Ancestry UK

Lambeth, Lambeth, London

In 1869, a small house at 8 Church Street (now Exton Street) in Lambeth became the founding home of what eventually grew into the National Children's Home (NCH), now called Action for Children. It was opened by Thomas Bowman Stephenson, an evangelical Methodist minister who had become concerned by the 'ragged, shoeless, filthy, hungry' children he had encountered while going about his clerical duties in the area. With the support of two Methodist friends, he rented the house which admitted two homeless boys — George Oliver and Frederick James Hall — as its first residents on 9th July, 1869. The home was supervised by the resident house-parents, a Mr and Mrs Austin.

8 Church Street, Lambeth © Peter Higginbotham

The house had two rooms on its ground floor with a loft above, which became a dormitory. At the rear was a yard where the boys worked at chopping wood, and a stable which was converted into a dining room and washroom. More boys were taken in and by September of that year, with the total reaching twenty, additional accommodation was obtained by renting an adjacent house.

Interior of 8 Church Street, Lambeth

After Stephenson was transferred to the Bethnal Green Circuit in 1871, it was decided that the home needed to be closer to his new location. Accordingly, new premises were found on Bonner Road, Bethnal Green, and the Church Street home was then closed.

The Church Street property no longer exists, although its front door has been preserved.


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.

  • Action For Children (formerly the National Children's Home). Can provide access to their own records for individuals who were adopted through the charity or who resided in one of its homes. Help also for those searching for family history information.


  • Bradfield, William The Life of the Reverend Thomas Bowman Stephenson (1913, Kelly)
  • Curnock, Nehemiah The Story of the Children's Home (C.H. Kelly, 1901)
  • Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain's Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
  • Horner, Francis Shadow and Sun (Epworth Press, 1920)
  • Howard, Philip J Philip: a Strange Child (Dalkeith Publishing, 2007)
  • Philpot, Terry Action For Children (Lion, 1994)
  • Walpole, Cecil F. Golden Links (Epworth Press, 1941)