Ancestry UK

Good Shepherd Children's Home / Children's Home Industrial School for Girls, Leytonstone, Essex

The Good Shepherd Children's Home (also known as Miss Cotton's Home, and as the Children's Home Industrial School for Girls) was founded in 1865 by Miss Agnes Cotton, a sister of the Lord Chief Justice Henry Cotton. Its object was to provide a home for 'fallen' girls and those 'rescued from person or houses of ill-fame.'

The Home's first premises were a house at 15 Forest Place, Whipps Cross Road, Leytonstone, later described as 'the first Church of England home for fallen children'.

In 1876, the home relocated to Leytonstone where Miss Cotton purchased a house on Davies (or Davis) Lane, Leytonstone, which she renamed The Pastures. In 1879-81, a large new building was erected at a cost of £9,500 on an adjacent plot. The Home of the Good Shepherd, as it was named, include a chapel, schoolroom, infirmary and laundry.

In 1879, the Home came to the attention of the press when a member of the Board of Guardians of St George's, Hanover Square, claimed to have witnessed an unruly inmate being publicly flogged.

On May 1st, 1882, the establishment was certified for use as an Industrial School, allowing it to receive up to 40 (later 50) girls, aged 6 to 13 years, whom magistrates had placed under detention. A charge of £5 a year was made for those committed by the court, while voluntary cases were charged £14. In the former case, the Home received a government contribution to each girl's maintenance. The London School Board also contributed financially to the establishment.

The Davies lane site is shown on the 1895 map below.

Children's Home of the Good Shepherd site, Leytonstone, c.1895.

Charges of ill-treatment again surfaced in 1894 following complaints by a girl named Maud Catherine Dunn who had been sent by magistrates to the Home in December 1892. She had been subsequently licensed out to employment with a Mrs Fletcher and a Mrs Rogers, with time in between spent at Miss Cotton's branch establishment at Clapton. Dunn's complaints included the withholding by Miss Cotton of the wages from time in employment; the stamping of her clothes with the words "Leytonstone Industrial Schools"; the forcible cropping of her hair; and the infliction upon her of corporal punishment. Dunn claimed that Miss Cotton had struck her on the head with a thick book, and threatened her with the birch. Another former inmate of the Home, Louisa Lance, testified that she had been publicly caned in the ironing room and, on a another occasion, been thrashed with a flog whip. Alice Smith, another inmate, said that while she had be at Miss Cotton's Branch Home at Clapton, she had been ill-treated and had seen another girls struck on the head and shoulders with a length of copper pipe. In reply, Miss Cotton stated that the money earned by girls out on licence was banked for them to prevent them being cheated. Clothing was stamped to prevent it being pawned, and hair was cut for cleanliness. No excessive punishment was ever inflicted. Although Miss Cotton was exonerated, her reputation was damaged and a few months later the London School Board withdrew its financial support for the home.

On May 18th, 1893, an Auxiliary Home for the School was opened at 'The Myrtles', 58 Northwold Road, Upper Clapton. It was used for girls making the transition from detention in the main School to working outside as domestic servants. The School's inspector also noted that 'if a girl is violent or troublesome, she can be removed to the auxiliary, where she can be more readily dealt with among girls of her own age and standing.'

A report of the Home in 1896 noted that it was somewhat convent-like and gloomy. Several of the older or troublesome girls slept in cubicles, in which they were shut in at night and separated from one another, an arrangement which appeared unique to the institution. There was a six-acre garden to which the girls had access. The girls were trained for domestic service, with a good deal of outside work being carried out in the laundry. Several of the older girls assisted in the kitchen but no special cookery lessons were given. The girls also assisted in the housework, with practice in the duties of parlour-maid being limited to Miss Cotton's own house. Sessions of physical drill with extension exercises were given by a teacher who came in once a week. There several small yards for play. The older girls went out for a walk once a week in addition to Sunday, the younger going more frequently. There was a library, and the winter evenings were spent at light occupations, drill, or games. Serious offences were dealt with by deprivation of privileges or luxuries in food. There was an ugly seclusion room to which girls were sent to take their meals and, and on rare occasions to sleep. Good conduct and industry were rewarded by small money rewards, which were banked.

At the end of 1896, Miss Cotton was in failing health and resigned the Home's Industrial School certificate. After her death on 20th May, 1899, the home was taken over by the sisters of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer. It continued in operation until its wartime evacuation to Northamptonshire but was thereafter discontinued.

The original buildings on Davies Lane no longer survive.


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.

  • Berkshire Record Office, Berkshire Record Office, 9 Coley Avenue, Reading, Berks RG1 6AF. Holds the Clewer Sisters' archives.
  • Records for baptisms for children from the Home in 1890-91, performed at Holy Trinity Church, Harrow Green, have been transcribed by Waltham Forest FHS and can be searched online.



  • None identified at present.