St Peter's Orphan and Convalescent Home for Girls / Tait Home, Broadstairs, Kent
The St Peter's Orphan and Convalescent Home for Girls (also known as Archbishop Tait's Home) was founded in 1866 by Catherine Tait, wife of Archibald Tait, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1868 to 1882. The home was originally established in response to the 1866 cholera epidemic in the East End of London which left many dead and their children orphaned. While money was being raised for a permanent building for the home in Broadstairs, temporary premises were occupied; in May 1870, a small house near Fulham was being used, with thirty-four orphans then in residence. From 1867, the running of the home was carried out by the Sisters of the Community of St Peter, a nursing order with experience in treating cholera victims.
The foundation stone for the new building, on Lanthorne Road, Broadstairs, was laid by Catherine Tait on December 21st, 1868, and it was completed in 1870. The design, by Mr John P. Seddon, was 'a stately and substantial structure of flint with freestone dressings and brickwork in the Early Decorated style.' A chapel occupied the space of two upper storeys in one wing. School-rooms, a dining hall and visitors' room occupied the ground floor, and dormitories the remainder of the upper two storey. A basement under the whole building contained laundries, kitchen, play-room etc.
The location of the home is shown on the 1896 map below.
The stated object of the children's home was 'to maintain and educate 80 orphan girls, preference being given to those from London and the Diocese of Canterbury.' Applicants had to be aged between 3 and 10 years of age and have lost both parents or, under special circumstances, one parent. Applications were to be accompanied by a 'responsible recommendation', and a medical certificate, and a certificate of parents' marriage was then required if the candidate was considered suitable. A payment of £15 a year was required for each girl, for which a named person had to be responsible. For applicants whom no-one had offered to provide payment, efforts were made to find 'lady associates' to contribute towards the payment. Up to the age of 13, children were taught in the home's school; from 13 to 16 they also received industrial training as well as instruction. Each child was watched over by an 'associate,' who undertook to get to know her her and to try and take the place, to some degree, of the parent she had lost.
A convalescent home was erected at the Lanthorne Road site in 1875.
In the 1920s, St Peter's absorbed the Burgos Home, formerly at Croydon.
In 1942, the home was taken over by the Waifs and Strays Society home and renamed the Tait Home. Soon afterwards, however, the home was evacuated for the remainder of the Second World War to The Crow's Nest, Mortehoe, near Woolacombe, in Devon.
The home's post-war re-opening in Broadstairs was fairly short-lived and it closed in around 1950. In 1952, the property may have briefly housed a Waifs and Strays home for babies, known as Davidson House, which then relocated to the Florence Anderson House Home in Ramsgate.
The St Peter's building was demolished in 1953 and modern housing now occupies the site.
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.
- Index of the Society's first 30,000 children's case files ordered by surname.
- Index of the Society's first 30,000 children's case files ordered by date of birth.
- The Children's Society Records and Archive Centre is at Block A Floor 2, Tower Bridge Business Complex, 100 Clement's Road, London, England SE16 4DG (email: email@example.com). Files for children admitted to its homes after September 1926 were microfilmed in the 1980s and the originals destroyed. Some post-1926 files had already been damaged or destroyed during a flood. The Society's Post-Adoption and Care Service provides access to records, information, advice, birth record counselling, tracing and intermediary service for people who were in care or adopted through the Society.
- The Society has produced detailed catalogues of its records relating to disabled children, and of records relating to the Children's Union (a fundraising body mostly supported from the contributions of children).
- Bowder, Bill Children First: a photo-history of England's children in need (1980, Mowbray)
- Church of England Waifs and Strays' Society [Rudolfe, Edward de Montjoie] The First Forty Years: a chronicle of the Church of England Waifs and Strays' Society 1881-1920 (1922, Church of England Waifs and Strays' Society / S.P.C.K.)
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- Morris, Lester The Violets Are Mine: Tales of an Unwanted Orphan (2011, Xlibris Corporation) — memoir of a boy growing up in several of the Society's homes (Princes Risborough, Ashdon, Hunstanton, Leicester) in the 1940s and 50s.
- Rudolf, Mildred de Montjoie Everybody's Children: the story of the Church of England Children's Society 1921-1948 (1950, OUP)
- Stroud, John Thirteen Penny Stamps: the story of the Church of England Children's Society (Waifs and Strays) from 1881 to the 1970s (1971, Hodder and Stoughton)
- Hidden Lives Revealed — the story of the children who were in the care of The Children's Society in late Victorian and early 20th Century Britain.
- The Children's Society
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