St Martin's Home for Crippled Boys, Pyrford, near Woking, Surrey
The St Martin's Home, for what were then usually referred to as 'crippled boys', was opened by the Waifs and Strays Society in 1916 at Floyd's Lane, Pyrford, near Woking. The home was located on a site adjacent to the Society's St Nicholas' Hospital Home, which also provided care for physically disabled boys and girls. The purpose-built accommodation, which replaced St Martin's previous premises at Surbiton, was officially opened on 26th October, 1916, with the Bishop of Guildford in attendance. Initially housing 40 boys, aged from 7 to 14, the completed building eventually accommodated twice that number.
The boys at the home were taught trades such as boot-making tailoring, to help improve their future prospects for living independently. St Martin's also produced of splints, support frames and other equipment for use by physically disabled children.
The home kept a donkey which was not only a pet for the children, but also helped in carrying items such as baskets of laundry or buckets of water.
The St Martin's and St Nicholas' homes worked closely together, with St Nicholas taking the younger children and older girls. Once boys at St Nicholas' reached the age of seven, they were transferred to St Martin's. In 1923, the two establishments were formally amalgamated under the rather cumbersome name of the St Nicholas' and St Martin's Orthopaedic Hospital Homes and Special School of Recovery. For quite a few years afterwards, however, the two establishments seemed to have retained something of their own identities, at least as far as the outside world was concerned.
The layout of the two institutions is shown on the 1935 map below.
Below is an aerial view of the St Martin's and St Nicholas' site dating from around 1935. The number locations are as follows: 1.—St Martin's Hospital, with its two-open air wards. 2.— Boys' playing field. 3.—Splint-making workshop. 4.—House surgeon's cottage. 5.—Staff tennis courts. 7.—Curative bath and sun-ray room. 8.—Night nurses' quarters, recreation room, lecture with workshops and school teachers' rooms below. 9.— St Nicholas' Chapel. 10.—Isolation ward for new admissions. 11.—Under-fives' wards. 12.—Operating theatre. 13.—Open-air ward for older girls. 14.—Open-air ward.
In 1948, the institution joined the newly inaugurated National Health Service under the name of the Rowley Bristow Orthopaedic Hospital, named after its long-serving former Surgical Director.
The hospital closed in 1992. The buildings no longer survive and modern housing now covers 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: 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
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