Ancestry UK

Sloane Street Home for Girls, Chelsea, London

In 1852, a Home for Girls was established at 125 Sloane Street, Chelsea, London SW1. Its object was 'To receive young girls who, through loss of their parents, bad examples at their homes, or other unhappy circumstances, are peculiarly exposed to temptation.' On April 4th, 1859, the establishment was certified to operate as an Industrial School, allowing it to receive girls placed under detention by magistrates. The premises could accommodate 35 girls, aged 6 to 14 years at their time of admission.

A charge of 6s. a week was made for the maintenance of each girl. At admission, a medical certificate was required and, if possible, a baptismal certificate. Voluntary inmates were required to remain at least two years. Places in service were sought for those leaving the Home.

In the first few years of its accreditation as an Industrial School, very few girls were committed there by the courts. By the end of the 1860s, however, around half of the forty or so inmates were there under detention. An inspection report in 1869 noted that the premises — a modern house — were large, and the rooms lofty and airy. Use had recently been lost of an outbuilding which supplied laundry, drying, and ironing room, leaving the arrangements for lavatory and laundry and domestic offices somewhat lacking. The bedding was very old, and very far from clean. The educational standard appeared rather low, with only 11 girls in the first and second classes combined, 10 in the third, 9 in the fourth, and 12 in the lowest class. Reading of first and second classes was very fair, dictation and writing not so good, arithmetic fair. In the other classes there was a great want of accuracy and intelligence. The knowledge of the multiplication table was however very general. It was suggested that insufficient time was being allotted to school instruction, with the girls receiving barely 10 hours per week instruction instead of the daily 2½ or 3 hours needed. The staff at that date consisted of the matron, Mrs. Brewton; the schoolmistress, Miss Baillie; and a cook.

In about 1880, Miss Brewton had been succeeded as superintendent by Miss Susan Kelly.

In the late 1870s, the number of inmates under detention again declined to a very low level but gradually climbed back during the 1880s. In 1889, 35 of the girls were committed by magistrates, with the other 17 being voluntary cases.

An inspection report in 1896 commented that the Home was a large dull terrace house, situated at a corner, so that it is open on 3 sides, at the lower end of Sloane Street. The house was said to be a very unsuitable one for a school of this kind. There were a few rooms on each floor, and the usual kind of cellar kitchen. Such a house would be difficult to let to a private resident because of the disproportionate number of servants needed require to keep it in good order, as contrasted with the accommodation provided. As a result, too much of the drudgery of work was thrown on the staff and the older girls, to the detriment of more profitable training. There was a small and rather dingy yard at the back which served as a playground. However, the girls went out every day for a good walk along the embankment or up in the park unless the weather was very bad. The girls were trained for plain domestic service. They were taught sewing well, though perhaps did a little too much of it. They had a little fine work to do in the way of marking linen, etc., sent in from shops in the neighbourhood. The girls had no cookery lessons, merely assisting in the cooking for the household. The provision for instruction in parlour maid's or house maid's work was described as poor. No mark system was in operation although good-conduct girls wee sent out freely on reengages, which was a reward they keenly appreciated.

Given the unfavourable nature of the 1896 report, the Home's management committee decided to close the establishment, which was done in 1898.

125-126 Sloane Street, London, 2018. © Peter Higginbotham


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