Nazareth House, Plymouth, Devon
A Nazareth House was opened in 1932 in a property known as Winter Villa on Durnford Street in the Stonehouse area of Plymouth, overlooking Firestone Bay. It primarily catered for orphan and destitute Roman Catholic girls aged from 2 to 16, of whom 135 could be accommodated. The home also replaced St Teresa's Orphanage which had fulfilled a similar role, with the existing St Teresa's girls being transferred to the new premises.
During the Second World War, the high risk of air-raids in Plymouth led to the girls being evacuated ten miles away to Elfordleigh, with the home then being used as a billet for a regiment of Royal Marines. The building did in fact suffer considerable damage from enemy bombing but the home was able to resume operation after the war. and the cleared site was used for a chapel. After the war, the nuns and girls returned and were housed in what remained of the building.
In July 1947, the home received unwelcome attention in the press after it was revealed that a fifteen-year-old resident was found to have been meeting German prisoners. The girl had been sent to a convent at Saltash where it was alleged that she worked in the laundry from 8.30 a.m. until 6 at night apart from mealtimes, for which she received 2s. 6d. a month.
In April, 1949, prompt action by Sister Jude averted what might have been a serious fire at the home when fumes from an oil-fuel boiler ignited and set the boiler-house alight. She rushed into the building and switched off the main oil supply. Two appliances arrived from Plymouth City Fire Brigade and the flames were soon extinguished.
By the 1970s, Nazareth House provided a "Chidren's Home and Nursery Family Groups" which accommodated boys up to the age of 11 and girls up to the age of 18.
The premises were completely rebuilt in around 1972 and are now used as a residential care home for the elderly.
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.
- Sisters of Nazareth Archive, Sisters of Nazareth Archive, Nazareth House, 169-175 Hammersmith Road, London W6 8DB. The archivist is Christine Hughes. The archive contains material from the very beginnings of the order in the 1850s up until the present day. The archive is not open to the public and does not have facilities for personal searchers, although exceptions can be made for Sisters and for academic researchers. Enquiries are welcomed by post only for privacy and confidentiality reasons and replies are by also letter. There is no fee for dealing with enquiries, although donations to the Sisters are appreciated.
- Fothergill, Anne Memoirs of a Nazareth House Girl (2013, Quoin Publishing). Memories of the Middlesbrough Nazareth House.
- Gray-Wilson, Shirley It isn't Always Raining: Children in Care, 1939-1948 (2000). Life in the Carlisle and Newcastle Nazareth Houses.
- Kelly, Judith Rock Me Gently: A Memoir Of A Convent Childhood (2006, Bloomsbury). A memoir of life at Bexhill Nazareth House in the early 1950s. The factual veracity of this book has been challenged, and charges of plagiarism levelled against the author (e.g. see Catholic Herald 2/9/2005). The introduction to the current edition of the book acknowledges some of these criticisms.
- Reilley, Frances Suffer The Little Children: The True Story of An Abused Convent Upbringing (2009, Orion). Memories of the Belfast Nazareth House.
- Nuns 'abused hundreds of children' (Guardian article 16/8/1998)
- Sisters of No Mercy (Guardian article 1/4/2003)
- Compensation for care homes abuse (BBC News item 15/8/2006)
- Sisters of Nazareth become second Catholic order to admit to child abuse (Guardian article 14/1/2014)
- Children at Derry care homes were made to eat vomit, inquiry told (Guardian article 27/1/2014)
- A Time for Penance? (BBC Scotland 'Frontline' TV feature on abuse in Scottish Nazareth Houses)
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