in one of these homes?

Well, it would have varied depending on the decade you were looking at, but in the main one can say that they were very much part of the local community. The children went to local schools, Sunday school and church, and got to know other children in the neighbourhood. Their conduct at school often drew praise.

The homes had their own Boy Scout and Girl Guide troops and often excelled at sports. For example, aside from local events, the Scouts at St Aidan’s would set off for a week’s annual camp. In 1935 they went to Warden near Hexham. They camped in a field given by a kindly farmer and used the church hall as a base. St Aidan’s football team were also a force to be reckoned with in the local sports league – just like many community football clubs in the area today! Music was the Cullercoats’ speciality the girls being regular winners at the Newcastle Music Tournament.

The boys dining hall at St Aidan’s, Tynemouth, 1910.

The boys dining hall at St Aidan’s, Tynemouth, 1910.

Local people were always eager to provide entertainments and outings. In 1934 the girls at Cullercoats had several outings to a property in the village of Riding Mill courtesy of its owners and enjoyed numerous trips down to the sea during the summer. During the 1930s the boys at St Aidan’s had an annual charabanc trip organised by local people to Shotley Bridge and the 1933 Annual Report contains a photograph of them busily eating their sandwiches.

Local fundraising committees worked hard for the homes raising both money and gifts in kind. A popular fundraising idea was the Pound Day when local people brought in pound weights of produce or gave a donation of £1. A Pound Day in 1915 at St Nicholas’ Home, Boldon, was a great success bringing in 1,692 lbs of mixed groceries and 531lbs of turnips and potatoes (what do you do with 500 plus pounds of turnips?), together with £20 for the homes clothing and holiday fund.

A group of boys from St Nicholas’ Home, Boldon, with their pet rabbits, 1959.

A group of boys from St Nicholas’ Home, Boldon, with their pet rabbits, 1959.

Other fundraising ideas were a succession of pageants and Stuart fayres that were popular during the 1920s and 1930s. Local people at Boldon also established a Wireless Fund in 1933 to bring the latest in technology to the home.

For other information about The Children’s Society Archive’s former children’s homes in the north-east, visit the Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/homes/

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s stories today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/