Monday, 3 October 2016

British Home Children ............ a story

I wonder at the stories behind these faces.

The picture was taken some time at the end of the 19th or very early in the 20th century in Manchester.

Each of these young people was in the care of the Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges which had been established in 1870 to provide a bed and a meal for destitute boys.*

The charity quickly extended its work to include girls as well as boys, to provide more permanent homes offering training for future careers along with holiday homes.

It also campaigned against some of the worst cases of child exploitation taking negligent parents to court and arguing against the practise of employing young children to sell matches on the streets of the twin cities.

And like other children’s charities it became involved in the migration of young people to Canada.

These were the British Home Children and between 1870-1939 100,000 boys and girls between the ages of 5-16, from all over the country were sent to Canada.

Later still right into the middle of the 20th century many more went to Australia.

They were pauper children or orphans, picked off the streets often after deals done with parents, and some were from the Work Houses. They went to work on farms and as domestic servants.

Many lost all contact with their families, and others grew up totally ignorant that they even had a family.

Their descendants  have only found out years later that one of their lost relatives was settled in Canada or Australia.

All of us who have discovered a British Home Child in our family have faced a mixture of emotions, from anger, to deep sadness to a sense of pride in the achievements of these young people.

For most of us it has been a long journey piecing together fragments of clues, unpicking half remembered stories and coping with some awful stories.

The Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges were one of the first to stop sending children but others continued.

And the charity seems to have been more vigilant about the children who they sent, unlike other organisations which failed to keep regular checks on the welfare of the young people who they dispatched.

One of my great uncles went out in 1914 under the care of the Middlemore Charity who undertook the transfer on behalf of the Guardians of the Derby Work House.

And having begun to research those who went from Manchester I have decided to extend the research to south east London and in particular Eltham.

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust,

*Getting down and dusty, the blog of the Together Trust, once the Manchester & Salford Boys' & Girls' Refuges,

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