Leeds Council Homes

In 1930, following the abolition of the Leeds Poor Law Union, the Leeds Corporation took over responsibility for the administration of poor relief in the city. This included the children's homes previously run by the union, which now came under the management of the council's new Public Assistance Committee.

The children's establishments inherited by the council included a group of five cottage homes at Rothwell, a dozen scattered homes around the city, and the central home on Street Lane, Leeds. In the 1930s, the accommodation at the Street Lane site was expanded to include the Rachel Nursery (for 0 to 2-year-olds) and the Margaret Nursery (for 2 to 4-year-olds), which between them housed 75 children, and the Devonshire House receiving home, where up to 26 children were accommodated. The old scattered homes were gradually reduced in number, with only one (17 Norman Terrace) remaining in 1947. These were replaced by two larger properties: 40 North Park Avenue and 24 Grove Hall Parade.

Leeds Street Lane site, c.1935.

Central Home, Street Lane, Leeds, from the east, 1930s. © Peter Higginbotham

Following the passing of the 1948 Children Act, councils were required to provide care services for all needy children in their area, especially those who lacked a normal family home. In common with other local authorities, the council established a new Children's Committee, whose responsibilities had previously been spread across separate Health, Education and Social Welfare Committees. The accommodation for which the Children's Committee became responsible comprised: the Approved Schools at Shadwell and Thorp Arch, the Cliff House Remand Home at Fawcett Lane, Leeds, the Spring Bank and Margaret/Rachel residential nurseries, the Rothwell cottage homes and seven children's homes. The latter ranged from a small property for eight girls to a mixed home housing fifty-six boys and girls, with a total of 156 children being housed in 1948. Much of this accommodation was overcrowded, inadequate, and in need of repair and adaptation.

Rothwell Cottage Homes, 1940s.

Rothwell Cottage Homes, 1940s.

The existing housing stock was dealt with as follows:

  • The Rothwell Cottage Homes, which had begun to be affected by mining subsidence, were gradually run down. All had been closed by 1956, apart from one which continued in temporary use as a hostel for working boys until February, 1957. The site was then disposed of and the buildings demolished.

  • The Central Home on Street Lane, previously a large, mixed home, became a reception centre was re-organised to make it less institutional. Its capacity reduced to 32 places and new staff quarters, bathrooms for children and staff, and smaller bedrooms were provided.

  • Devonshire House, where conditions had been very cramped, was enlarged and similarly refurbished, becoming a short-stay home for 19 children.

    Devonshire House, Street Lane, Leeds, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

  • 40 North Park Avenue was also refurbished as a short-stay home, with its capacity reduced to 19 places.

    40 North Park Avenue, Leeds, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

  • Beechwood, at 24 Grove Hall Parade, had its capacity reduced from 15 to 12 places.

    'Beechwood', Grove Hall Parade, Leeds, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

  • 17 Norman Terrace, the last of the old Poor Law scattered homes was closed.

    17 Norman Terrace, Leeds, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

  • Gledhow Grange, at Lidgett Lane, a home for 29 educationally sub-normal boys, was the subject of an experiment to slightly widen the intelligence range of its inmates. However, staffing and other difficulties led to its reverting to its previous operation.

    Gledhow Lodge, Lidgett Lane, Leeds, 1940s.

  • 2 Rokeby Gardens, a recently acquired residence for eight girls, was regarded as the most satisfactory of the existing properties and effectively became a model for the Committee's future plans.

    2 Rokeby Gardens, Leeds, 1940s.

Between 1951 and 1956, a major development programme resulted in the building of sixteen new family group homes, each accommodating around eight children, spread across the city's new housing estates. Four larger properties were also purchased, plus an additional facility for the under-5s, the Beckett Nursery, purchased in 1951 from the Children's Society. The progress of the work is charted in the table below:

Date OpenedHome (FG=Family Group)Places
1951'Holmfield', North Hill Road20
Beckett Nursery30
1952Iveson Approach (FG)8
Lanshaw Crescent (FG)8
Foxcroft Close (FG)8
Lambrigg Crescent (FG)8
Luttrell Crescent (FG)8
1953'Keldholme', Wood Lane16
Lingfield Approach (FG)8
Raynel Drive (FG)8
1955Newlay Lane12
Elmete Avenue11
Cranmer Bank (FG)9
Easdale Crescent (FG)9
St Catherine's Drive (FG)8
Ganners Green (FG)8
1956Harley Drive (FG)8
Wellstone Drive (FG)8
Mill Green Close (FG)8
Easdale Close (FG)8
Woodnook Drive (FG)8

'Holmfield', North Hill Road, Leeds, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

Beckett Nursery, Greenwood Mount, Leeds, 1940s.

'Keldholme', Wood Lane, Leeds, 1940s.

'Keldholme', Wood Lane, Leeds, 1950s.

The family group homes all followed the same architectural design, as illustrated below:

Some of the former Leeds Family Group Homes. © Peter Higginbotham

Raynel Drive Home interior, c.1953.

One of the girls in the above picture, Gloria Urquhart, has identified the children as follows: at the table from left to right - Maureen Edison, Dorothy M, Ruth Curtis; boy standing: Richard Curtis (brother of Ruth); on the floor from left to right - Stephen Reddinton, Gloria Hewitt (as she was then), David and Frank Smith (twins); missing from the photo - Jack Smith (the elder brother of the twins).

Below is later picture of the staff and children, taken outside the Raynel Drive home. It includes (left to right): Back row (all staff) — Ann (Edna) Smith, Rev (as he was then) Stanley Meadows, Miss Cooper (who later opened another home in the area), Miss Patsey Mara; Second row — Gloria, Ruth Curtis, Jack Smith, Richard Curtis; Third row — Frank Smith, twin David Smith; Front row — Stephen Reddinton, Gavin Reddinton, Maureen Edison.

Raynel Drive Home staff and children, c.1955. ©Gloria Urquhart.

In 2020, Gloria Urquhart published an evocative and moving memoir of growing up in the 1950s in the Leeds City Council children's homes, entitled Nobody's Child: The True Story of Growing up in a Yorkshire Children's Home. More details here.

The Elmete Avenue property subsequently became a girls' hostel, and Grove Hall Parade a boys' hostel. The council also ran a boys' hostel at Greystones, 3 Spring Road, Headingley, and the Wyther Hostel for unmarried mothers and their babies at Armley Ridge Road, Leeds (previously known as the Leeds Babies' Welcome and the Wyther Infants' Hospital).

In 1972, the council took over the former East Moor Approved School, previously run by a voluntary committee, when it converted to a Community Home with Education. Following the local government reorganisation that took place in 1974, Leeds took over several homes that had previously been run by the West Riding County Council. These included: Ainsty Lodge, Wetherby; Bramham House, Bramham; Inglewood, Otley; Southville, Stanningley; and Waterloo Manor, Garforth.

In around 1977, new accommodation provided by the council included: The Hawthorns, Holdforth Place, Leeds; Crag House Hostel, Norwood Edge, Otley; and Armley Manor Hostel, Mistress Lane, Leeds. At the same time, the Elmete Avenue hostel was closed.

In 2012, five of the 1950s family group homes were still in use (now reduced to 5 places in each), together with Keldholm, Inglewood and a recently built home at Bodmin Road, Beeston Park. In total, these homes provided 52 places.

Part of the Bodmin Road Home, 2015.

Composite list of children's establishments run (at some time in their history) by Leeds Council.

* indicates link to pages on www.workhouses.org.uk.

Records

The involvement of local authorities in the running of children's homes dates from 1930, when they took over the running of the poor relief system previously administered by Boards of Guardians. Surviving records for council-run children's homes may be held in each council's own internal archives. Prior to 1991, however, when a legal requirement was introduced for councils to retain records of children leaving their care, the survival of such records is very variable. Contact details for local authorities in the UK can be found on the website of the Care Leavers Association (CLA). The CLA also provides guidance on accessing childhood care files, which are normally only open to the individuals they relate to.

Locating local authority records has been complicated by the various local government reorganizations that have taken place in recent times, such as the abolition of the London County Council in 1965, and the major nationwide restructuring in 1974 in which many administrative areas were created, amended or eliminated.

Older records may sometimes be placed with the relevant county or borough record office. Many of these repositories have online catalogues of their holdings and also contribute to the National Archives' Discovery database. Note that records containing personal data usually have access closed for a period of fifty years or more.

Older material relating to Leeds Council homes may exist at:

Some records relating to council-run homes, for example inspection reports (though not resident lists etc.), are held by The National Archives (TNA). A closure period may apply to these records.

Bibliography