Ancestry UK

The Waifs and Strays Story


The Society's first office premises were a single room rented in 1882 at 435 West Strand where Rudolf spent two or three hours a day reading correspondence and giving directions. For letters or other documents that needed copying, a team of twenty-six volunteer ladies could be called upon. Later in 1882, an unnamed clerk was appointed, succeeded a year later by a Mr W Williams to what was now described as the post of 'record keeper and children's escort'. An Organising Secretary was also appointed to perform liaison work between dioceses, although the post was soon recast as Assistant Secretary, at a salary of £100. This was clearly a fund-raising role since the salary was to be increased 'in proportion to the increase in the income'. Rudolf, who held the title of the Society's Honorary Secretary, was more than happy to remove himself from fund-raising raising matters and deal with everything else. He acquired an assistant in the shape of Eric (later Sir Eric) Buchanan. A former pupil of Rudolf's at the St Anne's Sunday School, Herbert Fowle, became a clerk in the office and eventually became Rudolf's long-standing deputy. A change of location came in around 1883 when the office moved to rooms above a fish shop at 32 Charing Cross, where it remained for the next eight years.

In 1890, realising that the growing Society needed a firm hand at its helm, Rudolf decided to give up his secure but unrewarding civil service post and devote himself full-time to the work of the organisation. He thus became the Society's paid Secretary and was also now officially proclaimed (rather against his wishes) as its Founder. In the same year, the Society's growing administration moved to Church House, Dean's Yard, Westminster. From 1896 to 1899, the offices were were at the old Free Library in Great Smith Street, then moved to the Medical Examination hall in Savoy Street. Finally, in 1909, the Society took over the Old Town Hall in Kennington where its headquarters were to remain until 1986.

Waifs and Strays Society Headquarters, Kennington, c.1910. © Peter Higginbotham