Ancestry UK

Esher Place / Princess Louise Home, Esher, Surrey

In 1930, the Shaftesbury Homes charity opened a new home for girls at Esher Place, a large mansion set in ten acres of grounds, near Esher, in Surrey. The establishment replaced the existing Shaftesbury homes at Sudbury Hall, which was proving too expensive to maintain, and at Ealing. Most of the £8,000 cost of converting Esher Hall was raised by the sale of the Sudbury and Ealing properties. In its new role, Esher could accommodate 175 'fatherless and destitute' girls, aged from 5½ to 12 at their date of entry.

The new home was formally opened on All Saints' Day (November 1st), 1930, by Princess Helen Victoria. The opening coincided with the 400th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Wolsey whom Henry VIII had been banished to Esher Place after his fall from grace in 1528.

The Esher Place site is shown on the 1935 map below.

Esher Place site, c.1935.

Esher Place Home, aerial view from the south-west, 1930s. © Peter Higginbotham

The girls at Esher Place were trained in domestic duties such as cooking, laundry and needlework. They also received religious instruction and physical training classes. Many of the girls belonged to the Girl Guides. Although most of the girls went into domestic service, some gained employment as teachers, dressmakers, milliners and nurses, with nursery nursing also gaining popularity.

Princess Louise visits Esher Place, 1930s. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1935, following an approach from the National Society for the Protection of Young Girls (Princess Louise Home), which was in financial difficulties, a merger was agreed between the two organisations. The Esher home was then renamed Esher Place (Princess Louise Home for Girls).

In 1952, to help reduce the Society's growing financial deficit, The Esher Place Home was closed. In its place, a much smaller property was purchased a few miles away at East Molesey. The new home, at 48 Palace Road, adopted the name Esher House and could accommodate 20 girls.

In 1969, as a further cost-saving measure, Esher House moved a short distance to a smaller property at 26 Hansler Grove, East Molesey. Another move took place in 1975 to premises at Arnison Road, East Molesey, with the establshment now providing a home for young single mothers and their babies.

The Esher Place premises are now a training and conference centre for the Unite trade union. The East Molesey properties all still exist.


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.


  • Bailey, Marion Chance of a Lifetime - the Story of the Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa (1996, Dianthus Publishing)
  • Cuthbert, V Where Dreams Come True: A Record of 95 Years (1937, London: Shaftesbury Homes and "Arethusa" Training Ship)
  • Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain's Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
  • Hodder, Edwin The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G. (1886, Cassell)