Home for Motherless Children, Uxbridge Road / Queen's Walk, Ealing, London

The Homes for Motherless Children (HMC) organisation was set up in 1896 by the evangelist Robert Thomson Smith, who had founded the Chiswick Mission in 1880.

Robert Thomson Smith. © Peter Higginbotham

The HMC's first homes were in Chiswick but later ones were established further afield. Those placing children at the homes were expected to contribute towards their keep, according to their means.

The last of these to be established in Ealing, in 1926, was Alexandra House at 77 Uxbridge Road. It originally accommodated thirty-nine girls aged from five upwards. In the 1930s, the home was used to house boys.

Home for Motherless Children,77 Uxbridge Road, Ealing. © Peter Higginbotham

Douglas Wilson, a former inmate of the home in the 1930s-40s, recalls:

I saw Mr Smith in the 1937-38 period, when he would come to the home with his nurse. Then in his late seventies, he was in a wheel-chair. He would order all the staff out of the room and ask the boys for any problems they might have, even with the staff. He would deal with any problems also any boy who lied. He was a very nice man but very religious — six days you worked and played, and the seventh was 'God's day'. That meant church service in morning, Sunday school in the afternoon, and evening church service for the older boys. We were not allowed to play on Sundays, although you could read books and play suitable card and board games.

As I remember, the home had a matron, a cook, and two or three other staff. Most of the cleaning was done by the children as we were up at about 6.30 in the mornings — washing and cleaning teeth, making our beds hospital-fashion with proper corners, then the floors were swept (they were wax-polished at the week-ends by tying rags around your shoes and skating up and down the rooms). Then we went for breakfast. After the meal, we got ready for school. Depending on their age, the children went to either St Saviour's school or Christchurch school, both within walking distance. The name of the home, Alexandra House, was written in iron across the front of the building, and there was a iron donation box built into the boundary wall. At the rear of the home was a large iron fire escape leading from the dormitories. We had fire drill once a month.

We all had our own toys and a lockers to put them when not in use, we also had rabbits and a tortoise. Summer Holidays were very good as the parents were offered a choice of having their children home with them for a short time or, for a small donation, going with the rest of the home to a sea-side resort, In the 1930s, we went to Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Westcliff on Sea and other places. We usually took over some large building and slept on straw pallets, Many children in those days never saw the sea or had a holiday so we were very lucky. Of course with the outbreak of the Second World War, that all came to a sad end.

In 1939, the home was evacuated to Lime Tree House, Wendover, Buckinghamshire, returning in the early 1940s to Summer Court, 5 Queens Walk, Ealing — a large house with extensive gardens. Later in the war, the boys were evacuated again, to a large convalescent home at Hunstanton, Norfolk. The boys occupied one wing of the establishment, and girls another. The children attended local schools.

Convalescent Home, Hunstanton.

In 1964, when the HMC was in the process of being wound up, the Queen's Walk premises were offered to the National Children's who subsequently acquired the site but replaced the old house with the purpose-built Miss Brenda Farman Nursery.

Other establishments run by Homes for Motherless Children were located at Spencer Road, Chiswick, Burlington Lane, Chiswick, Warwick Road, Ealing, Florence Road, Ealing, Mattock Lane, 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.

  • The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU. File HO 366/247 — Inspection reports (1943-64) [Access closed for 100 years]
    File BN 62/1411 — General file and bulk reports [Access closed for 75 years]
    File BN 62/1412 — Full inspection and closure (1962-64) [Access closed for 75 years]

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.