Homes for Motherless Children, Chiswick, London

The Homes for Motherless Children organisation was set up in 1896 by the evangelist Robert Thomson Smith, who had founded the Chiswick Mission in 1880. Smith had a particular interest in helping children who had lost their mother through death or other circumstances but had a father who was able to provide for their care.

Robert Thomson Smith. © Peter Higginbotham

The first home children's home to be opened by Smith was at 13 Hogarth Place, Old Chiswick. A friend of the Mission, Mr J.R. Wooster, offered to pay the rent of the house for a year. One of the rooms was furnished by another friend, Mr Donaldson, in memory of his mother, and Mrs Donaldson performed the opening ceremony on March 5th, 1896. The first child to be admitted was Alice Castledine, followed by a small disabled boy named Brown. The home was soon full, with fifteen children in residence. Those placing a child in the home were required to make a weekly payment of four shillings.

With applications for admission continuing, a larger house at 3 Heathfield Gardens was taken for three years and opened on the home's first anniversary — March 15th, 1897. The new premises could accommodate thirty children who were under the care of the matron, Mrs Hall, who was to continue in post for twenty-two years. A year later, another house, Villa Amalinda on Burlington Lane (now Great Chertsey Road), was opened by Mrs J.I. Thornycroft (later Lady Thornycroft) as a home for boys aged from 3 to 13 years. By the end of 1898, the two homes housed a total of 64 children. A cottage at Heybridge Basin, near Maldon, originally intended as a holiday home for the more delicate children, was pressed into service as a permanent home for the overflow children from Chiswick. During the first four years of operation, a total of 153 children had been received in the homes, of which 90 were still in residence.

Further expansion came in 1900 with the opening of a large new home called The Roystons, at 1Spencer Road, Grove Park, Chiswick. The property, whose freehold cost £1,500 had previously been a girls' school run by a Revd Evans. Replacing the girls' home at Heathfield Gardens, it was opened on My 12th, 1900, by Lady Newnes.

Home for Motherless Children, The Roystons, Spencer Road, Chiswick. © Peter Higginbotham

Home for Motherless Children, The Roystons, Spencer Road, Chiswick. © Peter Higginbotham

Home for Motherless Children, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1901, there were around fifty boys and girls in residence, from 4 to 13 years in age. Florence Sussex was the matron. By 1911, the home was being used just for girls.

The home was still in use up until the Second World War but was used as a wartime soldiers' billet.

The building was later converted to flats known as Royston Court but has now reverted to a single residence.

The Burlington Lane premises were later used for boys below school age. In around 1906, some of those then in residence may have been transferred to a new home, The Ferns in Ealing. In 1911, the old building was reopened as the Chiswick Cottage Hospital. It was later converted to flats but has since been demolished. The Hogarth Place and Heathfield Gardens houses also no longer exist.

Other establishments run by Homes for Motherless Children were located at Warwick Road, Ealing; Florence Road, Ealing; Mattock Lane, Ealing; Uxbridge Road, Ealing; Queen's Walk, Ealing; Uxbridge Road, Hanwell and Barrack Road, Hounslow.

Records

Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R OHB. (The Ancestry website also has LMA records relating to workhouses and other institutions — more details.)
    File A/FWA/C/D/237/001 — Robert Thomson Smith: correspondence and papers volume 2, 1915-38.
    File A/FWA/C/D/237/002 — Inspection and annual reports (1915-28).

Bibliography

  • Jeffs, Ernest Motherless. The story of Robert Thomson Smith and the first homes for motherless children. (1930, Marshall, Morgan and Scott.)
  • None noted at present.