St Matthew's Home for Female Orphans, Bayswater, London
St Matthew's Home for Female Orphans was established in 1839 'to provide destitute female orphans with maintenance and clothing, together with such religious instruction and moral training as may enable them to gain an honest livelihood as servants or otherwise.'
In 1869, the Home was based at 10 Victoria Grove (later renamed Ossington Street), Bayswater. In September of that year, a fire at the house destroyed the back part of the basement, with the upper portion of the house also seriously damaged. The fire was thought to have been caused by overheating the ironing stoves.
By 1881, the Home was occupying premises at 35-37 Ossington Street, where around 40 girls could be accommodated. By 1907, the Home had moved to 49 Ossington Street with space for 20 girls.
Admission to the Home was by election of the charity's subscribers, and payment of an entrance fee of £4. Candidates had to be recommended by a subscriber, and furnish certificates of birth or baptism, or other evidence of age, of parents' marriage and death, and of health.
The Home is believed to have ceased operation at around the time of the First World War.
Marion Green, whose mother spent some time in the care of St Matthew's, has kindly contributed the following memories:
My mother, Naomi Elizabeth Lake, b. 21/5/1906, was placed in the above "home" as she called it, when a very young child on returning to England from Kansas, U.S.A. in 1911, where her parents emigrated to, along with her two older brothers, following the death of their father, Alfred Thomas Lake, in the States. Mum would often speak of her time there where, she was cared for by an older girl called Marion — my own name.
She said "As I was the youngest, the Matron used to take me out for tea to her friend, who was a Chinese lady whose feet were bound so she took tiny steps. The Matron's toilet had a blue pattern on it, which we girls couldn't use. Every day we'd walk in a crocodile through Kensington Gardens where we'd wonder at the statue of of Peter Pan. There was little food which was poor, we were given lamb fat to eat and one day I intentionally dropped it on the floor and was made to eat it after it was found. Our clothes were hand-me-downs and holes were cobbled to repair them. The shoes were also handed down and didn't fit properly. In the winter, we had to break the ice to wash ourselves. During the first world war the home was evacuated to Bembridge, I.O.W, because the Germans were using gas and it was feared it may be used in London. The house in Bembridge was owned by one of the Governors of the Orphanage". Mum left when she was 14 and returned to live with her mother and, older brother's, as her mother acquired a flat where they could all reside in Walthamstow.
Mum and her three brothers' were all placed in Orphanages, because their mother was destitute. The two older boys', Edward and Robert went to Aylesbury. Every month they were allowed home for a weekend and, Bob the youngest would lock himself in the toilet when it was time to return. The youngest one (born after Grandma returned to England) Alfred — named after his father — was accepted by Barnardo's who, when he was 11, went to North Elmham Naval Training College and eventually became a Sea Captain in the Australian Navy. Our Grandma, Harriet Naomi Lake, also had a child in Kansas, a boy called Thomas. Sadly, he was considered to be an "alien" as we weren't friendly with America at the time and, was left behind where he was taken in by his father's brother and had a good life. Grandma asked Barnardo's to take all of her children but they wouldn't.
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- None identfied at present — any information welcome.
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- None identified at present.
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