Ancestry UK

Warlies, Waltham Abbey, Essex

In 1928, following the closure of its 'Beehive' industrial home in Hackney, Barnardo's established new home in a large old house near Waltham Abbey known as Warlies. Warlies could house up to 65 "mentally defective girls needing training". The initial inmates, aged from 15 to over 30, were mostly former long-term residents of the Girls' Village Home at Barkingside who had been judged "unfit on account of their mentality to take up normal life and work." Their limited capabilities, it was said, had made the girls feel inadequate and self-conscious at Barkingside and their increasing numbers had been causing congestion in the Village.

A new laundry was installed at Warlies and it was planned that the older inmates would do the laundry for the London branch homes while those with physical limitations could undertake dressmaking and embroidery.

From the outset, the home was beset with problems. It took a long time to appoint a matron who then proved unsatisfactory. Cottage 'mothers' who had moved from Barkingside with the girls gradually began to resign. After a report from another staff member that the matron crept around the house and stood staring people, she was dismissed with suspicions raised of her having been a drug addict. The home also did not fare well in reports by government inspectors who criticised the silence imposed at mealtimes and the sending of girls to bed as a means of punishment.

By 1940, the home had been converted to a domestic training school for 50 girls aged 14 to 16. As well as Barnardo's girls, the school also seems to have taken outsiders who paid a weekly charge of 13s.6d.

The location of the home is shown on the 1960 map below.

Warlies site, Waltham Abbey, c.1960.

By 1954, the home had been converted to a residential mixed school catering for children having physical disabilities. It then became a mixed senior home in 1967 and finally closed in July 1975. The building is now used as offices.


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  • Barnardo, Syrie Louise, and Marchant, James Memoirs of the Late Dr Barnardo (Hodder & Stoughton, 1907)
  • Batt, J.H. Dr. Barnardo: The Foster-Father of "Nobody's Children" (S.W. Partridge, 1904)
  • Bready, J. Wesley Doctor Barnardo (Allen & Unwin, 1930)
  • Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain's Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
  • Rose, June For the Sake of the Children: Inside Dr. Barnardo's: 120 years of caring for children (Hodder & Stoughton, 1987)
  • Wagner, Gillian Barnardo (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1979)