The Southern Provincial Police Orphanage, Redhill, Surrey

The Southern Provincial Police Orphanage was founded in 1890 by Miss Catherine Gurney (1848-1930), whose tireless work in the field of police welfare led to the establishing of a number of organisations and institutions. These included the International Christian Police Association, the Police Convalescent Seaside Home at Hove, and Redhill's sister institution, the Northern Police Orphanage at Harrogate in Yorkshire. The Southern Police Orphanage was intended to maintain and educate fatherless children of the members of police forces in England and Wales, and also ex-police in naval or military services. A separate charity existed to help the orphans of officers in London.

The orphanage, originally known as the Southern Counties Police Orphanage, began life in 1890 in a house at 51 Clarendon Villas, West Brighton, in Sussex, with the first three years of its rental being paid for by Miss Bell. The property was also used as a convalescent home for police officers, but very soon it was found that there was no room for the children. Another house in Hove was taken, but a clause in its ground lease prevented it being used as an orphanage. The home was temporarily relocated to Sutton, Surrey, before moving in 1895 to Gatton Lodge on London Road, Redhill. The property was purchased and presented to the charity by Miss Bell.

In 1901, the orphanage moved a short distance down London Road to what was to be its final home, a large house with extensive grounds known as 'The Woodlands'. The building was officially dedicated on 19th April, 1895, by which date 19 children were resident. Of these, fourteen boys dressed in sailor's suits attended the ceremony. The property was extended by the addition of the Gurney and Victoria wings which then provided accommodation for a total of 56 boys and 44 girls.

The location of the home is shown on the 1913 map below.

Police Orphanage site, Redhill, c.1913.

House and garden, Police Orphanage, Redhill, c.1910. © Peter Higginbotham

Rear view and entrance, Police Orphanage, Redhill, c.1910. © Peter Higginbotham

In July 1896, the children made what was already being described as their annual outing to Hastings. The local police force provided tea and fruit for the occasion.

The orphanage received a number of royal visits over the years. In 1904, Princess Christian opened a new sanatorium. In October 23rd, 1908, the Countess of Chichester, opened a large new wing containing a dining-hall, kitchen and dormitories. In 1911, the Duchess of Albany presented prizes at the home. In July, 1913, a further extension to the buildings was opened by Princess Alexander of Teck and Prince Alexander.

Dining Hall, Police Orphanage, Redhill, c.1910. © Peter Higginbotham

Dormitory, Police Orphanage, Redhill, c.1910. © Peter Higginbotham

Children at the home were originally educated at Merstham School, than at Frenches Road School from 1906. From 1916 until 1923, an elementary school was run in the orphanage itself. In 1923, a property known as Frenches, a short distance away on Frenches Road, was acquired for use as the Victory Memorial School. On November 20th, 1923, the Prince of Wales formally opened the school, together with the home's new chapel.

Like many children's homes, the Police Orphanage was always keen to involve its children in local activities and organisations such as the Boys Scouts and Girl Guides.

Boys Scouts Troop, Police Orphanage, Redhill, c.1910. © Peter Higginbotham

Boys Scouts Troop, Police Orphanage, Redhill, c.1910. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1926, the orphanage was renamed the Southern Provincial Police School.

The school closed in 1947. The property was subsequently occupied by St Nicholas Boarding Special School. The site is now home to East Surrey College. Almost all the original buildings have now been demolished although the former sanatorium was still standing in recent times.

Records

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.

  • Alan Moore's web page (see below) includes a list of children who attended the orphanage.

Bibliography

  • None identified at present.