St Benet's Home For Boys, Caversham, Berkshire
St Benet's 'Gardening Home' For Boys was established by the Waifs and Strays Society in 1903 at 11 Kidmore End Road, Emmer Green, Caversham, near Reading, Berkshire. The building and furnishing of the property had been funded by Mr C.M. Powell. The home was officially opened on May 27th, 1903, by Edward Rudolph, the founder of the Society.
The location of the home is shown on the 1936 map below.
Initially, like the Society's establishment at Standon, St Benet's was used as an industrial training home for 25 boys, aged 13 or over, most of whom would be destined for emigration to Canada. The boys were mainly trained in gardening and agricultural work, for which the home's 6.5 acres of land provided plenty of scope. Classes in craft skills such as carpentry, tailoring and shoemaking were also provided.
On May 6th, 1912, St Benet's was accredited as a Certified School, allowing it to receive boys boarded out by the workhouse authorities.
In 1921, St Benet's became an ordinary residential care home, though remained boys-only until 1973.
The home continued operating during the Second World War but had a near escape when, early one morning, the Master heard a single enemy plane circling. He got the boys into shelter just in time before two bombs landed in the garden, one just by the gymnasium. The house was badly damaged but no injuries were suffered.
The home was closed in 1980. The building no longer survives and the site is now occupied by modern housing.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org). 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
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.