Ancestry UK

LCC School for Blind Girls, West Norwood, London, London

In May 1900, the London School Board purchased Elm Court, a large private house with an extensive garden and orchard, on Elmcourt Road, West Norwood (or Tulse Hill). On 2 June 1902, after the necessary alterations had been made, the premises were opened as a residential home/school for blind girls aged from 12 to 16 years. Initially, there were twenty girls resident, plus two or three day pupils, but the accommodation for boarders was eventually increased to about forty-five. At the outset, the property's former billiard room and coach-house were used as school rooms, until arrangements could be made for the girls to attend a blind day centre.

One of the home's aims was to fit the girls for earning their own living and for half of the week, they received technical teaching. Chair caning and basket work were taught by a mechanic, and knitting, sewing, wool rug-making and typewriting by the ordinary teachers. The girls learnt cooking and laundry work at one of the Board's domestic economy centres. They also made their own beds, and performed many other domestic duties in the home.

Type-writing at Elm Court Home for Blind Girls, Tulse Hill, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

Chair-caning at Elm Court Home for Blind Girls, Tulse Hill, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

Rug-making at Elm Court Home for Blind Girls, Tulse Hill, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

In the classroom, the girls enjoyed reading and writing, and created their own Braille books. They particularly enjoyed being read to, something which often happened in the evening, while they worked at rug-making or knitting. At meal times and other odd times, the matron would read aloud some story of adventure, or of domestic interest, or from a newspaper. Below is an account, typewritten by one of the girls, of a day in her life at Elm Court in around 1903:

This is an account of how we spend Monday at Elm Court. We get up at half-past six, and after washing and having our hair done, some of us have a little work to do before breakfast. My work is to take up the mats that we have beside our beds, and roll them up. Then if the other girls are not ready we wait and all come down together. We have a few minutes to walk round the garden before breakfast, which we have at a quarter to eight generally. At breakfast-time, when it is fine, we are on the lawn to hear the birds sing. It is lovely to be out there. We have prayers and a hymn before breakfast. After breakfast one girl stays down to clear, and the rest of us go upstairs to make our beds. Then we put on our boots and do what we like till school-time, when Mrs Hartland rings a bell and we get in a line in front of the playroom, and Mrs Hartland sees if we are tidy. Before play-time in school, the lessons we have are Scripture, mental arithmetic and ordinary arithmetic. Then we have a quarter of an hour's recess, which, when it is fine, we spend in the orchard. Then after play we have geography, reading and composition, which some of us do in typewriting. We have dinner at a quarter past twelve and finish about one o'clock. Then from one till twenty to two we are read to in the orchard. Then we go up to the house to prepare for school. On Monday afternoons I go to Mr Cheek, a gentleman who comes to teach us basket-making. Then we have prayers, and leave school at half-past four. We do what we like till five, then we have tea; then, as we do not have evening school on Monday, we go into the orchard and do what we please until eight o'clock, at which time we go to bed. After nine we are not supposed to speak.

Tea party at Elm Court Home for Blind Girls, Tulse Hill, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

The establishment appears to have closed at the time of the Second World War, during which the buulding was destroyed. In 1960, the new Elmcourt school for delicate children was opened on the site.


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