Nazareth House, Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex
A Nazareth House was erected in 1893-4 on Wrestwood Road, Bexhill-on-Sea. The building was designed by Leonard Stokes who also designed a wing of the Hammersmith Nazareth House. Construction was carried out by local builder Peter Jenkins at a cost of around £7,000.
As was usual with Nazareth Houses, the Bexhill establishment provided accommodation for the aged poor and for orphan and destitute children, primarily Roman Catholic girls. The home was also certified to receive children placed out by the Boards of Guardians who operated the poor relief and workhouse system. In 1912, the home could house up to 150 children.
In August 1953, two of the girls, Frances McCarthy aged 10, and Janet Patricia Dover aged 11, were drowned after being engulfed by a heavy wave while bathing at Glyne Gap, about a mile from the home. There had been more than sixty girls in the bathing party but only four or five had been good swimmers. An inquest heard that although the rocks at the location made it treacherous, there had only been three adults in charge, something which amounted to a lack of proper supervision. A verdict of 'Accidental Death' was recorded on the two girls.
Part of the premises were later occupied by St Mary Magdalen's RC Primary School, now moved to a modern building of its own further to the east.
The Nazareth House buildings have now all been converted to residential use.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- Sisters of Nazareth Archive, Sisters of Nazareth Archive, Nazareth House, 169-175 Hammersmith Road, London W6 8DB. The archivist is Christine Hughes. The archive contains material from the very beginnings of the order in the 1850s up until the present day. The archive is not open to the public and does not have facilities for personal searchers, although exceptions can be made for Sisters and for academic researchers. Enquiries are welcomed by post only for privacy and confidentiality reasons and replies are by also letter. There is no fee for dealing with enquiries, although donations to the Sisters are appreciated.
- Fothergill, Anne Memoirs of a Nazareth House Girl (2013, Quoin Publishing). Memories of the Middlesbrough Nazareth House.
- Gray-Wilson, Shirley It isn't Always Raining: Children in Care, 1939-1948 (2000). Life in the Carlisle and Newcastle Nazareth Houses.
- Kelly, Judith Rock Me Gently: A Memoir Of A Convent Childhood (2006, Bloomsbury). A memoir of life at Bexhill Nazareth House in the early 1950s. The factual veracity of this book has been challenged, and charges of plagiarism levelled against the author (e.g. see Catholic Herald 2/9/2005). The introduction to the current edition of the book acknowledges some of these criticisms.
- Reilley, Frances Suffer The Little Children: The True Story of An Abused Convent Upbringing (2009, Orion). Memories of the Belfast Nazareth House.
- Nuns 'abused hundreds of children' (Guardian article 16/8/1998)
- Sisters of No Mercy (Guardian article 1/4/2003)
- Compensation for care homes abuse (BBC News item 15/8/2006)
- Sisters of Nazareth become second Catholic order to admit to child abuse (Guardian article 14/1/2014)
- Children at Derry care homes were made to eat vomit, inquiry told (Guardian article 27/1/2014)
- A Time for Penance? (BBC Scotland 'Frontline' TV feature on abuse in Scottish Nazareth Houses)
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