Birkenhead Council Homes
In 1930, the Boards of Guardians, who had administered the poor relief system in England and Wales since 1834, were abolished and their responsibilities were taken over by county and county borough councils. Each council set up a Public Assistance Committee to oversee its new duties, which included the operation of the various children's establishments previously run by the poor law unions in each area. The Birkenhead Council's Public Assistance Committee took over four homes in the town previously run by the Birkenhead Union. They comprised a receiving home accommodating 30 children at Manor Grange, 2 Egerton road, together with scattered homes, each with 12 places, at 93 Westbourne Road, 86 Highfield Road, and Ashford House, Ashford Road.
By 1934, the Westbourne Road and Highfield Road homes had been replaced by Sunnyside, on Knowsley Road, Rock Ferry, which housed 24 children. Ashford House had sldo closed by 1937. Following an enlargement of Manor Grange to 48 places, Sunnyside was closed in around 1938. During the Second World War, Manor Grange was temporarily closed and the children evacuated to Plas Coed, 83 Dyserth Road, Rhyl, North Wales. By 1947, Manor Grange had been joined by a new home named Overchurch at Moreton Road, Upton. Each home 40 accommodated children.
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 Public Assistance Committees. The Committee took over responsibility for the Manor Grange and Overchurch homes.
The 1948 Act had recommended that where children needed to be in residential care, they should be in 'family group' homes, which ideally accommodated no more than eight children, or twelve at most. By 1952, the council had taken this path with the opening of 'family group' homes on new council housing estates at 33/35 Poolwood Road, Woodchurch; 69 Gainsborough Road, Overchurch; and 26 Garrick Road, Prenton Dell. Further family group homes followed at 17 Tulip Avenue, Claughton, by 1965, and at 49 Bridle Close, Ford Estate, Upton, by 1967. The council's children's accommodation in 1972 was as follows:
|Reception Centre, 227 Prenton Hall Road, Prenton, Birkenhead|
|33/35 Poolwood Road, Woodchurch, Birkenhead|
|69 Gainsborough Road, Overchurch, Birkenhead|
|49 Bridle Close, Ford Estate, Upton, Wirral|
|10 Ossett Close, Noctorum Estate, Birkenhead|
|22 Rudgrave Close, Noctorum Estate, Birkenhead|
|Home for Adolescent Girls, 1 Renwick Close, Noctorum, Birkenhead|
|Hostel for Mentally Handicapped Children, Rosclare House, Rosclare Close, Noctorum, Birkenhead|
In 1974, as part of a reorganisation of local government in England and Wales, the Birkenhead and Wallasey Borough Councils were abolished and replaced by the new Wirral Borough Council. The new council became responsible for the provision of social services across the Wirral and took over a number of children's homes previously operated by Birkenhead and Wallasey.
Composite list of children's establishments run (at some time in their history) by Birkenhead Council.
- Home for Adolescent Girls, 1 Renwick Close, Noctorum Estate, Birkenhead
- Family Group Home, 10 Ossett Close, Noctorum Estate, Birkenhead
- Family Group Home, 17 Tulip Avenue, Birkenhead
- Family Group Home, 22 Rudgrave Close, Noctorum Estate, Birkenhead
- Reception Home, 227 Prenton Hall Road, Prenton Hall, Birkenhead
- Family Group Home, 26 Garrick Road, Prenton Dell, Birkenhead
- Family Group Home, 33-35 Poolwood Road, Woodchurch, Birkenhead
- Family Group Home, 49 Bridle Close, Ford Estate, Upton, Birkenhead
- Family Group Home, 69 Gainsborough Road, Overchurch Estate, Upton, Birkenhead
- Birkenhead Union/Council Scattered Home, 84-86 Highfield Road, Rock Ferry, Birkenhead*
- Birkenhead/Council Union Scattered Home, 93 Westbourne Road, Birkenhead*
- Birkenhead Union/Council Scattered Home, Ashford House, Ashford Road, Birkenhead*
- Sunnyside, Knowsley Road, Rock Ferry, Birkenhead
- Birkenhead Union/Council Receiving Home, Manor Grange, 2 Egerton Road, Birkenhead*
- Children's Home, Overchurch, Moreton Road, Upton, Birkenhead
- Hostel for Mentally Handicapped Children, Rosclare House, Ravendale Close, Noctorum Estate, Birkenhead
- Plas Coed, 83 Dyserth Road, Rhyl
* indicates link to pages on www.workhouses.org.uk.
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 Birkenhead Council homes may exist at:
- Wirral Archives, Cheshire Lines Building, Canning Street, Birkenhead CH41 1ND.
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.
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- Urquhart, Gloria (2020) Nobody's Child: The True Story of Growing up in a Yorkshire Children's Home
- Cooke, Allan Institutionalized in a Children's Home: Skellow Hall 1950-1963 — a true story of a child and children in a home (2012, Authorhouse)
- Cummings, Les Forgotten: The Heartrending Story of Life in a Children's Home
- Limbrick, Gudrun The Children of the Homes: a century of Erdington Cottage Homes
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.