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Memories of Others in Care
Memories of Other Children
This page is for anyone who wishes to make a comment or contribute in any way about how they were in Care and how they grew up or other school matters. If you have a memory share it with others, but whatever your thoughts please let this page know. If you have any photographs please send those as well. To add something to this page simply email it to:
Please put your memories down
I have read you book about your experiences in the National Childrens Home with great interest.
It is a great idea, if more readers would like to add anything from a few words to a few thousand words they are most welcome to add to this site, remember there is no need to put your full names , even an intital is fine.
Or if you want to write your own book and see it published, let me know, if you need any help, all you have to do is ask, just email any questions you have on how to start.
Michael John Jones age 7
Sister Marjorie (Dorothy Shields)
Finding my Father
by Rosie Walters
Rosie Walters, who spent some of her life in a children's home, spent years searching for her father. And in 2009, thanks to a website called Their History, she got the breakthrough she had been looking for.
I never knew my father, or what he looked like, but I always felt a yearning to know him.
I knew he had come to the UK from Jamaica in the 1950s. His name was Louis Anderson and at the time of my birth, and for a number of years after,, he had lived in Balham, South London.
My mother, Gladys, was reluctant to discuss my father, which meant I knew virtually nothing about him. Over the years I made attempts to find him. I have met people who knew him, but I was always told the same thing - they had not seen him for years.
In September 2009 I went to a social club in Balham. There were a group of men who appeared to be in their mid to late-70s, playing cards. As I had often done in the past, I asked one of them if he knew a Louis Anderson. He gave me the answer I usually received, but suggested that I visit a barber shop in Boundaries Road in Balham. He said the owner had been there for many years, and even if he did not know Louis himself, it is possible he may know someone who did.
The following day I visited the barber shop. The owner agreed to make some enquiries and get back to me. This proved fruitless, as once again, people knew of him, but had not seen him for many years.
It was suggested he may be in the United States. I felt so frustrated, as he was quite obviously known to people - the problem was, no-one actually knew where he was.
But in December 2009, the most amazing thing happened. I found a website called Their History. The site had photographs of National Children's Homes, the staff there, and many of the children who lived there, as far back as the late 1940s. There was a photograph of me on the site. I was probably aged about four and my name was written underneath the photo.
On 28 December 2009 at 23:30, I received a call from Clive Williams, a friend who had been in the same children’s home as me in Swansea. He is also a friend of Phillip, the man who set up the Their History site.
Clive proceeded to read me an email which had been forwarded to him by Phillip. It was from a man called Wil Anderson, who had seen the photo of me on the site, and contacted Phillip. The email went on to say that he believed me to be his half-sister. He too had a photograph of me, taken when I was a baby, and although there was a gap in the ages of the photos, in Wil’s words "the resemblance was striking".
I now know this photo was given to Wil by our father 20 years ago, when he came to visit Wil from the US. It was during that visit he told Wil he had a sister. Since then, Wil had made numerous attempts to find me, at our father’s request. He had obtained a copy of my birth certificate, and had contacted the Salvation Army. Clive continued to read the email, by which time I was absolutely hysterical. This was an almost unbelievable moment. I had a dad who cared about me, and wanted to find me.
Clive agreed to pass my contact details on to Wil. The following day I waited in anticipation for the phone to ring. Wil and I spoke for four hours. It was amazing. Our dad had given Wil information about where I was born, and where my mother lived at the time of my birth. Neither Wil nor Dad had any knowledge of my being placed in a children’s home. Sadly, Wil told me dad had passed away 11 years ago in New York. But he also told me that I had two other brothers - one in the US and one in Jamaica. We also had a sister, who unfortunately passed away six years ago.
On 1 January 2010 I met my brother Wil for the first time. I cannot describe the feeling - at last a sense of belonging. I had a dad, and brothers, and as my daughter said: “Mum, the good thing is they found you, you didn’t find them."
In September 2010. I travelled to Ocho Rios in Jamaica with Wil, his three grown-up children and my daughter to meet my eldest brother, Derrick. We spent two glorious weeks staying with Derrick. In the short space of time I have known my brothers and their families, they have shown me more love and care than I could have ever imagined. A picture of dad now takes pride of place on my mantelpiece, and at last I feel whole
Photo of Rosemary
Hi I'm, David,
HELLO, MY NAME IS EDWARD ROBINSON AND I WAS AT THE OVAL WITH MY BROTHER 1949/53. WE WERE IN FERRANS HOUSE TOP FLAT AND THE SISTER WAS, SISTER DAISY SHERWOOD. ( SISTER JOAN VIVASH WAS IN THE GROUND FLOOR FLAT). MY BROTHERS NAME WAS BRIAN ( WHO PASSED AWAY 15 YEARS AGO). I REMEMBER SOME OF THE PEOPLE IN OUR FLAT, E.G. ELISABETH, PAMELA, JANE, DOROTHY DODDS, RODNEY AND JOHN HARTSHAWN, THE SPELLINGS MAY BE INCORRECT BUT ITS A LONG TIME AGO. I RECALL OTHER NAMES AND FACES LIKE MR SHUTT, THE BOSS, MR NIVEN HIS DEPUTY, THE SISTER WHO RAN THE CUBS & THE JUNIOR CHOIR BOTH OF WHICH I ATTENDED. I ATTENDED BATFORD PRIMARY SCHOOL WHEN IT FIRST OPENED ( 1951 ) AND WE HAD TO WALK THERE AND BACK EACH DAY. I PLAYED FOR THERE FIRST FOOTBALL TEAM (1952) AND STILL HAVE THE TEAM PHOTO SOMEWHERE. CHURCH SUNDAY MORNING, SUNDAY SCHOOL SUNDAY AFTER NOON, HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED. I RECALL MY BROTHER RIPPING HIS SHORT TROUSERS AND PICKING FROM THE WOODS THE LARGEST BUNCH OF BLUEBELLS EVER FROM THE WOODS AND PRESENTING THEM TO SISTER DAISY TO NO AVAIL, NO JAM FOR AWEEK. I COULD POSSIBLY WRITE ON & ON , BUT IF I HAVE JOGGED ANY BODIES MEMORY IT WOULD BE NICE TO HEAR FROM YOU. KIND REGARDS E.J. ROBINSON
I am responding to Leslie Jones''s entry about the Children''s Care Home at 23 Westcliffe Road, Southport. My mother died in 1944 and I went
I recently visited Westcliffe Road to find the site demolished and waiting demolition. I am trying the local council and estate agents to see if there exist any photographs. I would be pleased to exchange
My name is Karen Warburton, I was in Watson house 133 Birmingham road. I was in there from 1963 to1978.
Bristol and Harpenden
I am so happy that it appears that these homes are now going as I am sure in a lot of cases they did more harm than good. It was not a noraml invironment with an all female staff, who seemed to have a lot of power over you and God help you if they did not like or understand you or your needs.
The Photo has Sister Nancy Longbottom (I think?) and the girl on the left with dark brown wavy hair is my mother Dorothy C Steele who was at Bramhope for a few years as were a couple of her brothers. Edwin R Steele. Martin G Steele. I hope you will be able to use this photo on your site.
I went to a reunion in London with Mum in I think 1962. Mum was very fond of Sister Longbottom who from what I heard from Mum always took a great interest in her pupils. I heard that she played the piano beautifully and that was a very strong memory for my Mum. I herd about her for just about all my life also Mr Lewis and Mr Hodges who I think were the Head masters at different times. Mum was always a rebel and was always in trouble also her brothers. She got into big trouble one day for talking to her brother through the fence as girls were kept separate from the boys. If you have any information about this Home in that time and later I would love to hear it.
My name is Geoff Owen, any one that was at the NCH Harpenden in the 50s, please contact me. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. phone ..01621 772440.
I was in Wakefield house with Sister Maureen. upper flat was sister pearl which is where my brothers and sisters Pat, Garry, Judith and Bobby. My sister pat passed away a few years ago in Leicester.
Where do we start after 50 years. I arrived with my brothers and sisters (Pat, Judy,Garry,Bobby Owen)about 1950 from Leicester, a local council run home called Countersthorpe. (Regime was a bit strict, we travelled down on the train with a social worker (Dragon woman), I was put in Wakefield house,(Lower flat with Sister Maureen) the upper flat (Sister Pearl had my brothers and sisters).
I have never ever regretted my time at Harpenden, I loved every minute of my time, never, ever was i sad or un-happy, i made many friends, if it wasn''t for the home at Harpenden and the support and dedication from the staff i would not be the man i am today, my dedication and love goes to Sister Maureen Mckelvey who looked after me and to Sister Gwen who taught me music on the piano and organ, my love of the church organ to this day is down to Sister Gwen, my love of life is down to Sister Maureen Mckelvey who I adored but have lost contact with. if you have any information on her it will be nice.
I forgot to mention about the flats. I was more than happy where I was with Sister Maureen Mckelvey as was my brothers and sisters in the upper flat with Sister Pearl. The matter about did we want to be together did not enter our minds, there was only a inner stair case between us all. A few years later the workshop put an outside staircase up, that made for a spare bedroom in our flat below.
School Eh!, just where do i start, at the beginning we all went to Batford Junior, top of Pickford hill, it was a trek from the Home and then confronted with this hill, the school was at the top on the right hand side, I cannot remember any of the teachers names now. The only one memory I have was being infatuated with a girl called Margaret, can''t remember her surname at the moment. I remember each week going to a swimming pool on a coach with the class, on the way to the pool, three fighter jets were above and the teacher said, "Oh, what are they" we all looked at each other then glanced at the teacher and replied "Airy planes Miss" well, the laughs we got on that one.
A few more memories of Harpenden 1950s. The Embassy Cinema just outside the oval, every Saturday was a real treat to the films and matinee, it cost I think sixpence for about three hours.
Newcastle Upon Tyne 1920s - 30s
Item sent in about the NCH at Newcastle Upon Tyne
My belated father-in-law used to recount his early life to me his residence with the National Children''s Home was during the 1920''s and 30''s.
Some of his stories he used to recount with an endearing chuckle, because the treatment he received failed to curb his very child-like sense of fun - like the time he escaped from the nearby garden through a broken fence panel, adjoining the house where the Sisters lived, where he and his hungry friends had been scrumping apples to give themselves a bite to eat. The Sisters had turned their fierce dogs onto the boys, forcing them to make a quick get-away, and in their haste they almost lost the wonky fence panel that would secure their escape. He received a good beating for this, but did not regret taking the risk he did. Another beating he received was on a day when he and other boys were particularly hungry, and they could smell food from an open pantry window. Being the smallest, he was lifted up by the larger boys to climb through the window and steal some food. Having accidentally knocked a tin to the floor, thus alerting the Sisters, he was then left dangling half-in, half-out of the window by his pals, who scarpered pretty quickly.
Ken was "backward" at school, but excelled at art. His teacher used to leave him to do his own thing, because his work was better than that of his teacher. In his later years he made use of this talent, turning his hand to beautiful art-work, and teaching himself joinery so that he could create wonderful craftwork, including grandfather clocks, dressers, marquetry-topped tables, and models; many of these masterpieces have now become family heirlooms. However, the Sisters did not recognise his talent, and his potential, and when asked what he would like to do towards the time when he left school he replied "I''d like to be an artist". He was beaten for this response, and was found a job as a gardener instead.
This was to be the break that he needed - he was sent to the Princess Alice Orphanage, not as a resident, but as a trainee gardener, lodging out, where he particularly enjoyed cutting the lawns for Lord and Lady Manders, and learning valuable gardening skills. Here he was treated with kindness, for the first time in his life, and he saw how differently a home can be run. It was eye-opening for him also, as this home had a wing for boys, and also one for girls. They were kept strictly separate, but nevertheless this was the first opportunity he had ever had to even see members of the opposite sex, other than the Sisters who ran the home.
All his life Ken yearned to meet his younger brother. He and Ernest had been taken into care at a very young age when their mother went to live with another man, and their father could not look after the two of them. They had an older brother also, Len, who stayed with his mother and grandmother, and who Ken was allowed to write to only once or twice late in his school life. By the time Ken and Ernest were taken into care they were both very badly neglected, emaciated and sickly. To begin with the boys were fostered together, but after a while they were separated, and sent to separate children''s homes. Having examined their NCH records, which Ken applied for some years before he passed away, I have noticed that the timing of their removal from foster care, and their separation, co-incided with the non-payment of their father''s agreed fees for their care, and increasing exasperation at being unable to pursue outstanding fees.
Ken managed to find his older brother, and spent several years either living with or close to him, and his mother, but spent the whole of his adult life yearning to know what had happened to Ernest. He tried several times to find him, but without success, and was haunted by this.
Ken passed away in April 2007, and later that year, as I was researching my own family tree, I decided to try one more time to look for a record of Ernest. I discovered a record of his death in the late ''90s, and applied for his death certificate. Much to the whole family''s delight, tinged with a great deal of sadness for what should have been, I discovered that Ernest had married, and had three children. We have met my husband''s Aunt Dorothy, and his lost cousins, and have unravelled more of this story, finding uncanny parallels between Ken''s life and his younger brother Ernest''s. Ernest had been sent to Alverstoke for recuperation, and no-one had thought to keep Ken with him, keep them in touch with each other, or to re-unite them. He too, had had an unhappy time in the NCH home, suffering humiliation and ill-treatment, and having no family of his own. He tried to run away, making his life ultimately much worse.
Ironically, as young men, all three brothers were for a time in the same area of the country, on the south coast, as preparations were being made for D-Day, and there have been occasions since that time that their paths have almost crossed - like the time when Ken was on a TV show with a story about his art-work, and Dorothy alerted Ernest, wondering if this was his brother, but then dismissed it as being too good to be true. We have also learned that for a time I was actually living close to Ernest and his family, while my husband and I were courting. It is a testament to their strength of character that they both married good ladies, and raised families successfully, as well as being good, hard-working people, with a strong sense of fun. However, both were tormented - seriously tormented, by the agony of what had happened to them in their early lives, and the loss of each other as a result. It is this emotional agony that was the most unbearable for them, and it has had a serious knock-on effect on the people closest to them.
I dread to think what the outcome for these two boys would have been without the work of the NCH, but it is still hard to understand why an organisation built, supposedly, on Christian beliefs in the first place, can have condoned a culture of bullying and neglect for such a long period as it seems to have done. I do hope that these stories will never be lost, as they are the only hope that things will improve in the future.
Best regards, and thank you for the opportunity to write about this,
Frodsham - The Spinners
This postcard was autographed by Tony Davies,Cliff Hall and Hughie Jones when they attended a National Childrens Home...Newton Hall,Frodsham,Cheshire Summer Fete in 1975. Due to the late arrival of the guest personality (his car keys were locked in the boot of his car...I won''t name the personality who has since died),Cliff Hall most kindly opened the Fete on this occasion. Thank you Cliff!
Sister Jessie Thornton.
Sister Jessie Thornton.
Her room seemed overstuffed with knick knacks almost confusingly so. There were things related to us kids; Semi-precious items that we couldn''t be trusted with like our school photo''s, Silver Jubilee Photo albums and coins, that was part of the general clutter. Now I think about it it can''t have been a very personal space; accommodating as it did; however many years she had been there, plus our individual keepsakes, the inevitable holiday souvenirs from Kessingland, Jaywick and California Cliffs. suitcases and figurines.
It seemed as if she hadn''t meant to stop there but that one last day kept getting further away..
Sister Ivy Bell
I am writing about SISTER IVY EDNA BELL (PEACOCK) . Ivy was Matron Olive Bell''s sister, who worked at the Alverstoke Branch.
(See Sisters & Staff page for photos).
Are there any photos of the Newquay branch?
email of 311208
Lesley from Stelling Hall
I was really young not even school age when I and my three sisters where taken to Stelling Hall our two brothers followed a year later.
I use to go to crowthorn school i went in 1970 and i remember mr arthur sadler his number is 164 i remember him being my headmaster in 1973 when princess anne got married,me and some other girls went to his house to watch her getting married mr sadler and his wife were very good people,i was very upset when he retired i also remember rev gordon barritt he use to come to our chapel on sundays to do sunday service,can you please tell me why there is no picture of sister daphna,not so sure if her last name was warbank,or wallbank.she was so sweet,i was with her in howorth house from 1970 tell 1975 when i left school,she was my favoured,she died 22nd of january i think it was in 1992 cos i remember sister gladys and 1 of my teachers mr atherton coming to my house in wigan and going to her funeral then going back to crowthorn and had a service for her in our chapel,can you please send me a picture of crowthorn in the school yard 1973 cos i just might be on it i can''t see it with it only being a small picture,my name is julie kenyon and i am 47 now.
Killay House Memory
I remember the cleaning routines, dusting during the week, floor brush and wash, polish weekends, hair wash day.
Ramsey & Nottingham
Memories of the daughter of Russell Harman who was at Congleton, Frodsham, Ramsey, Newquay & Nottingham.
It was a really strange feeling with so little changed in 50 years. I knew the Branch had been closed some years ago and quite expected it to have been demolished and a block of flats put up in its place, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is now part of Ramsey Hospital.
Princess Alice Orphanage
My Mother Peggy Jolly was placed in the Princess Alice Orphanage along with her sister Violet and brother Edward(Ted)in 1927 after their mother dies in childbirth on a British Army camp in India. They never met their new brother Peter as he was adopted and died aged 18 just after D day. My Mother and Ted are still with us.
Watson House - Sutton Collfield
Hi I am trying to get hold of any photos of Watson house Sutton collfield. This is for my freind Paul Gardner he was there about 1969 for about 6+ years. If you could contact me either by email or over the phone my name is Andrew Long my home number is 01865 744 181 I wuld be really grateful if you could help.
Malmesbury House, St. Leonards-on-Sea
Hello to all on the NCH site.
I was at Stainsbridge House in Malmesbury, Wiltshire when the entire home was moved to Malmesbury House, St. Leonards-on-sea, Hastings.
Life in the NCH was not a very good experience for me. I hated the place! I was classified as 'maladjusted' and that was certainly true. I never liked or got on with the Governor and did my utmost to be as awkward as possible. He always tried to force me into cricket, football and other sports but I'd have none of it. I hate those sports to this day! I excelled at swimming which was not allowed at first, so I nipped off to the Avon river whenever I fancied a dip. He refused to let me join the Army Cadets in Malmesbury, even though I'd been in the Cardiff unit before I got to Stainsbridge house.
The only thing I can thank him for was when he enrolled me, without consulting me, in the Hastings Sea Cadet Corps. I took to it immediately and that started me on a career that spanned fifty years in the Merchant Navy. Through hard work and determination I became a Captain, specialising in Ocean Towing. I have over thirtyfive years of command experience and have been to most places in the world I wanted to visit, with the exception of New Zealand and Burma. I am now semi-retired and live China. I work occasionally as a Marine Consultant. Much of my free time is now spent teaching Chinese kids English.
Stainsbridge House had three families; Avonlea; Green Gables and Windy Willows.
Some of the staff I remember:
Mr. A. N. Craig, Governor.
Sister Edna Crother, Avonlea. (My family)
Sister Mary Butler, Green Gables.
Sister Joan (Woodward, I think) Windy Willows. (Whom I liked most of all the sisters.)
After the move to Hasting there were five family groups. I can't remember the names of the two new families!
I was expelled in 1955, perhaps the only kid with that dubious honour in the history of the NCH&O, as it was called in them days.
I also remember some of the kids who were there in my time. I recall two brothers whom I think had a similar name to Roberson! Both of these kids somehow became bald and had to wear wigs.
I can give a list of the kids I remember if required.
Stainsbridge house, which I've visited several times over the years, is now a retirement home.
I visited Malmesbury House once, maybe twenty years ago. The last I heard, through Friends Re-united, (I think) The home had been demolished!
While incarserated in the NCH I was known as Neville Ellis. (Due to my mother remarrying.)
I reverted to my real name when I joined the Merchant Navy.
Best regards to all.
Neville Morris. (MaoChiLong)
Life in Care
I grew up in care from the age of 11. I was place in foster homes where it was clear to me that they were only foster carers for the money, I was told often I was not loved by my family and that's why I was in care and that my dad died not loving me and that these were me new family whether I like it or not. So all I could do was run away, make "friends" with people older than me who got me in to drugs and drinking at the age of 14 my life was going no where that was until I was placed in the residential home I had been begging to go to since I was 12 as I saw how they treated my sister. They help me with my problems and help me stick at my studies to do my GSCEs and when I passed they took me out for a meal to celebrate. Every member of staff has a place in my heart, as they have always told me that they will never replace me family they are just looking after me for them. I could never ask for better people in the world to come into my life they did. I am stick of people make out children in care are "naughty" and if they are in residential they are bad.
NEWTON HALL - Frodsham
After reading your memories page about life in a childrens home. I so surprised to see a email from Phil Doherty asking if anyone could recall being in the home the same time as himself, ( brothers and sister).
KILLAY HOUSE - SWANSEA
I was browsing this afternoon looking for information on Don Strawbridge’s book on Swansea Bay when I was surprised to find the article on Killay House by Clive. I had been a pupil at Dunvant Junior School and remember having a really close friend from Killay House, in my class about 1946-1947, I had forgotten about those enjoyable months many years ago.
After I had 'failed' scholarship at Gors Rd School 30 or so children were bussed (by a Penclawdd Co) from Townhill Sq. to and from Dunvant School for a few years. At school I was very friendly with a girl living in Killay House, we were best buddies in class and I think her 'blond' sister was a year ahead, she was the senior prefect. I cannot recall their names just now.
The sentence about going to homes of friends caught my eye in particular because I remember very clearly how I wanted to invite my friend to my birthday party, my father had a car and would pick her up. She came back saying she would not be allowed to leave Killay House not even if I invited her sister as well.
My mother wrote to the person in charge but she was told it was not the policy to let the children go to outside homes to parties, as it would not be fair to those children who had not been invited. We were bitterly disappointed and I just went to the Odeon with my family instead of having a party.
Soon afterwards my family moved to Brynmill and I went to Brynmill School. Situations similar to this have cropped up in my life and I've always wondered if it had been the correct decision.
I was very pleased to see this policy relaxed later on and the children were able to visit outside homes. I think the Headmaster was Mr. Rees then, he lived a few houses from Peters the bakery.
I really enjoyed recalling Clive’s memories as my mother was a Dunvant girl and my Dr. was also Dr. Iorworth, I think I was one of his first babies he delivered 2 boys and me the 1 girl!!!!
Thanks Clive, for the memories, I'll have to think back and see if I can remember more of those happy days.
Anne Evans now living in San Diego, California
Highfield - Harpenden
Forest House, Horsham
Hi, my name was Teresa Layton and I was at Forest House, Horsham from 1977 or 78 until 1983 and I would be interested to hear from anyone who was at Forest House as well, I think Forest House has now been knocked down. I look forward to hearing from you.
I have obtained my fathers orphanage details from 1937 to 1942.
Thanks to the NCH for keeping his records, and Rev Seaton Sister Ena Boyes, Gurtrude Ager, and a person who's last name was Metcalfe and many more.
Would anyone know if there are any photos & articles on the above named orphanages anywhere else?
Harpenden up to 1956
I am writing about my stay at Highfield Harpenden until 1956.I obviously can’t remember my very early years, my earliest memory was riding a tricycle with a boot on it, also a boy with only one leg who was a nutter on an ordinary bike, rode around like a maniac. I can remember going down to the bottom of the fields with older boys and putting coins on the railway lines and watching as the trains ran them over leaving the imprint of the coins on the track.
I can remember a big tree we used to climb called Old China, we used to spend hours up that tree, also behind the main building there was a building which was in a fair state of ruin, and we would play tag around the tops of the walls, and then jump off onto bales of straw.
Behind the block where I lived, which was OGB UP (Old Girls and Boys House – Upstairs flat) was the railway cutting with a bridge over, I can remember watching as the big boys laid wood on the line which made the train stop, and the driver used to have to get out and clear away the debris.
The name of my House Sister was Sister Marjorie Young a lovely lady, we kept in touch after I left for a few years, but unfortunately I don’t know what happened to her.
The boy I grew up with was called Peter Haywood (Snotty) are you still out there?, we would meet each day and find out what each other had in there pockets stupid isn’t it, another boy I can remember was called Roland Parkhouse, and a John Turner and his sister who were coloured they lived upstairs with me in OGB UP.
We also spent a lot of time on the swings over on the girls side, also we spent a lot of time playing Tin Can Tommy which was a game where a person would stand by the lamppost, the others used to hide, the one by the lamppost would have to spot one of the people who were hiding and beat them back to the post before them, touch the post and the person who he spotted would then be on his side and help find the others.
I can remember the chap in charge was called Mr Edward Shutt because when I left I was presented with a Bible with the date of leaving and signed by him. I left in 1956.I can also remember making arrows which you could make fly the length of the football pitch when thrown with a piece of string wrapped round it. I have taught my kids and my grandkids how to do it since it still works.
I can still remember my last morning there we spent it throwing knives into the big tree in the middle of the Oval with my best mate Peter, I cried for weeks after.
I can remember going to the little school but I can’t remember the name, but I can remember my teachers name was Mrs Hoare or Hore, and then I can remember going to Roundwood School which was brilliant for games.
When I left school, I trained as a Cable Jointer with the Electricity Board where I have spent many happy years, I got Married and have been married for 40 years,3 children, and have 5 grand children, so starting life in a Children’s Home can’t be that bad can it?
I Left in 1956 - Alan Francis.
The Harpenden Governor Ted Shutt
A memory of one of the boys. We were on a walking holiday in the Lake District once and a group of about ten boys and Ted Shutt were nearing the top of Helvellyn. One day Ted, who was in front, gave forth with a loud reprise from the seat of his walking shorts.
Everybody heard it and you can imagine ten boys used to very strict discipline shuddering to a halt, struck dumb, not daring an utterance and only the sound of boys trying to stifle a giggle, to he heard. Knowing full well what was going on behind his back, Ted took his time to turn round to what we thought would be a fierce glare of defiance, and said simply: Where're you be, let the wind blow free! We all fell off the mountain laughing!
My name is Ossie Glover, although most would remember me as ‘Azu’. I was in Flat 9 from 1968 to 1970. My younger brother Terole stayed longer until 1975.
Mr and Mrs Turner (Pops) were our Houseparents and how kind they were. I think ‘Pops’ died of a heart attack some time in the early eighties, and I understand that Mrs Turner (Jessie- I think her name was - a proud Scots women) still lives in Harpenden? They were really good to me, and I firmly believe that their moral standards helped me develop into the person I am today so many thanks to you.
I also remember Sister Louise, as she looked after my two sisters Beverley and Helena in Flat 18 I think. On recollection, all the staff were kind although Mr Burns was a bit ‘gruff’ and heavy handed sometimes. Overall, what a wonderful place it was for growing up as a teenager.
Memories of the 1940's
My days in care were bad in the 1940s it was like being in the army. We used to get up at six in the morning make the beds then scrub the floors clean about fourty shoes, have strip wash then go and get inspeted.
Killay House - Swansea NCH
MEMORIES OF KILLAY, DUNVANT AND KILLAY HOUSE SWANSEA
Frodsham - Newton Hall
I was in Newton Hall Frodsham from around 1976 to 1980. I had some brothers Dave, Gary, Vincent, Shaun and Mike and a sister Carol who were also there. I have lots of great memories and I still regard Newton Hall as home. I was in a number of houses/ flats, first I lived in a house next to the family who were in charge (cant think of their names) it was over the road from the main buildings. I then moved in to flat 5 for about 2-3 years. My brother Gary and sister Carol lived with sister Ruth across from Mr Pollard, near the tennis courts. I moved in with my brothers Shaun and Vinny who lived with Mrs Mills at flat 4. My younger brother Mike was in the nursery when we arrived eventually he moved in to flat 4 also. I loved Christmas at Newton Hall, I was in the choir for some time I also joined the handbells. I loved foot-ball on the 5-a-side pitch and I also enjoyed the go-carts. I spent a lot of time playing with the other kids and remember the Sundays were we used to play cricket in the circle. Happy Days. I would be interested in hearing from people who were there around this time. All the best Phil Doherty
Life in OLD BRAMHOPE in Wartime By Actiondesksheffield I lived from 1934 to 1948 in Old Bramhope, at the top of Pool Bank, at what is now the Hilton Grange estate developed by Redrow from the buildings I knew as a child. In those days, the buildings were the National Children’s Home, where my father was the Governor of the Home and the Headmaster of the new school that had been built on the site in 1933-34. I lived in “The Homestead”, which still stands, beautifully renovated and enhanced, at the entrance from Old Lane to the site. The Home housed 150 boys and 100 girls, aged from toddlers up to sixteen years, in four girls’ houses and six for boys. It was to an extent self-supporting, as there was a farm, gardens, greenhouses and a bakery; the farm had a dairy herd, chickens and extensive piggeries, and some land was also given to arable produce, the threshing being subcontracted to a unit that travelled the area in season, with a steam traction engine pulling a thresher/baler from site to site. Three magnificent Shire horses powered ploughing until the end of the war, when the farm acquired a Fordson Major tractor. The gardens supplied fresh vegetables in season. The bakery produced fresh bread and simple cakes each day, and we had our own artesian well and pump to supply fresh water. Groceries were bought in bulk and stored in the administration block, from whence they were issued to the houses on requisition. The “Block” also contained a sewing room, where clothes that were outgrown rather than worn out were repaired, cleaned and re-cycled to smaller children, and at the back was a fully equipped cobbler’s shop for the repair or renovation of shoes. There was an excellent carpenter’s shop, and a resident decorator/handyman, to deal with essential repairs. All these facilities existed to provide essential services, but also to train the older boys and girls for life when they left the Home at sixteen. The Home had its own small, modem hospital, built in 1934, with a qualified nurse in charge, with separate wards for boys and girls and a south-facing veranda onto which beds could be pushed, through sliding windows, for the patients to enjoy any fine weather. Above the hospital at the northern end of the site, the School served the resident children, and children from nearby farms and the small village at Old Pool Bank, up to the age of fourteen; in the evening the school was the centre of social life for the community, housing Scouts, Guides, Cubs, Brownies, dance classes, amateur dramatics and film shows. Most of the members of the staff were resident on or around the site; each house had a Sister in charge, usually with a trainee assistant, and the gardener, cowman, carpenter and baker all occupied nearby houses, mostly at the top of Pool Bank at Hiitcrest. The farmer, Mr J Thompson, lived in the farmhouse on Old Lane that has recently been the last building on the site to be refurbished for sale. The teaching staff and my father’s secretary came in to work, the latter on a bicycle from Menston, over the top of the Chevin in all weathers, including snow! (They built them tough in those days!) This was the way in which the Home operated in normal times, but its isolation up on the moors, and the self-sufficiency arising from the provision of training of the older children for work in later life, meant that life continued after the outbreak of war with much less disruption than in the general community. We were accustomed to a fairly simple life style already, and while we missed ice cream and bananas, many of us were too young to really remember them anyway - though I think everyone can remember their first banana when the war was over, I certainly can! The children were not all “orphans”, some were from broken families, and many were there because their parents could not afford to keep them. Many regarded Old Bramhope as their “real home”, but in the long summer holiday may of them had the opportunity to meet up with their families for a holiday break, which also gave some of the staff a chance to go away. It is in the middle of such a break that my narrative of World War 2 commences, with the staff and children scattered over the country on their holidays.... WARTIME The outbreak of war in 1939 caused a flurry of activity, as the majority of the children were on holiday and had to be returned post-haste. We were on holiday in Morecambe, and I recall a slow and hazardous journey home in Dad’s Rover 12, on sidelights in the dark. As we came through Clapham village, my father took a wrong turning and drove through the old ford rather than over the bridge; I remember kneeling up in the back and looking out at the water splashing up the side of the car in the dark. There were about 60 incendiary bombs, ten high explosive bombs, not all of which went off, and two very unusual bombs that were high explosive and filled with oil for greater effect which fortunately failed to detonate and were taken away by bomb-disposal experts for examination. The incendiaries fell in a wide grouping to the east of the main cargo, and came within a few hundred yards of the Home, so we had quite a near escape. At the end of the war a party of children was brought over from Germany, with the aim of giving them security, decent accommodation, and relief from a situation that for some of them had been traumatic, and twenty of them were sent to Bramhope. Although some of them were very disruptive at first, they eventually integrated after a rather tricky start; Jack Prince acted as the interpreter, (and checked the letters home, some of which contained some quite startling stories of things that never happened) but the real integration fell to the Sisters and the common sense of the other children. 1 remember in particular Giinter Matem, who had a beautiful singing voice, and was much in demand for solos in church; Helga Ludtke, daughter of a dentist from Dresden, who won a scholarship to the local grammar school and gained a degree in English on her return to Germany; and Deitlind von Amim, whose father was a General, who lived in a Schloss, and who complained when she arrived that she could not eat from ordinary plates with cutlery that was not made of silver! Walter Maschke was the son of a farmer, so of course went on the farm. He looked after Emie the sheep, and when the time drew near for him to return home to Germany his family sent him a suit of German farmer's clothes, so he had his photograph taken in his finery with his sheep. (I'm not quite sure where Emie came from; the farm was not usually running sheep in the fields, as it was a dairy farm). Basil Taylor remembered the names of most of the party, many years later, and sent me a list: - Johan Gauser, Gustav Klein, Peter, Siegfried and Walter Maschke, Gerhard, Hans and Peter Dzimbrowski, Amo Hessler, Siegfried Hunte, Gunter Matem, Paul Routenberg, Emst Gauger, Helga Ludtke, Karen Lange, Deitlind von Amim, Helga Lindenhoff, Alice Ihoss, and Heidi Ascherott. Eventually they all went back to Germany. Only Helga has kept in touch; she won a scholarship to Prince Henry's, and on her return home she became a teacher. She tells me that she has tried to find her fellow "refugees", but so far without success. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/user/16/u1275616.shtml
Bramhope and Harpenden
I was born in Hammersmith, London on 30 June 1935, and the first few years of my life were spent there - up to, and a short time into, the war. Indeed, I still remember the blitz on London, the barrage balloons, searchlights, sirens, and air-raid shelters. After a number of weeks, I was evacuated out of London (along with others) to a village near Bicester, in Oxfordshire, where I remained until I was about seven years old. Then I was taken into care by the National Children's Home & Orphanage (as they were then known), staying in their care - at their Bramhope branch, north of Leeds - until I was sixteen, the last five years of which were spent at Grammar School. At the age of sixteen, I left Bramhope to move to the Harpenden branch of the NCH&O, where they had a Printing Technical School, and I embarked upon a five-year apprenticeship in printing. During my fifth year - with National Service looming - I wrote to the War Office, requesting that I be considered for the Household Cavalry. When I was demobbed, I returned to Harpenden, and Valerie soon followed me up, into lodgings, and we were married a year later on 3 October 1959 - our only daughter, Dawn, was born 14 July 1960, during a brief spell back in Holywell Bay, helping out the family. We later returned to Harpenden to live. Peter Ashman
Harpenden - The Sister that looked after me
Sister Ethel had the firmest, safest hand hold I have ever felt. She called herself 'Tombstone Tessie' because of her very pronounced /shaped teeth. She gave us a safe place in a dangerous world. We were not well regarded by many people, making us feel like an ethnic minority, marked by our Home uniforms. Grey in Winter Khaki in summer. Horrible striped tie to let people know who we were. I remember being bullied into admitting to stealing a cigarette lighter by the head of Roundwood Park School. What a 9 year old wanted with a lighter, I have yet to find out. I do think that we in Ferens House were proud to belong to it and Sister Ethel. My negative thoughts and experiences at the home were only of bullying by other children, a lack of explanation for our condition and my ever absent Dad. It didn't do a lot for confidence. We were special to Sister Ethel. Laurie
The Worlds Largest Jig-Saw
The photo was taken at Harpenden to show the worlds largest Jig-Saw of 1000 pieces with the aim of 1000 organisations each raising a £1000 to complete the Jig saw and raise £1 million for NCH. It was a most novel fund raising idea and brings back happy memories. Was this achievement included in the Guinness Book of World Records?
I'm in a Jig-Saw
I'm in the middle at the top, and my sister is on the left at the bottom. The NCH logo was cut out of hardboard, painted, and wired onto the climbing frame in the playground there. It's the one that was next to the playground clockwise around the oval. You can see in the picture foreground the fence between the oval road and the playground. It's the girls woods in the background. Last time I saw it was in Trafalgar square when it was being assembled. I had an opportunity to lay a piece, but they wanted to interview me on stage, and I backed out! It was something of a big deal at the time with lots of celebrities lending their support and laying squares. Each square had been sponsored by someone or some organisation. There were small collecting leaflets that had smaller versions of the puzzle on it with stickers representing the pieces, The idea was that every £1 raised would add a piece to your own smaller version of the puzzle. It was all rather clever. If I recall correctly, there was some talk of a national tour of the puzzle. But, I don't know whether that was before or after the main Trafalgar square event. My Children have seen the picture on your site. They think daddy looks very funny!, there aren't many pictures of me as a child, so it always amuses them. They really have no idea what it was like living in the grinding poverty that I was used to. They now live in a nice big farmhouse in the county with a swimming pool. My view of Highfield is nothing but positive, they were the best years of my life. As I always say, it was much better to be brought up by experienced professionals than well-meaning amateurs. Mike
The cake of life at Newton Hall
Having read a few horror stories on different sites about life in care. I thought I would add a few comments here.
I was taken into care aged 3, with my younger brother aged 1, the year was around 1960, the first memories I had was fear of the unknown, I remember us being in the offices of Newton Hall and a kind lady (maybe Mrs Tilley?) brought out a little toy with feet that walked down the office desk on its own accord, I stopped crying and wanted to play with this unknown toy.
My brother and I were allocated to Sister Mavis at 4 fairways, it felt so strange being tucked up in bed and having a story read then a little lullaby sung before drifting off to sleep, Being only three, I cannot remember all the things that happened in my early years. What I do remember seem to be the bad things that stick with you.
We used to have a blue van come round the "circle" delivering bread/cakes etc, on many occasions I was told to go and collect the bread, one particular day was my birthday, Sister Mavis informed me that we wouldn’t be needing any bread today. I was told to go and inform blue van man. Instead I ordered the finest cake on his van and a couple of loaves so as not to cause any suspicion,
Summer Holidays at Newton Hall
Summer camps were undertaken in the 1960’s (possibly earlier but before my time) in the days when there were around 175 children resident at Newton Hall. The tradition was that most childcare staff would take their two week private holiday during August and the families would go to summer camp in places like Southport, Rhyl and Prestatyn. The ‘camps’ were held in Methodist Church Halls and in charge of each camp were admin staff such as my parents or in some cases, married couple houseparents. The rest of the ‘staff’ at the camp were student teachers who were gaining practical experience during their course at university. My parents ran one of the two camps in Southport for five or six consecutive years. Over 40 children aged between 7 and 11 would ’camp’ with Mum and Dad. They would be split into groups of around 5 or 6 with a student teacher. They would sleep on mattresses on the floor of Sunday School classrooms in the church hall and all meals would be taken together in the main hall. Mum was in charge of all cooking with one or two students helping on a rota basis. Dad ran the camp and arranged all the activities and held the responsibility for all the children there. The Frodsham haulage company Helsby and Longden delivered the mattresses, equipment, food, etc the day before camp started. Les Longden, one of the founders, was a Newton Hall ‘old boy’. Crosville double-decker buses took the children and teaching students to camp. Southport Council allowed all the children and staff free entry into the open-air swimming pool on the showing of a badge with a picture of a clipper ship (I still have mine). Some activities would be done on an individual group basis and the student in charge would decide what they would do. Other activities were done en masse and arranged by Dad. These included Saturday morning at the cinema, Sunday afternoon at the Botanic Gardens or Hesketh Park, Sunday morning in Church, a coach trip to Blackpool (including fish and chips and the fair), picnics on Ainsdale beach and lots more. Dad arranged concessions with lots of managers/owners to make the holiday great and not too expensive to comply with his very tight budget. However, some activities were not planned. I remember one year when two children came to camp who had only been admitted to Newton Hall the day before (what an experience for them). There had not been time for them to have the usual medical checks before departure and the result was over 40 children at camp with head lice! Dad went around the chemist shops in Southport, buying up shampoo, lotions, special combs, etc to deal with it. This caused a local shortage! We had a conveyor belt type system going in the Church Hall with one staff member checking hair, the next shampooing, next applying lotion, next combing through. Children moved along through the system. Another year, shop-lifting was a problem. A group of young girls had been taken into Woolworths by their student leader. Later on items of make-up were found on a couple of them and a search resulted in quite a lot of make-up. Dad phoned the manager and said he would go and pay for the items but the manager kindly said that he would just write it off so long as the children were made to understand the error of their ways. Dad asked if he would co-operate in a ‘lesson’ for the girls where he would bring them to the shop to meet him and hand back what they had stolen (to be binned of course). The man agreed and this meeting took place and it seemed to have more effect on the girls than any other punishment may have had. Dad was also the type not to get annoyed but to let them know that he was hurt and felt ‘let down’ by them. He played this card on me sometimes (although not for shoplifting I hasten to add). Mum and Dad were very worried one year about a girl who was quite a ringleader and a renowned absconder. She did actually encourage two other girls (all three aged about 11) to run away with her after dark. She was not from the north of England and had, in the past, boarded trains to get home. However, on this occasion the Police picked the three of them up at the roadside enroute to Liverpool where one of the other two girls came from. Dad had to go off to the Police Station at around midnight to get them. This meant extra security had to be introduced. On a lighter note, one of the student teachers first came to camp during his studies but enjoyed it so much that he kept coming year after year, once he was a teacher. He went into training in his late twenties as a ‘mature student’ and his name was Richard Shaw. He was a lovely man with a dry sense of humour but he was quite strict when it was necessary. Dad always used to give him a group of boys who could be ‘difficult’ on occasions, as he could keep them under control. Each year he would have a plan brewing with the boys which would come to fruition on the last day of camp. In Southport there is a very ‘posh’ hotel in the main shopping area of Lord Street, called The Scarisbrick. It has a uniformed doorman and red carpet on the steps and the boys were always impressed. Mr Shaw used to say that if they could show him that they had good manners and knew how to behave well during the camp, he would take them there for afternoon tea on the last day. This would be an ongoing saga throughout camp and sometimes he would have boys with him who had been to camp before and knew all about it. Some of the boys had never been in anywhere like the Scarisbrick before but every year he got them to the stage where they did actually go for afternoon tea. The boys would all wear their Sunday outfits (taken to camp for church attendance) and Mr Shaw would wear a suit. They would sit in the hotel lounge and be waited on by smart waiters/waitresses. They had pots of tea and sandwiches and cakes. Mr Shaw never informed the hotel either before or after the visit that the boys with him were ‘in care’ and no-one would have guessed because he said the behaviour was always impeccable. The last story is quite a tear-jerker and I wonder if any of your group could be one of those boys. Alison Tilley
More on Summer Holidays
Summer camps came to an end in the 1970’s (to Mum and Dad’s relief although they did enjoy the Southport camp). It was decided that it was more ‘normal’ for families to go on holiday together with their own houseparents/sisters. They still stayed in Methodist Church Halls but in small family units. Sister Ruth and Miss Mills used to go to Prestatyn in North Wales so Gary will have been photographed there. Mum, Dad and I went to visit once when they were on holiday, mainly to see Jean. She also used to come on holiday with us so she was very lucky to have two holidays each year.
The Cot Book at Frodsham
I wonder what happened to ‘The Cot Book’. This was kept in a glass case in the library and entries were made in it when large donations were made by individuals (wills etc). Originally the money had been used to pay for a child’s ‘board and lodge’ hence the name ‘cot book’. From the 1960’s to his death in the 1980’s, my Uncle Arnold, who was an artist and calligrapher, did the inscriptions in the book. The lettering was beautiful and in colours with gold leaf. I hope that it has been kept by NCH.
Stelling Hall. - Newcastle Branch
I would just like to write a few words about my recollection of being in care. I know you hear of varying stories of different people some nice, some not so nice and some quite horrific, however mines a story of happiness and fun well most of the time. My journey started when I was 9 months old, and my brother was 3. Our parents split and our dad had a severe mental illness, our mother disappeared, so we were made wards of court and shipped about from foster home to care home for about 2/3 years. As we were sat in a assessment centre, we were told we were being moved to somewhere called NCH Stelling Hall. Well we thought here we go again and how long for this time? When we arrived it was quite a lot to take in, what a beautiful place set in the middle of the country side, a huge country house, massive grounds, 50 kids from all backgrounds, and three of the most wonder full people you are ever likely to meet, Sister Carol Webster, Miss Carol King / now Edwards and last but not least, Miss Sue Waddle, 3 angels and I mean that with all sincerity. Over the next fourteen years between them they shaped my life, for the better and I will always be indebted to all three, as they made growing up without real blood parents around a real pleasure. In fact I class all three as adoptive mum, because they were always there for me no matter what, and I would just like to give Mr Tom Falkingham a mention and his dear departed wife Mrs e who were at the helm a nicer couple would be hard to find full of kindness, love and wisdom, and of course - Tom a demon spin bowler never could bat against his googly. Anyway I would just like to put for the record that being in care isn't all bad, clothed, fed, holidays, educated, and loved I have cousins that didn't have half of that, Stelling Hall ,nr Newton, Stocksfield, Northumberland. What a place to have been, better than home I would of said so !! Thanks for your time, all the best. Ian Rudd.
I arrived at NCH in Harpenden in 1959 as a 1 year old and left in 1969. I was looked after by Sister Violet Smith. My real mother sent for me in 1969 and decided to go to Canada where I have lived ever since. You have done a wonderful thing to create this website because it allows people who were part of the NCH system to have a sense of what it was all about. Reading through the stories made me realize that everyone's experience was different. I only have fond memories of NCH because Sister Violet treated me like one of her own. It would be great to get in contact with the children that were resident at the home during this time. The only flatmate I remember is Graham Scott who was a few year older than me. I remember attending Batford Junior School, the Boys and Girls Woods, the Oval, attending Cubs, waking up on Christmas day to a sack full of presents at the end of my bed, Sister Jill, and many other things. I don't think that I have repressed any bad memories. It it would be helpful if I had my records so I could see how I was assessed. I have been happily married for 12 yrs with two boys. Mark Monro(Burns former name)
Christmas at Newton Hall - Frodsham Branch
Preparation for Christmas at Newton Hall would start in mid November. My Dad and other members of staff would visit Methodist Churches in NW England to lead what were referred to as ‘Toy Services’. They would talk to the congregation about the work of NCH and the young members of the Sunday Schools would each bring a new or good condition toy to the service and hand them over to Dad or whoever. The mini bus would then be driven back to Newton Hall laden with gifts. Either Haworth Hall or the Recreation Hall (the Rec) would be used as the toy store which would be ‘out of bounds’ with the curtains closed. The children were not told what was going on inside, during this five or six week period. On each Monday, gifts would be unwrapped and sorted into age groups (junk being thrown out). Houseparents would then be able to go to select gifts for their children during the week, whilst the children were all at school. Other sources of gifts were schools and office/factory staff and some companies would give surplus stocks of appropriate goods they produced. Chocolate, sweets, fruit, nuts, etc would be collected separately. During the day of Christmas Eve, Dad and I plus one or two others would share out all of these items in the Library. There would be a box for each flat and it would be loaded with goodies. These would be delivered around the flats late on Christmas Eve, after bedtime. Local large employers such as Shell Oil and British Gas, who held Christmas parties for the children of their staff, would invite a few children from Newton Hall to join them. I remember that teenagers were not very keen to go on these jaunts because they felt they stood out from the other children. The fact that there was usually a gift for each child often didn’t tempt them. These parties were held on Saturdays in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Younger children were happier to participate. The annual Carol Service held in the branch Chapel was a very popular event. It was always an evening service on a week night. It became so popular that it turned into a fund raising event and was split into services on two nights. Half the staff and children would attend one service and the other half would attend the next service. All the spare seats were then available for people from local churches on a ‘ticket only’ basis. My Mum issued the tickets to order and they were like “hot cakes”. The outsiders attending would donate generously into the collection plate. On Christmas Eve at 6pm I (in my late teens and early twenties) would go high into the chapel tower to play disc jockey. I played Christmas records (jolly stuff, not religious music) over the public address system to the whole branch (loudly)! At 7 pm Father Christmas on his sleigh would be pulled onto the circle by a tractor (I would usually play Santa Claus is Coming to Town at this point). Santa was Henry Moss from Five Crosses Church who looked the part even without the false beard and outfit! Four other members of that Church would follow the tractor and trailer on foot. They wore Santa outfits but had no beards. After processing around the circle twice (accompanied by my music) they would split up and one would visit each flat to see the children and ask what they wanted, when they set off on their proper deliveries later on after bedtime. They would give each child a small gift as a taster of what was to come later. On Christmas Day the children (like all other children) would be up early to open their gifts. A service would be held in the Chapel at 11.00 and then everyone would go back to their flats for Christmas Dinner with their family. No staff members would be off duty or on leave on Christmas Day and children would rarely be absent for Christmas morning or Christmas dinner with the family. Going to visit friends/family for tea later on would be acceptable but ideally this would be kept for Boxing Day. HAPPY DAYS!! Alison
There are a number of memories from my stay at Alresford. I will find some papers from my file about some of the things we managed to get up to at Alresford. The cane was still used in Alresford in 1965, they would have us line outside the office. Only a few times did I end up outside the office, but I did end-up having a great many COLD BATHS! Once I was chased down a hallway by 3-4 of the Sisters because we had been pillow fighting in the dormatory, they tried to catch me, but I manage to get away as far as I could, and went to lock myself in a toilet, just as I went to lock it, one of the Sisters pulled hard on the door (her foot against the wall for leverage), the door was flung open and I screamed, my little finger on my left hand was cut to the bone and the Sisters, just as quick stopped saying the were going to give me a beating, and took me to the matron who stitched it back up. Rod.
Childrens Society Home
I used to get caned for bedwetting when I was in a home in London. All the bedwetters had to queue up at breakfast time in front of the other children and receive strokes of the cane on our bare bottoms, there was so much humiliation as well as the pain. B.
Thank you for listing the homes in the Midlands and Nottingham where I spent most of my childhood. Now back with my parents, they never believed me when I told them about the punishments we got in the homes. I was in local authority care between the ages of seven and thirteen. Our family is now my mother, stepfather, two younger sisters and me. When my mother had her youngest daughter, things went wrong. My father walked out on us and my mother had a nervous breakdown. All three of us were put in homes. After a three years my mother managed to take my two sisters back, but it was thought best that I stay in a home, as my mother was not capable of looking after the three of us in one go. My mother was never told that I would be punished at the home, and when she did come to visit me, there was always one of the staff present, so I could not tell her about how I was caned, even if there had not been any staff, I knew they would soon know, my mother would have complained and I would be in more trouble. If you were under ten it was normally two hits with the cane, above ten and it was normally four. We could be given six, but we had to really be bad for that. At the age of seven, I was caned for arguing with the staff, wetting my bed and refusing to eat. Most of the evening meals were chips, other kids loved them, I hated them, they always seemed to be cooked in stale fat. On the days we were having chips for our meal, we knew an hour before from the smell that came from the kitchen. If the head of the staff gave you the cane, you had to wait in the corridor by his office for when he had time. Most of the canings were after tea. When I wet the bed, I got caned before breakfast, so on going in for my breakfast, I was always in tears. What you say about allowing the staff to see you in tears after a punishment is right, they want to make you cry. If after your punishment you defy them and don’t cry, when you get it the next time it will be done harder. The caning did not really hurt that much, but I was easily in tears. Sitting down at breakfast if I was ever with anyone else who was not in tears from a caning, I was always called a cry-baby, but I think I came out of it with a lighter punishment. At the age of thirteen my mother remarried and I was able to return to my new home, things did not go all that well, but I was never put back in care. Mike S.. 30.09.05
I lived at Harpenden for 10 years. Before that I was at Ebley for 18 months. At five, I was too old to remain at Ebley, of which I have very few memories, and along with my younger brother and sister, we were moved to Harpenden. I do not have happy memories of the first few years there. Our house sister, Sister Cora and I didn't gel. She'd had polio as a child and had quite a pronounced limp. One day, her day off, she'd gone to London, fell and broke her hip. This turned out to be very fortunate for me. Sister Jill was returned to us. She'd been with us while training and had just qualified. I guess they felt we would be better off with someone we knew. My records show that I became much happier under her care. We also had the good fortune to have had Sister Louise care for us whilst she was training. My brother, sister and I were kept together, and on the whole, I think we had a good childhood. Certainly I think we faired a whole lot better than if we'd remained in the care of our father or been sent to some other child care organisation. I do believe tho' that my father was shown a great deal of prejudice at the hands of those people running the home, and my brother and sister did not fair so well emotionally. By and large, those people responsible for seeing that our transition into adulthood and life after the home, had our best intentions at heart. Dennis Piper was one who particularly stand out, along with Mr. Miller. I did not trust or like Mr. Roycroft but his wife was very nice. His wife especially tried, rather unsuccessfully to cook. I'm sure Mr. Roycroft himself was a fairly decent bloke. Most of us rebelled against those in authority. There were others who abused their position, both inside the NCH system and out. In the last few years I've managed to make contact with some old friends from Harpenden and Sister Jill. I also had access to my own file which, although scanty in its information of my latter years in the NCH, did allow me some insight into my early history, of which I knew very little. I now live very happily, in Australia, with my husband (2nd) and two of my children. I am also a Grandmother to one. I can be contacted thought Friends Reunited. Ima Lorimer. (nee Akpan).
Ryalls Court - NCH Approved School for Girls
Ryalls Court continued to be run as an approved school until the 1970s after which it became a Home for boys and girls. It closed either in the late 80s or early 90s. I have been in touch with the lady who now lives in what is left of the building. She has shown me all the paperwork she has regarding the history of Ryalls Court. It was a privately owned house set in eleven acres of land and during the first world war it was used as a hospital. I have seen photographs of nurses and patients sitting outside the building. It was sold on and converted to a boarding school for young ladies. In fact when I was at Ryalls Court all of the chairs in the chapel had a brass plate bearing the name of each girl. During the 1950s it was not a nice place to be. Just before I left I noticed that things were beginning to change. Up until then life was hard. We lived under very strict rules and were never allowed either privacy or freedom of speech. We lost our identities we became nobody's. When we went back into what the headmistress called the outside world we were totally unequipped for it and that made life hard. I hope other girls who were at Ryalls Court in the 50s will make contact. I am now 63 years of age but I still remember my time there as if it was yesterday. Regards Aideen
Highfield memories of a 1940's girl
When I arrived at Harpenden in 1940 the governor was Mr Saul-Brown and wife. He had a car, registration DNK 740. When he retired (not sure when) he was replaced by Mr Edward Shutt with his wife and two sons, Matin and Jeffrey.Mr Shutt's car registration was ETD 874. I Had to memorise these plates as I was always (trying) to run away. When I was 8 to 10 I never got further than Ambrose Lane! When I was 13 upwards, I used to get the 321 bus to Arnos Grove underground station, then get the tube to Wembley Park and visit (but not MEET the people who adopted me when I was 3) the house that I could remember leaving in 1940. Oh, went down the Sisters photos on the site and found Sister Florence Ford and Sister Ena Woodhurst (and plenty in the Harpenden list) am not sure I knew Sister Pearl. Lots of other names on the male side I remember. Especially the groundsmen, although I couldn't remember his name, I knew his face! Anita
Happy School Days
This memory was sent in by an ex NCH boy who attended a school in Yorkshire, before comming to Harpenden where his grandparents lived. Although it appeared the school had been quite strict, he found he missed out on one piece of fun. The NCH and Harpenden schools were however equally entertaining. There has been the request made to see my files, this will hopefully reveal all the wrong things I did whilst in the Home. On leaving the Home I joined the army and spent several more years of taking orders. Now retired I can look back at a reasonably fun childhhood. Theirhistory has brought back a few forgotton items, one of which is similar in fun to Philip's life. In time I will put it all down on paper. The item I found about my old junior school on the net. In general the teachers were not monsters of cruelty, caning was at that time an accepted and expected punishment for us wrongdoers. There were instances of teachers in many schools who were quite sadistic when it came to administering corporal punishment. I had a look at the school punishment book. The people named as receiving the cane were not particularly little villains, they were just unfortunately caught in the act. I read this list and chuckled as I knew one or two of the individuals on the list, and also remembered the occasions when I received the cane, back then it was all part of growing up. I remember on one occasion the whole of my class of 36 pupils was caned for pouring milk into a teachers wellington boots. I don't blame the teacher for caning us that day. Peter Carter
My New Way Of Life
I came into Highfield at the age of nine, I think it was at the end of 1962 as I remember the Christmas parties, an event I had not gone to before coming into the Home. In our family I had two older brothers, when I entered the Home, my mother had decided that as they were almost old enough to go out to work, they soon would be able to make their own arrangements over accommodation. The reason for the need to go into care was due to my father been given a prison sentence of six years for a fight he was involved in. It appeared he was not the original cause of the fight, but during an argument in a pub, a serious fight started and he became involved. My mother had to move whilst my father was away, it was thought best that I was put into care. Although I thought I had been well looked after, money had always been in short supply. On arrival at the Home, I was so surprised at how much food and all the clothes we were given, I had thought that going into an Orphanage or Home, we would have had worse conditions that I was used to. Each morning, I was now given a breakfast and allowed time to eat it. Living with my family the breakfast had been a rushed affair of a slice of bread and margarine and a cup of tea. The main meal then had been the school lunch, on returning home it was more bread and margarine and possibly some jam if there was some, that was about the range of our diet. Now in the Home with this breakfast, there was the school lunch and on return to the Home a full tea with cake on most days, this had been a treat on the odd Sunday until now, even after tea there was still an additional meal of supper. I found it very difficult not to hide food away to eat later. I was so use to hiding food, if it was not instantly claimed. There were a few telling offs from Sister, but they were not severe and I think she realised that I might have found my new home a little different. Clothing was the other main difference I found. I had never gone bare footed or with ragged clothes, but until now the clothing I had was in a very limited range. For school I had a uniform that my mother had been given from an older girl that had grown out of, I must have only had one, as it was always washed on Saturday, Ironed on Sunday and ready for me to wear on the Monday. I think I must have had a couple of blouses, and sets of underwear as there was always something clean for me to put on. I had one pair of school shoes which I seemed to wear both outdoors and indoors and a pair of rubber boots and a raincoat for if it was raining. Now entering the Home, there seemed so many clothes, until now everything I owned would have fitted into one large draw. I was given school clothes, play clothes, and even more clothes if we went out of the grounds or to chapel. If I was told off by the Sister, it was for forgetting to change out of my shoes when coming indoors, not having had a pair of slippers before, it took a little time for me to remember that I now owned such nice things. At school I received similar reprimands, this time it was for not changing out of my rubber boots. Until now if it had been wet, my mother had send me to school in my rubber boots, to save any chance of my shoes getting wet. Like a few other children at my school, rubber boots were worn all day. Now at my new school it appeared we were meant to change into our shoes. Within a short while I seemed to get used to my new surroundings, although I missed my brothers the other children soon made up for such a loss and I did get visits from my mother. I left the Home when I was thirteen and soon we all were back as a family. Things were a little better, but it soon appeared that meals were not as filling at the Home and although I left the Home with a good selection of clothes, when I out grew them and they could not be enlarged any further, only the most basic items were ever replaced. I did like my time in the Home, but it did not replace my real family. Rosemary.
Living at Barnados
If we ever did wrong in the Dr Barnados Home, I think that the punishments doled out were heinous crimes in themselves and totally cruel. A Few instances of this can be proven by my own experience:- 1. I was made to sit in the dark on the stairs for about 6 hours, this was a Georgian mansion and a very big house and very creepy 2, I was thrown from one side of the room to the other by the superintendant, because I did not answer him when he yelled 'you, come here', and called a thundering child. 3. I was made to watch the same bully of a superintendant cane my brother. 4. I was made to sleep in a cot because I talked after lights out, this was designed to intimidate me, I was 11 or 12 at the time I think. 5. I was force fed. 6. Once that I can remember, I was given porridge for two days, at each meal, the same dishful, because I did not eat it. 7. I wet my bed, all the other children were told about it and I had my nose rubbed in it. 8, When I was at another DBH, one of the girls had been sexually abused by her father and she was made to feel dirty by what the staff said to her. 9. I was forced to see my mother when I did not want to. 10. I was sent to coventry by the staff in charge of me, 11. I was sent to bed regulary on Christmas Day and Easter Day. 12. I was slippered by the male superintendant. 13. I was led into thinking that it ws my own fault that I was in care and it was something that I had done, like as a punishment. These are just a few things that I can remember. A couple of year's ago I wrote to DBH and said that I wanted to make a formal complaint about the staff and DBH they would not proceed as no one at the home had sexually abused me. I was informed however by Kent Police that a number of the other kids had made accusations against the superintendant who is now dead, but in the opinion of Barnardos it was 'how it was then' I would genuinely say that none of the punishments dealt to me were designed to help me be better behaved, or help me understand my behaviour, and certainly no effort was ever made to find out why I was so disturbed. I find DBH, arrogant and I am not in the least bit interested in their 'new approach', because as far as I am concerned they have not made their amends yet to the ones they have harmed. Also, one day we were called in to the large front hall, and asked 'put your hands up those of you who would like to go and live in Australia', I put my hand up but my father would not allow it! Love survivin banana girl.
Aunts & Uncles
Newton Hall, Frodsham Branch. To enable children, especially the younger ones like myself (Derek), Newton Hall had a scheme whereby people were able to apply to be a special person "aunt and uncle" for the children. This was done to enable the Newton Hall children to experience family life outside the Home in a regular setting. I am not sure where NCH advertised for these aunts, but some worked in the home itself, such as Mrs Jones, or were local people such as Carl's aunty Mary Greaves. Aunts did come from a far though, as my sister had an aunt and uncle, Aunty Farrimond, and Aunty Lillian and Uncle Ralph. Tracey also speaks of an Uncle Bob and Aunty Eunice whom she would visit in Grange over Sands. It does seem to me that the youngest were given this opportunity. Of course, as you grew older, I think you would keep the aunt. I think that NCH may have advertised through the Methodist Church too, or some may have been voluntary workers. (Derek) The system of ‘aunts and uncles’ were running in the fifties and sixties. I think it probably started in conjunction with ‘Sunny Smiles’ which were tiny books of about 20 portrait photographs of children in care of the NCH. Methodist Sunday School children (including myself in Runcorn) were given a book at a certain time each year and they had to sell each tear-out picture to friends and family on a voluntary donation basis, there was always competition to see who raised the most money for NCH. Some Methodist families or quite often childless couples were encouraged to befriend a child and have them at their house for tea or a day trip. After several such visits, if the child and the ‘aunt and uncle’ were happy, an overnight stay would be arranged. In some cases this progressed to longer stays or holiday trips. Occasionally the arrangement became more permanent and the child would be fostered or even adopted. At the church I attended in Runcorn from birth to 13 when we moved to Newton Hall, A couple had become the ‘aunt and uncle’ to a toddler from Newton Hall who was one year older than me. They adopted him but I was not aware of all this until I was in my late teens, as I only knew him as their son with his Mum and Dad. At this time a cousin of my Mum and her husband who attended the church, befriended an older boy and he visited and stayed for weekends over several years but then it seemed to fizzle out but I never knew why. When we moved to Newton Hall in 1961 the scheme was still popular but it eventually disappeared, probably because of the stringent tests that crept in following child abuse publicity (not regarding this scheme) that started to appear in the newspapers. (Alison daughter of Mr and Mrs Tilley of Mountville House). Highfield, Harpenden Branch. Visits from relatives, for some of us in the care of the NCH were possible if there was regular contact with either parents or close relatives. At Highfield I (Philip) was one of the lucky ones, if all was well with family matters, I could expect a visit from my mother every three weeks, one of the other boys in the flat I was in, would go home for the weekend once a month. The other five children in the flat were not as lucky, although some had some relatives; there were few or no visits. These children could not really be called orphans, but in reality their lives were simply that. Over the years they had simply become use to that life. I never found that they were jealous of the pair of us that had regular contact with relatives; the pair of us on occasions did bring a few items into the Home for them, if they had no method of obtaining them under the watchful gaze of Sister. It appeared that they were quite happy with their lives and unlike myself did not behave like a caged animal. Other flats may have done more to help those children that would receive few visits and have a system that aimed to get children into a more normal style of family life. (Philip). Has anyone still got any of the 'Sunny Smiles' photos?
Life at Harpenden in the 1950's
Together with my brothers Bobby and Garry and my sisters Pat and Judith we arrived at Harpenden from Leicester. I was about six or seven years old and remember the train journey down, my first time on a train and it was so exciting to say the least. It must have been summer because the first meal on arriving was a salad. We were placed in flats 1 and 2 in Wakefield House. I was in flat number 2 downstairs with my brother Garry with Sister Maureen McKelvey. The rest of my family were upstairs in Flat 1 with Sister Pearl. My brother Bobby kept in constant touch with Sister Pearl for the remainder of her life, Sister Pearl was like a mother to Bobby, as he was like a son. I remember settling down very easily, I got to like Harpenden in a short period of time and the freedom that came with it is never forgotten. Prior to Harpenden, myself, brothers and sisters were in a council run home Countersthorpe in Leicester and the regime there was totally different to Harpenden, but I won’t dwell on that. I made many friends during my stay, as did my brothers and sisters, there was so much to do there, I have now forgotten most of their names but some come to mind now that I am writing this, Trevor Hutchings was one, Granville Poulton , Michael and Jeanette Ings. I dare say more will come to me soon. I got to like Sister Maureen over the years, don’t get me wrong, I was a typical boy who got into all sorts of mischief with the other kids, but I was always put right by Sister Maureen. I remember one late night about one o’clock Sister Maureen woke me up and said there was a big spider on her bedside wall, so in I went, but this spider wasn’t stupid, as I went to apprehend it, it dropped to the floor between the wall and bed never to be seen again, I later on learned that Sister Maureen didn’t get a wink of sleep that night. All of the kids had a super holiday every year, usually at the seaside or in the Lake District, Ambleside was my favourite place, and yet another train journey - what a life I was having. The Junior school that a lot of us attended was called Batford Junior, it was a fair walk (crossing the River Lea there and back) especially up Pickford Hill to the school, and later to Senior school at Manland Secondary. My school reports were nothing to write home about though! The Head Teacher at that time was a Mr Bloxham and he had a large hooked nose, his nick-name became ‘The Beak’, but he was a good head teacher. My happiest memory has to be of Sister Gwen, she worked in the admin office block next to the Chapel, Sister Gwen was also the Organist and Choir Mistress and it was here that I got a great love for the pipe organ, it was every Sunday after Church service and dinner that I would vacate to the chapel where Sister Gwen would be practising, I was the only child that she would let in and I would sit on the organ stool beside her. I remember being in awe over this strange and powerful instrument, two manuals and thirty two pedals; Sister Gwen even took me inside the organ loft and showed me all those pipes, me not knowing at that time that I would, one day, be tuning, repairing and building new pipe organs all over the country. Wow! I remember visiting the Royal Albert Hall with Sister Gwen to hear a performance of Handle’s Messiah, even Sister Gwen was in awe at hearing that enormous organ, it even overpowered the Orchestra and Choir during the Hallelujah Chorus. It wasn’t long before I started piano lessons with Sister Gwen, on a grand piano in the office block, I suppose now I was about twelve years old and thoroughly enjoying my life at Harpenden. We had an upright piano in Wakefield House so when it was time for 20 minutes practise, and that was every day, it didn’t go down too well with the other kids, but I stuck by it, and after three years the very first piece that I played all the way through without music was Handle’s Largo. I joined the Choir, but I had an ulterior motive, I really wanted to be near the organ. After evening choir practise I would stay behind when all the other kids had left to clear up the music sheets, Sister Gwen would then play something just for me, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue was always my favourite, she played that piece with so much ease it was inspiring to say the least; the most treasured memory of her organ playing was Alexandre Guilmont’s Finale. I did, prior to leaving the home gain a Choir medal made of silver which has since been lost over the years, I think it was presented to me in 1958, it had a picture of a harp on one side with the date. The children that were due to leave the Home to start work out in the big wide world would all get a visit from the employment officer, for want of a better word, I had already made my mind up as to what I wanted to do and that was of course, pipe organ building. He did everything to put me off! ‘Of course’, he said ‘you have to be good at maths to do that sort of work.’ What was my worst subject at school, maths, of course, but I stuck to my guns and the Home got me an apprenticeship with the largest organ builders in the country, J W Walker at Ruislip Manor, Middlesex. For ten years I did organ building with Walkers and loved every minute of it, even today my love for the pipe organ has never faltered, I play now and again and it’s all down to Sister Gwen who I admired so much, God Bless her. I remember The Leaving Service at the Chapel, we were all kitted out in brand new clothes, mine was a suit, my first ever long-trousers, whatever next. My name was called out and as I walked down the centre aisle to the front, a comment was heard from one of the other lads, ‘That suit is ten sizes too big’, he said, I must admit, it felt like it. I did hope that Sister Maureen was proud of me, what a memorable day that was. The Governor during my time at Harpenden was a Mr Shutt, I don’t remember much about him but some time after my leaving the home I got word that he had passed away, suffering a heart attack whilst playing tennis with a colleague, sadly missed by all. Another memory as a child and living in Wakefield House was that we were just 100 yards from the famous ‘Nicky Line’, standing on that small bridge waiting for the train to engulf we kids in smoke that had a smell all of its own, it was almost one might say, addictive, there was always a friendly wave from the driver who got to know us all. Long gone are the days of steam trains, but not the memories. There was a super playing field alongside the woods where we had so much fun, playing Cowboys and Indians, climbing trees etc. If you walked down to the Cemetery you were then adjacent to the main railway line from St.Pancras, here, we would sit on the wooden fence and watch the express trains fly past, the smell of that smoke again. As for the medical attention we all received, it was second to none, medical doctors would call at Harpenden on a regular basis to monitor the growth of children, Dr Tanner and Dr Whitehouse from Great Ormond Street Hospital attended the Home. We would stand on a revolving disc and be rotated whilst photographs were taken of our height and posture and weight. At other times there was dental work. Now I cannot forget the Bernard Barron Hall adjacent to the Chapel, this was used for all sorts of activities, Sunday School in the afternoon, stage plays, gymnastics etc. and it had a beautiful grand piano which I remember playing for Sunday School, just once. Christmas.. What a time that was for all of us, Christmas Eve arrived, we all got to bed early, two in a bed, then we all waited for Father Christmas to arrive on his sleigh, he stopped at each block of flats and handed out a present to every girl and boy, come the morning, probably around five or six in the morning we awoke to find a pillow case at the foot of our beds full of toys…including a bar of soap! At the centre of the Highfield Oval of course had to be the three enormous elm trees in the middle, they made super wickets for cricket, it was very sad to hear later on that one contracted Dutch Elm decease and was destroyed. The Oval was, I believe nearly a quarter of a mile around so it was ideal for running on a sports day, only the fittest made it! The five blocks of houses were our flats, access to the upper one was originally via the lower one, but during my time at the Oval an outside staircase was built for direct access to each upper flat, an extra room was made downstairs when the inner staircase was removed. Sister Maureen was a super cook; my favourite from her was the peanut butter biscuits and flapjacks, yummy. I often used to raid the pantry. Over the past years I have always tried to keep in touch with Sister Maureen McKelvey but often lost her address and phone number on moving house, though always managed to get back via BT Directory Enquires, since moving to Essex two years ago I have lost it yet again, on ringing BT this time I find that she is ex directory and have now written to Highbury office in the hope they can forward my address and phone number to her. Geoff
My Life In Care at the Frodsham Branch by Derek
My 'in-care' history started when I was about 3 months. I hadn't realised how young I was when I was first removed from the family home until I retrieved my files from National Children's Homes northern headquarters in Warrington around the mid-1990s. The longest continuous time that I was in-care was from 1965, the year of my birth, till 1971 wheb I left the care of the NCH. After that, I was a resident in the local council's Beechmount Children's Home in Altrincham, Greater Manchester on two occasions - one for quite a long stretch and on another occasion a shorter stretch. I have also been placed in other institutions during emergency placings throughout my childhood. In the 'in between periods' I had the displeasure of being back in my family home, or more pleasurably, with foster aunts and uncles, of whom I still have contact to this day. Joining me in my 'incare' years were my siblings - Gary, Julie, Tracey, Jillian of whom I am the youngest. Julie and Gary have recollections of arriving at Newton Hall as they were 4 and 5 years old respectively. I have managed to gain some insight from my foster aunt, Mrs Jones who happened to be the cook in the nursery where I was to stay for three years before moving onto a family run flat headed by Sister Ruth. When I think back, I just remember being at Newton hall, I didn't have recollections of family life back home as I was so young when I arrived. I guess in that way it may have been easy - I don't know! Later on of course, I was older and remember only too well my arrival at Beechmount - not nice at all! NCH Netwon Hall It was a cold dark morning. Ominous clouds swept across the sky hinted with thunder. The huge, dark-coloured car chased down the quiet Cheshire country lanes. Its interior held five siblings held tight to each other..... oops!!!! That's not how it goes! After all, I was barely 8 months old, how would I know? I guess my recollection of my siblings and I arrival is shrouded in mystery. What I offer here are events as offered to me by other people such as carer, Mrs Jones. The gates slowly opened. A New Jerusalem lay out before us. The Kingdom of Heaven beckoned. There was quite a stir when the five siblings arrived all at once. It was quite a large number to arrive at the same minute from the same family. I now know that it was under a court under that we arrived at Newton Hall. Mrs Jones said that we looked a sorry site. All huddled together griping tightly. Julie, my sister aged 4, and Gary, my brother aged 5, kept a firm grip of me not wanting to be parted. It seems to Mrs Jones that we, well not myself as I was too young, were bewildered by the place and people who now surrounded us. How could imagine my siblings were wondering where had our parents gone? Why would they leave us so? Had we been moved from our family home while the court case took place? Were we removed from the house after the court case had taken place? I am not sure, but will find out. I would imagine that the day we were taken from the family home chaos ensued - tears, blood and snot!!
Mrs Jones said that we were processed and sent on to our flats. I too the nursery and maybe Jillian, my sister aged 18 months too. Gary went to Sister Ruth's where Jillian and I would follow later. Tracey and Julie went to Sister Margaret’s. According to Jillian's file, she arrived with bruising around her eye and was unkempt. I will need another look at my file to determine my condition. So, life at Newton Hall had commenced. I barely recall the nursery. Once again we rely on Mrs Jones, the nursery cook and my saviour for details. Apparently, babies were dying around me of various diseases, common then so I believe, as parents hadn't vaccinated their children. I was no exception; therefore I was vaccinated almost immediately. Early on in my arrival, Mrs Jones returned to her home from the nursery to tell her husband that the cutest and most angelic baby had arrived in the nursery. Very kind of her indeed! Of course true!! Of course she was interested in being a Newton Hall 'aunt'. She and Mr Jones were granted this wish. Weekends were now to be spent with her family, she had two sons, Ron and Barry. According to Mrs Jones, when I first visited her house, I was completely mesmerised with the kitchen wallpaper, which bore printed fruit. I believed the fruit to be real and, consequently, tried to take it off to eat. This amuses Mrs Jones to this day, and it is still a story that she retells. Here is the beginning of a loving and strong relationship that lasts till this day. I had found someone who would watch out for me at Newton Hall - and she did!! As time passed, Mrs Jones' sons married. Barry to a Liverpool lass, Barbara. This ensured that I was now part of trips to Liverpool with the courting couple. Ron married Sandra Barlow, another person instrumental to my well being. Her photograph can be seen on the 'My siblings and I' album on this site. Now I was spoilt rotten, and quite rightly so too. Eventually, I moved onto Sister Ruth's. I don't recall the transition. I do recall being in a large bedroom with other boys, my brother, Gary, being one of them. I recall the wind outside the flat howling loudly, and me clambering into his bed for safety. I believe this to be the beginning of my stay with Sister Ruth. I don't think Sister Ruth and I got on. I was always in trouble. However, when I received my files in later years, I understood why. I recall Sister Ruth being quite stern. One of her jobs was to ring the hand bells as a signal for the end of play outside. Woe betide anyone that was late. I recall the brisk walk to the chapel, which was next door. It seemed far in those days. One time, I saw an older lady vomiting on the chapel steps. She was probably a Sister. I was unable to stop myself from continuously staring at her. Sister Ruth quickly reprimanded me, but it didn't stop me from staring. I enjoyed the chapel and all that it entailed. The song - "Jesus Wants Me as a Sunbeam" Great, I used to think. Now as well as the Jones', Jesus wanted me too. What more could a child ask for? During my stay at Newton Hall, I don't recall my parents visiting. That issue will be dealt with in another part of my experience. I recall the tuck shop and my weekly run to it, and the huge central circle for playing. The park next door with its death defying rides, such as the witch’s hat roundabout and the clangers, which scared me! Tracey and Julie visited me on a daily basis. To me, they lived on the other side of the world. The reality was that they lived next door but one!! Sister Ruth's flat was at the top of the circle with steps reaching to the front door - a mountain to my little legs! I have been back since and there's barely ten steps. Oh! the imagination of a child. I was enrolled into the on site nursery school, near the chapel behind Fairhurst I believe. I enjoyed it there. it was fun. Every now and again a huge Alsatian dog would come charging out of a nearby wood sending us screaming into the nursery buildings. In the nursery I made friends with a girl, Carol Head, my best friend. Where are you Carol Head? Hope life treated you well! .....
Meanwhile, parties were roaring at the Jones' house, and often too! Jelly and ice-cream were endless. She has hoards of photographs which I will try to get this summer. It wasn't just me at the parties, no, Mrs Jones invited 15 Newton Hallers at a time. The whole nursery would be there! Brave woman!! The difference between Sister Ruth's house and Mrs Jones was immense. Sister Ruth's house being governed by NCH policies and regulations. No clothes bought by "aunts' to be worn. I wasn't accepting that nonsense, not even at that age! I told Sister Ruth my thoughts. She told me hers too with a stiff tongue. I recall her pulling me by my hair down the long corridor. I was quite vocal even then and would say what I thought. Still do!! Mrs Jones wouldn't stand for it either. Mrs Jones retells a tale of when I was supposed to be going out with her for the day. I clearly remember it!! Unfortunately, I had dirtied my underwear. Yes, that's right, a 'number 2', on hearing, or smelling as the case maybe, Sister Ruth ordered me into the laundry to scrub my own underwear by hand! Suddenly, ding - dong! My saviour had arrived yet again. On finding me stood on a chair washing my own underwear, Mrs Jones shot over to Mr Walker's, the superintendents house. Of course the issue was resolved in my favour. Mrs Jones saves the day again. I can recall another incident. It was prior to Sunday lunch. I had been playing outside and was told not to be late under any circumstances. I don't know how, but an older girl had got me away from the main group of children I had been playing with. She took me to deep undergrowth and showed me her privates, and demanded I did the same. She was quite aggressive. I didn't want to, but she did. There was no stopping her. She whipped of my shorts, had a look, then proceeded to throw me into a patch of stinging nettles. Nasty!! She ran off and I became lost. A search party came looking for me. I recall a bunch of adults' faces peering down at me. Sister Ruth demanded to know what had happened. I voluntarily told her the story. The girl was found and punished. I don't recall her name to this day. Miss Mills was Sister Ruth's house assistant. She was wonderful. Where Sister Ruth lacked affection, Miss Mills totally made up for it. I loved her and she loved me. As I write this, I am in search of her. As of last night, I have finally made contact. I am so happy. Sister Margaret was another kind Sister. She was in charge of Julie and Tracey's house. She was lovely, extremely motherly, the right skills for the job, but shy I thought. Sadly she has passed away. Sister Ruth, I believe, still works for the NCH. I had a reunion with her in the 1990s. This will be retold in a later addition of my experiences. The year now is 1971. My time was drawing to an end at Newton Hall. I was now 5. I had been for five years. However, I would return for visits as my siblings had stayed on. I would also be back in Frodsham for long periods to stay at Mrs Jones' and Sandra's houses. I don't recall the day I left. But I do recall the place of my next arrival. The Kingdom of Heaven's Gates slowly closed behind me. In front lay the fires of Hell. There was only one direction to travel. Forward. Into the fires of Hell. There was no choice! The end of my NCH care
St Christopher's/Park Lane/ Oakland's Court/Other People's Houses. The dates that I was in the above locations are blurry as it occurred often. I think mostly it was during my high school years. Often we would have to leave the house with Mum in the dead of night escaping through people’s back gardens as best we could. Mum would have us knock on our friend's houses from school, which at that age, I found humiliating. Many times we would just wander the streets. Once we stayed in a park all night and it was frosty. We waited till day light as we felt safer then to move about. We would often sleep on people's floors and couches, until we moved into St Christopher's or Park Lane. These were hostels for homeless people. We were in others too, but I can't recall their names. These places were extremely spartan and strict. Lights out early, shared cooking facilities etc. I didn't like them, but it was safer than home and Mum was with us too. We stayed in Park Lane for over six months which was long. They always smelt of disinfectant. Not nice at all! Sadly Mum would always return back to the family home and the whole cycle would repeat itself again and again. Once, Social Services placed us in an old people's home, Oakland's Court. We were put in one room which was meant to sleep just two residents, so you can imagine how tight that was for 6 of us. The most embarrassing thing about this was that Mum had previously worked there and knew the staff. The staff didn't like her. Once they brought a piece of corn beef to our room, but she dropped it off the tray. The lady just picked it off the floor and gave it to us anyway!! How awful! During the years from Newton Hall and the above, I would also stay at Mr and Mrs Jones and Sandra’s for long stays, of course, this was heaven. I even went to school there sometimes.
Local Authority Care Beechmount Home at Altrincham, Greater Manchester. Altrincham is my home town. Beechmount was one of those huge, rambling, sandy brick coloured Victorian houses that can be seen in most large cities of the Victorian age. I think it was a home for ‘naughty' boys and girls’. I believe that I first arrived with my siblings around 1974-75. I was at primary school then and recall which class I was in. Mum had come to school and was with me in the Headmaster's office telling her tale of woe. She was skilful in this. I recall this as I was sat on her knee and enjoying it. Apparently she was telling him of the strife at home and how we, the children, had to go away. I know the Social worker would come to my class and take me by car everyday back to Beechmount. I don't recall how long we stayed, but I know it was strict and that we were treated like everyone else. You had to ask permission even to breathe. Not sure how long we all stayed at this period, but it was a longish time. A few years later, maybe one or two, we would return to Beechmount in the dead of night, emergency placing. I recall arriving and we were registered as it were, and ushered into the kitchen and given a glass of hot orange juice. I said, “I like hot orange” to a member of staff, Mr Carlton, who replied, “DRINK IT”, in a tone which warned me not to open my mouth again. I think children are quick on the uptake on what's going on, don't you? I know I was. This time our stay would be very long. It was very strict indeed. I attended the school in the Home itself. I don't know why I didn't go to my regular high school even though it was closer than the primary school was. My sisters and brother attended their regular school. The staff were quite cold. I recall getting up to leave the T.V. lounge to go to the toilet and said to a member of staff, I am going to the toilet. She replied sternly, “Are you asking or telling me?” I really didn't know what she meant by that. I thought and guessed the answer she may have wanted to hear, which was ask. She said, “good, you can go!” It worried me a little, I didn't know why the staff were being tough as we hadn't done anything wrong. I recall during mealtimes that my brother, Gary, had had enough of the strictness and he kind of lost it. He threw his chair back and escaped out the building. I was very worried indeed. He went missing for three days; no one kept us informed about what was happening. During this stay we went on many activities. Once we went to North Wales to a very bare cabin in Snowdonia. I think we stayed there for two weeks. At night, the manager of the Home, and Mr Carlton organised commando expeditions. It was like the army. We had to make our way through a very deep and dark forest. I think it was Capel Curig or something. It was at night in the dark so you can imagine how frightening that was for us kids. We had to crawl on our stomachs through the forest and I recall it being quite dangerous. I remember my sister screaming that she wouldn't do it. It was frightening and these two men seemed to get pleasure from it. Once back, due to shortage of rooms, two of my sisters, Jillian and Julie, were transferred to a nearby small family run home in Old Trafford. According to them it was great and they could go out and do 'regular' things’. During the early time at Beechmount, mum didn't come to see us, but towards the end she did. I told her I didn't want to come home anymore. But she kept coming and bribed me too. Eventually I did! I wished I hadn't as there was no furniture in the house as my dad had sold it all, even the carpets, although he was still living there. It wasn't nice. Jillian didn't come home; she refused to and stayed at the Old Trafford place longer. I was proud of her and wished I had had that strength too. She did eventually come home, but paid a very high price in doing so!! I think what is apparent in all of the above is the absence of Social Services. Knowing our family history from Newton Hall, I would have expected some support. Mum had a social worker, but I don't recall that this woman ever asked us anything, but if she had, would we have said anything!! I doubt it. It wasn't unusual for us, our life, as it was continuous, therefore, NORMAL, in our eyes.
Life After Newton Hall - My Family Life I returned to the family home in South Manchester from Newton Hall in 1971. I don't recall the day that I packed my cases and headed for the family home. In my memory it just seems that I appeared there. However, I would imagine that I was driven by staff, as my siblings were to be a year later. The family home was to be a first floor, one bedroomed flat in a beautiful Victorian red brick terrace in a leafy area of South Manchester. My bed was a camp bed at the bottom of my parents double bed. The first memory of this new life, or what I believe to be my first memory, is one of violence. Today the image is clear in my mind as if it was now. Having been in care since I was around three months old, violence was a new concept for my eyes and I wasn't keen, particularly as it was directed at Mother, then later on myself. The image I have is of myself stood at the top of the stairs looking down towards the front gate. My father had my mother, his arms clasped tightly around her neck and bending it over the gate towards street level. He was punching her! I believe I was shocked but don't recollect any feelings I had. Was this the time when I became a silent screamer, as they term it? Another Memory I recall also quite vividly the day my father kicked open the lounge door. I had at this time been walking towards it, or was standing nearby it with a drinking glass held in my hand. The glass broke and I recall being covered in blood. Fighting both verabl and physically ensued between both parents. Once again, due to my early age I am unable to offer feelings on the matter of that time, but can only imagine that I was filled with fear. Another Memory I recall walking quickly down the street. I have vivid recollections on constantly looking behind me. Obviously I was afraid someone was after us. In the event of looking behind myself constantly, I mangaed to bang my head on a lampost by walking straight into it. Later on as years flew by, my mum informed that that was Christmas time and my father had threw the Xmas tree across the lounge and totally destroyed it along with the lounge too. We, in fact, were running from him, hence my constant turning around. Fear enters my life again. Life after Care This was an odd time for me. The main reason that life after care took place on numerous occassions. I left care and returned to my family home and back again on quite a few occassions. The first occasion was when I was around 5 or 6. I may have been glad to return to my mum, but the violence that ensued proved to be a shock I would imagine, never having endured violence before as I had been in care practically from birth. I have no feelings of this time that I can recollect on account of being so young. I do recall wanting to be back with the Jones, my then semi adoptive parents as such. On other occassions when I left care to be back in the family home, I always wished we could have gone back to the home or a home other than the family home. This feeling persisited throughout my childhood. My confidence slowly but surely ebbed away, eroded over time!! Once I had left my family home for good at the age of 17, I couldn't have been happier, although the circumstances surrounding my departure were dire to say the least. My new flat was a two floor massionette with two bedrooms. Huge I thought, however, the area in which it was situated was less than desirable - a slum we might call it, which has since been pulled down although its construction took place in the late 60s. Here life was tough and I was even tougher on myself. Although existing on unemployment benefit, I managed to make it last the whole two weeks. Nightmares were the norm for me, which never let up until I finally sought professional help in the 1990s. Lonely, sad and dejected at times but soldiered on in my new abode. This would be the first of many flats I was to acquire. Later on would see me moving flats at an amazing rate. Searching for a safe place some may offer. Derek
Mr and Mrs Jones are two lovely people who were like parents to me. Mrs Jones worked in the nursery of Newton Hall upon my arrival in February 1966. Mrs Jones fell in love with me, told her husband and so a wonderful relationship began.
Mr and Mrs Jones took on a NCH 'aunt and uncle' role. I would stay with them frequently throughout my childhood. Sadly, Mr Jones passed away last year. Mrs Jones is still living and I will be visting her this summer, 2005!! Two amazing people who showed me the 'right' path. God bless Mr and Mrs Jones. Derek
Unusual Happenings at Highfield
This is an item from an ex Highfield resident 1972-1985 I was aware of many of the unusual stories surrounding the NCH. There has been no way of verifying any of them, but many people that live within this area had also heard of most of them, and often talk about The NCH Cemetery and The Nicky Line. Visit to Highfield Cemetery at Night in 2004. Report by Manny The Cemetery is located deep in the grounds of Highfield, set way out of the way from any pathway or road; it could quite easily be missed if you have not been told of its location. It has some amazing headstones, in very well kept grounds. Many people have complained of loud screams at night, and during daytime have had the feeling of being followed or watched. We arrived at approximately 8 o'clock its was a warm dry evening, with the sun just setting it gave us enough time to walk the distance, and get the feel of it, and work out exactly where everything was prior to nightfall, due to its location there would be zero lighting of any kind once night had set in. On arrival my first impression was how peaceful it was.
My only concern to start with was the way the graves were laid out, in one area the childrens graves were for those that seemed to have passed away during 1912-1917 and were aged from six months to 19 years, and consisted of some twenty grave stones. This area I did not feel at all comfortable in and did not feel welcome at all. Tracy and myself found a nice quiet bench set in the corner of the cemetery to take in the atmosphere. Within five minutes we got a very strong feeling that again we were not welcome, so moved to a location nearer the entrance. One night vision camera was set up and was placed so it covered our position and another was handheld. Once darkness had set in we started our investigation. The feeling of this place seemed very strange, one minute we were on edge, the next very calm and there was a very strong feeling of another presence that watched and followed us, as had been reported by other visitors. Even though all cameras and camcorders were fully charged we were amazed how quickly they drained, my other worry was both digital cameras seemed to have a mind of there own, not switching on, and switching themselves off, and when trying to take a picture, they failed to do so no matter how many attempts were made. With the camcorders we have major problems with focusing, this seemed more so in one area, and this was apparent with both cameras and lighting made no difference. I would have to say on all locations I have been on this was one of the scariest places I have visited. Most of the video captured was out of focus, and had no evidence of anything paranormal, we did managed to capture several pictures on our digital cameras. All cameras and camcorders worked perfectly once we had left this location. Report by Tracy We arrived about eight o’clock, I was a bit shocked as to the way Highfield looked, there was the look of old school type buildings, we drove around for a bit to get a feel of the place. We walked through what I can only explain as woods, it looked and felt eerie but I put I t down to the way I was feeling as it looked very peaceful, but I got the feeling that we was being watched, we eventually got to the cemetery, I was shocked how it looked very picturesque, it looked very peaceful. When we entered the gates it was a strange uncomfortable feeling, I felt very jumpy and uneasy, there was a bench in the corner of the cemetery, so I decided to sit there for a while and take in the atmosphere. But again I really didn’t feel comfortable, I kept getting the corner of the eye syndrome (so I thought), but the next time I saw something, my partner felt something hit him on the head, we sort of ignored it but then it happened again, and we got the feeling that we shouldn’t be sitting on the bench, so we decided to move to the other end of the cemetery. When we sat there the atmosphere didn’t seem to change but I got the feeling that there was something behind me and that again we was being watched. After about ten minutes the atmosphere seemed to have lifted and I felt a bit more at ease, so I decided to get up and have a look around, I was amazed by the grave stones as I’ve never seen head stones like it, they was truly outstanding, I started to take some photos but then the camera started to play up, and then I started to get the strong feeling again, and got very jumpy so I went and sat down, while my partner took some video footage but he kept complaining that the video kept going out of focus. We decide to set a camera up and just leave it there, and we tried talking for a while, but then my partner got the feeling that there was something behind us and that we was being watched. It got to the point that I don’t think either of us could take the feeling anymore and we decided to pack up the equipment, it was pitch black and we thought we had been there to long, it was like we outstayed our welcome. We got to the gates and just as we went to open it to go out, I got the feeling that I had to turn around as it felt like if there was anything or anybody there ,it was like they was seeing us out. Once out the gate again it was like it was making sure that we were defiantly going. Once back at the car, I said to my partner it was eleven o’clock, which we was both shocked as it only felt that we was only there for one hour or so not four hours so were did the time go? It does sound really bizarre but we really don’t know what we done in that time. The above is an edited version, the full report, photographs and infomation on The Nicky Line and Akrill House - Sisters Retirement Home can be found at.
Three Wasted Years In Care
I was in Westholme House Danesford from 1976 to 1979, I hated every bloody minute of it and learned the sum total of nothing. I was the only boy to go to an outside school which made my life shite what a complete and utter waste of my time being brought up by people who had nothing in their heads. I escaped by stealing cars and being sent to Foston Hall detention centre after appearing at Sandbach magistrates and was given 6 weeks and 3 days of more mind numbing short sharp shock treatment which didn’t work. Then to Bersham Hall assessment centre in Wrexham and on to Bryn Estyn. I received an unruly certificate that got me into Risley and then Strangeways for borstal allocation, then Everthorpe borstal in Hull which was another waste of time and taught me nothing. My cycle of offending ended in 1989 and I have not bothered stealing since, only for one reason the company was terrible. I still do as little as possible and still laugh out loud at the quota of the staff that I had to put up with from those three wasted years of my life. So to sum up NCH to me stood for NO CARE HERE. Philip Rigby p.s. if any one knows where John Fanning is buried can they e-mail me email@example.com John was a mate from those days I only found out he had gone when I saw his name on a statement list given to me by police from Operation Bugle.
Note ‘Operation Bugle’ was an investigation by the police over the many separate allegations that were made by former residents of Danesford and other Homes. It was noted by the police that. ‘Allegations of sexual offences are notoriously difficult to prove. This is partly because the offences are likely to have taken place in private, partly because, in the context of child victims, it is often many years before complaints reach the authorities’.
At the age of ten I should have grown out of thumb sucking, until the age of nine. I had not regarded it as a babyish act. Sister had told me off when ever she saw my thumb in my mouth, but once I complied with her request nothing further was really mentioned. Once I reached ten, Sister decided that this act must stop. To try and prevent my trying to place my thumb into my mouth for pleasure, the nail was coated with a slightly sticky bitter substance, even when out of the view of Sister when it was wiped off, the nail it still had a very nasty and bitter taste. If I became in trouble it was getting caught going to the sink shortly after Sister had applied the stuff, to thoroughly wash my hands, as I was going to be out of her view for the next hour or so I did not think she would see the thumb in my mouth. Sister then thought that I must have been cheating on her, although in reality this was to have been the first time I was going to cheat on her. It was shortly after tea, I had been looking forward to an hour or so of television. I now found out that it was babies that sucked their thumbs, if I wanted to act like one, I would be treated like one. My bedtime was now going to be earlier than my normal age group. Although it was never wise to challenge Sister, I thought I should at put up a minor protest. I was ordered to my bedroom, Sister followed I thought to simply supervise me at getting undressed and ready for bed. The punishment had now gone up one notch, my slipper was taken from me and two quite hard hits were aimed at my rear, now I was expecting to be told to get ready for bed, but the order was now to return to the dayroom. If sister was fair, as I did not want to be treated as a young child I would get my wish. For the next few months I tried to keep my thumb out of my mouth, but it always rested there when my mind was on other things. Sister did not immediately punish me when she spotted me, but I knew full well that the slipper was coming my way shortly. If until the punishment was given I managed not to offend her again, it was only two hits, if I failed four hits were soon trying to persuade me to stop. At reaching eleven I had been cured, it might have been to some a harsh and dramatic way of getting me to stop, but it worked, if the punishment had started at an earlier age I might have stopped even sooner. Tom O.G.B.
Embarrassment at Highfield
Until I found the Theirhistory site, I thought I was the only one at Highfield that the Sisters caused embarrassment to. Going to church on a Sunday had been the occasional event when I had lived with my father, we had never been devout churchgoers, but by the age of seven I knew what the services were like and their duration. I arrived at Highfield a week before my eight birthday. Compulsory chapel was the norm of Highfield. I was quite happy at getting ready in my best clothes, but had little idea what the difference between chapel and church was. With the general commotion of a group of young children all trying to do the same thing at the same time odd bottlenecks in the flat could occur. The Sister in charge was more intent in getting a bow in my hair than allowing me to visit the lavatory when it became free for a short while. Eventually we all seemed to be presentable enough for our short walk to the chapel, it was as we were leaving the flat that I realised that the one instruction that I had of remembering to visit the lavatory had been forgotten with all the excitement of my first visit to chapel. It was not that I was in need of going it had simply an instruction I had failed to follow. During the long service, although it seemed more interesting than the church services I had attended with my father, here the service was aimed at children and long readings from the bible did not seem to take place. I realised that I needed to go for a pee, Sister was at the very end of the row, so it was impossible to ask for permission to leave, if I had been allowed to leave I had little idea on where the nearest lavatory was. Sister had locked our flat up as we left so I knew that I could not return there. Quietly asking one of the girls sitting next to me if it was alright to leave the chapel and where I could find a lavatory, I received the information that we were never allowed to leave in the middle of a service. We were talking quietly enough not to cause a nuisance, but not enough to prevent Sister from signalling the pair of us into silence. I asked the girl what I should do as I was now desperate, the only suggestion that I received was that I should try and hold on as long as I could, if that was impossible to do it when we were standing up singing. Not since early infant school had such an event happened, the nudges went all along our row until Sister found out about the event. If this was chapel, then the look of damnation was the only way of describing Sister’s reaction. It was only when we had actually left the chapel which seemed an endless time later, that Sister vented her full fury on me. I was almost eight, you would have thought I had committed a mortal sin, all I had done was pee my knickers, true it was in chapel, but that was only because I was told I was not allowed to leave. The short walk back to the flat and almost everyone in the Home must have found out about the act I had committed. Once in the flat it was straight into a bath, once dressed again it was time for lunch, I could tell that I was not in Sister’s favour, as I was set to help wash up, even though it was not yet my turn. Now allowed more personal time with Sister I was informed that such an act was never going to be allowed again. Until I was nine each time I went to chapel I was dressed in two pairs of knickers and a pair of waterproof pants under my dress, the same rule applied to any of the outdoor events I was taken to. Sister explained that until I had proved to her that I could be good, I would be dressed in that fashion. I was the only one in the flat other than the very youngest that was treated in that way, I was never actually teased by the others directly, I could guess that they were afraid that something like that might be given to them. Perhaps I could have ended my punishment earlier, but during the year two further accidents meant I was not yet ready for forgivness, although they did not occur in chapel, Sister was not forgiving over such an event. At the time I thought I was the only one of my age at Highfield that was put through such an embarrassing matter, if I had known there was at least one other I might have found it easier to make more friends of my own age from other flats, I was afraid that if others knew of having to wear waterproof pants I would be teased, it was not until after my ninth birthday did I start to mix more with the other children. If Sister had treated me with a little sympathy, life at Highfield would have been so much nicer. Now grown up I would never submit either of my two daughters to such humiliation. They and their friends have all had occasional accidents, but the matter is soon over and they will be able to grow up without such fear of chastisement. A Grownup Girl. Feb 2005.
Dead before Living
To those who preach about the Offenders Rights, spare some thought for those that have been offended against. The pain and degradation is bad enough, but the haunting that follows and sleepless nights persevere throughout your life. Years do not erase the nightmare, though the horrors may be buried they will suddenly re-surface from whatever deepness they were consigned. To be abused for 5 years whilst “in-care” by those who were in-charge made the abuse more painful as the love you cried for is denied. The effects of years of abuse destroy you emotionally leaving you dead inside and wary of forming any attachments. 50 years do not ease the memories, nor will they. Suddenly it hits you again, it re-surfaces and your eyes fill with tears as you re-live the nightmare of your childhood, innocence destroyed, a child damned before they could grow. Emotional destruction is a fine accomplishment, you render a child barren of any feelings through verbal and physical abuse. You cause the child to question, “Is it my fault”? The child is then facing a life of self-doubt, condemned to be a loner, always there but not part of the group in case attention focuses upon them, this is the last thing they want as they remember what it means to draw attention upon them. Some may be lucky as they get older, they may form attachments, but these are brittle and break easily as any aggression or upset will render the person vulnerable again. I know from my own experiences how this child feels, because I am that child again, hurt and lonely even with people around me, reliving a past I thought had gone, wary of trusting even now as I approach my retirement age. You watch and question people’s motives if they say they are your friend or want to help. Your attitude to others is that no one was there for you so why help others! I still cry silently in case I might cause “Them” to notice me again, they re-visit me when my guard is down and I have to re-live the horrors of my childhood. My only consolation is that I will eventually cease my own private hell and torment, and that those who inflicted it have now gone. Frank . Killay House 1951-1956
Peter and Mud
My time at Harpenden was for just over a year in the late 1960Æs. My parents had split up and it appeared that my mother did not have the ability to look after me in the way she thought I should be brought up with a stable environment around me. The NCH placed me in Harpenden, which meant a thirty odd mile trip for my mother to visit. As she had to rely on public transport, the visits were about every other month. I was taken out for most of the day. My mother did not have any accommodation that would allow me to have any longer time with her. All I was told on every visit was that soon I would be able to leave. Slowly after the first few visits I did not start to get my hopes up over leaving. If there was one memory that lingers in my mind it was getting the slipper from the houseparent for playing in the woods. At the time I appeared to mimic the boys that featured in the soap powder adverts that were on the television, when they came indoors after playing out of doors and were covered in mud, they received a loving hug from their mother and were soon again seen in clean clothes. On my return I was pressed up against the wall, told that I should not play in the mud, given several hits with one of my slippers and then it was into a bath and an early bed. Eventually I returned to my mother and I lived and played happily ever after. Peter. Jan 2005
Alan at Highfield
I was told that I was going to stay with some other children whilst my mother was in hospital for a short while. My father would not be able to look after me as his job took him around the country. My arrival at Highfield was frightening. I had never lived with other children before. Not having any brothers or sisters, I had been use to the peace and quiet of the small flat we lived in. I was now thrown in at the deep end with eight other boys and girls, some younger and some older. For the first few hours in my new home I cried. The Sister that was in charge tried to be kind, but to an eight year old boy that is soon to be nine, nothing could stop my tears. I just did not know when my mother was going to come out of hospital. At the end of the day I was sent to bed. I thought I was going to have my own room to sleep in; I now had to share with two younger boys. They tried to make friends, but I wanted to leave. For most of the night I cried, in the morning they teased me as I had wet the bed. After breakfast the other children went off to school, I was told to go out and play and to come in at noon for lunch. Nothing was explained by the adults other than the rule that I was not to leave the grounds. Once out of the flat I had no idea where the home finished. I spent most of the time on the swings alone and frightened. For the next two years my life in the home seemed to be spent trying to please the adults, but whatever I did, it seemed to be wrong. I developed a slight stammer; it was made worse by the others in the flat when the Sister was not around making fun of me. During my stay my bed was wet most mornings; it was the only thing I was not punished for, except for the teasing by the two boys in my room that only on rare occasions had a wet bed. Eventually I went back to live with my mother, but life in our flat was never the same again; it was the fear of returning to the home if my mother needed to go into hospital again. My memories of most of the events of my stay I have tried to forget. I have started a happy family life and will try to make sure that our two boys do not have to suffer the torments I went through. Alan (from the girlÆs side). Sept 2004
I was dumped in care aged seven months where I was supposed to stay for a month or two while my unmarried parents sorted themselves out. I stayed in care until aged 18 and never experienced any family life during that time. I was in care with the Church of England and so thankfully avoided the pitfalls that awaited children who were placed in Local Authority Care under the "care" of government officials known as social workers. However, from the age of 5 to 14 I lived in an all-boys' home where I was bullied, with the approval of the housefather, who also deemed it appropriate to cane and slipper me viciously for the slightest of misdemeanours.áThere was absolutely no affection on offer at this home, such an emotion being regarded as a weakness for boys. To cut a long story short, I was excluded from this boys' home at age 14 because my father complained about the beatings I was receiving. I moved to a new home for teenagers which was run on liberal lines. I was never beaten there and was even allowed to have opinions of my own!. Anyway, I emerged from care maladjusted at age 18, probably because spending all my infant and childhood years in care impeded the social, emotional, moral and mental development which depends so much on having aástable attachment to one or more adults. In conclusion, I think taking a child into care should be a temporary measure and every effort should be made by the authorities to restore a child to its natural parents, in particular to its mother, as a matter of urgency. If restoration is not possible, then adoption should happen. I do not believe it should be an option for a child to go unloved and to rot in a children's home. I speak from experience - for that is what happened to me. Stephen Morris. Sept 2004
My Time in Care
At the age of about 3 (1957) my mother developed TB, which was, at that time, potentially fatal. As my mother was admitted into a local hospital for the best part of a year and my father had to continue working (State assistance for such situations did not exist at this time), my older sister was placed with my nan (grandmother) and I was taken to an uncle and aunt in the Midlands. My nan was a wonderful woman, but not very patient with small children and it was felt that I would be 'too much for her'. After a short time my aunt became ill and I had to be placed in 'care' (I use this term very loosely as I would dispute that 'care' is appropriate for the treatment that many children received while in homes during the 1950s-1960s). I only remember tiny fragments of my time there; strangely, the one incident that is very clear in my mind was when I was having to queue with other small children and as time went on, I wet myself. Sympathy and understanding? Certainly not! I was reprimanded as if I had committed a grevious wrong and sent to bed for the rest of the day; I remember lying in a large 'dormitory' of small beds with two men painting the ceiling. I recall the member of staff who put me to bed telling the men not to talk to me. In fact at this time I was a severe diabetic but the condition had not been diagnosed (it was two years later that it was realized that something was wrong as I keep racing to the toilet and a doctor pronounced that I was diabetic and would need insulin injections for the rest of my life). When I was put in care I had uncles and aunts who lived locally could have easily looked after me, but due to their selfishness, no offer was made despite the situation being very traumatic for both of my parents. My mother was seriously ill and my father was racing from home to work and from work to my nan's (to see my sister), and from there to the hospital to visit my mother. On Saturdays he would visit me at the childrens' home in Weybridge Surrey and bring me home for the weekend. My parents were both working class and poor and I dread to think of how much money my father spent on all his travelling. I do not know and have never been able to ascertain why, living in South London, I ended up in care in mid-Surrey! After my father died, I discovered he had been in a boys' home for much of his childhood and this might explain his insistence in taking me home each weekend as he would understand the trauma of being in care and feeling abandoned. In the 1970s, I began voluntary work at a hotel for homeless people: I enjoyed doing this as I could see that there was a positive end-result to my time. I was in a well-paid, but very boring job at the time and decided to do 'care work' full-time as I wanted to make my time count for something and hopefully make a difference for the better. I applied for various vacancies and ended up in a childrens' home run by a local authority (Council). At first I enjoyed it and considered it worthwhile, but after a short while I began to realize that nothing was being achieved, i.e., the social workers who were supposed to be working to get the children back home, or at least get their parents to visit, were rarely seen, and if they were, I could not see any progress being made. I also felt increasing anxiety about the quality of care given to the children and the overall situation. Most of the staff employed had no experience or training before starting and in the case of some, I personally considered them to be wholly unsuitable for work with children. Moreover, I became aware of the extraordinary turnover of staff, a feature that obviously had an unsettling effect on the children. I found the 'nice' staff only stayed for a short time whereas those members of staff, who I personally would not allow to look after my prize roses let alone children, seemed to remain for a long time. I requested a transfer from this home after making a number of complaints to the Social Services Manager and on arriving at the new children's home, I realized that nothing was going to be done about the issues I had raised, and I therefore handed in my notice straightaway in protest. While working in these homes, many members of staff, who were clearly genuinely concerned about children, had 'horror' stories about other homes. Furthermore, in the time I was working in care, I came across many children who appeared to have been 'dumped' by their parent(s) and I was at a loss to understand why other relatives had not intervened, or at least offered to help. I was also saddened by how many children were not visited by their parents which would have made their lives so much easier. In sum, I would say that placing a child in care should only be done when all other options have failed, and should only be done at the very, very last resort. I can only hope that the situation of 'children in care' has improved, but to reach a standard that I would consider to be satisfactory, the improvement would have had to have been dramatic and thorough, and naturally, I have my doubts about this. Name withheld. August 2004.
I had an alcoholic father who abused me. My Mother died when I was 7. After a year with my Father I was "adopted" by my Aunt who had 2 daughters one 2 years older than I and the other the same age. During the next 3 years my Uncle never allowed me to forget the fact that I was there at his pleasure however my Aunt was always kind. His discipline was harsh. If anything went wrong it was always my fault, never my cousins and I often got the blame for things they had done, a handy scapegoat in retrospect. My bedwetting started for me in the year my Mother died or at least I think it did because I don't remember having accidents earlier. My Uncle would often drag me up to my bed and force my face down into the wet sheet and I was sometimes thrashed by him for having an accident. He would humiliate me in front of my friends calling me a baby and a dirty boy. Often he would make me sleep in wet sheets for days. My aunt on the other hand was more understanding but dominated by him. I was delighted when he went away one day never to return. Some nights when he had been drinking he would get me out of the bed and make me stand in front of the toilet. If I could not go I had to stand there until I did and he had to see me pee. No fooling me. I have stood there for half the night or so it seemed at the time. I seldom had sleepovers at scouts or friends houses because of the wetting problem and if we went to stay anywhere as a family I always had my rubber sheet and another flannelette sheet to put over it. I had to wear vinyl knickers and heavy cotton knickers that were my cousins' old ones. Bottle green they were and I often wondered what the girls at school would have said had they known. I had a friend at school who was also a wetter and I found this out accidentally when I was at his house and sat on his bed. We became good friends and shared bed wetting horror stories. He is now a Doctor in Birmingham and we still enjoy telling stories. As I matured the bed wetting gradually stopped, but I then for some strange or perverse reason did it on purpose. Not often but enough to keep my things the way they were. My bed was a safe haven for me and I liked the way it felt. I had no shame at that stage and enjoyed I suppose, the feeling of being different. Even now I still like to have a rubber sheet on my bed and that is 30 years ago. Fortunately I have a wife who does not judge. Perhaps I have never grown up and am stuck in a time warp. I really do not know. I am rarely open about myself and only have one other unrelated confidant. I have had a good life despite this predilection. I am well employed and have a beautiful family. To all intents and purposes I appear to be a well balanced person. There is no doubt however that childhood experiences can and do heavily influence later life. From C. Dec 2004
JUNIOR SCHOOL LIFE
Schooldays should be the happiest days of your life, for most it simply depended on the school you attended. Looking back there were some matters one might like to forget, punishments were the worst part of school life. I'm 44 years old now, but I can never forget that it happened, all in the name of religion and control. I didn't attend a children's home, but I was sent to a R.C. junior school in the 1960s where physical punishments were given for the slightest misdemeanours. Like the home, the slipper reigned supreme. My first slippering was when I was just 6 - for looking out of the window. As soon as I was told to get across her lap I burst into tears - not because I was anticipating pain, but because I was embarrassed that it was going to be in front of my friends. You and I have that in common. Any inattention from anyone in the class resulted in the slipper, and one particularly zealous form master rarely let a day go by without putting at least one of us over his knee. The worst punishment of all was, naturally, being sent to the headmaster. He didn't use a cane, or remove trousers - thankful for small mercies. But his slippering technique was fast and furious, he would always give more strokes than the other teachers (on one occasion I received 11 whacks), and he would often apply the slipper to the tops of your legs, which was excruciatingly painful. It also meant that all the other children in the playground could see the red marks and/or bruises (only short trousers were worn) and as a result knew you'd had 'the head's slipper', as we all called it. All very unpleasant and unnecessary, and thankfully has been made illegal. Now the children at that school can get on with what they are there to do - study. After that, the secondary school I attended was a breeze! Detentions inevitably, but no cane or slipper in sight - yet no discipline problems whatsoever. Heaven! D.P. Sept 2004
Since my brother lived in the Home (for the first ten years of his life (1958-1968) and I didn't. I can only comment on what he's told me. He has fond memories of Harpenden and said that the Sister who looked after him was like a mother to him. Unfortunately, when he came to live with me, our mother, and stepfather, he came into an abusive environment due to my stepfather. In my opinion, even if a victim of child abuse comes to terms with their childhood abuse through therapy or whatever, and becomes stronger because of it, I still believe that that person is impacted for the rest of their lives. I have not been as well adjusted as my brother as a result of our childhood. It has been a rough road and I'm better now. However, my brother has done very well. I admire him and what he has accomplished in his life and I think that his success is due in part to the great start he got at the Home. But that's just my opinion of course. He may disagree. I hope that other people had good experiences at the Home as well, and for those who did not, I hope that they have found peace now. I look forward to reading about other peoples' experiences there. Finally, I want to say that I don't blame my mother for our childhood. I understand that we all do the best we can with the knowledge we have in that moment. Annon. June 2004
This is dedicated to Miss Jeffs, all that were taught by her in later years will be pleased to know that she was actually given the blessing of the court to continue to use the cane. ''Punishment did them no harm'', says judge.
Nine-year-old Maureen Elsie Wilcox, of Ivy-road, Northampton, sat in front of the witness-box. She folded her hands in her lap and said: Miss Jeffs caned us.
A Child''s Account
My account of the Miss Jeffs incident is as follows:
THE OVAL 1964-1971
MEMORIES OF NCH HIGHFIELD OVAL 1964-1971 by A MOTHER
Why my children were placed in Care
Christmas at Killay House Swansea
Santa knows, you know. by Howard Thomas Act 1 Christmas week 1953 at the National Children’s Home, Swansea: Killay House was a home for orphans and unwanted children. It housed about 20 between the ages of two and seven and it had a devoted staff led by Sister Violet. The older children were busy making paper-chains in the activities room of the home and it echoed to the happy sounds of boisterous children looking forward to Christmas. The majority were excitedly awaiting the magical and sparkly event, and especially the visit of Father Christmas on Christmas Day. One five-year-old boy, however, was sat in a world of his own wondering how he could get a special toy for Christmas and knowing it was too late to get his message to Santa. He knew this because the previous week all the older children had been tasked with writing out a list of individual wishes to Santa and these had all been put in the box at the main door. The box had now gone and he understood Sister Violet had collected all the wishes to forward to Santa. He’d diligently made his list but then this week on his way with the other children to Dunvent School they’d stopped at the bottom of the hill to admire the nativity scene in the windows of Dunvent Toy Shop. The staff accompanying them were telling them the Christmas Story about Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. The boy was not amused as they had already performed the school nativity play in which he’d played a shepherd so he’d was more interested in the toys. It was then that he spotted the toy that would make his Christmas. In the corner of the window was a toy fireman on a ladder. As he looked, a man inside the shop picked it up and showed it to a customer. He wound the toy fireman and placed it at the bottom of the ladder. Miraculously in the little boy’s eyes, he watched amazed as the fireman with his yellow hat and navy blue jacket climbed to the top of the tin ladder. Oh my gosh, he thought, that’s the toy I want for Christmas. He tugged at the arm of Wendy who was holding his hand. She was the Senior Nurse at the home and the woman to whom the children ran when they wanted a cuddle or were crying. She was a large lady with welcoming arms and a full bosom. Look, look, Wendy,’ he said. ‘Not now’ she scolded ‘It’s time for school.’ Together they joined the other children and trundled up the hill but the boy kept looking back at the toy in the window wishing and praying that Father Christmas would add this to his list. Act II Christmas Day 1953: The dining room at Killay House was in chaos. Santa had arrived and brought with him to the home a TV set. It was a rare thing in 1953. People had heard of such a thing but few had experienced watching moving and talking pictures on a screen within a domestic property. Having had a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings plus jelly and cream for afters, this new phenomenon had excited both staff and children and they all crowded around the small black and white set to watch a western called The Cisco Kid. The boy, too, was engrossed in the programme but couldn’t help feeling he’d been cheated by Santa. He’d awoken early in the dormitory and eagerly emptied the stocking which was at the end of his bed. It contained six soldiers, an orange, some nuts, chocolate money, a sugar mouse and other sweets. Considering sweet rationing was still in force at the time he should have been grateful and yet he felt so empty inside. True, he’d got what he’d asked for on his list and he could put the soldiers with the others he had and use his imagination to create a battle scene but oh how he wished he’d seen that toy prior to making the list. ‘Excuse me, son’ said a gruff voice behind him, ‘this is for you.’ He turned and looked into the eyes of Father Christmas, who was offering him a present. He feverishly tore at the festive wrapping to reveal a cardboard box illustrated with the fireman and ladder. He’d got what he’d wanted. He opened the box and covering the toy was his list but on the bottom someone had added in block letters ‘TOY FIREMAN AND EXTENDABLE LADDER’. He turned to say thank you but Santa had gone so he dashed over to Wendy, who was smiling at him. ‘Wendy, Wendy look’ he shouted. He clambered on to her lap and felt the warmth of her embrace. He looked up to her face and she smiled and winked before saying ’Santa knows, you know!’ Act III Christmas in Evesham 2004 Christmas as a child is magical and some memories stay with you for the rest of your life. I never became a firefighter, as they call them these days, but I shan’t forget that special Christmas. The memory is as clear to me as it was then and this is a true story because I was that five year old boy so if anyone tells you Santa doesn’t exist, they’re telling fibs. All these years later I’m wondering what happened to that toy so it’s on my retro list for this Christmas. I’m sure it will be delivered because ‘Santa knows, you know!’ Reprinted by kind permission of the author and Evesham Admag.
A Group for Ex NCH Children
The site is for members that were in the care of the NCH
To visit, please click on this link, and it will take you to the site.