The Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa

The Post-War Years

After the war, the subject of how best to deal with children in care came under the spotlight. A parliamentary Committee was appointed, under Miss Myra Curtis, "to inquire into the existing methods of providing for children who... are deprived of a normal home life with their own parents or relatives; and to consider what further measures should be taken to ensure that these children are bought up under conditions best calculated to compensate them for the lack of parental care." The Committee looked at wide range of children including the destitute, the homeless, war orphans, the physically and mentally handicapped, children removed from their families by the courts, and children awaiting adoption. Its conclusions, in what became known as the Curtis Report, had a huge impact. For children without parents or a satisfactory home, adoption was proposed as the best option, with fostering the next best. If a child had to undergo institutional care, then this should be in small homes of no more than twelve children and ideally no more than eight. Children in such homes should be encouraged to maintain contact with relatives and to develop friendships outside the home. Brothers and sisters in care should be kept together. The Curtis Report's proposals formed the basis of the 1948 Children's Act.

An early sign of the changing approach came in the summer of 1946. The parents of those children in the Society's care who could afford to pay for their fare went home for the holiday. Others spent time in the homes of volunteer 'aunts and uncles'.

The Society also had to contend with the requirements of the 1944 Education Act, under which primary and secondary education was to be provided at separate schools. This caused problems at Bisley where the two original schools had merged in 1919, one becoming the junior department, the other the senior. It was eventually determined that Bisley would have to become a secondary school for boys aged 11 and over, while Fortescue House in Twickenham would be a primary school for those aged 7 to 11.

In November 1945, the boys at Fordham House moved to larger premises in Hampstead, although the Technical School was discontinued as part of the reorganisation. However, the steeply rising costs of the Society's operations — partly due to a post-war surge in the numbers of children being taken into care — meant that cuts had to be made. It was therefore decided in 1948 to close Fordham House. The Society also sold the freehold of its Head Office site on Shaftesbury Avenue, though continued to rent offices on the first floor of the building.

Further retrenchment followed in 1952 with the closure of the Esher Place and Royston homes. Esher Place was replaced by a much smaller house a few miles away at East Molesey. In 1958, Bisley was also closed and the boys transferred to Fortescue House which was reorganised and expanded to create separate junior and senior schools on the same site. On the more positive side, an ocean-going steam yacht, Glen Strathallan, was bequeathed to the Society in 1955 for use in the training of boys for the sea services. It was moored on the Thames alongside to the Arethusa.