This site is only being updated in part now. Existing full posts will still remain, but for new blogs and more information on me, please see my new website HERE

Sunday, 29 January 2012

"It has long been considered necessary" - The London and South Western Railway Orphanage - Part 1

In the mid-Victorian period a strong community spirit grew amongst railway workers of all grades, with one of the most community-orientated railway companies to work for being the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR). Its employees banded together to form a Widows and Orphans Fund in 1861 to support families of railway workers who had been killed on the railways.[1]  Furthermore, the company’s staff magazine, The South Western Gazette, was established by railway workers to support this charitable cause.[2] Yet, if the father and husband had not subscribed to the fund, in the event they were killed at work their families were did not receive any money from it. Thus, with the support of many of the L&SWR’s managers and employees, the ‘London and South Western Railway Servants’ Orphanage’ was established in early 1886 to support these railwaymen's children.

Prior to 1886 there was only one orphanage for railway worker’s children in Britain, run by Midland Railway employees at Derby from 1875 and housing children from all over the country.[3] In November 1883 a letter to The Hampshire Advertiser noted that the daughter of William Parker, a L&SWR platelayer who had been killed the year before, had been admitted this home.[4] Like the L&SWR employee’s orphanage would be, the Derby institution was independent from the Midland Railway and was run on voluntary contributions.[5] Yet, by1883 it was reaching capacity and this fact may have been the impetus for an orphanage being started for the children of L&SWR employees.[6]

In 1884 the Rev. Canon Allen Edwards, who was known as the ‘railwaymen’s parson’, set about raising support and funds.[7] An article in the Gazette in January 1885 noted that many important individuals, both inside and outside the railway company, had already volunteered contributions. The list included names such as the company’s ex-General Manager, Archibald Scott, its Deputy Chairman, Wyndam S. Portal, the Right Honourable the Lord Cairns, and the Bishop of Winchester. In total, twenty-one notable individuals had given financial support, with nine individuals pledging to contribute in the future. The goal of the orphanage was given as the following:

‘It has long been considered necessary that a home should be provided for the orphans of men who, at the time of their death, were in the service of the London and South Western Railway Company, leaving families unprovided for, such accident being the result of accident or natural cause.’

The orphanage’s organisation was headed by a small committee of railwaymen, none of whom were L&SWR managers. Furthermore, there were sub-committees at each of the principal stations to put up children as candidates for entry into the home. These candidates were voted on by the subscribers, who each received a vote for each five shilling donation to the orphanage. The regional committees were also responsible for raising funds for the orphanage’s operations and the sending of a representative to the central committee.[8]

The orphanage opened in March 1886 at a private house in Jeffreys Road, Clapham; the initial intake being ‘ten fatherless girls’ under the age of fourteen.[9] The next elections for entry came in October 1886 and the Gazette listed the circumstances of eight children who had been candidates for entry. The circumstances of the three that successfully entered the home were as follows:

1. Nellie Short, Father, a porter was killed in 1885. Mother has seven children, one in service; the rest she provides for by her own labour. – 504 votes
2. Ellen Elizabeth Hicks, Father, a brakesman, died in 1886. Mother has three young children and provides for them almost entirely by her own labour. – 412 votes
3. Edith Flora Burningham, Father a horse inspector died in February this year. Mother has eight children, three of whom are earning a little money. – 266 votes[10]

As the number of children in the home increased more space was required. Thus, the orphanage committee acquired the house next door in 1894, allowing it to accommodate a total of fifty girls. Yet, by this point it was felt that a home for boys was required, and a year later another house in Jeffreys Road was purchased, which by the start of 1896 was housing twenty-six boys. But the number of orphanages housed continued rising and in 1900 the committee purchased a larger house in Guildford Road, South Lambeth, to which all the girls transferred.[11]

While many of these developments were funded by the contributions of railway workers, large donations were made by individuals from within the railway company. The General Manager of the company between 1885 and 1897, Sir Charles Scotter, and his wife, Annie, were major supporters of the orphanage. The new home for boys in 1895 was purchased with a donation of 100 guineas from Scotter and for this reason Annie’s name was on the building.[12] Furthermore, the new home for girls in 1900 was purchased with a contribution of 500 guineas from the L&SWR’s directors.[13] Lastly, funds were also raised through fairs, such as one at Basingstoke in 1887,[14] and concerts, for example one the Duchess of Albany attended at Eastleigh in 1892.[15] Thus, the activities supporting the orphanage exemplified the community spirit that existed within the L&SWR between railway workers themselves, and between the company’s management and their employees.

By the early 1900s the two homes were again reaching capacity and a new site was sought. Indeed, with £2,800 bequeathed from Mr Thomas Parker Harvey a new orphanage was opened in Woking in 1909. The building of this institution, and its work in the 1920s, will be the subject of the next post.[16]


[1] South Western Gazette, 7 July 1888, p.4
[2] South Western Gazette, June 1881, p.5
[4] The Hampshire Advertiser, Saturday, November 24, 1883; pg. 6; Issue 3907
[5] South Western Gazette, December 1886, p.187
[6] The Hampshire Advertiser, Saturday, November 24, 1883; pg. 6; Issue 3907
[7] Unknown Author, ‘London and South Western Servants Orphanage’, South Western Railway Magazine, Vol. VII No. 70 (January, 1921), p.2
[8] South Western Gazette, January 1885, p.3
[9] Unknown Author, ‘London and South Western Servants Orphanage’, p.2
[10] South Western Gazette, December 1886, p.187
[11] Unknown Author, ‘London and South Western Servants Orphanage’, p.2-3
[12] South Western Gazette, 1 January, 1911, p.9
[13] Unknown Author, ‘London and South Western Servants Orphanage’, p.2-3
[14] The Hampshire Advertiser, Wednesday, July 20, 1887; pg. 2; Issue 4288
[15] The Hampshire Advertiser, Saturday, April 09, 1892; pg. 8; Issue 4782
[16] Unknown Author, ‘London and South Western Servants Orphanage’, p.2-3

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...