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

Beatrix Nursery, East Knoyle

Photograph of Beatrix Nursery, East Knoyle

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Beatrix Nursery, East Knoyle

East Knoyle, Wiltshire

(1943 - 1964)

The Beatrix Nursery was founded in 1943 by Dowager Lady Pembroke, who offered the top floor of her own home, Knoyle House, to take in homeless babies for The Children's Society. It was named after her daughter Lady Beatrix, later Countess of Wicklow, who became president of The Children's Union. The nursery opened to take in four babies on 1 November 1943, with the number later growing to 14.

In March 1946, the nursery was moved from Knoyle House to Clouds House, also in East Knoyle, which had been used by the military in the Second World War. Clouds House was surrounded by 20 acres of land which allowed the nursery to expand to take toddlers as well as babies, eventually taking the total number of children to 42.

The nursery became famous for its themed Christmas displays put on by the nurses in the Home's winter garden. The first display at the Home was in 1947 and the whole house was decorated and children and staff dressed up to represent each season of the year. The Christmas display in 1961 attracted 4,600 visitors.

By 1950 the children were divided by age into different nurseries such as 'Snowdrop' for the babies, which also acted as an intensive care unit if seriously ill cases were sent from the local maternity hospitals. 'Tulip' and Daffodil' were for the toddlers and as numbers grew, 'Primrose, 'Bluebell' and 'Pinks' were added. In the 1950s there was also a nursery nurse training school in the lower ground floor of the house. Students would arrive at 16 years old and spend two years studying for the National Nursery Nurses Examination Board. Junior Nurses would spend a month in each nursery learning the different needs of the youngsters.

For the toddlers, there was a day-to-day structured routine, beginning with a morning walk or ramble and continuing with physical training and singing. By 1959 the nursery playground had a paddling pool, sandpit, swings and slide, as well as an aviary of budgerigars. There was also a rabbit, which the children were encouraged to look after. The children were also taken on days out to local farms and stables to look at the animals, and to the nearby woods and parkland.

When The Children's Union celebrated its 70th anniversary in 1958, The Queen donated a cot named after Princess Anne as a birthday gift to the nursery. The Bishop of Salisbury dedicated the cot and an endowment fund, with an aim of £2,000, was opened for its upkeep .

The Nursery closed in July 1964, due to the rising costs of running the Home and its inaccessible location. When staff Miss Blake and Miss Wilkinson came close to retirement, it was decided it would be a fitting time to close the Home. The 42 children in residence at the time were transferred to other nurseries and homes.

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