Hidden Lives Revealed. A virtual archive - children in care 1881-1981 * Image of handwritten text

Clapham Home Of Rest For Girls Out Of Situation, Balham

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Clapham Home Of Rest For Girls Out Of Situation, Balham

357 Clapham Road, Balham, London

(1899 - 1939)

On 11 December 1899 the Executive Committee of The Waifs and Strays' Society sealed the lease on 357 Clapham Road. For 12 years this address was a home for older girls and women, aged 15-21, who were 'out of situation.' This meant that they came from insecure backgrounds without employment, and often associated with criminality. Clapham Home provided them with the stability to find training and work in domestic service, until a time when they could support themselves.

In 1911 the Home moved to the 'airier and more wholesome surroundings' of Clapham Park, and changed its name to St Anne's Home for Girls. Whereas the previous dwelling could only house 15 young women, the new home had a capacity of 40. On 18 December the Bishop of Southwark opened St Anne's with a ceremony, in which he 'dedicated' the Home to its new name-saint. Unfortunately the Home's new name coincided with other local place-names, and it was changed again in 1914, to St Winifred's Home for Girls.

Although the new home still cared for older girls, it also functioned as a receiving home for girls of school age (6-14). These younger children were only at the Home temporarily, before being moved on to other homes, or into adoption. Miss Lawton, who was Honorary Secretary and Treasurer from 1910 to 1927, looked after the affairs of both branches.

Despite their wide age range, the children seem to have taken part in various joint activities. The girls formed a highly respected choir, and in 1923 they won first prize in a singing competition which took place in the grand surrounding of Central Hall, Westminster. People within the local community organised an 'annual treat' for the children. In 1923 these festivities included games and entertainment with 'the presentation of an orange and a bag of sweets to all the younger people.' Along with these special occasions, there was significant scope for the girls to enrol on educational courses. Subjects included nursing, first-aid, needlework, gymnastics - as well as various others.

In 1929 the Receiving Home was moved to nearby King's Avenue, and was replaced by St Luke's Babies Home in the following year. St Winifred's retained its function of training older girls in domestic service, and in later years was referred to as the 'Laundry Home.' The troubles of war forced the Home to evacuate to Steyning in 1939.

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