Gordon Home for Boys, Croydon, Surrey

The Gordon Home for Boys in Croydon was founded in 1886 by a local resident, George James Murdoch. The home was named after General Charles George Gordon who had died the previous year in the siege of Khartoum, and was one of several boys' homes to commemorate him in this way.

In its early years, the home moved several times in the West Croydon area, usually to increase the size of its premises. In around 1889 it was located at 47 Handcroft Road, Croydon, then moved to Grove House, Grove Road. In 1891, its address was 75 Croydon Grove, where 16 boys aged from 7 to 15 were in residence. In the same year, the running of the home was taken over by the Waifs and Strays Society and soon afterwards moved again to a property known as North End (or Northend) House on Poplar Walk, where 30 boys aged from 8 to 14 were accommodated.

In around 1893, George Murdoch, who had been the Gordon Home's resident master since its inception, moved to Reading where he founded the Prospect Lodge home which was also later taken over by the Waifs and Strays Society. He was succeeded at Poplar Walk by Mr and Mrs Postans.

The location of the Poplar Walk premises is shown on the 1896 map below.

Gordon Home for Boys site, Poplar Walk, Croydon, c.1896.

Gordon Home for Boys, Poplar Walk, Croydon, c.1894. © Peter Higginbotham

Some alterations and additions were made to North End House including a large washroom at one side of the building, and a prayer-room at the other. The chapel, a gift from a lady subscriber, was where the boys met for their daily morning and evening prayers, and a weekly evening service conducted by a local clergyman. Boys at the Home attended Christ Church School, and on Sunday went to the nearby St Michael's Church to join the other Sunday school children at the afternoon catechising.

Facing the front of North End House, the prayer-room lay at the far left, then the large dining-room; in the centre was the hall, with a small office for the secretary, out of which the master's private sitting-room opened; then to the right was the boys' day-room, from which steps led down to the washroom and bath-house. Upstairs the ordinary bedrooms were filled with numerous small beds. From one of the topmost bedrooms a fire-escape, in the shape of an iron staircase, led down outside the building to the ground below. The kitchen and scullery were in the basement. Immediately in front of the house was a large gavelled playground.

When they boys' schooldays were over, they were found local employment. Some went out as page-boys, some found places with tradesmen or farmers, and some were emigrated.

Gordon Home for Boys, Poplar Walk, Croydon, c.1894. © Peter Higginbotham

Gordon Home for Boys, Poplar Walk, Croydon, c.1902. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1903, the home moved again to 24 Morland Road, Croydon, with the Poplar Walk house being sold off and subsequently demolished. Like its predecessor, the Morland Road household accommodate 30 boys.

Gordon Home for Boys, Croydon, c.1903. © Peter Higginbotham

Gordon Home for Boys, Croydon, c.1903. © Peter Higginbotham

Fire drill at Gordon Home for Boys, Croydon, c.1905. © Peter Higginbotham

Gordon Home for Boys, Morland Road, Croydon, c.1921. © Peter Higginbotham

Gordon Home for Boys, Croydon, c.1925. © Peter Higginbotham

Dining room at Gordon Home for Boys, Morland Road, Croydon, c.1935. © Peter Higginbotham

The Boy Scouts and Wolf Cubs were popular activities at the Gordon Home.

Cubs at Gordon Home for Boys, Morland Road, Croydon, c.1929. © Peter Higginbotham

Wolf Cubs and Boy Scouts at the Gordon Home for Boys, Croydon, c.1920. © Peter Higginbotham

An annual fund-raising event was the Pound Day when local supporters of the home donated either on pound in cash or a pound weight in goods such as foodstuffs or household goods.

Pound Day at Gordon Home for Boys, Morland Road, Croydon, 1926. © Peter Higginbotham

Pound Day at Gordon Home for Boys, Morland Road, Croydon, 1928. © Peter Higginbotham

Economy was always important. The master of the home could cut the boys' hair himself to save money.

Gordon Home for Boys, Morland Road, Croydon, c.1926. © Peter Higginbotham

Christmas was always a highlight of the boys' year. Below is an account of the proceedings in 1890 by one of the inmates of the Croydon Home.

We all spent a very happy Christmas in the Home. Our friends were to come on Boxing Day, but as it came on a Saturday, the visiting day was put off till Monday. On Christmas morning we went to S. Andrew's Church, and after church we went for a walk till dinner time. We had a very nice dinner of roast beef and plum pudding. After dinner we were allowed to amuse ourselves at football and other games; then we went upstairs, and had oranges, nuts, etc. A lady from Croydon sent us a new sixpence each, and another lady sent us some cards and a bag of sweets. Most of the boys could not eat anything for tea on Christmas evening. On Monday our friends came at 5 o'clock, and amused themselves till tea time. All of us enjoyed our tea, I am sure; we had bread and butter, and jam and cake. After tea we went upstairs and Mr. Murdock gave us each a book; my book was a very nice one, and the title of it was "The Little Bugler." After we had our books, we had niggers' acting, which lasted till after 8 o'clock : then it was time for our friends to go. I forgot to say that some of the boys that have gone to gentlemen's houses, came to the entertainment as well, and each of them received a book as well. On Thursday we went to the Crystal Palace; we started by the 11 o'clock train from West Croydon; we took some cake for our dinner with us. It was very nice at the Crystal Palace; we were allowed to go where we liked till quarter after one, and then walked round the Palace in order. At 3 o'clock we went to the pantomime to see "The Forty Thieves," which lasted to 6 o'clock. Then we bought some presents for our friends, such as purses, and other useful little presents; then went to tea; we had a nice tea of bread and butter and cake; and then we left the Palace for Croydon, and ended our very happy Christmas.
W. HARMER (aged 14).

A stay by the seaside was often a feature of the summer holidays. In 1923, the Gordon Home residents went away to Old Shoreham in Sussex.

Packing for Old Shoreham at Gordon Home for Boys, Croydon, c.1923. © Peter Higginbotham

The home's former residents often kept in touch, sometimes coming back to pay a visit. The picture below shows a group of 'old boys' with the home's Master in 1907.

The Master with some 'old boys' at Gordon Home, Croydon, 1907. © Peter Higginbotham

Swings at Gordon Home for Boys, Morland Road, Croydon, c.1931. © Peter Higginbotham

Gordon Home for Boys, Morland Road, Croydon, c.1935. © Peter Higginbotham

The home closed in 1965. The Morland Road building no longer exists and Gordon Crescent now covers the site. The Handcroft Road and Croydon Grove premises have also been demolished.

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.