The Children’s Union – children fundraising on behalf of children (part 1)

Another in the series of blogs written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper, takes a look at The Children’s Society’s fundraising activity – here the work of the Children’s Union – a remarkable idea that allowed children to fundraise on behalf of children! The blog has two parts – this is part 1.

From a modern perspective it might appear unusual that an organisation established as recently as 1881 should, by 1889, be entertaining and indeed, actively, encouraging, the development of an additional movement within its ranks. But that’s exactly what happened when in 1889 the Church of England Central Society for Providing Homes of Waifs and Strays (henceforth, The Children’s Society) incorporated and adopted the fund-raising efforts and initiatives of The Children’s Union within its general organisation.

In light of this development, and notwithstanding the considerable zeal and organising talents of Edward Rudolf, it is evident that in its early days The Children’s Society was neither a ‘top down’ nor highly centralised organisation and considerable leeway was invested – and indeed, was essential for its success – in garnering the efforts, initiative and local knowledge of individuals and groups working within dioceses and parishes throughout England and Wales.

Edward Rudolf, the founder of the 'Waifs and Strays' Society

Edward Rudolf, the founder of the ‘Waifs and Strays’ Society

The Children’s Union developed out of such local efforts, and specifically the fund-raising activities of Miss Helen Milman. Miss Millman – who could not possibly have imagined what would develop from her quite simple idea – organised a fund-raising effort among the children in her town of Tenby, Pembrokeshire, with the specific goal of supporting a child at The Children’s Society’s recently opened St Nicholas’ Home for disabled children in Tooting, London. With the fund-raising being conducted during the children’s school holidays, the initiative quickly took on the name of the ‘Holiday Union’ and soon raised the £15 required to support one child for one year. Within two years, and attracting the interest and support of the Earl and Countess of Pembroke (also known as Lord and Lady Herbert), the scheme spread rapidly, to the extent that the fund-raising activities of children organised through a network of individual branches were soon able to wholly fund the St Nicholas Home.

Adopting the name Children’s Union in 1889, the C.U. was soon wholly or partly funding five homes belonging to The Children’s Society, all of which specialised in the care of disabled children; namely, St Nicholas’ (soon to be relocated to West Byfleet), St Martin’s at Surbiton, St Agnes’ at Croydon, St Chad’s at Leeds and Bradstock Lockett at Southport.

Specifically organised for the purpose of raising funds, membership of the C.U. was open (in 1905) to anyone under the age of 21, and at that year’s end was organised via a network of 444 branches with a membership of around 14,000. The monies raised in 1905 amounted to £5,536 7s. 10d. (i.e., just over £600,000 at present day values).

Based in parishes, schools and local communities in general, the branch network was in constant flux. In any single year, there would be a significant number of branches opening and closing. In 1905, for example, 38 branches started up, whilst 13 ‘lapsed’. To help bring the C.U. together there was a regular monthly magazine – Brothers and Sisters – and it is through the 1905 editions that I wish to explore and highlight the means by which the C.U. disseminated its message, promoted fund-raising schemes, and bonded its membership together.

January 1905 front cover of Brothers and Sisters

January 1905 front cover of Brothers and Sisters

Brothers and Sisters – 1905

Undoubtedly the patronage of the Earl and Countess of Pembroke was instrumental in spurring on the rapid development of the Children’s Union. January’s issue of Brothers and Sisters opens with an article penned by their daughter and President of the Children’s Union, Lady Beatrix Wilkinson, describing the Annual Sale at the Earl and Countess’ home at Wilton House in Wiltshire. Realising a profit of more than £100, the event comprised stalls selling “plain work, fancy work and articles, dolls, toys, sweets and teas,” and musical and theatrical performances, as well as a Baby Show. Sales of work and fêtes were a mainstay of branch fund-raising, but clearly this event was of a different order to those organised later in the year at, say, Lytham (raising £6 10s. 2d. – i.e., £6.51 approximately), or Keswick (£16 10s. – £16.50), and had a number of notable attendees such as their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess and Wales and the Duchess of Roxburghe.

Typical by this time, Brothers and Sisters would open with a short editorial piece, followed by news from its homes, with stories on the achievements of individual children and the growth and development of the homes themselves. In February’s issue, for example, there are articles – with accompanying photographs – on St Martin’s Home, Surbiton, and on the Bradstock Lockett Home, Southport. Without entirely using children’s full names (e.g., “Jim F.” and “Annie C. from Clitheroe”), the reports – without being patronising to the readership – clearly described the daily life, and sometimes the struggle, of the homes’ children. The articles take care too, to emphasise the value and impact of the fund-raising efforts of the Children’s Union and freely advertise any short-term causes and appeals. For example, the article regarding St Martin’s finishes with a request for clothing: “Will our readers ask any grown-up friends (fathers, brothers and uncles) for cast-off clothes, which will be gladly and thankfully received by our boys at Surbiton.”

Children's Union members at work from Surbiton

Children’s Union members at work from Surbiton

As for the adult fundraisers of The Children’s Society, the Savings or Collections Box was an important means of collecting monies at the local level and in the March 1905 issue there was reference to this and myriad other locally inspired means of fund-raising. There was the following notice, for example: “The children of the Bryn Branch have done excellent work with their C.U. collecting boxes during the year. The members do not belong to the wealthy classes, and their small “self-denials” teach a lesson of earnest devotion to the cause for which they are so faithfully labouring.” Brothers and Sisters was careful to ensure that news of fund-raising efforts, whether large or small, were given equal space and prominence: for example, the Clyst Branch reported on “three entertainments” raising £3 11s. 4d. (about £3.57), and two performances of a children’s play at Pinner raising £1 1s. (£1.05).

The following month’s issue of Brothers and Sisters emphasises the direct relationship between Children’s Union members, their fund-raising endeavours and the children under the care of The Children’s Society. In an article reporting on the Bradstock Lockett Home, there is a List of Cots which identifies each individual child (or ‘cot’) alongside the branch supporting the cost of that child’s upkeep. By this means, a very direct and personal relationship was engendered between the branches, their members and the children in the homes. This strengthening of the bond would have been a powerful method of ensuring future interest in the welfare of individual children and the continued support from Children’s Union members.

Underlining the bond between Children’s Union members and individual children in the homes, there is short report under the May issue’s “Notes and Notices”. Headlined “Cot Friends” it states: “It very gratifying to note that, in response to the note in the last issue, some of the children in our Homes have found special friends in the C.U. who are going to write to them, and take personal and sympathetic interest in their welfare. We shall give every facility to those who desire to correspond with a child, and hope that a great measure of happiness may be the result of this friendly and sympathetic intercourse.”

As a further fund-raising initiative, to specifically help fund the re-building of the St Nicholas’ Home at Byfleet, the C.U. commenced promoting The Rover League in 1905 ; a means by which Children’s Union members and branches could enrol their pet dogs and submit funds on their pets’ behalf. By mid-year the scheme had blossomed and members were enrolling their various pets and submitting photographs for publication, typically accompanied by letters ‘penned’ by their pets. By June, “Rover’s Scheme for Helping to Re-build St. Nicholas’ Home, Byfleet” was under the “immediate patronage of “Joey” Lord Herbert’s Charger in the Royal Horse Guards”, and that month’s report commences, “Rover has got fifty-four new members during the month, including horses belonging to Lady Muriel Herbert (i.e., Lord Herbert’s younger daughter and Lady Beatrix Wilkinson’s sister), dogs, cats, a goat, some goldfish, and a delightful donkey.” Typical of the letters published in Brothers and Sisters is one from Sir Gibbie, a wire-haired fox terrier. Sir Gibbie sent 1s. 6d.; representing the membership fee of sixpence apiece for himself and his two friends, Daisy (“a grey donkey”) and Dick (“a sort of terrier”). By June it’s apparent that the specific purpose of the Rover League had broadened out somewhat, as a notice was included of a home wanted for “Emma” and “Eliza”, a pair of “mongrel lurcher puppies rescued from a cellar in East London”.

'Rover' the founder of the Rover League is featured here in the top photograph

‘Rover’ the founder of the Rover League is featured in the top photograph

Part 2 to follow.

Want to know more?

Further information on the Children’s Union Rover League can be found on the Hidden Lives Revealed website:

Scanned copies of the Brothers and Sisters magazine can be found here:

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:

© The Children’s Society

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Promise extinguished – how a Waifs and Strays’ Society lad fell on the Western Front

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme we have a post written by one of our Archivists, Helena Hilton, that reflects on the life and death of a former ‘Waifs and Strays’ lad who fell in this corner of France.

Twenty thousand dead on the first day, the worst day in the history of the British Army; eighteen weeks of slaughter that left over a million men killed or wounded on the two sides of the line; all for a scant few miles’ advance (Google Maps calculates that one can cover the whole distance advanced, at its widest extent, in sixteen minutes).  The Battle of the Somme has seared itself onto the national memory as emblematic of the First World War in all its horror.  But sheer numbers can deaden the impact of the story and sometimes to make it real it is better to concentrate on an individual story, one of the names on a war memorial, to stand as an emblem of all the many others.

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, we focus on one of those names carved in stone, a child who was in the care of The Waifs and Strays Society and ended his life in that corner of Picardy.

John Bashforth 1916 004

Sadly many of the Society’s ‘old boys’ were killed or injured on the First World War battlefields, but thanks to the efforts of Martin Bashforth we know a bit more than usual about one of them, John Francis Cuthbert Bashforth (who was known as Frank).  Despite sharing a surname Martin is not related to Frank, but his curiosity was piqued by seeing his name on a memorial and he set about investigating his story.  It is remarkable how much can be assembled from the public record, and our enquiry service at The Children’s Society played a part in fleshing out the picture by providing a summary of Frank’s case file.  (This, of course, is a demonstration of the power of records and the value of keeping archives.)  As a result of Martin’s work piecing together various sources we now know about the entirety of Frank’s life: his article setting out his research and sources can be read in full here.

John Bashforth 1916 005

Frank’s background was slightly out of the usual for applicants to The Waifs and Strays Society.  His parents, Amy Barwis and John Bashforth, were from different social classes and they married against the wishes of Amy’s middle class father.  Amy was the daughter of a well to do clergyman, Revd William Cuthbert Barwis, who at the time of her marriage was the vicar of St John the Evangelist, Hoylandswaine, South Yorkshire.  John Bashforth was the son of a nail maker and had worked as a miner and as a labourer at a local ironworks.  They had to run away to Sheffield to marry in July 1879, such was the opposition of William Barwis: he felt the shock so keenly that he moved to another church as a curate.  The young couple returned to Hoylandswaine and had five children.  Frank was the youngest, born on 5 February 1889.

Tragedy precipitated the application to The Waifs and Strays Society.  In November 1897 when the family was living in Headingley, Leeds, Amy died of a heart attack.  Life would have been extremely difficult for John: becoming a full time father for any length of time was not an option for him in those pre Welfare State days, and provision would have to be made for the children.  Frank was only eight when his mother died, and a few months afterwards, in March 1898 he entered the Society’s Bede Home, Wakefield.  The application form, which was completed by his godmother Frances Annie Booker, revealed continuing tension following his parents’ socially unequal marriage.  She suggested Amy’s ill health was in part due to lack of food “as the father of the boy drinks and is a good for nothing man.  The mother was a gentlewoman, the daughter of the Reverend Cuthbert Barwis, for some time Vicar of Hoylandswaine, Penistone.  Owing to his daughter marrying such a man he gave up the living.”  Miss Booker promised to pay 5 shillings a week towards Frank’s maintenance.

Shortly after arriving at the Bede Home Frank became an orphan: John Bashforth died of pneumonia in April 1898.  Frank remained in the care of The Waifs and Strays Society until September 1902.  He had gained a scholarship to Wakefield Grammar School in September 1901 and the following year his godmother took over responsibility for him.  It was unusual for children in the Homes to continue their education beyond the usual school leaving age, and perhaps this indicates that Frank was seen as being of a higher social class with greater aspirations.  The school archives record that he remained there until July 1907 when he left to take up a post with the Bank of England in London.

Martin Bashforth has managed to construct a picture of Frank’s time in London using the limited sources available.  It appears that alongside his employment at the Bank his strong religious beliefs drove him to work with the poor.  His elder brother was a curate in a deprived part of the city.  Frank found time to go to night classes and in 1912 he left London for St John’s College, Oxford where he studied theology, gaining a degree in 1915.  He apparently intended, in due course, to become a clergyman, but since 1909 he had belonged to the Territorial Army and once his studies were completed and the War was underway he applied for a commission in the Regular Army.

John Francis Cuthbert Bashforth. Photograph from the archives of the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield

John Francis Cuthbert Bashforth. Photograph from the archives of the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield

Frank was sent to France on 4 February 1916 as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion, the Norfolk Regiment.  He features in letters written by a colleague, Lieutenant Cecil Upcher, who survived the War and left his personal records to the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum, and it is these together with the battalion war diary, that have helped Martin flesh out Frank’s time on the Western Front.  At the beginning of August 1916 the battalion was moved to the Somme Front.  On 14 September they moved into the front line trenches.  Frank was killed the following day during an attack on a German strongpoint known as the Quadrilateral.  His body was recovered from the battlefield and personal possessions returned to his family; however his final resting place is not known and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

Frank was also remembered by other institutions including The Waifs and Strays Society.  On 10 October 1916 the Secretary of the Ripon-Wakefield Branch of the Society, Lieutenant Colonel Beresford-Peirse sent a newspaper cutting about Frank’s death to the supporter magazine “Our Waifs and Strays”.  In his letter he recalled that Frank was at the Bede Home “where he had a great influence for the good.”  His family circumstances had been sad, as both his parents had died, but he had overcome these difficult beginnings and had worked hard to rise from them while doing his best for others.  Lieutenant Colonel Beresford-Peirse was well acquainted with his history since leaving the Bede Home.  The Society liked to keep in touch with the children it had helped, tracing their achievements and in some sad cases like this one adding their names to the Roll of Honour recording those who died in their country’s service.

One name on a war memorial; one life snuffed out with all its potential.  The work that Frank would have done as a clergyman never happened.  Multiply it by thousands and we have an idea of the seismic impact of the Somme, one hundred years ago.

2nd Lieutenant JFC Bashforth

2nd Lieutenant JFC Bashforth

 2nd Lieutenant John Francis Cuthbert Bashforth was killed in action on 15 September 1916 while serving with the 9th Norfolk Regiment. The sketch above, made by his comrade Lieutenant Cecil Upcher, is the only known image of him to have survived 1.

The circumstances of his short life were such that contacts with his family, certainly on his paternal side, were attenuated, leaving little in the way of memories. He moved from place to place forming no local roots, other than briefly at the various institutions through which he passed. Any personal mementoes found their way to his older married sister and her family and, though treasured for a while, seem now to have been lost. There is no surviving photograph of him, either in civilian life or in his officer’s uniform. Creating an image of JFC has to be achieved by carefully assembling what is in the public record and that is remarkably rich 2.

He was born 5 February 1889 in the village of Hoylandswaine, the fifth and last child of William Bashforth and Amy (née Barwis) 3. Hoylandswaine was then and remains a small community in south west Yorkshire, a few miles from Barnsley. In 1891 the total population was only 648 people in 136 houses and the population was in decline. Most of the local people were employed on farms or in nearby coal mines and iron works, though the village had for centuries been a centre of the nail making trade and more recently linen weaving.

JFC’s father William Bashforth married Amy Barwis in the parish church at Sheffield on 7 July 1879, witnessed by his younger brother Amos and by Sarah Markham, who signed with her mark. William was 24 and Amy was 28. The addresses they gave were 6 West Street and 18 West Street in Sheffield respectively. Explaining why they chose to get married in Sheffield in this way and not in Hoylandswaine where Amy’s father was the vicar, forms a story in itself and requires background about each of their families.

The Bashforth Family

William Bashforth was one of ten surviving children from the family of John Bashforth, nail maker, and his wife Eliza Hawksworth (married in 1849) 4. Like his older brothers, William first went to work in one of the local coal mines. At the time of his marriage in 1879 he was described as a labourer.

When the couple returned to Hoylandswaine after the marriage, William worked as a labourer in a local iron works. This was a distinctively working-class family of long-standing in the local community. Records of baptisms, marriages and burials stretch back to the late seventeenth century.

The Barwis Family

The family of Amy Barwis provided a complete contrast 5. Her father, William Cuthbert Barwis, was born in Kilkenny in Ireland. His father was a land agent there for a prominent aristocrat, the Marquis of Ormonde. The Barwis family was extensive in Cumberland where William Barwis inherited Langrigg Hall, the family seat for his particular branch of the family.

William Barwis took ordination in the Church of England and married Mary Houghton in Canterbury on 2 January 1850 when he was just twenty-one years of age. Amy was born in Leeds on 16 October of the same year 6. In 1851 the family lived with two servants at 14 Grove Terrace in Leeds, where

William was curate at the local church, Christ Church 7. Unfortunately, Mary died in 1852 when the family lived in Hunslet 8. William moved away and in 1861 was living at Church Street in Chipping Norton, accompanied by his daughter Amy, his mother, a niece and two servants. He was curate in the local church 9. The family continued to have connections with the Oxford area where his mother had been born.

William Barwis married a second time to Ellen Sarah Tuckwell at Headington in 1869 10. That year he was given the incumbency at the brand new church of St John the Evangelist at Hoylandswaine. The church had been built partly with the generosity of the Spencer-Stanhope family of nearby Cannon Hall, in whose gift the incumbency was. In 1871 William appeared in the local census in the Vicarage House aged 46, with his wife aged 34 and daughter Amy aged 20. Once again they were assisted by two servants 11. The post of vicar attracted an annual stipend of £65.

It was while living close by each other in Hoylandswaine that William Bashforth and Amy Barwis met and fell in love. But their runaway marriage, clearly meeting the disapproval of Amy’s father, caused a local scandal. The Reverend Barwis was relatively well-off, having sold Langrigg Hall in 1876 to some relatives by marriage. He would have had much higher hopes for Amy than a local labourer.

The marriage was such a shock that he left the post of vicar at Hoylandswaine and took a step down the church hierarchy to become curate at the parish church in Romanby near Northallerton 12.

Meanwhile, William and Amy returned to live in Hoylandswaine, where they raised their family.

William and Amy Bashforth

William Bashforth was born in Hoylandswaine and baptised at Silkstone parish church on 8 April 1855. His father was a nail maker living at Mustard Hill in Hoylandswaine. When he was old enough, William followed his older brother Christopher into the local pit (probably at Dodworth Colliery, which was closed after flooding in 1879) and later joined his younger brother Amos as a labourer in a local ironworks (probably at Cammell & Co, at Stocksbridge).

Amy Barwis was the first and only child of the Reverend William Cuthbert Barwis and his first wife Mary. She was born 16 October 1850 in Leeds and baptised at St Peter’s church on 30 October. She was about eighteen years of age when the family arrived in Hoylandswaine, where the Reverend Barwis became the first vicar of the new church of St John the Evangelist. At that time William Bashforth would have been a boy of only fourteen, probably just started work at the pit. As he grew older William took a fancy to this older girl from such a prominent and wealthy family and in time the feelings were reciprocated.

In 1879, when the couple ran away to Sheffield to be married, defying the opposition of Amy’s  father, William was quite likely ‘between jobs’ following the pit closure at Dodworth. They lived at separate lodgings while in Sheffield before they married on 7 July 1879 at the parish church (now the Sheffield Cathedral) 13. They must have returned fairly quickly to Hoylandswaine, as they were living there when their first child, Ellen Musgreave Bashforth, was born in 1880 14. In 1881 they lodged at Heely Inn in Hoylandswaine and William worked as an iron works labourer, as he had been when his first child was born 15. Four more children followed, all born in Hoylandswaine: William Hoghton in 1881 16, Mary Katherine in 1883 17, Daisy Barwis in 1885 18 and John Francis Cuthbert on 5 February 1889 19. While raising these four children, William earned his living in Hoylandswaine as a grocer.

William was trying to improve his position in the community, but it cannot have been too successful. When the couple appeared in the 1891 Census, they had moved to 78 King’s Road, Headingley in Leeds and William worked as a gardener. All the children except for JFC were at school. Headingley was a relatively prosperous suburb at the time, as Leeds began to expand to accommodate a  growing population. On the face of it, William seems to have finally succeeded in his new occupation and continued for several more years as a gardener, working in horticulture rather than as a domestic servant 20.

Tragedy came on 21 November 1897 at 78 King’s Road, when Amy was found dead aged only 47. There was a coroner’s inquest and the report stated that she had died of a heart attack (syncope) arising from general debility. There is no explanation as to the underlying cause beyond that. She was buried in Leeds 21.

The oldest child, Ellen, was sixteen at the time and JFC, the youngest child, was only eight. Amy’s death hit William very hard and left him apparently unable to cope, both with the loss of Amy and the problem of how to raise five children without her at his side. He shortly returned to Hoylandswaine where he also died, of acute pneumonia, on 23 April 1898. In the short time between Amy’s death, leaving Leeds and his own death, he made what provision he could for his children. The results of those efforts can be found by tracing each of them in the 1901 Census.

Ellen Musgreave Bashforth was incorrectly recorded as ‘Rushforth’ and was boarding with Joe Watts at Lower Norcross in Cawthorne (near Barnsley), aged 20. She was an assistant teacher in the National School in Cawthorne, where her future husband Benjamin Walter Swift also lived. William Hoghton Bashforth aged 19 was employed as a shorthand clerk and boarding at 25 Holderness Place in Leeds. Mary Katherine Bashforth aged 17 was a fancy cushion maker, lodging at 84 Kings Road, Leeds, not far from the former family home. Daisy Barwis Bashforth aged 15 worked as a stock keeper for a Leeds book publisher and lodged with her cousin Albert Bashforth and his wife Alice at 8 Bellbrook Grove in Leeds. Each of the four older children had found work and started their own life journeys, assisted by various relatives and motivated by a degree of education encouraged by their late mother.

Things were not so easy for JFC, aged only 12. He was one of the inmates at the Bede Home for Waifs and Strays in College Grove Road, Wakefield, where he had been since March 1898, shortly after the death of his father.

The Bede Home for Waifs and Strays, Wakefield 22, 1898-1901

 The Bede Home was set up by the Waifs and Strays Society (later the Children’s Society) in 1893. It was described at the time as ‘a large old fashioned house with a lively garden and a large paddock where the boys can play’. At first the building was rented, catering for 17 boys, but was bought and extended to make room for 20 boys in 1897, with further improvements to the accommodation following. It was described as having ‘a nice large, cheerful dining hall with a large dormitory above’. An old stable was altered in 1898 to create a playroom in the ground floor area to create a space for  the boys in wet weather. It does not sound a particularly unpleasant place for JFC to arrive at the age of nine, despite the unfortunate circumstances.

The details of his arrival have been archived and provide a great deal more background to the circumstances leading to it. Application was made to the Waifs and Strays Society on 14 March 1898 when the family were still living at 78 Kings Road, Leeds. JFC was a pupil at Queen’s Road Board School in Leeds and All Hallows Sunday School. The form was completed by Miss Booker 23 of 14 Bardwell Road, Oxford – she was JFC’s godmother – and supported by the Reverend FSK Gregson of All Hallows, Leeds, along with a statement from Miss Ellen Briggs, who had been a Nurse to the Barwis family when they lived in Leeds and Chipping Norton 24. [For some years after her service with the family, Ellen Briggs was a teacher in Manchester and at the time of these events she was a  draper and outfitter in Leeds and had probably been close again to Amy Bashforth, who lived  nearby, and through her with the rest of the family 25].

There was a statement from the father, witnessed by Ellen Briggs: “I, William Bashforth give my consent to give my son John Francis Cuthbert Bashforth, into the care of the Waifs and Strays Society, who will maintain and educate the boy and place him out in life on attaining the age of 14 years.”

Miss Booker added her comments, which either betray some of the family’s attitude to the father or give a great deal more background information about the family’s life in Leeds if the comments are true. “The boy is nine years old, has always gone to school and done well there. Never to my knowledge been ill, is a bright intelligent boy. His mother died last November from tumour on the brain and also probably from not having sufficient food as the father of the boy drinks and is a good for nothing man. The mother was a gentlewoman, the daughter of the Reverend Cuthbert Barwis for some time Vicar of Hoylandswaine, Penistone. Owing to his daughter marrying such a man he gave up the living. Miss Booker is prepared to pay 5 shillings a week for this boy’s maintenance – and £2 towards his clothing or £15 a year, and hopes that he may take to the Sea.”

JFC was admitted to the Home in Wakefield on 17 March 1898. He remained there until 18 September 1902, by which time he was 14, when he was apparently removed by Miss Booker and sent to Wakefield Grammar School (though the records of the latter tell a slightly different story).

Wakefield Grammar School, 1901-1907  26

JFC joined the school aged 12 on 19 September 1901, a year earlier than first indicated and a letter in the Bede Home files indicates that he gained a scholarship – which suggests that he was an excellent pupil, having until then attended the Cathedral School, Wakefield.

Responsibility passed from the Governors of Bede House to Miss Booker – first of Bardwell Road, Oxford and later of Langrigg Hall in Cumberland. JFC remained at the school until July 1907 when he left to take up a post with the Bank of England in London.

Work, Social Life and University, 1907-1915

 There are very few records from which we might trace JFC’s life after school. There are some letters to the Bede Home and the Grammar School following JFC’s death that provide some clues. Coupled with items from surviving army service papers it is possible to reconstruct something of JFC’s adult life.

He went to London in 1907 and lived at Ingram House on Stockwell Road in Lambeth at the time of the 1911 Census, described as aged 22 and working as a bank clerk. Ingram House was opened in 1905 as a residential club for young men. There were 208 bedrooms in a building arranged in the shape of a St Andrew’s cross with various club rooms and leisure facilities. It was the fore-runner of the Lambeth YMCA.

As well as employment at the Bank of England, Frank became involved like his brother working with the London poor in accordance with his strong religious beliefs. William Hoghton Bashforth was a curate in the docklands area and a member of the Guild of All Souls. Frank may have begun working with his brother and then made his own way to help with the Christian Social Union’s Maurice Hostel in Hoxton. The CSU was a high church Anglican movement focussing on mission work in the slum areas and otherwise among the poor.

In 1909 Frank joined the relatively new Territorial Army. He signed up in the 28th London Regiment, the Artists’ Rifles, in which he trained and served as a private soldier. He remained with them until April 1912, when he resigned to leave London and go up to Oxford. During his time in London, Frank went to night classes to complete his matriculation. Combined with his Christian Social Union work this qualified him for St John’s College to study Theology where he gained a Third Class degree in 1915. The likelihood of an intention to join the priesthood was very high given this record, the history of his grandfather, his brother’s profession and his early years in Christian orientated institutions. While at Oxford he was also active in the Debating Society 27. With the War in progress during his final year, Frank joined the Officer Training Corps at Oxford in January 1915. As soon as his studies were completed, he applied for a commission in the Regular Army.

Army Service 1915-1916  28

Frank applied to the Army on 5 June 1915. On the form he explained that he wished to serve as an officer in the Infantry, that he was not able to ride and that he wore glasses at all times, owing to strain through long sight. He gave his brother’s address and name as next of kin. William had by then taken up residence at Langrigg Hall in Cumberland with his maiden aunts, Frances and Mabel Booker 29. Frank’s own address was 26 Wellington Square, Oxford. The application was approved by Captain N Whatley of the University of Oxford, 9 June 1915.

On 16 June he was granted the rank of Temporary Second Lieutenant in the 10th Norfolk Regiment. He was instructed to attend classes at The School of Instruction, St Mary’s Home, Sea Road in Felixstowe on 26 June between 2pm and 4 pm. The 10th Battalion was the Reserve Training Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment. Joining at the same time were WAR Bartleman 30, WD Ferguson 31 (both from London) and GJ Garnham from Norwich 32. Frank’s appointment was recorded in the London Gazette on 22 June 1915.

There are only the slightest records of his army service surviving. Having completed his training   Frank was sent to France on 4 February 1916 and this is the date that appears on his medal index card. The war diary of the 9th Battalion, the Norfolk Regiment 33, records that he arrived with the battalion on 13 February along with 2 Lt F Wright and Lt RA Jones. At the time the battalion had just completed a tour in the trenches at St Jean on the Ypres Front. Almost instantly he was with the men back in the trenches from 17-21 February before the battalion moved back for a short rest at Poperinghe.

Apart from the sparse references in army records, the main source of information about Frank’s short time with the 9th Norfolk Regiment are the letters and sketches of Lt Cecil Upcher, a young man from Norwich who survived the war and left his personal records to the Regimental Museum. For several weeks the two men shared bunk space in various dugouts on the Ypres Front while serving with B Company. Combining Upcher’s writing with the battalion war diary it is possible to create a brief picture of Frank Bashforth’s time on the Western Front.

On 30 April, while the battalion were dug in on the Canal Bank at Ypres, Upcher described how they had got sick of tinned meat so he and Bashforth opened a tin of peaches which they proceeded to consume. They decided to finish the tin as it said on the outside that they would go bad if left open.

There was some disturbance to sleep on 3 May when they were behind the lines at Camp O. “I heard the bombs going off, but it all blew over, then at 8 am Bashforth woke up and I went off to sleep till about 12.”

They shared a dugout in the front line on 19 May, which Cecil Upcher described and sketched. It was “a very poor thing about on par with that other one I told you about with a corrugated iron floor and a few empty sandbags over it which isn’t too comfortable.” They continued in the same place for a few days, though Bashforth was relieved by another officer on 21 May to go back to some more comfortable situation. Upcher and Bashforth were together again “in a most spacious and excellent dugout” at Camp O on 24 May, “the best I have encountered so far”. It was not so comfortable however, as next day both men were tormented by a swarm of biting gnats. “At first in my dreams I thought they were aeroplanes – they hum just like them.”

Towards the end of May, Bashforth was replaced by 2 Lt Jones and went off on leave. He returned on 4 June and Upcher’s letter of the following day described his ordeal. “He left here or rather the neighbourhood at 3 to 4 am by train arriving Boulogne midday, no boat till the evening owing to the tides or something and they got into Victoria 11.45 pm. If they had arrived half an hour later they would have probably got an extra day. This apparently they grant you if you arrive (at) Victoria 12 o’clock. It will be rather tragic if I get back as late as that.” It is to be presumed that Bashforth went to visit his aunts and brother in Cumberland.

Bashforth and Jones were with Upcher in Trench X10 from 9-14 June, during which there was a trench raid on enemy lines that they were not involved in but which Upcher reported as having been quite costly for little positive result. On 2 July the battalion arrived behind the lines for a rest and refit at Merckeghem where conditions were much more comfortable. “We have got two large rooms, one for the servants and cooking and the other for the mess in which two of us sleep, myself and Bashforth, also a tiny room out of it which Jones and Cumberland sleep in.”

On 2 August 1916, the battalion was moved to the Somme Front, based largely in Mailly-Maillet Wood, while experiencing spells in the front line trenches nearby. A great deal of the time the men were involved in various working parties or in recovering bodies and salvage from No Man’s Land. There are no mentions of Bashforth by Upcher during this period, so they may have been separated for different duties. On 21 August 1916, Bashforth attended a Court Martial. He may have been called to take part in the panel, or he may have been asked to provide information about the man or event involved. The battalion war diary does not explain.

Towards the end of the month the battalion were at Flesselles, where they were involved in ‘practising the Attack’. Something was definitely in the air and the 9th Norfolk Regiment was intended to be involved with the rest of 71st Brigade. On 1 September all the officers were watching their comrades from the Suffolk Regiment practising.

A few days later the battalion set off via Mericourt L’Abbé to an area known as the Sandpits. This was a point half way between the towns of Albert and Bray, just south of the road. They were in tents and bivouacs. The men were spared duties on Sunday 10 September, apart from church parade. On 11 September they were moved into trenches at Trônes Wood where they had to sleep in shell holes. Next day some officers went on reconnoitre while the men tried to improve the living quarters. On 13 September they came under shell fire and three officers were wounded, one of whom died later. On 14 September the 9th Norfolk Regiment was moved forward into the front line trenches where they arrived at 10 pm to suffer an uncomfortable night before the next day’s actions.

Friday, 15 September 1916: attack on the Quadrilateral

 During the preceding fortnight, Allied forces had been trying to punch their way through a series of German strong points on the Somme Front. The 20th Division had taken Guillemont at the beginning of the month and since then others had progressed slowly and at great cost to take Ginchy and some of the surrounding woods, villages and countryside. The target for the 6th Division on 15 September was Morval and in its path lay the German strongpoint known as the Quadrilateral. For the first time the infantry assault was to be assisted by tanks 34.

The attack was to be made by the 9th Norfolk Regiment, to the right of the 1st Leicester Regiment, each with a front of about 250 yards. They lined up in a sunken road behind the main trenches, which were manned by battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and the Sherwood Foresters. As they waited       to attack at 5.50 am, the tanks moved forward. There were three supporting the 6th Division, of which two broke down, while the third tank (in front of the Norfolks) was badly shot up by  German machine gun fire and lost its bearings. Accounts vary as to what exactly then happened. One version states that the unsighted tank began firing into a trench packed with the waiting Norfolks until Lieutenant Crosse leapt out to wave the tank away 35. Another version states that “its periscope was shot away, its peep-holes blinded, was riddled with armour-piercing bullets, and had to come back without achieving anything” 36.

Whether or not the Norfolk Regiment had already suffered ‘friendly fire’ casualties, the tragedy was that a 200 yard gap in front of the battalion had been left unscathed by artillery so that the barbed wire (which should have been crushed by the tank) was still in place. Despite that, the Norfolk men still went over the top to attack the German lines at the Quadrilateral. Any artillery barrage on the German trenches had by then passed over and they attacked up a slope into withering fire.

Amazingly, Major Bradshaw and about 40 men reached as far as the wire by 11.45 am and attempted to dig in. The rest of the battalion who had survived were scattered in shell holes behind. They were ordered to try to work round the flanks of the Quadrilateral to allow reserves to make a direct assault. The manoeuvre was unsuccessful and the Norfolk Regiment was withdrawn at midnight 37.

As the 14th Durham Light Infantry arrived from the reserves, they discovered the trenches ‘full of dead and wounded Norfolks and Suffolks’. They helped recover the wounded in pitch darkness while clearing the trenches and improving the position 38.

The casualties were shocking: 431 other ranks in all 39. Of these 169 men had died that day 40. Five officers were dead: Captain WT De Caux, Captain EJ Jephson, Lieutenant JL Goddard, Lieutenant WJ Phelps (initially listed as missing) and 2nd Lieutenant JFC Bashforth. Among thirteen wounded officers was the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Bradshaw. 2nd Lieutenant Cumberland, one of the former dugout comrades of Bashforth and Upcher, was also wounded.

Cecil Upcher had been lucky not to have been included in the attack (he was attached to battalion HQ), as he would almost certainly have been another casualty. He commented in a letter the following day: “It is sickening the poor old 9th got it again in the neck. They never have the luck. The men were marvellous, going up under violent rifle fire at the walk, most of them smoking pipes or cigarettes. I think 4 officers were killed so the percentage was small – Decaux, Bashforth, Phelps and another possibly. Being only more or less a spectator this time from the front seats I saw a good bit and some of the splendid things that were done.”

As the full casualty lists indicate, this was something of an attempt at comforting understatement. The battalion had been badly mauled and was the victim of a failed experiment.


In the days that followed, many of the bodies were recovered from the battlefield, including that of Frank Bashforth. As a result, some of his personal possessions were returned to his family: 11s 6d in cash, 1 wrist watch, 1 gold ring, 1 bead rosary. News of his death was slow to get back: the Field Services Casualty Form was dated 6 October 1916, reporting him ‘killed in action’ and his place of burial ‘not yet reported’. In the circumstances prevailing, it would have been difficult for the battalion to attend to burials, though they will have tried before being pulled out of the line and it may have been left to others. In any case the battlefield would be fought over again and subject to frequent artillery bombardment. Equally, any identification would have been removed from the body before the War Graves Commission people could arrive and sort things out. Frank Bashforth has no known grave and is recorded, along with his fellow officers and men from that day, on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

News did get back to Frank’s brother William sooner than the official form. A telegram was sent on 20 September to Langrigg Hall: ‘Regret to inform you that 2 Lt JFC Bashforth 9 Norfolk Regt was killed in action 15/9/16. The Army Council expresses their sympathy.’ William responded the next day, thanking the Army Council for their sympathy and asking that ‘if any further details come in relating to the last history of my brother I shall be grateful if they can be made known to me’. The Army Council suggested on 26 September that he contact the officer commanding 9th Norfolk Regiment.

Execution of Frank’s will was conducted through Hazel and Baines of 58 Cornmarket Street, Oxford and mainly comprised the handling of financial matters. After the settlement of any accounts, the total amount sent to Rev Bashforth was £75 16s 4d, most of which was back pay. The few personal effects were sent to him by Major CE Goddard from Wembley. Reverend Bashforth completed a form asking the War Office to send any scroll, plaque and medals to his sister Mrs B Swift of ‘Elmira’, 10 Springwell Lane, Balby, near Doncaster 41. The medals were despatched on 21 September 1922.

The Reverend William Bashforth did not himself survive much longer. He suffered from a duodenal ulcer and went to a hospital in Edinburgh for an operation. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack brought on by the effects of the operation on 27 March 1917. With him was his aunt Frances Annie Booker42. He was only 35 years old.

Memorials and after life

 JFC Bashforth has several places where his name has been recorded. Apart from the Thiepval Memorial, he is also listed on memorials at Wakefield Grammar School and St John’s College, Oxford. Each of these institutions also recorded him in various printed Rolls of Honour and to that extent he is not forgotten.

On 10 October 1916, Lieutenant Colonel Beresford-Peirse, the Secretary of the Ripon-Wakefield Diocesan Branch of the Waifs and Strays Society sent a newspaper cutting to the editor of the supporter magazine. His letter reads: “Here is an account of the death of one of the old Bede Home boys. He was at the Bede Home until he was 14, and then he got a scholarship at Wakefield Grammar School – and proceeded to Oxford – and was just about to be ordained when War broke out. I thought it would be nice to have this little cutting in the Notes from the North – remembering to insert that he was at the Bede Home where he had a great influence for the good. A very sad family history – his mother was the daughter of a Wakefield Vicar, and she married a miner. His parents died and the Aunt Miss Annie Booker paid for his education whilst with us.”

The cutting read: “Sec Lieut John Francis Cuthbert Bashforth, Norfolk Regt, only brother of the Rev WH Bashforth of St Peter’s, London Docks, and cousin and heir of Miss FA Booker and Miss MC Booker of Langrigg Hall, Carlisle, is announced to have fallen in action on September 15. He was 27 years of age. After being educated at Wakefield Grammar School and St John’s College Oxford, he assisted for several years in the work for boys at the Maurice Hostel, Hoxton. Before the War he served in the Artists’ Rifles and the Oxford University OTC. He received a commission in the Norfolk Regiment in July 1915, and had been at the Front since last February.”

That the Lieutenant Colonel had noticed the boy’s name amidst many other such notices and that he was well-informed of some aspects of his life since he left the Home, gives some indication that JFC had made an impression even at this early stage of his life – partly due to his circumstances (which may not have been too unusual among the Bede Home boys) and partly due to his personality.

Following his death, JFC was listed on the Roll of Honour for the Bede Home and that for the Grammar School. The citation in the case of the latter reads:

“Frank Bashforth at School was a very great influence for good on all with whom he came in contact. His was a life that might have done much, for a fellow officer writes: – ‘When times were bad and when everything seemed against us, life was always supportable when dear old ‘Bashy’ was there to liven us up with his droll ways, his dry humour, his persistent optimism. He died as he would have wished, gallantly leading his platoon into action.’”

We have the first indication that JFC was known as ‘Frank’ to those who knew him well and, as was the case with many of those who bear the Bashforth name, was also known colloquially as ‘Bashy’.

Perhaps the most unusual memorial, if that is what it might be called, appeared many years later. Together, probably during holiday periods visiting Langrigg Hall in Cumberland, Frank and his brother William conducted detailed research into the family history of the Barwis family (though not the paternal Bashforth side). The results of their research were passed to another researcher, Alec McDonald by the Misses Booker, who remained tenants of Langrigg Hall at least into the late 1930s. McDonald wrote up their notes and published them in the journal, The Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Archaeological Society for 1937.

The original notes were then passed to the nephew of Frank and William, the Reverend Frank B Swift, who added to the research and published two further papers in the same journal in 1949 and 1951. He commented that: ‘It was the wish of Lieutenant Bashforth to produce as ample a history as possible of this family and he succeeded in collecting much information before he was killed in action in 1916. His brother, The Rev WH Bashforth, who had helped, died soon afterwards in 1917’. Frank Swift was thus able to complete his uncle’s wishes.

It has remained to this author to research the Bashforth side of the family to complete the picture and place 2nd Lt JFC Bashforth in his full context, to make this available to others who share the Bashforth name or are more directly related, to the successors of the institutions that had such a profound influence on JFC’s upbringing and to the Museum of the Norfolk Regiment in Norwich.

Martin Bashforth 2015  (copyright Martin Bashford; reproduced with permission)


1 Reproduced courtesy of the Norfolk Regiment Museum, Norwich

2 I use the initials JFC throughout most of this article, though in later life he was known as Frank.

3 Birth certificate

4 See appendix 1: Family of William Bashforth

5 Appendix 2: Family of Amy Barwis

6 Parish register St Peter, Leeds

7 1851 census

8 GRO: Oct-Dec 1852 Hunslet 9b 181 and Parish Register Holy Trinity, Meanwood 11 November 1852 (not the church where Rev Barwis was vicar, which did not have a graveyard)

9 1861 census

10 GRO: Jan-Mar 1869 Headington 3a 689

11 1871 census

12 There is a plaque in Romanby church fixed to the organ that reads: “To the glory of God and in loving memory of the Revd William Cuthbert Barwis MA for 10 years curate of this parish who died February 20th 1889 aged 64 years”. He served alongside the Reverend David Jacob assisting the vicar, Reverend Charles Caffin.

13 Marriage certificate: their addresses were both in West Street, Sheffield, with William at number 6 and Amy at number 18.

14 Birth certificate, GRO: Apr-Jun 1880 Wortley 9c 271

15 1881 census

16 Birth certificate, GRO: Oct-Dec 1881 Wortley 9c 248

17 Birth certificate, GRO: Oct-Dec 1883 Wortley 9c 243

18 Birth certificate, GRO: Jul-Sep 1885 Wortley 9c 249

19 Birth certificate, GRO: Jan-Mar 1889 9c 263

20 Information on his death certificate

21 Parish register, Holy Trinity, Meanwood 25 November 1897, the same church yard where her mother had been buried in 1852

22 My thanks to the Records and Archive Centre of the Children’s Society for information about the Bede Home and the circumstances of JFC Bashforth’s time there.

23 Frances Annie Booker and her sister Mabel C Booker were nieces of the Reverend William Barwis through his married sister Sarah Jane Booker.

24 Details from 1851 and 1861 Census returns

25 1891 census

26 Information from Wakefield Grammar School

27 Biographical information supplied by St John’s College, Oxford.

28 Sources mainly from TNA: WO 339/5519 Papers of 2/Lt JFC Bashforth, and WO 95/1623 War Diary of 9th Norfolk Regiment, plus sources mentioned in the text and bibliography

29 Langrigg Hall had been a source of dispute between WC Barwis and Charles Frederick Booker, the father of Frances and Mabel in a case at Chancery in 1868 (TNA: C 16/475 Booker v Gutch etc alia). WC Barwis sold it in 1876 and this seems to have settled the issue.

30 He went to France in October 1915, appointed Lieutenant, was wounded and awarded a Silver War Badge in August 1918

31 Became Lieutenant and survived the war.

32 Details not traced

33 The battalion was part of 71st Infantry Brigade, 6th Division, along with 9th Suffolk Regiment, 1st Leicestershire Regiment and 2nd Sherwood Foresters.

34 Known officially as the Battle of Flers-Courcelette

35 Lyn Macdonald: Somme (London, 1983), page 276 – Crosse was one of those wounded in the action

36 Major-General TO Marden: A Short History of the 6th Division, (London, 1920) page 22

37 FL Petre: History of the Norfolk Regiment, Vol 2, page 256

38 Captain Wilfrid Miles, The Durham Forces in the Field, 1914-18, (London, 1920)

39 Battalion War Diary, 9th Norfolk Regiment: this represents approximately half of the battalion

40 Calculated from entries in database ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919’

41 This was JFC’s sister Ellen Musgreave Swift (née Bashforth)

42 Death certificate

Appendix 1:       William Bashforth’s family tree

 John Bashforth (1820-1890) = 1845 Eliza Hawksworth

  • Cain Bashforth 1846
  • Christopher Bashforth 1848
  • Hannah Bashforth 1851
  • Emma Bashforth 1853

Ø  William Bashforth (1855-1898) = Amy Barwis(see appendix 3)

  • Amos Bashforth 1857
  • Melinda Bashforth 1859 (died in South Yorkshire Asylum)
  • Louisa Bashforth 1862
  • Alice Bashforth 1865

Appendix 2:       Amy Barwis’ family tree and relationship to Booker family

John Barwis of Kilkenny, Ireland (1775-1843) = 1818, Frances Gutch

  • William Cuthbert Barwis (1825-1889) = 1850 (1) Mary Hoghton, d 1852, = 1869 (2) Ellen Sarah Tuckwell

o   Amy Barwis (1850-1897) = 1879 William Bashforth (see appendix 3)

  • Sarah Jane Barwis (c 1821) = 1850 Reverend Charles Frederick Booker
    • Jane Emily Booker (Hull, 25 August 1851: died Headington, October 1896)
      • Did not marry
  • Alice Mary Booker (Parkstone, Dorset 6 September 1854: died Bramley, Leeds 1864)
    • Died as a child
  • Frances Annie Booker (Langrigg, Cumberland 1859: died Langrigg 1940)
    • Did not Became a Nurse in Oxford. Godmother to JFC Bashforth
  • Mabel Cislane Booker (Farsley, Leeds 1862: died Langrigg 1958)
    • Did not Lived on her own means.

Appendix 3: Family of William and Amy Bashforth

William Bashforth (1855-1898) = 1879 Amy Barwis (1850-1897)

  • Ellen Musgreave Bashforth (1880-1969)
    • 1902 Married Benjamin Swift (died 1913)
      • George Edmund Swift 1904
      • Marjory Helen Swift 1906
      • Francis Bernard Swift 1907, became Reverend Frank B Swift
      • Amy Theodora Swift 1908
    • William Hoghton Bashforth (1881-1917)
      • Did not marry, became an Anglican priest
    • Mary Katherine Bashforth (1883-1942)
      • 1910 Married Ronald Smith, died Sheffield 1975
        • No children confirmed
      • Daisy Barwis Bashforth (1885-1927)
        • Did not marry
      • John Francis Cuthbert Bashforth (1889-1916)
        • Did not Killed in action WW1

Sources and Selected Bibliography

The National Archives:

WO 339/5519 Papers of 2/Lt JFC Bashforth

WO 95/1623 Battalion War Diary, 9th Norfolk Regiment WO 372/2 Medal Index Card for 2/Lt JFC Bashforth

London Gazette Supplements

22 June 1915 page 6026

7 June 1916 page 5711

Ancestry Website:

 Military Records, including medal index cards, soldiers’ personal effects registers Census Returns

Records of Births, Deaths and Marriages

Probate records: for Reverend WC Barwis and Reverend WH Bashforth

Scotland’s People Website: record of death of WH Bashforth

The Children’s Society Records and Archives Centre for records of JFC Bashforth at The Bede Home in Wakefield

Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield, for records of JFC Bashforth at the school

St John’s College, Oxford, for details of JFC Bashforth’s entry in the biographical register of former students

Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum: for copies of material from the papers and letters of Cecil Upcher, including the image at the head of this article

Kelly’s Directories

1871 and 1877 covering Hoylandswaine

1889 covering Romanby


 Lyn Macdonald: Somme (London, 1983)

Major-General TO Marden: A Short History of the 6th Division, (London 1920)

Captain Wilfrid Miles: The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18, (London 1920)

F Loraine Petre: History of the Norfolk Regiment, Vol 2 1914-1918 (Norwich, 1926)

Trevor Pidgeon: Flers (Battleground Europe series: Barnsley, 2000)

“Iceberg, right ahead!” – the early life of Frederick Fleet, SS Titanic lookout

Another in the series of our blogs, written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper, that takes a look at The Children’s Society Archive’s children’s case files – in particular the case file of Frederick Fleet, who was most famously known as one of the lookouts on SS Titanic on the evening of 14/15 April 1912.

The following is an account of the early years of Frederick Fleet during the period of his care under the auspices of Church of England Central Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays (The Children’s Society).

Born on 10 October 1887, the illegitimate son of Alice Fleet and Frederick Laurence – parents of whom he would have, respectively, little or no contact – Frederick Fleet was little more than two years old when, in December 1899, he was placed into the care of the Liverpool Foundling Hospital. He would remain there for three years.

First page of Frederick Fleet's application form to the Waifs and Strays Society

First page of Frederick Fleet’s application form to the Waifs and Strays Society

During his time at the Hospital it appears that his mother did – though somewhat irregularly – contribute small payments towards his upkeep and maintain a regular correspondence with the Hospital’s matron. The documents retained in The Children’s Society’s Archive also indicate that Alice Fleet may have intended to continue making contributions on her son’s behalf in the future, and wished to maintain her claim on him and eventually provide him with a home. Regardless of these intentions, however, the bond between mother and child was seriously weakened – if not severed for good – when she departed Liverpool for the USA in October 1890, and sought a better life with a sister living in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Frederick remained at the Liverpool Foundling Hospital for three years, during which time the Hospital encountered its own problems relating to inadequate funds and the prospect of closure. In respect of Frederick – and as an alternative to his direct referral to the local workhouse – this resulted in the submission of an application to the Church of England Central Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays – as The Children’s Society was then known – and his transfer in March 1893 to the Liverpool Diocesan Boys Home, Seaforth. He was to stay at Seaforth and the care of the The Society until shortly after his twelfth birthday in November 1889.

Seaforth’s formal title was Elm Lodge Home for Boys. The home was officially opened in March 1893, and it is likely that Frederick would have been among the initial cohort of residents. The home catered for up to 30 boys, typically aged between 7 and 14 years of age.

Whereas there is little specific documentary information relating to Frederick’s time at Elm Lodge, in general terms the home would have provided him with a relatively stable and safe environment to grow up in. He would have been involved in the daily tasks of maintaining the home – such as working in the kitchen garden and cleaning dormitories – whilst being able to attend the local school and participate in local community events involving the Church. The limited information there is regarding Frederick suggests that he was at times a troublesome child and an occasional cause for concern to his mentors. Of course, care has to be taken in the interpretation of such sources and the temptation to draw general conclusions should be avoided, but what is clear – and most certainly pertinent with regard to Frederick’s future – is that his behaviour did impact on the choices and decisions made on his behalf by those individuals responsible for his placement immediately upon leaving Elm Lodge.

Frederick’s position – and future – became a concern to the The Society in late November 1899, shortly after his twelfth birthday. And in the period of little more than a week, between 23 and 30 November, there was a flurry of correspondence regarding his future. Indeed, at this particular time, his specific circumstances are not exactly clear, though there is evidence to suggest that he was no longer resident at Elm Lodge and had been placed in the temporary care of the “Shelter” for the Liverpool Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

The first item of correspondence (dated 23 November, 1899) is a postcard written by Beatrice Lockett, the President of the Home Committee, Elm Lodge, Seaforth, to Edward Rudolf, founder and Secretary of The Waifs and Strays Society. It is quite probable that her postcard is in response to an enquiry regarding Frederick, and she states – with some apparent urgency – “We have sent boys both to Tattenhall and Standon [ . . . ] and I do hope he [i.e., Frederick] will be taken at Hedgerley [Court] Farm Home at once if possible.”

The homes to which Beatrice Lockett referred were all run by The Society, and the latter two were ‘industrial homes’ providing agricultural training for their residents; a significant number of which were relocated to Canada upon leaving.

Although Edward Rudolf wrote to the Mrs Henry Stevenson, Honourary Secretary to the Home Committee at Hedgerley, and “urged the necessity of taking the boy,” no record of her subsequent correspondence remains on file. However, on 27 November he opens a correspondence with another home – Tattenhall, in Cheshire – and asks whether the home can receive Frederick. The reply, from Adela Joyce, Honourary Secretary to the Tattenhall Home Committee, is somewhat equivocal. She writes by return and advises that there is “a vacancy at Tattenhall and [we] can therefore receive this boy on trial; but if he is as troublesome as he has apparently been at Seaforth, we shall not be able to keep him.”

Following Adela Joyce’s letter, Edward Rudolf duly wrote to Beatrice Lockett on 29 November with the good news that Frederick could be provided with a place at Tattenhall, albeit for a trial period. At this stage then everything was apparently settled and the questions regarding Frederick’s immediate future were resolved. Edward Rudolf’s letter to Mrs Lockett concludes; “Will you please, therefore, arrange for the boy to be sent direct, and let me know the exact date that he is transferred?”

Yet for all his efforts on Frederick’s behalf, Edward Rudolf received the following letter from Beatrice Lockett, advising that the Seaforth Home Committee had made drastically different arrangements for Frederick:

73, Ullet Road,
Sefton Park,

30th Nov[ember]. / [18]99

Dear [word illeg.] Rudolf
It would not do at all we think for F[rederick]. Fleet to go to Tattenhall, [words illeg.] we have just sent a boy there who gave us a great deal of trouble at Seaforth at the same time as F[rederick]. Fleet did.

Many thanks though for all the trouble you have taken in the matter. My husband has written to the Commander of the ship “Clio” at Menai Straits, Bangor[,] to see if we can get Freddy on that ship. We do not wish him to be on the “Indefatigable” here[?] on account of the days off & he would hang about Seaforth when he had holidays.

He is at present at the “Shelter” for the L’[iver]pool [Society for the] Prevention of Cruelty to Children, & we are naturally anxious to get him placed elsewhere soon.

With kind regards|Yours sincerely|Beatrice G.[?] Lockett

"It would not do at all we think for F. Fleet to go to Tattenhall . . ."

“It would not do at all we think for F. Fleet to go to Tattenhall . . .”

Just what motivated Mrs Lockett and her colleagues to take the action they did, especially when arrangements for Frederick’s removal to Tattenhall were seemingly settled, is unknown. What is clear, however, is that their decision was made with some urgency and in a manner that effectively discouraged opposition. It is tempting to speculate too, given Adela Joyce’s prior knowledge of Frederick’s behaviour at Seaforth, that there was correspondence between the Seaforth and Tattenhall Home Committees considering the suitability of placing Frederick at Tattenhall. While this remains speculation it is entirely clear that the decision made by Mrs Lockett and her colleagues was to set Frederick’s future on a previously unanticipated course.

In a matter of a few short days then, the efforts and involvement of a small number of people, established Frederick’s path towards a life as a seaman and to be name forever associated with the sinking of SS Titanic.

A former Royal Navy corvette, the Clio was an Industrial School Ship moored off Bangor, in the Menai Straits. During the nineteenth century there were numerous such institutions, and they were created to train young boys in seamanship and to prepare them for a life at sea, whether in the merchant marine or Royal Navy. Whilst some of these ships were of a ‘reformatory’ nature, this was not the case with Clio, and many of the 260 boys on board, aged between 12 and 16, were orphans from homes such as Frederick’s in Liverpool.

Whilst undoubtedly receiving valuable training and skills in seamanship, by all accounts life on board was harsh and uncompromising. Beatings and bullying were rife, and the boys were subject to arbitrary and random discipline.

Having left the care of Elm Lodge Home for Boys 1899, little is known of Frederick’s life for the four or so years he spent on the Clio. However, there are two letters in his case file retained by The Children’s Society Archive that clearly indicate that he remained in touch with at least one member of the Home Committee at Elm Lodge; and one who may also have been responsible for securing Frederick’s future with the White Star Line.

Both letters are written by George Killey, the Liverpool Diocesan Chairman and a member of the Elm Lodge Home Committee. The first of these – addressed to Edward Rudolf – is written in the form of a covering letter and it would have enclosed correspondence from Frederick himself. A copy of Frederick’s original letter has not been retained and was presumably returned to George Killey as per his request:

Nov[ember] 15th 1910

My Dear Rudolf,

Here is the case of one of our most difficult boys, I almost despaired of him at one time – I had him trained on board the Clio & have never lost sight of him, & had him up to see me[?], he is lookout man on the White Star Sir Oceanica [1] [and] grown a fine young fellow, 27 [2] years of age – a teetotaller. & he told me he had got £36 in the Bank. Thank God is all I say. Kindly return the letter.

Kindest regards|Yours sincerely|Geo[rge] D. Killey

[Notes:1. George Killey is almost certainly referring to RMS Oceanic. This is clarified in his second letter, below; 2. Frederick Fleet was born on 15 October 1887. He was 23 years old at the time of the letter.]

By April 1912, Frederick was serving as one of six lookouts appointed for SS Titanic’s maiden voyage, and he was one of two on duty on the evening of 14 April when at 11:40 he spotted an iceberg and duly telephoned the bridge with the call: “Iceberg, right ahead!”

Whilst accounts of and details of the sinking of SS Titanic abound and can be better found elsewhere, it is necessary to relate that Frederick survived the sinking and was one of two trained seamen who were allocated the charge of Lifeboat No.6.

"This young man was a seaman on the 'Titanic' when she foundered on April 15th"

“This young man was a seaman on the ‘Titanic’ when she foundered on April 15th”

Following the sinking, two inquiries were launched; a Senate Inquiry in the United States and a British Wreck Commissioner’s inquiry in Britain (sometimes referred to as the ‘Board of Trade’ inquiry), and Frederick and his lookout colleague – Reginald Lee – appeared as witnesses at both.

George Killey’s second letter – again addressed to Edward Rudolf – comments on Frederick’s participation in the American inquiry and the imminent inquiry in Britain. Again, the letter appears to follow receipt of correspondence from Frederick; “Kindly return all the enclosures.” As with the earlier letter, Frederick’s own correspondence has not been retained and was presumably returned:

19, Commerce Chambers,
Lord Street,

April 30th 1912

My Dear Rudolf,

Sorry you are not with us today. [word illeg.] have awfully busy week. I wanted to tell you about our boy who was saved from the Titanic. I don’t want his name referred to at all, he gave his evidence most creditably before the American Enquiry, but he has still to stand the Board of Trade Enquiry. In next month’s Northern Notes I will refer to the matter but shall not mention Fleet[‘]s name – he has always been an extremely good lad & never failed to keep in touch with me. I got him into the White Star Line 5 or 6 six years ago & I have known from time to time his changes of ship[.] [B]y the P/C [post card] you will see he had no fancy for the Titanic but had to go[.] [H]e was on the Oceanic from March 16th 1908. He is a saving boy & has money put by.

Kindly return all the enclosures.

All good wishes|Yours sincerely|George D. Killey

Aside from a small press-cutting announcing his death in January 1965, George Killey’s letter is the last item of documentation retained in Frederick Fleet’s case file at The Children’s Society Archive.

The specific purpose of this account is to shed some light on Frederick’s early years by drawing on the sources available at The Children’s Society. Consequently it is not necessary to recap the details of Frederick’s life beyond George Killey’s letter above. However, for anyone interested in examining Frederick’s life beyond the events of the Board of Trade inquiry, there are many freely available online sources.

Want to know more?

For sources relating to the history of the SS Titanic, the Encyclopedia Titanica offers a good starting point and contains some biographical material about Frederick Fleet:

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

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site:

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue:

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:


The White Line of Safety: fundraising flyers in the 1930s

We continue our series of blogs that look at The Children’s Society’s Archive’s fascinating collection of 523 fundraising flyers that were distributed as inserts in The Society’s former supporter’s magazine Our Waifs and Strays. This post written by one of The Children’s Society Archive team, Clare McMurtrie, considers two flyers in the 1930s that feature road safety.

Since The Children Society first opened its doors in 1881 child safety has been at the forefront of the charity’s work. During the 1930s The Society used several road safety campaigns, following the 1934 Road Safety Act, as part of its various fundraising campaigns advertised in the charity’s supporter magazine Our Waifs and Strays. These involved raising money to extend white line road markings across the country, as well as creating pedestrian crossings. In 1934 there were only 2.5 million vehicles on Britain’s roads, with 7,343 killed in road accidents that year [1]. By 2014 the total road deaths had decreased to 1,775, with 35.6 million vehicles licensed in Britain [2].

Fundraising flyer, ‘The White Line of Safety for the Children’, used in the Society’s supporter magazine Our Waifs and Strays in the 1930s

Fundraising flyer, ‘The White Line of Safety for the Children’, used in the Society’s supporter magazine Our Waifs and Strays in the 1930s

In the UK, the first “white line” road markings appeared on a number of dangerous bends on the London-Folkestone road at Ashford, Kent, in 1914, and during the 1920s the rise of painted lines on UK roads grew dramatically. In 1926 official guidelines were issued by the Ministry of Transport that defined where and how white lines on roads should be used.

Using the ‘white line of safety’ theme in the flyer depicted here, The Society asked its supporters to donate 2s 6d (12.5p) to add one foot to its own ‘white line of safety’ that provided care for children in need, declaring that the charity wanted to add an extra 80,000 feet to this line – so raising an extra £10,000 “needed to carry on our work”.

Donation form, the reverse of the fundraising flyer ‘The White Line of Safety for the Children’

Donation form, the reverse of the fundraising flyer ‘The White Line of Safety for the Children’

The black and white stripes on pedestrian crossings are designed to reflect the markings of zebras. In the United Kingdom, zebra markings give pedestrians permanent right of way if accompanied by a belisha beacon or conditional right of way when accompanied by traffic lights. In other countries they are also used on pedestrian crossings controlled by traffic signals, and pedestrians have priority only when the lights show green to pedestrians. In the UK the crossing is marked with Belisha beacons, flashing amber globes on black and white posts on each side of the road, named after Leslie Hore-Belisha, the Minister of Transport, who introduced them in 1934. 

In 1934, The Society used the idea of the newly designed safety lanes and markings for roads, as a fundraising image to depict its work as providing ‘A Safety Lane’ for children, who through the charity’s care could be safely helped across the dangerous road of being parentless and in poverty, to a place of happiness; The Society saw this as being “the rightful heritage of every child”. It is interesting to note that the children in the flyer who are depicted as requiring protection, are standing in the shadow of an urban chimney pot, spiked skyline that casts darkness on their side of the road. In contrast – and to extend the imagery further – the children on the ‘happiness’ side of the road are sitting in bright sunshine and a place of safety. At the side of the crossing is an early depiction of a Belisha Beacon, whose flashing light announces ‘Safety First for the Children’.

Fundraising flyer, ‘A Safety Lane’, used in Our Waifs and Strays in October 1934

Fundraising flyer, ‘A Safety Lane’, used in Our Waifs and Strays in October 1934

Despite the large reduction in road fatalities in Britain since the 1920s and 1930s, the number of child road deaths and serious injuries rose for the first time in 20 years in 2014 [3]. The overall trend has although been increased child road safety, with the introduction of white lines, pedestrian crossings, and compulsory driving tests. This is seen in the massive reduction in both adult and child road fatalities, comparative to the ever increasing traffic on Britain’s roads.





 Find out more:

Are roads safer with no central white lines?

A history of road safety campaigns:

A history of road safety, The Highway Code and the driving test:

Government road safety website Think:

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site:

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue:

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:


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

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

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

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

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

Nicholas House, West Boldon

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

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


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


The project closed in May 1992.

Project for Independent Living and South Tyneside Independent Living Project

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

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


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

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

Preparation for Independent Living On Tyneside

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

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

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

IMG_0747 (2)

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

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

Want to know more?

The growth and development of The Society’s new social work projects from the late 1970s onwards is discussed in the following blog ‘A New Reality’:

Records relating to all of the projects and homes featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive – see the Archive’s on-line catalogue:

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site:

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:

Helping Young Runaways Since 1881

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

Central London Teenage Project: a pioneering Project for young runaways

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

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

pamphlet for UK's first safe house - front page

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

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

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

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

'Safe in the City' pamphlet

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

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

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


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

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

The Present Day

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

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

The growth and development of The Society’s new social work projects from the late 1970s onwards is discussed in the following blog ‘A New Reality’:

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

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site:

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue:

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:

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

Today we have the second part of a blog post written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper, that looks at The Children’s Society’s work in Gloucestershire in the 1980s and 1990s, when new types of community-based social work projects were being developed. This follows on from a previous overview of The Society’s work in the county between 1897-1954:

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

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

Gloucestershire Drugs Project

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


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

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

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


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

Gloucester Diocesan Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deakin House

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

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

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

The growth and development of The Society’s new social work projects from the late 1970s onwards is discussed in the following blog ‘A New Reality’:

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site:

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue:

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:

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

Today we have the second part of a blog post written by one of our volunteers, David Lamb, that looks at seven individual stories from the first one hundred children taken into the care of the Waifs and Strays’ Society – you can read the first part here:

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

Individual children’s stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Smith 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edward's apprenticeship indenture, dated 29 September 1887.

Edward’s apprenticeship indenture, dated 29 September 1887.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site:

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue:

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:

The Twelve Days of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A large Christmas party, c1950s.

A large Christmas party, c1950s.

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

Hanging up Christmas stockings, 1950s

Hanging up Christmas stockings, 1950s

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 – Nativity scene: The tradition of constructing nativity scenes first flourished in an Italian context in the Middle Ages, and dates back to St. Francis of Assisi, who created the first living representation of the nativity in 1223 in Greccio, Lazio. The scene designed by St. Francis lacked Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus, however, and only the ox, the donkey and the manger with straw present in the cave. The first known complete nativity scene is that kept in the Basilica of Santo Stefano in Bologna. (

Wartime festive spirit

Wartime festive spirit

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

Christmas fundraising flyer, 1890

Christmas fundraising flyer, 1890

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

Christmas flyer, December 1900

Christmas flyer, December 1900

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

Fundraising flyer, December 1911

Fundraising flyer, December 1911

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

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

Fundraising flyer, December 1917

Fundraising flyer, December 1917

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

Fundraising flyer, New Year 1912

Fundraising flyer, New Year 1912

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

See also:

268 years of Christingle:

The Children’s Society’s Christmas Bake and Brew campaign:

Browse through publications of Our Waifs and Strays from 1882:

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site:

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue:

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: