A funding emergency on the outbreak of the First World War

The First World War had an immediate impact on The Children’s Society (then known as the Waifs and Strays Society). According to our Annual Report for 1914, for the first time in its history the Society took in over 1000 children, partly as a direct consequence of the outbreak of war. (Click the image below to see a bigger version.)

The Waifs and Strays Society Annual Report 1914

Despite fundraising events coming to an abrupt end when war was declared, the Society was not deterred, and it was determined to play a useful part in helping towards the war effort. The Society’s philosophy was

we do not throw ourselves today into “the fighting line” – it is not our place – but we do offer our experience, gained during many years, as a valuable asset “at the base,” – where women’s sorrows and children’s wants are crying out. Our gates are always open to all those who knock at them in real need, and … our door-bell … has been rung incessantly and with intense urgency within the last few weeks.

The nation was in shock, but it was not long before everyone was back at work again, with an overwhelming feeling that every one of the efforts must in some way be linked to the war.  So, rather than dances and fetes (such “frivolous forms of entertainment” were deemed inappropriate in the circumstances) more sober meetings and gatherings, and sales of work continued and provided much needed funds for the Society.

Girls at St Chad’s Home, in Far Headingley, Leeds 1914
The funds raised proved vital as more and more men joined up, leaving increasing numbers of children without guardians. The rise in admissions and the increase in the Society’s costs caused concern, but much good work was done by the Society’s War Emergency Fund which enabled “a really substantial start towards meeting our new obligations.”

Here are a couple of letters we received from supporters in 1914, and which were sent to the editor of our supporter magazine ‘Our Waifs and Strays’.

Dear Sir, – I herewith enclose £5 as a donation to the War Emergency Fund, but I wish to be kept ‘Anonymous’. I have foregone my holiday this year on account of the war, and send you what I have saved in consequence.

Dear Sir, – I enclose postal order for 10s., being a subscription to the funds of your Society from my sister and myself. We are concerned lest, in the necessary demands made by the War Fund, such charities as yours, which are already established and in working order, should suffer. We therefore send part of our subscription to your fund.

The following are just some of the schemes used to raise money for the War Emergency Fund:

The organisation of the Society’s Pageant, small Sales of Work, Meetings, etc.

The Issue of special small collecting purses.

The sale of the Society’s “poster-stamps”.

The organisation of house-to-house collections or special local appeals.

The arranging of “Pound Days” (to provide food and clothing for the inmates of the Homes.

The issue of collecting-boxes, to be placed at church doors, or in shops, or distributed to people for collecting amongst their friends, or for their own weekly donations.

Our Waifs and Strays Supporter Magazine November 1914

(Click the image above to see a bigger version.)

Despite the war the Society decided it would go ahead with its annual Bazaar.  Instead of selling what may be called ‘frivolities’, useful articles, “particularly garments for wounded and convalescent men, for destitute families”, and “for the children in our Homes” would be sold instead.  Many ordinary people contributed items, and in some cases made items to be sold, and acted as sales people for the Society, but that’s a story for another post!

A Legacy of Fun

The Children’s Society has many legacies left to it by people in their wills.  An example of such a gift was that left by a gentleman in recognition of the benefits provided to him for the period he spent in care at Hatton Home for Boys (1913-1944), a Children’s Society Home in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

Hatton Home for Boys, Wellingborough

Hatton Home for Boys, Wellingborough

Following a reunion of boys who were at the Home in the 1940s and that was held in Wellingborough in the 1990s, he wrote:

“As can be imagined, when this exciting reunion became a reality, floods of memories flowed and were exchanged.  There was special praise for our beloved Master and Matron Arthur and Kathleen Silverwood.

Mr & Mrs Silverwood, c1940

Mr & Mrs Silverwood, c1940

He continues:

“Memories of nights spent huddled in the Home’s huge cellar during air raids; helping Home Guards Units practice in the event of an invasion; pillow fights in the dead of night; summers spent under canvas at a nearby swimming resort”.

It’s wonderful to know that the gift this particular gentleman left was for the explicit purpose of being used to fund pursuits which were ‘fun and recreational’.  What a lovely gesture and idea!  In 2012 an award to this effect was set up and Programmes run by The Children’s Society can apply to it for grants.  So far funds have been awarded to Children’s Centres and Projects for activities and pursuits such as:

  • football training
  • music sessions
  • horse riding lessons
  • gym session
  • judo sessions
  • Easter fun sessions
  • swimming
  • an environmental play project
  • monthly youth club

and even an outing to a wildlife park, and a trip to the cinema.  Fun activities and recreational pursuits of which I’m sure our donor would have approved!

We know that the boys at Hatton Boys Home often went on Scout camp, where they would learn skills and have plenty of outdoor exercise.  The Home’s Scout troop had their own Latin motto ‘Vive ut vivas’, which means ‘Live that you may live’.  It could be that experiences such as these prompted our donor’s specific choice of legacy.

Although the following photograph is not of boys from Hatton Boys Home it’s a good example of the fun our donor and his friends might have had at camp.

Group of boys from the Harvey Goodwin Home at a Scout camp 'making straw mattressess', c1913.

Group of boys from the Harvey Goodwin Home at a Scout camp ‘making straw mattressess’, c1913.

For more history about The Children’s Society, and to see more images from the archive please visit Hidden Lives Revealed.

Click on the links to find out more about Hatton Home for Boys and Harvey Goodwin Home for Boys.


An Edwardian Christmas

The excitement of Christmas has been building, and now it is Christmas Eve.

In Ambleside the Home is decorated with “holly, evergreens and pretty coloured paper-chains” and “how often the doorbell rings, and mysterious packets arrive!”

Whilst the children sleep the staff have been busy filling stockings with “delightful and beautiful things – apples, oranges, nuts, sugar, biscuits, and toys”.

The Gift Register for St Cuthbert’s Home for Girls in Darlington lists 3 dozen crackers, a box of oranges, turkey, a brace of pheasants, Christmas puddings and cakes, a large box of Christmas presents, 40 bags of sweets and a Christmas tree –just a few of the goodies generously donated on the days leading up to Christmas. These would be shared out amongst the children and would go towards the delicious Christmas dinner and party that was bound to follow.

Page from the Gift Register of St Cuthbert's Home, Darlington showing gifts donated by visitors at Christmas time, 1908

The staff would also give presents along with committee members, supporters, and people in the local community, such as the butcher. If there was a Christmas tree (these were sometimes donated as gift, as seen above!) the presents would be placed tantalizingly under it.

Christmas time (complete with Christmas tree and Father Christmas) at St Nicholas' Home, Byfleet, 1907

After prayers, and carols, and a church service the festivities would continue with dinner; a much looked forward to part of the day, and far from ordinary!

“Four whole turkeys with bacon galore! The former bought with special money so kindly sent for Christmas; then the Christmas pudding, of course, “all on fire” and with “something” in, which necessitated great care in eating”.

Christmas dinner at St Chad's Home, Far Headingley, Leeds, 1907

I wonder how many of us can remember something similar, or equivalent traditions, from our own Christmas or holiday celebrations?

Christmas in the Homes was a simple, happy day but it was always made to be special, with extra little treats and surprises.

(The quotes in this post come from The Children’s Society supporter magazine “Our Waifs and Strays” February 1908. Click here to see more issues of “Our Waifs and Strays”.)