Titania’s Palace on Tour

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

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

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

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

HM Queen Mary visiting Titania’s Palace in 1922

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

The Grey Fairy Motor car

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

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

Titania's Palace - The Throne Room

Titania’s Palace – The Throne Room

 

Titania’s Palace – Hall of the Fairy Kiss

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

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

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

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

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

The ground floor plan for Titania’s Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to know more?

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

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

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

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

© The Children’s Society

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Yvette in Italy and Titania’s Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muriel Phyllis Wilkinson

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

HM Queen Mary visiting Titania’s Palace in 1922

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to know more?

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

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

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

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

© The Children’s Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ground floor plan for Titania’s Palace

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

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

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

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

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

The Hall of The Guilds

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

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

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

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

Want to know more?

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

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

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

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

© The Children’s Society

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Want to know more?

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

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

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

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

© The Children’s Society

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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:  http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/activities/rover_league/rover_league1.html

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

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

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

© The Children’s Society

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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.

Footnotes:

[1] http://kjtdrivertraining.co.uk/page_2389988.html

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/reported-road-casualties-in-great-britain-main-results-2014

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/05/figure-for-child-road-deaths-and-serious-injuries-rises-for-first-time-in-20-years

 Find out more:

Are roads safer with no central white lines? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35480736

A history of road safety campaigns: http://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/road-users/campaign-history/

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

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/history-of-road-safety-and-the-driving-test/history-of-road-safety-the-highway-code-and-the-driving-test

Government road safety website Think: http://think.direct.gov.uk/

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

 

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. (http://www.swide.com/art-culture/nativity-scene-5-things-to-know-about-history-and-origin/2014/12/21)

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: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-and-blogs/our-blog/267-years-of-christingle

The Children’s Society’s Christmas Bake and Brew campaign: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-you-can-do/fundraising-and-events/hold-a-bake-and-brew

Browse through publications of Our Waifs and Strays from 1882: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/waifs_and_strays/

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

 

Fundraising, advertising and the First World War

We continue our series of blogs that look at the impact of the First World War on The Children’s Society. This post written by one of The Children’s Society Archive team, Clare McMurtrie, considers particular issues during the First World War – fundraising and advertising.

The Children’s Society’s Archive holds a fascinating collection of 523 fundraising flyers that were inserts in The Society’s former supporter’s magazine Our Waifs and Strays. The inserts date back to The Society’s beginnings in the 1880s, when it was known as the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society, and were often beautifully illustrated. The Society’s fundraising flyers chart not only the history of The Society itself, but also its place within history – from the workhouses and Poor Law of the nineteenth century, to the First and Second World Wars of the twentieth.

For Church and Country, October 1914

For Church and Country, October 1914

During the First World War fundraising was important to The Society (and other charities) as it sought to raise extra funds through advertising to support families affected by the War. Flyers included the one above from October 1914, which has a photograph of a young man in uniform who was formerly in the care of The Society, alongside the caption ‘For Church and Country’ inside a flag. Another First World War flyer is one which includes an illustration commissioned from Bernard Partridge. This insert was used in January 1918, at the tail end of the War, in the same month as British Premier and Liberal politician David Lloyd George (1863-1945) gave a speech to Trade Union delegates to outline British War Aims. The insert and its caption ‘Stick It!’ reflect the resilient and determined wartime spirit and the message of Lloyd George’s speech.

Sir John Bernard Partridge, known as Bernard, was born in London on 11th October 1861, the youngest son of Professor Richard Partridge and Fanny Turner. His uncle was John Partridge, Portrait Painter Extraordinary to Queen Victoria and he was educated at Stonyhurst College at the same time as Arthur Conan Doyle, before attending Heatherley’s and the West London School of Art.

Partridge had worked as a decorator of church interiors, but freelanced as a cartoonist. His first published work appeared in Moonshine, and he also contributed cartoons and illustrations to publications including Judy, Illustrated London News, Vanity Fair, Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News, Lady’s Pictorial, Pick-Me-Up, Quiver and The Sketch. On the recommendation of George du Maurier, grandfather of author Daphne du Maurier, Partridge first contributed to Punch in February 1891. He joined the staff later that year, going onto work for the magazine for over fifty years, producing political and joke cartoons as well as theatre caricatures. In 1910 Partridge succeeded Edward Linley Sambourne (1834-1896) as Chief Cartoonist, a position he held until his death.

Stick It! flyer, January 1918

Stick It! flyer, January 1918

Partridge’s style included being particular about figures in his cartoons and disliking using more than two in any cartoon, while tending to draw elaborate, statuesque figures in classical poses. The ‘Stick It!’ illustration is therefore an unusual example of his work in that it includes three figures; a Navy man, a soldier and a baby. Its message ‘To all at home’ was both a plea for donations at a time of economic hardship across the country and one of solidarity to reader’s plagued by war for four years. He was knighted in 1925 by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. Bernard Partridge died in London on 9th August 1945.

Browse through publications of Our Waifs and Strays from 1882: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/publications/waifs_and_strays/

Browse the Punch Magazine Cartoon Archive: http://www.punch.co.uk

Learn more about conflict and the First World War: http://www.iwm.org.uk/

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

“Doing good work” – the Kitchener Memorial Home, Hornsey

To commemorate Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance Day we have a post written by one of our Archivists, Gabrielle St John-McAlister, that looks at a particular event during the First World War.

One of The Children’s Society’s most renowned supporters during the First World War was Herbert Horatio Kitchener, Lord Kitchener (Earl Kitchener of Khartoum, Secretary of State for War), possibly best known to the general public today as the face of the ‘Your Country Needs You’ recruitment poster.

Fundraising leaflet, July 1918

Fundraising leaflet featuring Lord Kitchener, July 1918

To show his support he sent a telegram to the Bishop of London in May 1915, noting “I know that the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society has done and is doing good work especially by their care of the families of those who are fighting for us”; this is indicative of the high esteem in which he held the Society. His influence cannot have failed to help raise the profile of the Society and bring its needs and aims to a wider public. The Society was then known as the Church of England Society for the Provision of Homes for Waifs and Strays; in 1946, the title changed to the Church of England Children’s Society.

Telegram from Lord Kitchener to the 'Waifs and Strays Society', 1915

Telegram from Lord Kitchener to the ‘Waifs and Strays Society’, 1915

Lord Kitchener died in June 1916 when HMS Hampshire, on which he was travelling to negotiations with Russia, hit a mine near the Orkneys and sank with the loss of almost all on board. His body was never found. Even in death there was a connection with the Society; Charles West, a Society ‘Old Boy’, also died on HMS Hampshire.

Extract from the Society's Roll of Honour - the entry for Charles West who died with Lord Kitchener on HMS Hampshire

Extract from the Society’s Roll of Honour – Charles West who died with Lord Kitchener on HMS Hampshire

Almost immediately the Society began to discuss how best to show its appreciation for Kitchener’s support. By June 19th, just 14 days after Kitchener’s death, the Society’s Executive Committee had decided that “a life so noble and an example so inspiring should have a monument entirely their own.” The intention for the memorial was noted in the Executive Committee Minutes of June 1916. The idea of the Lord Kitchener Memorial Home was born and a fund to pay for its construction was begun. Lord Kitchener’s sister wrote to the Executive Committee in July to express her approval of the plans. The Home, standing in an acre of land at Hillfield Avenue, Hornsey, was opened by the Duke of Connaught in July 1918, with a dedication led by the Bishop of London.

The Kitchener Memorial Home for Boys, c1920

The Kitchener Memorial Home for Boys, Hornsey, c1920

Fittingly, the Home initially took in 47 boys, all of whom had fathers killed or incapacitated in World War I, thus combining the dual purposes of remembering Kitchener and aiding the families of some of those who fell.

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For other information about The Children’s Society Archive’s former children’s homes, visit the Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/homes/

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/childrensociety/Calmview

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

A shelter for children: the work of The Children’s Society in the north-east, 1881-1970s

Another in the series of our blogs that take a more detailed look at the history of The Children’s Society’s former children’s homes and social work projects since 1881 – this time in the north-east of the country.

Between 1881 and the 1970s, The Children’s Society had four main homes in the north-east of England, two girls’ homes – St Oswald’s, Cullercoats, and St Cuthbert’s, Darlington – and two boys’ homes -St Nicholas’, Boldon, and St Aidan’s, Tynemouth.

The first was St Oswald’s Girls’ Home, Cullercoats. This was opened in 1889 and until 1891 was based at Netherton, when it moved to new premises at Cullercoats. It remained there until 1939 when the children were evacuated to Natland in Cumbria. The girls never returned to Cullercoats as the home closed in 1946.

The exterior of St Oswald’s Home, Cullercoats, in1900.

The exterior of St Oswald’s Home, Cullercoats, in1900.

The Bishop of Durham opened the next home in 1893 – St Cuthbert’s Girls Home at Pierremont Cresent, Darlington. In 1923 the home moved to a new site in the town and was opened by one Lady Barnard; to quote from a report in the former supporter magazine Our Waifs and Strays, she was ‘handed a gold key, and opened the door in the presence of a large and interested concourse of friends of the Society’. In 1949 the home was converted into a residential nursery for 25 children between the ages of 1-5 years. It continued as a nursery until 1972.

At the opening of St Cuthbert’s in 1893 the Bishop of Durham noted that the Society was only just starting its work in the area and ‘he hoped in due time to see a shelter for outcast and desolate lads’. He had to wait seven years before being asked to open the area’s first boys’ home, St Aidan’s at Tynemeouth. St Aidan’s started out life at Whitley Bay in 1900. In 1906 it moved to purpose built premises in Tynemouth. Between 1947 and 1973 it served as a nursery for younger children.

The laying of the foundation stone of St Aidan’s Home, Tynemouth in 1905

The laying of the foundation stone of St Aidan’s Home, Tynemouth in 1905

The fourth home was St Nicholas’ Boys Home at Boldon which was opened in 1906. This remained a boys’ home until 1960 when it became an all-age group home for boys and girls.

What was life like in one of these homes?

Well, it would have varied depending on the decade you were looking at, but in the main one can say that they were very much part of the local community. The children went to local schools, Sunday school and church, and got to know other children in the neighbourhood. Their conduct at school often drew praise.

The homes had their own Boy Scout and Girl Guide troops and often excelled at sports. For example, aside from local events, the Scouts at St Aidan’s would set off for a week’s annual camp. In 1935 they went to Warden near Hexham. They camped in a field given by a kindly farmer and used the church hall as a base. St Aidan’s football team were also a force to be reckoned with in the local sports league – just like many community football clubs in the area today! Music was the Cullercoats’ speciality the girls being regular winners at the Newcastle Music Tournament.

The boys dining hall at St Aidan’s, Tynemouth, 1910.

The boys dining hall at St Aidan’s, Tynemouth, 1910.

Local people were always eager to provide entertainments and outings. In 1934 the girls at Cullercoats had several outings to a property in the village of Riding Mill courtesy of its owners and enjoyed numerous trips down to the sea during the summer. During the 1930s the boys at St Aidan’s had an annual charabanc trip organised by local people to Shotley Bridge and the 1933 Annual Report contains a photograph of them busily eating their sandwiches.

Local fundraising committees worked hard for the homes raising both money and gifts in kind. A popular fundraising idea was the Pound Day when local people brought in pound weights of produce or gave a donation of £1. A Pound Day in 1915 at St Nicholas’ Home, Boldon, was a great success bringing in 1,692 lbs of mixed groceries and 531lbs of turnips and potatoes (what do you do with 500 plus pounds of turnips?), together with £20 for the homes clothing and holiday fund.

A group of boys from St Nicholas’ Home, Boldon, with their pet rabbits, 1959.

A group of boys from St Nicholas’ Home, Boldon, with their pet rabbits, 1959.

Other fundraising ideas were a succession of pageants and Stuart fayres that were popular during the 1920s and 1930s. Local people at Boldon also established a Wireless Fund in 1933 to bring the latest in technology to the home.

For other information about The Children’s Society Archive’s former children’s homes in the north-east, visit the Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/homes/

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s stories today, visit the charity’s website: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/