Ancestry UK

Westmorland County Council Homes

In 1930, the Boards of Guardians, who had administered the poor relief system in England and Wales since 1834, were abolished and their responsibilities were taken over by county and county borough councils. Each council set up a Public Assistance Committee to oversee its new duties, which included the operation of the various children's establishments previously run by the poor law unions in each area. Westmorland County Council took over just one institution, The Abbey home at Staveley, formerly run by the Kendal Union, where 60 children could be accommodated.

The Abbey, Staveley, 2010. © Peter Higginbotham

In around 1946, the council opened the Brantfield residential nursery at 26 Queen's Road, Kendal, which provided 20 places.

Following the passing of the 1948 Children Act, councils were required to provide care services for all needy children in their area, especially those who lacked a normal family home. In common with other local authorities, Cumberland County Council established a new Children's Committee, whose responsibilities had previously been spread across separate Health, Education and Public Assistance Committees. The Committee took over responsibility for The Abbey and the Brantfield nursery.

The 1948 Act had recommended that where children needed to be in residential care, they should be in 'family group' homes, which ideally accommodated no more than eight children, or twelve at most. By 1955, a new home for nine children had been opened at 27A Greenbank Road, Ambleside. The following year, The Abbey was replaced by Morningside, at Beetham Road, Milnthorpe, again with nine places. The Brantfield nursery closed in around 1958. The Greenbank Road home followed in about 1963, leaving Morningside as the council's only children's home.

In 1973, the Starnthwaite Ghyll Approved School became a Community Home with Education under the control of Westmorland County Council.

As part of the local government reorganisation that took place in 1974, the new Cumbria County Council took over the provision of children's residential care in the former counties of Cumberland and Westmorland. This included the Morningside home, which was still in use in the mid-1980s.

Children's establishments run at some time in their history by Westmorland County Council.


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The involvement of local authorities in the running of children's homes dates from 1930, when they took over the running of the poor relief system previously administered by Boards of Guardians. Surviving records for council-run children's homes may be held in each council's own internal archives. Prior to 1991, however, when a legal requirement was introduced for councils to retain records of children leaving their care, the survival of such records is very variable. Contact details for local authorities in the UK can be found on the website of the Care Leavers Association (CLA). The CLA also provides guidance on accessing childhood care files, which are normally only open to the individuals they relate to.

Locating local authority records has been complicated by the various local government reorganizations that have taken place in recent times, such as the abolition of the London County Council in 1965, and the major nationwide restructuring in 1974 in which many administrative areas were created, amended or eliminated.

Older records may sometimes be placed with the relevant county or borough record office. Many of these repositories have online catalogues of their holdings and also contribute to the National Archives' Discovery database. Note that records containing personal data usually have access closed for a period of fifty years or more.

Older material relating to Westmorland Council homes may exist at:

Some records relating to council-run homes, for example inspection reports (though not resident lists etc.), are held by The National Archives (TNA). A closure period may apply to these records.