Celebrating 50 years of Christingle

Today is the 50th anniversary of The Children’s Society’s first ever Christingle Service.

The concept of Christingle was adopted by The Children’s Society in 1968 and the first Society Christingle service took place in Lincoln Cathedral on 7th December. Only 300 people were expected but as many as 1500 attended the celebration.

The Christingle service has its origins in the Moravian Church and dates back to 20th December 1747 in Mairenborn, Germany.

The language used to describe a Christingle has changed over time, but fundamentally a Christingle is a candle set into an orange, representing the world and Christ respectively. A red ribbon is tied around the orange, representing the blood of Christ. Fruit and sweets on four cocktail sticks are also set in the orange, representing the four seasons and God’s love in providing the fruits of the earth. This service was performed in local churches all over Moravia when families would gather together at Christmas time.

In 1969 seven services were conducted and in 1970 around 18 were held. According to The Children’s Society’s supporters’ magazine, Gateway, in 1970:

“The services are suitable for all the family. They include Advent hymns and carols, prayers for our work, and a purse presentation by children of the diocese. Children go forward to receive Christingle oranges and the Christingle hymn or carol is sung by the light of these alone.“

In 1989, The Children’s Society celebrated its 21 years of Christingle services with special events in Coventry Cathedral and York Minster. A giant Christingle was lit, and from this further Christingles to carry the flame from one location to the next.

By the 1990s, many thousands of Christingle services were taking place in every type of church in villages, towns and cities across the UK. These provided an opportunity for congregations to think about children and young people helped by The Children’s Society and to offer prayers and gifts to further their work.

In 1997 The Children’s Society celebrated the 250th anniversary of the Christingle tradition. An event was held at Liverpool Cathedral to mark this occasion, while a record number of services and supporters – over a million adults and half a million children – took part in the Christingle celebrations for 1997, helping to raise £1.2 million.

Christingle services are still held by the Society each Christmas and it has come to be one of the most popular events in the Church calendar. The benefits which Christingle has brought to the Society are immeasurable, not only in terms of the huge amount of donations that have been presented over the years, but also in terms of the enthusiasm, inspiration and joy which these services generate among those taking part.

For more information about Christingle Services see The Children’s Society’s website

Records featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive:

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 Children’s Society

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After the Armistice

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front between the Allies of World War I and Germany, we have a post written by one of our Archivists, Helena Hilton, that reflects on the lasting effects that the war was to have on families. This blog looks at  how the Waifs and Strays Society sought to assist the families of former soldiers scarred by the effects of war.

No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’—
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride…
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

Siegfried Sassoon, “Survivors”

Most of us are familiar with the films of victims of shell shock, those men with staring eyes and uneven gaits, who drop to the ground terrified by the slightest sound. At this 100th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice, there is a lot of focus on how the fighting came to an end, but for these men, in a sense, the war would never end: it went on and on in their shattered psyches, maybe all their lives. And the injuries of these terribly damaged men did not affect them alone: though we hear less about the families to whom the soldiers returned, and who had to deal with the consequences of their injuries, their lives too might be completely devastated, with consequences that would reach down the generations.

Field dressing station, 1917 (Wellcome Trust)

The case files of The Children’s Society illustrate vividly the lives and struggles of ‘ordinary’ people whose narratives have not always been part of “official” histories of this country preoccupied with Empire and industrial dominance. In them we find the story of one particular family for whom the end of the First World War in November 1918 was not a time for rejoicing and a signal to start rebuilding a family life, but for whom the war and its effects remained an ever-present, dominating reality.

In 1918 the Fair family were living in Halstead, Essex having recently moved there from Woolwich in south London. Henry (Harry) Fair, a career soldier, had come home from the War, but he was a different man to the one who had gone out to fight for his country. He was profoundly psychologically injured, and his family life had been devastated. His injuries were so severe that he had been medically discharged from the army in 1915 and was left incapable of working or even looking after himself, let alone his wife and three children.

A soldier suffering from shell shock

It was in November 1918 that the local curate, Revd Chamberlain, contacted The Waifs and Strays Society (as The Children’s Society was known in those days.) Harry’s wife, Alice, had just died and the vicar’s report on the family’s circumstances gave an insight into the dreadful conditions in which they had been living. The home was extraordinarily “dirty and miserable” and Alice had died “practically from starvation as her husband suffering severely from shell shock has an enormous appetite and there was only 24 shillings coming in weekly”. The military authorities had been negligent in organising the pension and Harry was shortly due to appear before a medical board for the 17th time in the hope that they might at last reach a decision. The local doctor feared that Harry might kill his children if they were left with him and so a local woman agreed to look after them temporarily and money was collected to buy them clothes. Harry himself was admitted to a home for soldiers in South Kensington, his desperate state apparently recognised at last. The children were destitute and their situation was “notorious all over the town”. Revd Chamberlain wanted the Society to take Harry’s two little boys, Charles and James, born in 1912 and 1915. Their elder sister, Kathleen, was found a home locally with a couple considering adoption.

In early December the Case Committee of the Waifs and Strays Society agreed to accept Charles and James as War Cases: the fact that the Society had formulated a particular procedure for children whose needs resulted from the War is, of course, a measure of its impact The little boys were taken into St Elizabeth’s Receiving Home in Clapham on 30 December 1918, and the following month they were placed with a foster mother in Rackheath, Norfolk. This illustrates the Society’s procedures in two ways: younger children were boarded out rather than placed in a larger Home in order to provide them with a mother figure and a family environment, and siblings were kept together where possible to maintain family links and to lessen the profound impact of coming into care and leaving the family home. On admission Charles and James were both suffering from rickets, a condition leading to softening of the bones and usually arising from poor nutrition, unsurprising given the conditions in which they had been living.

Once the children were in its care the Society set about finding out if they were eligible to receive a pension arising from their father’s war service. It was in January 1919 that Revd Edward Rudolf, the Founder and Secretary of the Waifs and Strays Society, was informed by the Pension authorities that an allowance had been made in respect of Harry’s children while he was undergoing treatment. Harry spent some time at a variety of hospitals and clinics specialising in the treatment of shell shock victims but unfortunately his health remained very poor. It seems that he was keen to maintain links with his children as he was able to visit Rackheath and stay at the foster home for a few days in the summer of 1920. Not long afterwards a representative of the Society visited Harry at the Special Hospital, Church Lane, Tooting, another neurological hospital used by the Ministry of Pensions for ex-servicemen suffering from shell shock: “The man has been 3 months an inmate, it was pitiful to see the poor fellow. Judging from his present appearance I should say that it is hardly ever likely that he will recover sufficiently to earn his livelihood. I did not ask the man his complaint, but should say he was suffering from paralysis and shock”.

In April 1921 Charles and James moved to a new foster mother in Dorset. They settled well in their new home and the supervisor who made sure all was well with the placement, reported that they were “dear little boys”. She asked how Harry was getting on and if there was an address for Kathleen: “I think Charles worries at not hearing”. The Society provided the most up to date information they had in the hope that contact could be made. Throughout the rest of 1921 and 1922 the reports of the foster home were good and Charles and James enjoyed a settled life. However, in early April 1923 their foster mother had to give the Society authorities the news that Harry Fair had died on 1 April at Netherne Mental Hospital, Coulsdon, where he had been an inmate since 18 November 1922. Harry was 38 when he died and the cause of his death was given as pulmonary tuberculosis. Harry was buried by the Ministry of Pensions at Reigate Cemetery, Surrey on 7 April 1923.

The children’s files contain a great deal of correspondence with the Pensions authorities concerning the allowances to which they were entitled following their father’s death. In March 1924 the Society decided to transfer the boys to the Hatton Home, Wellingborough: this was a centre where children whose fathers had been killed, or died, as a result of the War were supported by a special fund which had been raised for them in South Africa. In June that year a major conflict erupted between the Society and the Ministry of Pensions. The Ministry informed the Society that Harry Fair’s death could not “be certified to have been wholly due to the nature or condition of the pensioned disability as resulting directly from war service”, and that Charles and James were therefore not eligible for a pension. The Society authorities were incensed by this decision: they of course wanted the best for the children and in addition their funds at this time were extremely stretched, the War having swelled greatly the numbers of children for which they had to care. They, and Harry Fair’s children, needed all the help they could get; but the pensions authorities were known to be extremely stingy and difficult to deal with.

The Waifs and Strays Society appealed against the decision and spent a considerable time amassing evidence for their case and consulting legal experts. The paperwork submitted for the appeal, which was heard in December 1924, went into detail about Harry’s military service and his medical treatment. He had joined the Army in August 1897 and served until August 1909: his foreign service included spells in India, South Africa and Egypt. He joined up again at the outbreak of the First World War and was in France by October 1914. Harry was first diagnosed with neurasthenia in January 1915 and he spent 16 days in hospital. (There is much debate about the terms used to denote psychological trauma arising from war service. The Army discouraged the use of “shell shock”, and “neurasthenia” – actually meaning a mechanical weakness of the nerves – seems to have been employed as a catch-all description for war neuroses and for the result of prolonged anxiety and shock.) It. In the spring Harry was ill again with the same complaint and “shock”, and from May to July was in hospital, but his condition did not improve and on 5 July 1915 he was recommended for discharge from the Army as permanently unfit. It was noted that he “seemed nervous and was inclined to keep moving restlessly about. He talked in his sleep a good deal and walked with a very staggering gait, with the aid of a stick”.

Urgent medical attention was recommended in February 1918 by a “medical referee”, presumably giving evidence to the Pensions Board: “This man’s condition demands immediate attention. He must be removed from his present home and surroundings and appropriate treatment given. I recommend the London Hospital, as under the care of Dr Henry Head every effort will be made to restore him if possible. He is totally incapacitated and will remain so for many months probably.” It has not been recorded whether or not Harry was treated in hospital at this time; there is no indication on the evidence sheet that he was.

In July 1918 the Board found that Harry was still suffering from neurasthenia. He “states he cannot control his legs and arms. Has a difficulty in getting out his words. His limbs and body are in a continual state of spasmodic movements.” In June 1921 Harry was in a Ministry of Pensions Hospital and his condition was worsening. He was “mentally deteriorating” and further treatment was thought necessary. A later, but undated, report by a neurologist stated that Harry was not likely to improve by treatment. He had “gross hysterical symptoms with progressive mental deterioration” and was sent to Netherne Mental Hospital on 18 November 1922.

The Society claimed that the Ministry of Pensions had recognised Harry Fair’s disability ever since his sons had been in its care. They had granted pension allowances in respect of the children’s maintenance (however these had fallen far short of the actual cost of their upkeep) and had organised the burial arrangements after Harry’s death. The trump card was a letter dated 23 July 1924 that the Society had received from the Medical Superintendent of Netherne Hospital. “I beg to say that the above-named patient was admitted on November 18th 1922 and died on April 1st 1923 from Pulmonary Tuberculosis. He was made a Service patient by the Ministry of Pensions as his mental disability was thought to be due to his Army Service. I have no doubt that the disease from which he died was due more or less directly to the debilitated state in which his service in the Army left him”. The term “service patient” is significant: it had been introduced in August 1916, the aim being to avoid the stigma of these men being regarded as paupers. They were to be considered as private patients, wear a distinctive uniform and enjoy the privileges appropriate to such patients and their maintenance became the responsibility of the Ministry of Pensions. Here was clear evidence that the Ministry had seen Harry’s disability and deterioration as a direct consequence of his war service.

Letter from Medical Superintendent of Netherne Mental Hospital, 1924

The final decision of the Ministry of Pensions was favourable: “It is recognised that death was connected with service; a pension has therefore been awarded”.

So, now that their financial position was more secure, what became of the children?

Charles did well at school and in 1927 was apprenticed to an engineering firm as he had requested. The Society continued to help with his maintenance as he only received a nominal wage: he also received a certain amount of help from the South African Fund, and the Ministry of Pensions extended his pension for a little while, until they decided in August 1928 that he was receiving “in excess of what constitutes nominal wages”. Another charitable fund connected to the Society gave him a grant and with this and continued support from the Society Charles was able to complete his apprenticeship. He received glowing reports from the Manager of the Engineering Firm and from the Superintendent of the Society’s Hostel where he was living. Once his apprenticeship was finished in 1932 he settled well into work and continued to keep in touch with people he knew in the Society. The Hostel Superintendent was able to pass on to the Secretary of the Society news of his continued success at work and his forthcoming marriage in October 1936. Everyone was very happy to hear how well things had gone for Charles and wished him well for the future.

Evidence submitted to Pensions Appeal Tribunal

Life was not so easy for James. He was suffering badly from rickets on entering the Society’s care and although his legs became much straighter after receiving proper care his thighs remained bowed. He was also “tiny for his age, with a neck set almost in his shoulders”. As well as his physical problems James’s “mental development was poor” and in 1926 it was recommended that he be sent to a special school for what were at that time called “backward children”. James had been born in 1915, at a time when his father was very ill and his mother presumably severely undernourished. Home life during his earliest years was wretched and the family had very little money for food. These were the days before the Welfare State, when there was much less in the way of a safety net for families in crisis and it was much easier to go under: it seems likely that his traumatic start contributed towards his disabilities.

James was frequently examined and various medications, such as thyroid treatment were tried. His file contains considerable correspondence as there was much debate about what might be best for him. In November 1927 he was sent to St Boniface Home, Sampford Peverell, Devon on a six-month trial. He grew stronger, but unfortunately his mental development did not improve and was in fact considered to be “growing worse”. After an examination by the Devon County Council Medical Department in September 1928 he was declared to be “ineducable”: at his time the belief was that children with learning disabilities were impossible to educate, and it was not until the 1971 Education Act that it was officially recognised that “no child is ineducable”. Recommendation was made that he be admitted to a Home for the mentally disabled: The Waifs and Strays Society had no provision for children with learning disabilities and as Devon County Council refused to take any responsibility for him, in May 1929 James was placed with the Tiverton Poor Law Union. The plan was to shortly transfer him to a “Mental Home near Exeter”.

Here the story fades out. The Society had supported the children as much as it could for as long as it could; here the files end. Charles kept in touch with his brother and presumably continued to do so after the time for which we have records. Kathleen, the eldest sister who was adopted, seems to have drifted away: we have no further communication from her, though she may perhaps have re-established contact with her brothers later. So the children enter the 1930s; both parents dead, one boy physically and intellectually damaged by his traumatic start, the eldest sister apparently no longer in contact. The impact of Harry Fair’s service on the Western Front spread widely, back to England and on through the years: like the waves spreading out from a rock thrown into water. As we mark 100 years from the Armistice, we should remember Harry Fair, his family, and the thousands like them for whom the War never really ended at all.

The Silver Thimble League

Another in the series of our blogs that takes a look at the history of raising money for The Children’s Society’s.The following article – written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper – is the second of two articles focusing on the local fundraising efforts undertaken within a local branch – namely, the Liverpool Branch – of the Waifs and Strays Society in the early years of the twentieth century. In particular, the article looks at the activities of a locally organised initiative – The Silver Thimble League.

Founded in 1897 by Mrs George Killey – the wife of the Diocesan Chairman – the Silver Thimble League was in essence a development on the theme of Sales of Work, though on a much grander and organised scale. Established on a branch by branch basis, members of the League would prepare items for sale, primarily at a single, large-scale, event held over a number of days at a well-known, centrally based venue. In May 1905, the event was held over three days at the Hardman Street Assembly Rooms in central Liverpool. At this time, there were about 1,500 members in the League, and in planning for that year’s sale, all were implored to “kindly work very hard [. . .] as we aim at making £1,000” (Our Waifs and Strays Magazine (OWS), March 1905). This was a huge and ambitious sum – in excess of £100,000 by today’s value – and considerably more than the £833 sum achieved the year previously.

Opened by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, The Silver Thimble League sale opened on 4 May, and featured stalls representing many local branches of the Waifs and Strays Society, including those for Seaforth and District, Waterloo and Crosby, Sefton Park and Huyton and Roby, among many others. Opened on successive days by Lady Forwood and then by Mrs Fleetwood – the Lady President of the Seaforth Home Committee – the event featured a full roster of attractions for visitors, including the sale of refreshments, various competitions, and music recitals by ensembles such as the Cairngorm Orchestra and the Sefton Ladies Orchestra. Though very much the main event, there were a number of smaller sales staged by the League elsewhere and there were, for example, additional events organised at Warrington, Blundellsands and Maghull.

Although hopes were high, and “the means of relieving us of our pressing financial difficulties” (OWS, April 1905), the revenues generated by The Silver Thimble League proved somewhat disappointing. After a deduction for expenses amounting to just under one hundred pounds, the amount raised for charitable purposes was just under £800; still a phenomenal amount for local fund-raising (the modern equivalent of £88,000), though short by about £60 than the sum raised in 1904: “It gives us no cause for discouragement, but rather spurs us on to see that the 1906 Sale fully compensates for any slight diminution.” (OWS, December 1905). In spite of these disappointments, the Silver Thimble League would continue to produce substantial funds for the local branch for years to come. Moreover, it proved to be such an effective model for fund-raising that a nationwide initiative – the Golden Thimble League – would be established in the 1930s.

An unusual aspect of The Silver Thimble League, and one that would appear counter to centralised coordination of financial planning within the Diocese, was that its accounts at this time were operated independently from the Diocese’s own. It is difficult to speculate how this all worked out on a practical level, though it is hard to construe that this was an optimal arrangement. As it was, the sources from 1905/06 show The Silver Thimble League allocating funds directly to various organisations within the Diocese, including all four homes, the Bradstock Lockett Building Fund (£60), the Children’s Union (Northern Province) (£60), and the Deficit Reduction Account (£136). An amount in respect of Office Staff (£15, 5s.) was also itemised.

The Society’s homes too, were a source of income. From a modern perspective this might appear somewhat controversial, and particularly so as it was one home in particular – the girls’ home at Scholfield, Wavertree – that far and away provided the most revenue. The lists of donations for this period do show a small sum (£3.25) being donated in respect of “Boys wages at St George’s Home (OWS June 1905), but this pales into insignificance when compared to the annual sum of almost £146 listed under “Laundry Receipts at Scholfield Home”. The income generated at Scholfield was regular, and though the amounts might have varied from month to month, it was clearly an established activity. Indeed, in “Notes From the North” (OWS March 1906) it is declared that, “We can do more laundry work at Scholfield Home; the work is well done and the greatest care exercised. We could do with one or two families’ work, and we can guarantee efficiency, courtesy, exactitude in return, and moderate charges. Ladies, do help us to help ourselves!” By today’s standards this might be considered exploitative, whereas at the time it would have been probably viewed as a worthy and justifiable exercise in self-help and self-sufficiency. It would be misplaced too, to think that the boys at St George’s and Elm Lodge were let off relatively lightly; many children in The Society’s homes at this time were expected to undertake work within in the homes themselves, to make items for Sales of Work, and to participate in activities within their local communities.

Our Waifs and Strays, March 1911, page 64 – “Girls of the Schofield Home, Wavertree

Bolstering these various sources of funding were numerous individual donations. Occasionally these would be regular – for example, each year the sum of £10 was received from “A Friend in India” for the express purpose of supporting “Christmases and other Festivities” in The Society’s homes. The majority of individual donations, however, tended to be rather more irregular and one-off. For example, these might include £8 for the “Sale of a Pony” (OWS December 1905); or could be huge sums such as £78 15 shillings and 2 pence representing the “Part proceeds of Entertainment at Southport, per the Countess of Latham,” or a mere 6 shillings and 6 pence (about 32p) from the sale of Mrs Hacking’s marmalade (both OWS October 1905). Perhaps the final word in grass roots fund-raising for this particular period should refer back to where we started in the first article and the joint efforts of Irene Johnson and Nellie Shaw. Emboldened by their efforts earlier during the year, and “stimulated by their past success, they have held another Sale, and have just sent us £3 3s. [£3.15]. Now, girls and boys, is that not splendid?” (OWS January 1906)


Our Waifs and Stray, December 1905, page 180 – a close up  of a contribution list – showing Silver Thimble League receipts at the Schofield Home.

Unfortunately, the efforts of Irene and Nellie and many hundreds of other donors and supporters were not nearly splendid enough. As the Liverpool Branch entered the New Year, the Committee were indeed optimistic towards the future: “With the close of the year we have reason to think, with feelings of deep gratitude, that our income has covered the cost of maintaining our four Diocesan Homes and our boarded-out children, in all a family of about 200; and possibly, we venture to hope, when the balance is struck, we may have been fortunate enough to reduce, in however small a degree, the accumulated deficit, which has pressed so heavily upon us.” (OWS Feb 1906). Such hopes were misplaced however, and the deficit had increased to £565 19s 5d; and increase of £56, or 11% over the previous year’s figure – a significant increase and an accumulated debt equivalent to £63,000 at today’s value.

Reducing the accumulated debt would trouble the Liverpool Branch for many years to come, and it would be fair to say that operating with a debit balance became quite the norm. There were a handful of occasions when it was able to report a small credit balance (it was £32 to the good in 1914, for example), but even as late as the mid-1920s the Branch was reporting an annual debt of almost £380. It would be a mistake, however, to portray this as a problem specific to the Liverpool Diocese alone; it being fairer to comment that the situation in Liverpool was a reflection of The Waifs and Strays state of financial affairs in general. In 1907, for example, Edward Rudolf – founder and Secretary of The Society – made a number of pleas for funds, and referred readers of Our Waifs and Strays to a deficit of £8,500 on the general fund – almost £1 million at today’s values. (OWS June 1907)

With the passing of time, the level of financial detail reported in Our Waifs and Strays for the Liverpool Diocese diminished, and it is noticeable that – instead of hard facts and figures – terms such as “small credit balance” and “improved financial position” become more apparent. This is not to say that the Branch became more relaxed about this state of affairs, but in as much as the incoming funds varied over the short-term, there was the guarantee of strong and local grass roots support for The Society and the Liverpool homes, and with well-directed fund-raising campaigns and the network of parishes and congregations, the Liverpool Branch could rest in the knowledge that local fund-raising would meet much of the lion’s share of the finance needed to maintain its local needs.

Scanned copies of the Our Waifs and Strays magazine can be found here: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/waifs_and_strays/index.html

Scanned copies of the Brothers and Sisters magazine can be found here: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/brothers_and_sisters/index.html

Records featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive:

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 Children’s Society

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Fundraising and Edwardians in Liverpool

Another in the series of our blogs – written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper – that takes a look at the history of raising money for The Children’s Society’s.The following article is one of two looking at the fundraising efforts made by a local branch of the Waifs and Strays Society in the early years of the twentieth century.

In the early years of the twentieth century The Children’s Society, or to give it its full name at the time, the Church of England Incorporated Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays, was very much a devolved organisation, mirroring and established upon an existing template of regional dioceses. Among these, one of the largest, most active and arguably most independent was the Liverpool Branch Diocese.

By the turn of the century, the Branch organised and oversaw the running of four homes – the Victoria Home in Formby (established for infants); St George’s Home in Warrington (boys); the Scholfield Home in Wavertree (girls) and Elm Lodge at Seaforth (boys). In addition to these, the Liverpool Diocese, through their own funds and energies – and with continued support from the Children’s Union – built and ran the Bradstock Lockett Home for disabled children at Southport.

Bradstock Lockett Home, Southport, 1961

Understandably, the homes would have presented the most obvious areas of expenditure for the Branch, but it’s important to mention that boarding out – always strongly supported by the Waifs and Strays Society – necessitated considerable financial support too.

Just as it is with The Children’s Society today, it was apparent to the Waifs and Strays Society that in order to be effective, it could not succeed by simply relying on good intentions. By necessity financial support, a constant flow of donations and the diligent management of funds, were essential.

However, in the early years of the twentieth century, matters were not as would have been hoped by the Branch Committee. In the twelve months to mid-1905, for example, the funds raised by the Branch amounted to almost three-and-a-half thousand pounds (the equivalent of £390,000 today). Yet in the same period, however, expenses exceeded income by almost one hundred pounds. This may not seem a great deal, but when added to the Branch’s accumulated deficit it clearly troubled the organising committee. By 1905, this deficit stood at £510 (almost £57,000 by today’s values); “an alarming amount and passes beyond the realms of a ‘manageable deficit’.” (‘Notes From the North’, Our Waifs and Strays, May 1905). This was clearly a problem: “The question uppermost in our minds is how is it going to be with us financially this year? We hope, with the great efforts that are being put forth, we may turn the corner and begin to see that wretched debit balance materially reduced.”

Our Waifs and Strays magazine, January 1906, p194


Our Waifs and Strays magazine, January 1906, p195

Successive copies of Our Waifs and Strays – the monthly magazine of the Waifs and Stray Society – archived at The Children’s Society’s Bermondsey-based Records Centre, illustrate some of the problems local branches had at this time. The monthly returns for donations listed in the magazine show two significant and quite related problems: widely varying monthly receipts and a reliance on numerous small and unpredictable donations. In fairness however, this latter point was something of a strength too, as it reflected the breadth and depth of The Society’s reach throughout the Church of England’s diocesan and parish network. Nonetheless, donations varied from one month to the next, and throughout the year, and this militated against efficient financial planning for much beyond the short-term.

Funds coming into the Liverpool Branch arrived from numerous sources and in varying amounts. Occasionally these would be fairly substantial, but the overwhelming majority were very small. Among the latter, and attracting commentary in ‘Notes From the North’ were “Irene Johnson and Nellie Shaw, of Waterloo, [who] held a small Sale of Work among their little friends, and sent Canon Dickson 3s. 6d. [i.e., almost 18 pence] as the result of their efforts. That 3s. 6d. is as precious as the gifts of gold of their elders, as it evinces a real interest and earnest desire to help us.” (OWS, December 1905)

Small contributions dominate the lists of monthly donors. In addition to Sales of Work (typically small hand-made, hand-stitched items), small sums also accrued from numerous box collections, or from church collections – listed as “offertories” – following sermons related to the work of the Waifs and Strays Society. Boxes – literally small, wooden collection boxes – were a very popular means of raising funds, and many of these were held and returned by members of the Society, such as local branch secretaries, for example. Some, however, were positioned in local railway stations, or cafes and restaurants, where passing members of the public could donate any spare coins. The February and March 1905 issues of Our Waifs and Strays, for example, list donations from Formby Station (the equivalent of 85 pence), Ormskirk Station (60 pence), and the Mecca Café (35 pence). The March issue also lists, among others, the Servants at Larkfield (45 pence).

Waifs and Strays Society Collecting Box, early 1900s

Entertainments of various sorts – recitals, amateur dramatics, magic lantern shows, etc. – also proved to be a popular form of fund raising. In Notes From the North (OWS, March 1905) it is reported that the Doric Amateur Dramatic Society presented two performances of “The Little Nautch Girl” at Knotty Ash village hall, whilst the Green Room Amateur Dramatic Society put on “Masks and Faces” at Sefton Park. The Green Room Amateur Dramatic Society must have proved quite a draw as the January 1906 issue of Our Waifs and Strays lists a donation of £80, 13s. 3d. – the equivalent of almost £9,000 at today’s value. At the other end of the scale, two magic lantern lectures at Bickerstaffe totalled a contribution only slightly in excess of £2 (OWS, March 1905). A less common, but nonetheless effective form of fund-raising venture was a ball. By definition almost exclusively an activity limited to the relatively wealthy and well-connected, balls had the possibility of raising relatively large funds. The Formby Ball held by Mrs Beaufort in the New Year for example, raised more than £64 for The Society (OWS, March 1905).

Another form of fund-raising practised by those ‘in society’ was the Drawing Room Meeting. These tended to be held in the autumn and winter months and, almost by definition, required the resources of those with sufficient room and means to accommodate and cater for small-, or medium-sized, audiences. Moreover, to attract the appropriate audience and speakers, good connections were also necessary. The January 1906 issue of Our Waifs and Strays, cites contributions from at least half-dozen drawing room meetings staged over the previous few weeks; including, Mrs Patterson at West Derby (£20.80), Mrs Brown at Birkdale (£4.75), and Mrs Denbigh at Blundellsands (£3.75). In total the funds raised during the month amounted to present-day equivalent of over £5,000 – simply by people making their own homes available for just a few hours, for the benefit of The Society.

But what was a Drawing Room Meeting? They typically lasted not much more than an hour and, as well as a guest speaker, they were usually attended by the local vicar or well-known clergyman. Whilst details of the subjects discussed can only be speculated upon there would undoubtedly have been a strong Christian and moralistic theme. The June 1903 issue of Our Waifs and Strays carries some “Useful Hints” on holding such meetings. There isn’t room here to repeat these in full, but quoting a handful – some being quite direct and pragmatic, some being clearly of another age – provides a flavour of what was entailed:


(1) Invite three times as many people as your room will hold; experience teaches that a third only of those invited come to the meeting.

(2) A room that will seat 40 or 50 is quite big enough, unless the gathering is expected to be an exceptionally large one.

(3) Unless there is any serious objection, do not restrict your invitation to one class of people. The cause appeals very strongly to all classes. Give the servants a chance as well.

(1) Never have more than two speakers. One is quite enough if he [sic] knows the Society’s work intimately.

The Meeting:
(2) Hymns are not necessary, but one is sometimes desirable during the collection.

(4) Let the plate be handed round containing any money that has already been sent in, or let it be placed in a prominent position at the door.

Our Waifs and Strays magazine,  June 1903, p 107

Drawing Room Meetings, Boxes, Sales of Work and various forms of entertainments, would remain popular forms of fund-raising at the grassroots level for many years to come. But these were not the only means of raising funds, and in the second part of this this article a major element of the Liverpool Diocese’s fund-raising activities – The Silver Thimble League – will be looked at. Established at the local level, this initiative was so successful that by the 1930s it was established on a national scale as The Golden Thimble League.

Scanned copies of the Our Waifs and Strays magazine can be found here: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/waifs_and_strays/index.html

Scanned copies of the Brothers and Sisters magazine can be found here: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/brothers_and_sisters/index.html

Records featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive:

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 Children’s Society

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Titania’s Palace on Tour

The final episode of our three blog series – written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper – that takes a look at the history of ‘Titania’s Palace’, a remarkable and long lasting fundraising initiative for The Children’s Society and it’s former Children’s Union that Sir Neville Wilkinson started in 1907.

From the outset Sir Neville Wilkinson’s expansive doll’s house – Titania’s Palace – was constructed with strength, durability and portability integral to its design. Not just an example of high craftsmanship and artistic endeavour, Titania’s Palace was designed primarily to generate charitable funds as a popular public attraction, and in order to maximise its exposure it was essential that it could be dismantled, transported and reinstalled safely and efficiently. In recognition of these requirements, Sir Neville himself commented, “The Palace, in order to fulfil its destiny, must be a kind of “magic carpet,” ready to travel over land or sea . .” Consequently, the Palace was designed as eight separate sections, each with its own specially designed packing case, and each light enough to carried by two workmen to and from the a four-ton lorry needed to transport the entire structure. As for being a “magic carpet” it still took at least three days to dismantle and re-erect.

Also integral to the design was a guard rail which acted both as protection for the Palace and as a perch for those children not tall enough to peer directly into each of the glass-fronted rooms. The Palace was placed on a draped base and so, in Sir Neville’s own words, “stood at a height which suited the stature of the average adult, while children, seated on a broad hand-rail, may slide round the four fronts, pressing their faces against the glass which protects each room, and seeing the contents as clearly as a brilliantly lighted scene as disclosed to the audience at a theatre.”

After its official opening by Queen Mary in July 1922 and subsequent display at the Daily Express Woman’s Exhibition at London’s Olympia over the summer, the Palace underwent further fitting-out before being placed on display at the Humber Motor Company’s showroom in New Bond Street from November and into the New Year period.

HM Queen Mary visiting Titania’s Palace in 1922

This wasn’t pure altruism on the part of the Humber Motor Company. From among the increased numbers visiting their showroom, they would have had the well-founded hope of generating increased interest and sales from the display of their latest models. This mutuality between raising charitable funds and commercial gain became more deeply entwined when Humber provided a model car designed specifically for Titania’s Palace. This was called the Grey Fairy, and Sir Neville returned the favour by featuring the car in his second book of the “Yvette” series of books – “The Grey Fairy”.

The Grey Fairy Motor car

Displaying Titania’s Palace on commercial premises – typically a town- or city-centre department store – became very much the normal practice over the next decade or so. The attraction would benefit from being placed in a central, locally well-known, well-frequented location, and the stores themselves expected to gain commercially from the increased number of customers and the increased publicity.

In addition to souvenir guides of the Palace, postcards such as these were available to visitors too:

Titania's Palace - The Throne Room

Titania’s Palace – The Throne Room


Titania’s Palace – Hall of the Fairy Kiss

Shortly after the residency at the Humber showrooms, Titania’s Palace was relocated a short distance away at Marshall and Snelgrove’s store in Oxford Street (the present day site of Debenham’s). The display at Marshall and Snelgrove – to which Titania’s Palace would return a number of times – was intended to be for a short period only, but such was its popularity, its stay was extended a number of times through to the middle of August. With an entrance fee of one shilling (5p) for adults and sixpence (2.5p) for children, the proceeds were divided between the Waifs and Strays Society, the League of Pity (NSPCC) and the London Hospital, Children’s Wards.

The charitable funds generated by Titania’s Palace were normally divided evenly between the Waifs and Strays Society and the League of Pity. However, additional charities – often based on the locality in which the attraction was on show – would benefit also. Thus, when Titania’s Palace ventured on its first tour beyond London – to the West Country in the autumn of 1923 – its two-week stay at Wilton’s in Salisbury ensured funds were raised also for the Salisbury Infirmary Children’s Ward. This was a pragmatic approach, as it ensured that Titania’s Palace did not monopolise the charitable potential of a locality to the detriment of local causes. The tour of the West Country took in four towns – Salisbury, Bath, Cheltenham and Bristol – between October and November 1924, before Titania’s Palace was once again installed in Marshall and Snelgrove’s for the Christmas and New Year period.

Articles reporting the progress of Titania’s Palace were a constant in the issues of Brothers and Sisters (the magazine of the Waifs and Strays Society’s Children’s Union) throughout 1923, and readers were kept well-informed of life at the Palace and its future whereabouts. The activities of Titania, King Oberon and the numerous Princesses and Princes (Iris, Zephyr, Ruby, Daphne, Noel, Pearl, and the baby, Crystal) were regularly reported on, and competitions were run for readers. Among the latter, for example, was an essay competition in the July 1923 issue, in which readers were invited to describe a visit to Titania’s Palace for a first prize of £4. In a marked – one could say refreshing – contrast to the present day approach whereby ‘everyone is deemed a winner’, the judge, who happened to be Lady Beatrix Wilkinson’s great-uncle, Lord Frederic Hamilton, commented rather severely upon the general standard of the entries. Clearly wishing for something more poetic and inspiring, he criticises the greater mass of entries as being “merely lists” (“I was, I will own, disappointed with most of them”). Fortunately however, fifteen year-old Sylvia Stimson of Streatham did pass muster (“infinitely the best”) and was credited with writing with imagination and a sense of humour. A hard-earned £4!

By the summer of 1923, more than 20,000 visitors had paid to view the Palace, and the tour of the West Country witnessed almost as many again before Titania’s Palace was returned to London (once more to Marshall and Snelgrove) for the Christmas and New Year period. In some respects, the activities of 1923 were a trial run for future tours taken over the following years; being a test of the Palace’s portability, durability and resilience against the demands of constant dismantling and reassembly, and the rigours of transportation.

In March 1924, Titania’s Palace was displayed at the premises of George Henry Lee in Liverpool (with some of the funds being apportioned towards the local Bradstock Lockett home). From Liverpool, the Palace subsequently toured throughout the north of England, visiting Leeds, Bradford, Harrogate, Scarborough, Hull and Sheffield, before returning to George Henry Lee in Liverpool for November. At the end of the year, the Palace was once again staged at the premises of Marshall and Snelgrove in Oxford Street.

The ground floor plan for Titania’s Palace

The Palace’s first shipborne venture was in the summer of 1925 when it was displayed at Clery’s department store in O’Connell Street, Dublin. In many ways the Palace’s spiritual home (with so many of its contributing craftsmen being based there) it remained in Dublin for more than a month before venturing northwards to Belfast. Upon returning to England, the Palace was put on view in Nottingham before spending the Christmas and New Year period at – in a change from previous practice – Whiteley’s in London.

The experience gained in the transport of Titania’s Palace to Ireland assured Sir Neville that his attraction could be transported in safety yet further afield, and after a period on display at Lewis’s in Birmingham (deemed as the “last chance before a journey of 24,000 miles”) preparations were put in place for a journey across the Atlantic. The immediate lure, and the springboard for a continent-wide tour, was an invitation to feature in the sesquicentennial exhibition being staged in Philadelphia.

As ever, the travels of Titania’s Palace regularly commanded space in issues of Brothers and Sisters. The trip to the eastern United States, for example, was chronicled in a series of articles entitled “Fairyland in Maryland”. Penned by Sir Neville in a rather whimsical style and from the perspective of the occupants of the Palace, it isn’t easy for a modern reader to digest and doesn’t seem entirely appropriate for describing the great conurbations of the USA, or the delayed departure of Titania’s Palace across the Atlantic on account of the Great Strike of 1926. Subsequent series of articles – such as “San Diego to Seattle” and “Vancouver to Quebec” – were written with an older audience in mind and must have been very interesting for Children’s Union members to read. For example, Sir Neville writes about the amazing landscapes of the western United States, its great cities, and meeting such luminaries Helen Wills Moody, Cecille B de Mille and Charlie Chaplin; he witnesses the process of movie-making in Hollywood, prognosticates on jazz (he doesn’t like it) and rails against piped music. To a young audience – and decades before mass tourism – Sir Neville’s experiences must have been truly eye-opening.

Titania’s Palace did not return to Great Britain again until April 1929, when it was installed at John Lewis in Oxford Street. Thereafter, it remained on this side of the Atlantic until early 1931, when it featured in the British Trade Exhibition in Buenos Aries. Subsequent overseas trips included a tour to Australia and New Zealand commencing in the summer of 1934. In the usual fashion, the tour is reported in Brothers and Sisters (“Titania’s Empire Tour”), and provides the readership with accounts of the voyage to Freemantle – including ports of call such as Aden and Colombo – and the subsequent journey across Australia and onwards to Auckland. However, Sir Neville’s articles cease from September 1936, when it is announced in Brothers and Sisters that he has been taken ill. It’s not until July 1938 that Sir Neville writes once again; this time reporting on the Palace’s installation at Waring and Gillows in Oxford Street, London, and the visit of the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

The Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret visit Titania’s Palace at Waring and Gillows in Oxford Street, London

Sadly, this is Sir Neville’s final article for Brothers and Sisters and no further articles relating to the travels – if any – of Titania’s Palace appear in the magazine beyond this date.

In a short and poignant message to the readers of Brothers and Sisters, and in an issue much reduced in size due to the wartime paper shortage, Lady Beatrix reports in January 1941 on the recent death of Sir Neville in Dublin, shortly before Christmas 1940 and following a long illness.

In the years following Sir Neville’s death, Titania’s Palace remained on display in Ireland. However, some years after Lady Beatrix’s death in 1957, the Palace lost its permanent home at Ballynastragh and the trustees (amongst which was Sir Neville’s and Lady Beatrix’s eldest daughter, Guendolen) decided to put the attraction up for auction. The Palace was auctioned at Christie’s in London and following a bidding war, which seemed to involve elements of a misunderstanding by an Irish-based bidder, Titania’s Palace was purchased by Olive Hodgkinson, who proceeded to put it on display at Wookey Hole Caves in Somerset, and subsequently at her home in Jersey. Following Mrs Hodgkinson’s death, in 1978 the Palace was again sent to auction at Christie’s. As on the previous occasion, there was a bidding war and a similar outcome in which Irish interests were outbid. The successful bid of £131,000 (i.e., approximately £700,000 adjusting for inflation) was lodged by Legoland, and consequently Titania’s Palace was relocated and put on display in Denmark. A subsequent loan agreement in 2006 between Legoland and Count Michel Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille saw Titania’s Palace move to its present home Egeskov Castle; where it remains a premier attraction and can be still visited.

Want to know more?

Further information on the Children’s Union can be found in previous Hidden Lives Revealed website blogs:  https://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/blog/tag/childrens-union/

Scanned copies of the Brothers and Sisters magazine can be found here: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/brothers_and_sisters/index.html

Records relating to Titania’s Palace and the Children’s Union featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive:

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 Children’s Society

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Yvette in Italy and Titania’s Palace

The second in a three blog series – written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper – that takes a look at the history of ‘Titania’s Palace’, a remarkable and long lasting fundraising initiative for The Children’s Society and it’s former Children’s Union that Sir Neville Wilkinson started in 1907.

Commencing in 1907, the development of Sir Neville Wilkinson’s Titania’s Palace occurred over a period of 15 years and was evidently an expensive project. He once remarked in an issue of Brothers and Sisters – the monthly magazine of the Children’s Union – that by the time his dolls’ house was first presented to the paying public in 1922, there were “no funds available for a publicity campaign.” Yet this wasn’t an obstacle to Sir Neville, who, as remarked in Part One, was remarkably adept at generating publicity and interest in Titania’s Palace. Both Sir Neville and his wife, Lady Beatrix Wilkinson, held senior and influential positions in children’s charities – he as Chairman of the League of Pity (NSPCC) and Lady Beatrix as President of the Children’s Union – and they were ideally placed to ensure that regular and prominently placed news and articles about Titania’s Palace were conveyed to members and supporters of the two charities.

Some of the furniture of Titania’s Palace”, Brothers and Sisters, 1922, July, p. 151

Although news regarding developments about Titania’s Palace featured regularly in Brothers and Sisters, it is from early in 1922 that it took on a new intensity. In the months prior to its public unveiling at the Daily Express Woman’s Exhibition at Olympia in July, there were successive lead articles and announcements regarding Titania’s Palace and its fictional inhabitants. In the February 1922 issue, for example, Sir Neville – via the agency of a front page Proclamation from Queen Titania herself – invited young readers to become either “Companions (boys) or Rose-Maidens (girls)” of the Order of the Fairy Kiss:

Know ye therefore that I the said TITANIA Queen of the Fairies Sovereign of the aforesaid Most Industrious Order do by these Presents Declare and Ordain that every Human who shall duly complete and forward the Form which in accordance with Our Command has been placed at the End of the Volume entitled YVETTE IN ITALY AND TITANIA’S PALACE shall therefore become Eligible for Admission into Our aforesaid Most Industrious Order”

Undoubtedly, Sir Neville’s appointment and experience as the Ulster King of Arms, helped him to script the proclamation and he does warn his readers beforehand that it is “a little difficult to understand, as all these documents are, because there are so many stops left out.” What is clearly understandable however, was that in order to join the Order – or rather, to become eligible to join the Order – the purchase Sir Neville’s book, Yvette in Italy and Titania’s Palace was prerequisite.

Yvette in Italy was the first of a series of five books featuring the adventures and travels of a twelve year old girl – the eponymous Yvette – her close friend Marietta, the various friends they meet, and the guiding presence of a fatherly character called the “Painter” – a character not entirely removed from Sir Neville’s himself, and mirroring his own artistic credentials. Typically based on their shared travels to wherever Titania’s Palace is on display, the books are part adventure story, part fairy story – with chapters relating to Queen Titania, King Oberon and the numerous princes and princesses that live in Titania’s Palace – and part travelogue. The books are educational too, and Sir Neville does not fail to provide his readers with details about the places they visit; happily describing great works of art and local history. Adding to the didactic and sometimes moralistic tone, the Painter (Sir Neville, of course) would throw in some occasionally waspish commentary. The following conversation with Yvette (as they pass through Paris, en route to Florence) provides a flavour of this:

“That’s called the Colonne Vendôme,” said the Painter, it was put up to celebrate the victories of the great Napoleon. It’s made of the cannons he took in his wars.”

“You wouldn’t think when you see it now,” he continued, “that not so very long ago it lay on the ground, just where we are walking, broken in pieces: for it was pulled down by people called Communists, who wanted to burn and destroy everything.”

“Whatever did they want to do that for?” asked Yvette.

“It’s much too difficult a question for me to answer all at once,” said the Painter, smiling, “you’ll find, when you grow up, that there are always foolish people who think they can only do their country good by noise and numbers.”

Presumably, Sir Neville’s young readers got the message. And much as he loves Italy and discoursing freely on the great artists of the Renaissance and the works of art abounding in Florence, the Painter (now referring to himself as the ‘Maestro’ whilst in Italy) can’t entirely refrain from being critical of some local customs:

“[. . . ] For Fairies can only be happy where there are birds to sing to them.”
“But why aren’t there any little birds here now?” asked Marietta.
“They have nearly all been shot or trapped,” said the Maestro, gravely.
“How dreadful!” said the children.
“Was it because they eat up the fruit and things?” asked Marietta.

“Partly, no doubt, because some of them fed on grain and berries, but they were killed chiefly to eat.”

“What! Dear little song-birds,” cried Yvette, incredulously, “tiny little things like that: they wouldn’t make a mouthful.”

The books are marked by numerous illustrations. There are black and photographs, featuring works of art and famous landmarks, plans and drawings, and colour reproductions of paintings; a significant number being painted by Sir Neville himself. It is perhaps because of the inclusion of so many illustrations, that the books were relatively expensive. They were initially priced at seven shillings and sixpence (i.e., almost £19 at present day prices) but were soon priced at ten shillings and sixpence.

The dedication in Yvette in Italy is to Sir Neville’s and Lady Beatrix’s two daughters, Guendolen and Phyllis. Of the two, Guendolen is relatively well known. It was she who first espied the fairy disappearing beneath the Mount Merrion sycamore tree that inspired Sir Neville to create Titania’s Palace in the first instance. And as a young woman, Guendolen’s activities on behalf of the Children’s Union are featured frequently in issues of Brothers and Sisters. She appears, for example, in the photograph taken at the family’s Duchess Street, Mayfair home, when Queen Mary officially ‘opened’ Titania’s Palace. She is featured most prominently too in the September 1923 issue, where she is portrayed, rather remarkably, in the guise of the Clerk of the Crystal; the office responsible for administering membership of the Most industrious Order of the Fairy Kiss.

“Guendolen Eleanor May, Clerk of the Crystal”, Brothers & Sisters, 1923, September, page 187

However, for whatever reason, the Wilkinsons were much less forthcoming about their younger daughter, Muriel Phyllis Wilkinson. She is rarely referred to in the pages of Brothers and Sisters, and the one solitary photograph of her, published in the June 1917 issue when she was about nine years old, shows her face deeply occluded by the large sun hat she is wearing.

Muriel Phyllis Wilkinson

Additionally, it is worth remarking that she didn’t appear with the rest of her family in the photograph with Queen Mary, celebrating the ‘opening’ of Titania’s Palace in 1922 . Unlike the rest of her immediate family, she is omitted too, from Sir Neville’s fictional Order of the Fairy Kiss published as a New Year’s Honours List in the February 1924 issue of Brothers and Sisters (Sir Neville is listed as Knight Grand Cross and Gold Pen, Lady Beatrix as a Star Matron, and Guendolen as the aforementioned Clerk of the Crystal).

HM Queen Mary visiting Titania’s Palace in 1922

Whilst there is every indication that her parents were very protective of their youngest daughter, there is some argument for suggesting that she may be the model,

Sir Neville’s own painting of Yvette published in the frontispiece of ‘Yvette in Italy’

for she is not dissimilar in appearance to her portrayal in a photograph retained by the National Portrait Gallery, where she is portrayed together with her older sister. The photograph was taken in March 1920, when Muriel would have been eleven or twelve years old – the same age as Yvette in Sir Neville’s first book. Such is the physical similarity, is it is not too fanciful to speculate further that Sir Neville modelled Yvette on an idealised version of his youngest daughter? Of course, this is only speculation. Much as it remains an appealing hypothesis, without knowing more of the family history it is quite impossible to know with absolute certainty.

Guendolen Wilkinson’s portrait from the National Portrait Gallery © Creative Commons

The reward for being admitted to the Order of the Fairy Kiss entitled its Companions and Rose-Maidens to visit Titania’s Palace as many times as they wished and without having to pay the entrance fee – just as long as they wore their badge of office, that is. However, attaining such rank was not especially straightforward. Aside from the necessity of having to possess a copy of one of the “Yvette” series of books, those aspiring to the Order needed to complete and return the form placed at the end of the book to one of the charities supported by Sir Neville and Lady Beatrix. Only after doing this would claimants be informed as to the qualifying criteria. Perhaps this was expecting a little too much however, and as early as August 1924, the requirements were listed in Brothers and Sisters. With respect to Children’s Union members, there were three possible means of attaining membership. Firstly an aspiring Companion or Rose Maiden could form a Branch in a parish or district where there was no existing Branch. Secondly, a member could demonstrate that they’d gained twelve or more new members to their Branch. Thirdly, in cases where a complete Branch had done exceptionally good work, but individual members were unable to buy a copy of Yvette in Italy, the Branch Secretary would be allowed to buy the book out of Branch funds at the end of the year, and then Branch members would vote amongst themselves to nominate the individual whose name would be placed on the application form. Whatever route was taken therefore, possession of a copy of “Yvette” – and its application form – was essential.

Sir Neville’s approach to the Titania’s Palace project (on reflection, almost certainly not a word he would have chosen to describe his works!) was a curious mixture of whimsy and hard-headed pragmatism. A make-believe world countered by the practical pursuit of raising funds for children’s charities. Thus far, we have looked at some of the means by which Sir Neville raised awareness and interest in Titania’s Palace; by ensuring constant coverage in the pages of Brothers and Sisters, authoring a series of children’s books, and promoting a number of means by which the young membership of the Children’s Union could become involved (to which the Badge of the Fairy Queen should be added to the Order of the Fairy Kiss). The consequences were huge interest in Titania’s Palace and attendance by large numbers of paying members of the public wishing to visit the attraction. This latter aspect – Titania’s Palace On The Road, if you like – plus an account of the Palace’s present day whereabouts, will be covered in a further article.

Want to know more?

Further information on the Children’s Union can be found in previous Hidden Lives Revealed website blogs:  https://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/blog/tag/childrens-union/

Scanned copies of the Brothers and Sisters magazine can be found here: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/brothers_and_sisters/index.html

Records relating to Titania’s Palace and the Children’s Union featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive:

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 Children’s Society

The Children's Society - Key line logo - on white - RGB

Titania’s Palace – Sir Neville Wilkinson’s famous dolls house

The first of three blogs – written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper – that takes a look at the history of a remarkable and long lasting fundraising initiative for The Children’s Society and it’s former Children’s Union that Sir Neville Wilkinson started in 1907 – Titania’s Palace.

The son of a barrister, Neville Rodwell Wilkinson was born in October 1869, at Highgate, Middlesex. Clearly, at such time, there could have been no possible inkling of Sir Neville’s subsequent career as a serving officer in the Second Boer War, of his marriage to the first daughter of the 14th Earl of Pembroke, Lady Beatrix Herbert in 1903, or of his appointment to the Ulster King of Arms in 1908, his subsequent knighthood in 1920, or of his long career as philanthropist, genealogist, artist, author, traveller and aesthete.

Both Sir Neville and his wife, Lady Beatrix, rose to senior positions in children’s charities; Sir Neville becoming Chairman of the League of Pity (a precursor organisation of the NSPCC), and Lady Beatrix serving as President of the Children’s Union run by the Waifs and Strays Society (as The Children’s Society was formerly known). Sir Neville’s activity in this sphere was further marked by a quite singular and unusual pursuit; the design and development, and subsequent promotion and display of doll’s houses created for the benefit of the charities to which he and his wife represented. These doll’s houses were never conceived as toys or playthings; they were works of art in themselves, displaying high levels of design and craftsmanship, and deliberately produced for display purposes.

Sir Neville’s first venture in this connection was the creation of Pembroke Palace. Opened for exhibition by Queen Alexandra at Wilton House (the country seat of the Earls of Pembroke) in 1908, Pembroke Palace was a large doll’s house comprising three floor levels extending over a base of almost two square metres. Populated with finely crafted miniature fittings and furnishings, the house also included original works of art produced by Sir Neville, including portraits of his father-in-law, the 14th Earl of Pembroke, Sir Neville’s oldest daughter, Guendolen (born 1904) and his own self-portrait. All as miniatures, of course.

Emboldened by the success of Pembroke Palace, and with the intention of producing a much grander and – more importantly – portable attraction, Sir Neville embarked on a yet more ambitious venture before the paint was barely dry on his first. The inspiration for this occurred when Sir Neville was undertaking a pencil study of a sycamore tree close to the Wilkinson’s Mount Merrion home in Dublin. His three-year old daughter, Guendolen, fancying she‘d seen a fairy disappear beneath the base of the tree gave rise to Sir Neville’s vision of an entire palace – fit for Titania, the Fairy Queen – laying beneath the base of the tree.

The ground floor plan for Titania’s Palace

First conceived in 1907, Titania’s Palace – though still not entirely complete – was formally ‘opened’ by Queen Mary in July 1922, shortly before it was put on public display for the first time at the Daily Express Woman’s Exhibition at Olympia. And whilst Sir Neville was very much its instigator, designer and ‘architect’, the construction and adornment of Titania’s Palace was the result of many minds and expert hands. Of these, pride of place goes rightly to Dublin-based cabinet maker James Hicks and his fellow craftsmen; to whom the greater part of the general construction, panelling and furnishing are associated. Among the 3,000 contents there are true gems of antiquity; there is a late sixteenth century cannon by Michael Mann of Nuremburg (it is a working model), a small (obviously small!) Samuel Palmer watercolour and a tiny enamel horse discovered in the Valley of Kings and believed to be 3,000 years old. Sir Neville himself decorated many of the rooms, Sir Edwin Lutyens chipped in with the belfry (inspired by the Church of St George, Hanover Square, London) and – no less significant, and true reminder of the Palace’s purpose – Sir Neville records “dainty towels and pillow slips made by the cripple girls at St Agnes’ home” for the Palace’s Night Nursery.

HM Queen Mary visiting Titania’s Palace, Brothers and Sisters, August 1922, p.175

From the outset Sir Neville designed his doll’s house with the express purpose of being able to dismantle and transport it safely, and with the consequent aim of allowing as many – paying – visitors to view it as possible. Designed on a scale of 1:12 (i.e., one inch to one foot) Titania’s Palace, comprised at least sixteen separate rooms and was almost three metres long and half a metre wide. Excluding the cupola it averaged about 75 centimetres high. With the inclusion of its integral surrounding rail – which acted both as a general guard rail and as a perch for younger visitors – the overall attraction covered an area of approximately six square metres and weighed over three tons. Titania’s Palace was designed to be dismantled into a number of sections, and specially made padded packing cases were included in the design in order that the entire attraction could be dismantled and re-assembled by as few as two men. For the sake of durability, strength and resistance to changes in temperature, there was careful selection of materials too, which included much use of 100-year old mahogany.

Some of the furniture of Titania’s Palace”, Brothers and Sisters, July 1922, p. 151

Given the investment in time and money required to prepare his undeniably spectacular attraction for public display, Sir Neville revealed, a number of years later in 1930, that there were “no funds available for a publicity campaign.” But this was to prove little or no impediment. Necessity being the mother of invention, Sir Neville embarked on novel ways to promote his attraction. Indeed, he was to prove that there is nothing new in the advertising notion of the ‘tie-in’ and the promotion of mutual interest – showing as he did that the pursuit of profit could work hand in hand with charity.

The Hall of The Guilds

In the November 1922 issue of Brothers and Sisters – the monthly magazine of the Children’s Union – Sir Neville announced that Titania’s Palace would be on display until early in the New Year at Humber House, located at number 94 New Bond Street, in London’s Mayfair. This was the premier showroom for Humber Motor Cars and it was Humber Limited that produced the ‘Grey Fairy’, the 15 HP model car that stands awaiting passengers outside Titania’s Palace. No doubt Sir Neville’s exhortation to his readers, “Please, daddy, take me up to London to see the Fairy Palace”, saw more visitors – and no doubt hoped-for-custom – to Humber’s showroom. Consequently, presenting Titania’s Palace on commercial premises would be a constant, and as the attraction moved first around the towns and cities of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and then the USA, it was frequently installed for display in a town’s most central and prestigious department store. Adding to the immediacy of the display’s impact, a portion of the revenues generated by Titania’s Palace would often be donated to a local children’s ward, hospital or home. The remaining portion being split evenly between the Children’s Union (Waifs and Strays Society) and the League of Pity.

” The Grey Fairy Motor Car”, Brothers and Sisters, December 1992, December, p.271.

As a tie-in with Titania’s Palace, Sir Neville authored a series of children’s books recording the adventures of Yvette, a young girl and her various friends, and a fatherly character referred to as “the Old Painter”, who travel together to visit Titania’s Palace, wherever it may be. The first two books in the series were published as early as 1922, and were thus available before Titania’s Palace was placed on public display. The first book was “Yvette in Italy”, which was swiftly followed by “Grey Fairy” (with adventures in the aforementioned car). Three further books in the series were published in the following years; “Yvette in Venice” (1923), “Yvette in Switzerland” (1925), and “Yvette in the USA” (1929).

Sir Neville also ensured that the readers of Brothers and Sisters were constantly informed of developments surrounding Titania’s Palace, informing children of the towns it visited and of the adventures of it fictitious residents. These articles, representing part of Sir Neville’s almost ceaseless promotion of Titania’s Palace and the “Yvette” series of books will form the basis of subsequent articles. These will also look at the more recent history of Titania’s Palace, which, you might be pleased to know, remains in good order and can still be visited.

Want to know more?

Further information on the Children’s Union can be found in previous Hidden Lives Revealed website blogs:  https://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/blog/tag/childrens-union/

Scanned copies of the Brothers and Sisters magazine can be found here: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/brothers_and_sisters/index.html

Records relating to Titania’s Palace and the Children’s Union featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive:

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 Children’s Society

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A century of childcare recognised by UNESCO – The Children’s Society Archive

This blog – written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper – takes a look at The Children’s Society Archive and the recognition by UNESCO of its historical importance.

Sharing company with the likes of the Death Warrant of King Charles I and the 1689 Bill of Rights, it is a measure of the status and historical importance of The Children’s Society’s Archive that it too, has been inscribed on the UK’s Register of UNESCO’s Memory of the World; an internationally recognised listing instituted to preserve, protect and ensure availability for posterity valuable archival and library collections. Memory of the World promotes the need to safeguard the world’s documentary heritage against, collective amnesia, neglect, the twin impacts of time and climatic conditions, and intentional and conscious destruction.

The Memory of the World Programme was instituted by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in 1993, and the inaugural entry onto its Register followed in 1997. To date there are something of the order of 70 entries on the UK’s own Register.

Qualification for inscription on the United Kingdom’s own Memory of the World Register is overseen by UNESCO’s UK National Commission (UKNC), which meets once a year to assess and evaluate nominations submitted by institutions from across the country. Numerous criteria are considered by the UKNC during the audit process, including the age of the archive or collection under review, and the location and people involved – a recognition that these criteria may reflect significant social or cultural change, description of physical environments long-since vanished and significant aspects of human behaviour and social development. Other important criteria include the subject and theme, the form and style, and the social significance of the material under review. The Commission also consider the rarity and integrity of the collections submitted for review, plus the threats to their survival and the plans relating to future conservation and preservation.

Cover sheet for case file number 2

The range and breadth of the The Children’s Society Archive is extensive, including accounts and records of individual homes, an extensive collection of photographic material, and documents and correspondence reaching back to Edward Rudolf’s first tentative steps in establishing the Waifs and Strays Society in 1881. Perhaps the most attractive and compelling aspect of the Archive – its cornerstone, in fact – are the individual case files relating to all those children taken into the care of The Children’s Society during the century period from 1882 until the 1980s. Not surprisingly, it is this particular element of the collection that attracted the greatest attention from the UK National Commission.

Admission form for case file number 2

The collection – much of which has undergone significant conservation and archival cataloguing in recent years with funding from the Wellcome Trust between 2013 and 2015 – comprises an estimated 140,000 case files recorded on paper and microfilm, each recording the individual experiences of children coming under the care of The Society. And with relatively few files missing to the collection (either to damage, decay or loss) the archive records a seamless history from the earliest days of The Society. As such it and contains unique information about the history and practice of childcare, behavioural and mental health issues, the diseases of poverty, nutrition, and children’s mental and physical development in Victorian and Edwardian times. These case files, coupled with the wider collection which covers the transactions of The Society and individual homes and initiatives, also document The Society’s response, and as such record pre-Welfare State philanthropic and medical responses to poverty, disease and disability.


The award of a place on the Registry was made on 23 May 2011, and followed a period in which there was a detailed and rigorous evaluation of the Archive’s collection. The subsequent elevation of the Archive to the National Commission’s Registry, and its entry on the Registry’s website, not only reflected the Archive’s status and value, but also promoted its potential as a resource to researchers, institutions and historians interested in changing social norms and conditions over a hundred year period extending from the 1880s. And indeed, in the period since the award, The Children’s Society Archive – bolstered too by the parallel development of its Hidden Lives Revealed website – has been the recipient of increased interest and recognition of its social and historical significance.

Find out more about The Children’s Society Archive:

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/

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Community Homes – new clothes, old idea?

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 with the Community Homes System in the 1970s and 1980s.

By the late 1960s the longstanding structure of The Children’s Society, comprising numerous small homes and nurseries located throughout England and Wales, was coming under stress. The numbers of children entering the homes was falling and homes that had been established for many decades were becoming increasingly outmoded and expensive to maintain. On the one hand the number of younger children requiring nursery places was falling significantly; the consequence of a more liberal society’s acceptance of single-parenthood, the increasing availability of the contraceptive pill and the legalisation of abortion in 1967. Whilst on the other, the success of The Children’s Society’s own policy of BOWAVTA – boarding-out with a view to adoption – was impacting on the number of older children remaining in its homes.

It was at this time that the Labour-led government of the day, through the agency of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, signalled the launch of a partnership between the state and the voluntary sector entitled the Community Homes System. The system was administered centrally by the recently created Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) and was co-ordinated via the establishment of twelve Regional planning Committees (RPCs), each overseeing the residential needs within their own area and providing residential resources within a network of both local authority and voluntary sector homes.

Donald Bowie discussing the idea of the Community Homes System in 1972; he was Deputy Director of The Children’s Society at the time.

Initial reaction within the voluntary sector was not welcoming and in some quarters there was a reluctance to work within a centralised system. Among long-standing and well-known charities such as The Children’s Society and Dr Barnado’s, there was the concern that the Community Homes System represented the’ nationalisation’ of residential care, and that that less independence would result in a loss of identity and diminution of voluntary donations, along with well-established fund-raising networks. For other charities this was perhaps a lesser concern. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, certainly didn’t fear for its status or standing; and for the National Children’s Homes, there was already an established working relationship with local authorities. Nonetheless, in the three years leading up to the launch of the Community Homes System in early 1973, each of these various bodies met together collectively and with the relevant government department to discuss and co-ordinate their approach.

Off-setting the concern of potentially being absorbed within an all-encompassing national system, was the fact that voluntary bodies were not compelled to join, nor were they penalised for opting out. Providing and nominating homes for inclusion within the Community Homes System was entirely voluntary and a decision left to the charities themselves. Hence, voluntary bodies were free to pick and choose which homes to propose to the local Regional Planning Committees. With this being apparent, it is not inappropriate to suggest that for The Children’s Society, the Community Homes System provided a means of extending the life of a number of its homes.

The process by which local authorities adopted The Children’s Society’s homes for inclusion in the Community Homes System was not straightforward and a number of homes were rejected by local authorities or were considered by The Children’s Society as unsuitable in the first place. By the end of 1971, for example, twenty homes had been accepted by Regional Planning Committees, a further eighteen were still being considered for inclusion, and thirty-one had either been rejected or considered unsuitable by The Children’s Society in the first case. By the time the scheme started in 1973, a total of twenty-two Children’s Society homes were included in the Community Homes System.

Inclusion within the Community Homes System impacted on the way a home was administered; significantly, a well-established feature of a Children’s Society home – the Home Committee – was replaced by new Boards of Management. These comprised nine individuals; six from The Children’s Society and three from the relevant local authority, and they operated within the remit of a home’s Instrument of Management – the contract between The Children’s Society and the RPC which governed such areas as staffing, admissions and finance. The contracts followed a standardised format, though there was scope for negotiation or variation of the terms, including such aspects as the rates a voluntary body could charge a local authority for accommodation.

Donald Bowie, the Deputy Director of The Children’s Society in 1972

For inclusion within the scheme, ‘Community Homes’ as they were now called, were required to ensure that a minimum of 50% their bed spaces were available for children admitted via local authority sources; a figure that would increase to 75% over time. The rates a voluntary body charged a local authority straddled a very fine line. In summarising the scheme at its outset, Donald Bowie – the then Deputy Director of The Children’s Society’s – referred to this potential dilemma; i.e., “[…] we want to be sure that voluntary funds are not used to subsidise the state”, whilst he recognised too that “[…] we also want to be sure we are not making a profit out of [local authorities] or getting an indirect subsidy from their treasuries.”

The initial balance struck established a weekly ‘bed rate’ of £21.77 for the Community Homes, and £30.52 for nurseries (approximately £240 and £335 at today’s values). Moreover, The Children’s Society also levied a fee – at a much reduced rate – for those beds that remained unoccupied whilst earmarked for local authority use. A practice that was not universal throughout the voluntary sector.

As a measure of the importance of local authority funding to The Children Society, the proportion of the charity’s income provided from this source rose dramatically during the 1970s; from 24% of revenue in 1974 (i.e., approximately £5 million) to around 40% throughout the early 1980s. The figure only fell to below 20% at the turn of the century, reflecting the long-term decline and closure of The Society’s residential homes during this period. Indeed, the last of these – Ryecroft – closed in 1997.

The Ryecroft Home, Worsley, in 1960

Of the legacies resulting from the Community Homes System, perhaps the most obvious was that it allowed The Children’s Society to maintain its residential homes for a longer period of time, many of which had been established before the end of the nineteenth century. Probably more important, however, was the short-term stability it provided The Children’s Society at a time when it was establishing its strategy for change and development throughout the 1970s and 1980s, particularly with respect the development of family centres and specialised services for young people. Complimenting this, the experience of working and co-operating with local authorities through involvement in the Community Homes System, arguably brought The Children’s Society into the new world of providing children and young people’s services for local authorities. By forging these new ties and working alongside and sharing expertise with other bodies, it was better placed to reach-out to local authorities and create new social work projects to assist children and young people into the 1980s and beyond.

Records relating to the Community Homes System featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive:

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/

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The Children’s Union – children fundraising on behalf of children (part 2)

The second part of a blog written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper, takes a look at The Children’s Society’s fundraising activity and the work of the Children’s Union – a remarkable idea that allowed children to fundraise on behalf of children! You can read part 1 here.

Another Children’s Union-wide fund-raising initiative was the Happy Birthday League. As with the Rover League, the primary aim was to raise funds for the re-building of St Nicholas’ Home. There was one very simple rule to become a member of the League and that was the submission on one’s birthday of one shilling “as a thank-offering for your preservation during the year that has past.” The monthly issues of Brothers and Sisters always carried a reminder of the League and its purpose, and occasionally there would be a small article or report. In the July 1905 issue, for example, there was a not entirely subtle reminder to avoid being overlooked by its readers: “How many birthday presents have you given this year to your friends?” By 1905, the Happy Birthday League had enrolled almost 7,000 members and it raised £335 13s. 1d. during the year; an amount equivalent to about £37,000 today.

In the August 1905 issue Mrs Rose Leck provides a report about the annual fêtes held at, and in aid of, the Bradstock Lockett Home, Southport. As mentioned in part 1, fêtes were an invaluable source of Children’s Union (C.U.) fund-raising, although larger-scale events such as that held at Bradstock Lockett also had the important function of cementing bonds between the local branches; Mrs Leck reported that she “was able to count representatives of nearly forty branches” either attending or providing attractions. It’s quite likely (and refreshing to think) the term ‘networking’ was missing from the lexicon of Edwardian England, but there is little doubt that events such as the annual Bradstock Lockett fêtes were central to engendering close personal contacts and a unity of purpose within the C.U..



Her contribution to Brother and Sisters notwithstanding, Mrs Leck’s primary role was as the Organising Secretary of the Northern Children’s Union, a reminder that the C.U. at this time, as well as being the fruit of a local, grass roots initiative, was very much a decentralised organisation. St Nicholas’, St Martin’s and St Agnes’ homes, all located in the south of England, fell within the purlieu of the Southern Children’s Union (which, as is in the nature of these things, tended to just call itself the Children’s Union). The northern branches organised themselves within the Northern Children’s Union centred on the activities of the Bradstock Lockett Home, Southport (notably named after one of its main benefactors and advocates rather than a saint) and those of the Ripon and Wakefield Dioceses which oversaw funding of St Chad’s Home, Far Headingly. The extent of local independence and discretion is hard to judge, though as an example, the Northern Children’s Union chose to adopt the Happy Birthday League a little later than its southern counterpart, and with the specific aim of covering the outstanding debt on the development of the Bradstock Lockett Home.

Branch secretaries and members of the Children’s Union could advertise their affinity with the C.U. by purchasing and wearing the C.U. badge. These were available in white metal (at 4d.) or bronze (8d.). Branch secretaries often purchased badges and awarded them to members who secured the recruitment of additional members. In the September issue there is reference to Miss Olive Dawson of Shortlands, Kent, who had suggested earlier in the year that a bar should be added (“something after the style of the Boer War medals”) as a reward for securing additional members. The report continues that another branch secretary, Mrs Elsie Clifford (Blackheath) had consequently commenced awarding a Bar for Merit to individual members of her local branch. In recognition of these initiatives – and no doubt identifying a further means of raising funds – “We [the Children’s Union administration] therefore propose to supply the ribbon and bars to be fixed to the members’ badges: and further notice, with prices etc., will be given in the next Magazine. On the bar will be the following words: –“FOR SERVICE” – and Branch Secretaries may give the bar for special service rendered by a member to the Children’s Union in obtaining new members and new subscribers to the Magazine.”

TCS CU (CU Medal)While the greater part of each issue of Brothers and Sisters comprised news from the Homes, or essays on photography and natural history, plus short-stories and puzzles, it is the shorter articles and notes, the readers’ letters and news from the branches which provide a real sense of the C.U.’s activities. In the October issue, for example, there is a short article entitled “Some Ways of Working for The Children’s Union”. This is a direct appeal to the C.U.’s membership and informs children how they may help in practical terms to produce items for ‘Sales of Work’ – a mainstay of branch fêtes and fund-raising in general. Described in a gender specific terms that wouldn’t accord with present-day mores, it suggests items of needlework for girls, whilst boys might consider “wood carving, iron-work, netting hammocks, handbags, fruit nets etc.” The impact of such activities is apparent elsewhere in the magazine; in the same issue – just as in all issues – there are a numerous reports from local branches referring to sales of work and the money raised as a consequence of children’s efforts.

In addition to producing items for sale at Branch fêtes and bazaars, children were also encouraged to produce plays and entertainments. In the November 1905 issue there is a “List of Plays, Duologues &c.”, detailing scripts for short plays which could be purchased directly from their publishers for sixpence or one shilling. In the same issue, amongst the “Reports from Branches”, two branches refer to performances put on by their members. The Chelmsford Branch’s Annual Fête saw three members acting “two fairy plays, viz., ‘The Three Wishes’ and ‘Foolish Jack’” – their endeavours contributing to a total of £30 raised by the overall event. Elsewhere, the Pershore Branch reported that “two performances of the play, ‘Three Fairy Gifts,’ were given and much appreciated, supplemented by a piano duet, a skirt dance, and a duologue entitled ‘Perseverance Wins’.”



The December 1905 issue very much follows the format of the preceding eleven issues. News from the Homes is preceded by a notice from “The Crippled Children in our Homes” wishing the readers of the magazine and the members of the Children’s Union “A Happy Christmas and New Year”, and the magazine continues with its mixture of regular and feature articles, short stories, puzzles and news from the branches. Amongst the latter is a report on the C.U.’s conference at St Mary Abbot’s Church, Kensington, London. Many important figures from The Children’s Society and the Children’s Union were in attendance, including Edward Rudolf – “who gave a brief sketch of the general work of the Society” – and Lady Beatrix Wilkinson. As President of the C.U., Lady Wilkinson gave an account of the C.U.’s work from its beginning and “gave many practical hints on the management of a Branch which included among the children members of all classes.” Such words might seem patronising and anachronistic now, but when she mentions subsequently that “children can work at home or at meetings”, or that some children can put savings in boxes or collect from others, and that “ways and means of working are found to suit each Branch”, she clearly highlights that the C.U., reflecting its “spirit of endeavour and loving service”, was grounded very much at the local level with branches reflecting their own capabilities and conditions.

Branches were also encouraged to pursue their own initiatives and ideas, and to share these with fellow branches. Allowing ideas and initiatives to take root at the local level was clearly useful. It maintained enthusiasm among the members (there wasn’t the necessity of waiting for instructions from HQ), it fostered a spirit of inclusivity among the members, and a notion that all branches were of equal standing and prominence. Added to this mix were the rather straight-forward aims of the C.U.; the support of five Homes and their resident children. This combination of localism, decentralisation, inclusivity, and simple straight-forward aims, all contributed to promote the Children’s Union as a very effective means of fund-raising within fifteen years of its – arguably, quite accidental – inception.

Want to know more?

Further information on the Children’s Union Rover League can be found on the Hidden Lives Revealed website:  http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/activities/rover_league/rover_league1.html

Scanned copies of the Brothers and Sisters magazine can be found here: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/brothers_and_sisters/index.html

Records relating to the Children’s Union featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive:

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 Children’s Society

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