Ancestry UK

The National Orphan Home for Girls, Richmond, Surrey

The National Orphan Home for Girls was founded in 1849 in response to the cholera epidemic of that year which had resulted in the existing orphan homes soon becoming full. The scheme received financial support from Mr John Minter Morgan who paid for the purchase of a property at Ham Common, Richmond, in which to open the establishment. The home, known until 1854 as the Cholera Orphan Home, could accommodate 70 children. Plans were made to erect a larger building on the site which would increase the home's capacity to 200. A bequest from Mr Morgan of £500, together with other fund-raising efforts enabled the laying of the building's foundation stone on July 2nd, 1856. The first phase of the new premises — the centre, east wing, and domestic facilities — was finally opened by Lord Amberley on July 16th, 1862.

The location of the home is shown on the 1894 map below.

National Orphan Home site, Richmond, c.1894.

National Orphan Home, c.1856. © Peter Higginbotham

As was usual with such establishments, admission of applicants to the home was decided by a twice-yearly ballot of the charity's subscribers although a large lump-sum payment could also secure entry.

National Orphan Home, c.1875. © Peter Higginbotham

Once they reached the age of 15, the most common destination for the girls at the home was to go into domestic service. In preparation for this they received training in kitchen, house and laundry work and also provided all the labour to run the home itself.

Scrubbing dormitories at National Orphan Home, c.1875. © Peter Higginbotham

In the laundry at National Orphan Home, c.1875. © Peter Higginbotham

Here is a summary of the institution's details from 1890:

Object.—'For affording a home to destitute orphan girls (fatherless) from 7 to 12 years of age, of all classes and denominations, from all parts of the kingdom (principally of domestic servants and small tradesmen).' Admission.—By election of subscribers in January and July, or presentation. Each annual subscription of 10s., or life subscription of £5, confers one vote for each election. Votes recorded for unsuccessful candidates are carried to their credit at the next election. Children can also be admitted by payment of 120 guineas from the age of 7 and upwards. A cot for all time, —450. Candidates must be nominated by a subscriber; furnish certificates of parents' marriage, of birth, of father's death, and medical certificate; and furnish a guarantee on the part of two respectable householders that she shall be removed on attaining the age of 15, or before, if required.

Playground at National Orphan Home, c.1875. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1924, the orphanage was closed and its operation merged with that of the Female Orphan Asylum at Beddington.

The Ham Common building, now known as South Lodge, has been converted to flats.


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