Ancestry UK

J.A. Gibbs Memorial Home / Headlands School, Penarth, Glamorgan, Wales

In 1918, the Penarth Hotel on Paget Place, Penarth, was donated to the National Children's Home (NCH) by the Gibbs family in memory of Major J A Gibbs, who had died in the First World War. The J.A. Gibbs Memorial Home was intended to educate and train boys for naval service. The premises could accommodate 120.

J.A. Gibbs Memorial Home, Penarth, c.1920. © Peter Higginbotham

A ship's mast and rigging were installed in the grounds of the home, allowing nautical skills such as signalling to be practised on dry land.

Signalling at J.A. Gibbs Memorial Home, Penarth, c.1920. © Peter Higginbotham

Classroom at J.A. Gibbs Memorial Home, Penarth, c.1920. © Peter Higginbotham

J.A. Gibbs Memorial Home, Penarth, c.2013. © Peter Higginbotham

J.A. Gibbs Memorial Home, Penarth, c.2013. © Peter Higginbotham

J.A. Gibbs Memorial Home, Penarth, c.2013. © Peter Higginbotham

J.A. Gibbs Memorial Home, Penarth, c.2013. © Peter Higginbotham

J.A. Gibbs Memorial Home, Penarth, c.2013. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1936, the home became an Approved School for 'delinquent' boys aged from 10 to 13, placed there by magistrates. By then known as the Headlands School, the establishment housed 95 boys, with its overall capacity being raised to 128 places in June 1943 following the opening of a nearby annexe at 'Sea View' on Bradford Place, Penarth, also known as the John Cory Home. By the 1970s, the number of places at Headlands had fallen to 55.

Following the abolition of Approved Schools in 1973, the establishment became a Community Home with Education (CHE) under the control of Glamorgan County Council but closed in the early 1980s.

Although the old hotel (now a listed building) has been closed up for many years, other parts of the site have continued to be developed by NCH (now Action for Children). Headlands School now provides support for children aged 8 to 19 with a variety of behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.


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)