Sunny Side Home Home for Boys, Frome, Somerset
The Home for Boys, at Frome, was opened by the Waifs and Strays Society in 1887 as a replacement for the Clapton Home for Boys. It was located in a house at Sunny Side (or Sunnyside, as it was often written), Frome. The 1891 census records its address as 6 Sunny Side, with 37 boys in residence, under the charge of the master Allan Cunningham. Other sources give its address as 2 Sunny Side.
The house needed some alterations for its new use, as described in a report presented at the end of its first year of operation.
The home was formally dedicated on June 26th, 1888, by the Bishop of Bath and Wells.
On July 5th, 1889, three boys from the home drowned in a bathing accident. At around 7pm, the master of the home, Mr Cunningham, accompanied by twenty-six boys, set off for their usual bathing place in the river. A few of the boys hurried off before the others and, contrary to orders, entered the water before the arrival of Mr Cunningham and the older boys. The deceased, Joseph Churchfield (10), John Lowden (10), and Edward Paul (11), got into difficulties after entering a deep pool outside the appointed bounds. When the master and other boys arrived a few minutes later, the three had disappeared. One boy, Jesse Russell, made a brave effort to save his companions but with no success. An inquest returned a verdict of accidental death on the boys and exonerated Mr Cunningham from all blame.
July 15th, 1890, Sunny Side became a Certified School, allowing it to receive children placed there by the Boards of Guardians that ran the poor relief and workhouse system.
The boys at Sunnyside attended the local school and also received industrial training from instructors engaged for the purpose. A large carpenter's shed was erected by the boys themselves, with the help of the master. Its cost was met by money raised at entertainments given by the boys in Frome and the surrounding area. From 1893, the boys could learn the trade of printing in the home's own printing department set up in a separate iron building. Before long, the unit was printing most of the Society's reports and publications, together with posters, cards etc. Work was also undertaken for outside organisations and businesses. To cope with the growing work, an 'Arab' press costing £50 was purchased. Gardening was undertaken by the boys on a plot of ground taken for the purpose, with several of the boys winning prizes at local flower shows. Music was also enjoyed by many of the boys, some of whom belonged to a village choir a few miles away.
Following the expiry of the lease on the Sunny Side house in 1894, the home moved to new, purpose-built premises on Oakfield Road, Frome, which adopted the name St Aldhelm's Home for Boys.
The Sunnyside premises are now in private residential use.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org). 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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