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.
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.
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.
The Boy Scouts and Wolf Cubs were popular activities at the Gordon Home.
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.
Economy was always important. The master of the home could cut the boys' hair himself to save money.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
- The Children's Society Records and Archives Centre is at Edward Rudolf House, Margery Street, London, WC1X 0JL (email: email@example.com). Files for children admitted to its homes after September 1926 were microfilmed in the 1980s and the originals destroyed. Some post-1926 files had already been damaged or destroyed during a flood.
The Society's Post-Adoption and Care Service provides access to records, information, advice, birth record counselling, tracing and intermediary service for people who were in care or adopted through the Society.
- The Society has produced detailed catalogues of its records relating to disabled children, and of records relating to the Children's Union (a fundraising body mostly supported from the contributions of children).
- 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.
- Hidden Lives Revealed — the story of the children who were in the care of The Children's Society in late Victorian and early 20th Century Britain.
- The Children's Society
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