St Anne's Home for Girls, Ambleside, Westmorland

St Anne's Home for Girls was opened by the Waifs and Strays Society in 1907 at Ellerigg Road, Ambleside. The property had been donated to the Society by Mrs Charles Bayley in memory of her husband, a former vicar at St Mary's Church in the town. The official opening took of the new home place on February 2nd, 1907, with the Bishop of Carlisle conducting a ceremony of dedication. The home could accommodate 20 girls aged from 2 to 15 years.

St Anne's Home for Girls, Ambleside, c.1929. © Peter Higginbotham

The home had a large back garden for the girls to play in.

Rear of St Anne's Home for Girls, Ambleside, c.1920. © Peter Higginbotham

St Anne's Home for Girls, Ambleside, c.1921. © Peter Higginbotham

St Anne's Home for Girls, Ambleside, c.1924. © Peter Higginbotham

St Anne's Home for Girls, Ambleside, c.1926. © Peter Higginbotham

The girls attended school in Ambleside. The home's location, up a steep hill out of the town, certainly kept the girls fit.

St Anne's Home girls off to school, Ambleside, c.1911. © Peter Higginbotham

St Anne's Home girls returning from school, Ambleside, c.1927. © Peter Higginbotham

The older girls helped with the housework, cooking and laundry, in preparation for future employment in domestic service.

St Anne's Home girls at work cleaning, Ambleside, c.1911. © Peter Higginbotham

Christmas was always a highlight of the year for the girls. Here is a description of the first Christmas at St Anne's in 1907.

St. Anne's Home is built on the top of a very steep hill, but it was in vain that Matron tried to persuade her flock that Santa Claus really had so many Homes to visit on Christmas Eve that he would not have time to climb the hill with his sack on his back — besides, our Home is a new one, he can hardly have heard of it yet! A few doubtful looks, but many wise shakes of the head, till the difficulty is solved by one bright little maiden. "When we are in bed, Matron, you could go down the hill, and help Santa Claus up with his parcels."

Christmas Eve is a busy day. The laundry work must be finished off, and the Home decorated with holly, evergreens, and pretty coloured paper-chains and how often the door bell rings, and mysterious packets arrive! "With best wishes for a Happy Christmas."

Most willingly all the children trot off to bed early, and soon all is still and quiet upstairs, though not downstairs — there much remains to be done. Going round the dormitories, you would see a stocking hanging at the foot of each little bed, and such a big one by Baby's Cot — her nurse (aged 12) thinks socks are much too small for Christmas, so begs the biggest stocking in the Home for her pet. Well, wonderful to relate, Santa Claus does come, and does fill every stocking with delightful and beautiful things — apples, oranges, nuts, sugar biscuits, toys, and musical instruments (for we make just as much noise as ever we like on Christmas morning). Of course he came, for did not Minnie see him "disappearing up the chimney, dressed in a blue coat"?

"Nowell, Nowell!" How sweet the young voices sound, for the lovely old words echo first through the Home, singing carols at Matron's bedroom door; and after that, back to bed, stockings, and chatter, till Matron's two big girls return from early Church.

Sausages for breakfast are almost forgotten in the joys of cards and presents, mostly from our "ladies." But we must not tarry too long — it would never do to be late for service, and a merrier, happier little band of girls it would be hard to find, as they run down the hill to join in the hearty service at the Parish Church.

Dinner comes at once on our return, and such a dinner! For have we not a turkey — and such a turkey! the biggest and best we have ever seen, much less eaten — a present from a kind and generous friend, our butcher. Plum-puddings follow, and they, too, are a present, from one of our Committee ladies; and crackers, and dessert. All is illuminated by little coloured candles down the tables, and still more by the bright excited little faces round. Matron's presents come next — dolls for the little ones, and workboxes and baskets for the elder girls, and the afternoon soon passes in admiring and displaying their beauties; besides, we have visitors, for several of our local Committee come up to wish us a Merry Christmas, and the children gleefully show their gifts, and afterwards sing some of the carols they have been busily practising for the last few weeks.

Tea, more crackers and tun, and the day is nearly over; but we have still something to look forward to, for on New Year's Eve our kind Secretary has asked us all to tea, and though we don't yet know it, and it is a very big secret, there is going to be a Christmas-tree!

A simple, happy day, but a day of such rare, perfect joy, that the memory of it will never fade when these girls are grown up and out in the world and far away and what a change to many of them from last Christmas! Can you imagine what it meant to a girl of fourteen, who had never pulled a cracker, never seen a plum-pudding, much less a turkey, or a Christmas-tree? and can you wonder that, although she is waiting-maid on Christmas Day, she stands with open mouth, and is worse than useless in her duties?

At last the day comes to an end, with prayers and carols, and a hearty thanksgiving to God for the "very happiest Christmas we have ever had."

St Anne's Home for Girls, Ambleside, c.1932. © Peter Higginbotham

Former residents often kept in touch with the home and with each other, with occasional reunions taking place.

Old girls' reunion at St Anne's Home, Ambleside, 1915. © Peter Higginbotham

Rear of St Anne's Home for Girls, Ambleside, 2012. © Peter Higginbotham

Former St Anne's Home for Girls, Ambleside, 2012. © Peter Higginbotham

The home was closed in 1950. The property is now a private residence.

Former St Anne's Home for Girls, Ambleside, 2012. © Peter Higginbotham

Records

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Bibliography

  • Bowder, Bill Children First: a photo-history of England's children in need (1980, Mowbray)
  • Church of England Waifs and Strays' Society [Rudolfe, Edward de Montjoie] The First Forty Years: a chronicle of the Church of England Waifs and Strays' Society 1881-1920 (1922, Church of England Waifs and Strays' Society / S.P.C.K.)
  • Rudolf, Mildred de Montjoie Everybody's Children: the story of the Church of England Children's Society 1921-1948 (1950, OUP)
  • Stroud, John Thirteen Penny Stamps: the story of the Church of England Children's Society (Waifs and Strays) from 1881 to the 1970s (1971, Hodder and Stoughton)
  • Morris, Lester The Violets Are Mine: Tales of an Unwanted Orphan (2011, Xlibris Corporation) — memoir of a boy growing up in several of the Society's homes (Princes Risborough, Ashdon, Hunstanton, Leicester) in the 1940s and 50s.