Case file 4688

Today’s post is written by Rod Cooper, one of the volunteers helping us with the Including the Excluded project. As part of the project some of the volunteers have been writing summaries of a selection of case files; the aim is to highlight examples of the experiences of disabled children while in The Children’s Society’s care.

The following is an account of a boy who came into The Children’s Society’s care in its earlier years – 1895 – when it was known as the Waifs and Strays Society.


Case File 4688 – John Robert Hall – is interesting as it illustrates the various approaches employed by The Society to help and assist children, and prepare them for a fulfilling and self-supporting adulthood. John was born disabled (he suffered an impairment to his left hip) and into an extensive but immeasurably poor family, supported entirely and solely by the endeavours of their mother, Elizabeth Hall. John’s family lived in Huntingdon.

An unusual aspect of John’s case is the support provided by a local peer. In preparing his application, a supporter solicited the interest of the local Earl of Sandwich. After visiting the child and his family, Edward Montagu, 8th Earl of Sandwich, agreed to bear the cost of John’s care for its duration.

John entered The Society’s St Nicholas Home for Crippled Children at Byfleet, Surrey, in 1895, as a seven year old. He remained there for little more than one year, and because it was deemed that he did not require either specialist nursing or surgical treatment, he was considered a good candidate for boarding out. Consequently, in mid-1896, he became a foster child under the care of a Mrs Hinchley, who lived in the small village of Bunwell in Norfolk. John remained with Mrs Hinchley until late-1902. Throughout the period of his fostering in Bunwell, The Society maintained an interest in John’s progress and development, before deciding in December 1902 – shortly before his 16th birthday – that he was suitable for placing in one of The Society’s industrial schools, specifically for learning the trade of tailoring. Consequently, John was provided with a place at The Society’s Industrial School in Copenhagen Street, Islington.

There is no indication on John’s file of whether or not he was in contact with, or was contacted by, his mother, during the period since entering the care of The Society. However, in early 1903, The Society did hear from John’s mother with the news that she was to marry the following Easter, and that she wished her son to be returned to her. John’s mother had moved to London and was employed as a housekeeper. After consulting with the various interested parties – including John’s benefactor and those who had prepared his initial application – The Society returned John to his mother in February 1903. It is also evident from his file that he had recently commenced his apprenticeship as a tailor.

A new home to celebrate the 1887 Jubilee

Here we have a guest post written by one of our archivists, Gabrielle St John-McAlister.


In previous posts we have read about St Nicholas’ Home in Tooting being the first of The Children’s Society’s homes for disabled children. In this post I wanted to give a bit more detail on what was a momentous occasion in The Children’s Society’s history. What with 2012 being a Jubilee year, it is interesting to see that good deeds were done to mark another, much earlier, Jubilee of a well-loved monarch.

To commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, in May 1887 The Society set up a fund to establish and endow a home for disabled children. This became know as St Nicholas’ Home, Tooting. As the Case Committee frequently saw children in need of surgery and surgical appliances, and because The Society had great difficulty in providing appropriate care, they felt strongly that there was a clear need for a home which could meet the real needs of disabled children.

The appeal was so successful that within six months Talgarth House on Trinity Road, Tooting, had been leased. There was a huge amount of goodwill towards the endeavour in the area: a number of local physicians offered their services free of charge as honorary medical officers and a Miss Anne Anderdon promised £100 per year to meet the home’s rent and taxes.

The next step was to renovate and fit out the premises, and gifts of beds, bedding, pictures and fireguards were sought. By December 1887 enough gifts had been received for St Nicholas’ Home to open, with the official opening and dedication taking place in February 1888. The text below, taken from The Society’s supporter magazine ‘Our Waifs and Strays’ in 1888, gives some more information about the public opening of the Home.

Further information about St Nicholas’ Home in Tooting can be found in the homes section of Hidden Lives Revealed.

A royal birthday cake

As we are coming up to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, today I have decided to highlight just one of the links to the Royal Family that can be found within our collections.

St Agnes’ Home in Croydon was a children’s home that took in disabled girls, aged 14 and above. The home focussed on teaching the girls manual skills such as knitting, basket weaving and needlework.

In March 1914, the home was visited by Queen Mary, wife of King George V. Then, a few weeks later and shortly after the seventeenth birthday of the Queen’s daughter, Princess Mary, a letter was sent to St Agnes’ Home from Buckingham Palace. The letter states:

I am commanded by The Queen to send Princess Mary’s Birthday Cake to St Agnes’ Home & Hostel Croydon.

The cake was sent to the home the next day. In order to eat it, a special tea party was held for the all the girls at the home.

The above photograph, taken from the 1914 Children’s Union annual report, shows the girls at the home, ready to enjoy their tea party.

This may have been one of the more unusual donations that have been made to The Children’s Society over the years, but it is easy to imagine that it went down very well with the girls in the home.

Further information about St Agnes’ home can be found in the homes section of Hidden Lives Revealed.