“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.

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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/