The Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa

The Turn of the Century

In 1896, the Boys' Refuge at 164 Shaftesbury Avenue was turned into a Technical School for older boys from the Society's other homes. Boys arrived at the age of 14 and received up to two years of instruction in shoemaking or tailoring.

Several new fund-raising ventures were launched in 1900. Children from comfortable homes were targeted by the formation of a 'Victoria League' for girls, and an 'Arethusa League' for boys. Lantern-slide presentations of the Society's work were prepared, after which collections were taken. A network of local agents was set up to promote the Society and to receive donations. The Society also benefited from substantial donations from Alfred Fennings, the founder of a successful company selling over-the-counter medicines such as Fennings' Fever Curer. After Fennings' death in 1900, the Society continued to receive the profits from his company which eventually ran into millions of pounds. In 1904, the Society became Incorporated under the 1867 Companies Act which allowed it to formally hold its own property and also freed its Trustees from personal financial liabilities.

On the occasion of its Diamond Jubilee in 1903, the Society decided to set up a new home for girls who were too young to attend the existing establishments at Sudbury and Ealing. Financial constraints delayed progress with the scheme but in 1906 a site was purchased at Royston in Hertfordshire. The Little Girls' Home, which accommodated up to 80 children, was officially opened in November, 1908.

Royston Home for Little Girls, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham