The Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa

Away from London

Once the Training Ship Chichester had come into operation, the Society began to look for accommodation in the countryside, to which boys could be moved from the slums of London. In 1867, a farm for sale was found at Bisley, near Woking in Surrey, and fund-raising began to purchase the property and erect the required premises. The establishment, which became the Farm School and Country Home, came into operation in 1868.

Bisley Farm School for Boys, 1868. © Peter Higginbotham

While the initial building work was being carried out, boys from the London Refuge came in groups of 25 to spend a week's holiday at Bisley, camping in the farm's barns. When it came fully into operation, Bisley could accommodate 150 boys who were taught farming skills, carpentry, tailoring, and bread-making. Some also learned telegraphy, a skill then becoming much in demand in the commercial world. The School also had its own uniformed wind band. In 1873, the accommodation at Bisley was increased by the construction of a second home in the grounds of the Farm School, which was named the Shaftesbury School.

In 1872, the Girls' Refuge at 19 Broad Street was closed and the inmates moved to a more rural location at Sudbury Hall, Wembley. The Broad Street premises were then converted to a lodging house for working boys. In 1878, the Boys' Refuge in Great Queen Street relocated to a large mansion at Twickenham, known as Fortescue House. A smaller property at 25 Great Queen Street was then used as a receiving home for boys coming into the Society's care.

Sudbury Home for Girls, Wembley, c.1920s. © Peter Higginbotham