The Canada Training Farm (Mr Fegan's), Goudhurst, Kent
Beginning in Deptford in 1870, James Fegan set up a number of homes for orphan and destitute boys. Like many child 'rescuers' of his day, Fegan believed that emigration to countries such as Canada was a valuable way of giving his boys a better future. From 1884 onwards, he sent groups to Canada each year and established a Distributing Home in Toronto.
The most common destination for the boys being emigrated was in employment on Canadian farms. In 1911, Fegan had the idea of setting up a 'Canada Training Farm' to prepare the boys for such work and increase their employability. On hearing about the scheme, a City merchant met with Fegan and commissioned him to buy fifty acres of suitable land with the promise of £3,00 to start the venture. The site he selected for the 'farm colony' was at Great Hordern, near Goudhurst, in Kent. Within a few months of its purchase, fifty boys had been installed, farm implements ordered from Canada, and the building of extensive premises begun. A cottage on the property was converted for use by Mr and Mrs Fegan.
A wide variety of crops were grown, but hops — used in the production of beer — were outlawed, even the farm stood in the midst of a major hop-growing area. Fegan was initially persuaded to spare one field where some previously planted hops were already flourishing but when he engaged an old man to dry them, the old man overdid it and the crop was useless. On September 18th, 191, Fegan received a presentation of 1,700 apple and plum trees and 4,000 blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes. These were planted, in placed of the hops, on the slope of a hill that became known as Fegan's Orchard.
Major additions were made to the farm in 1920, taking its area to 344 acres and making extensive additions to the buildings.
James Fegan died at the farm on December 9th, 1925. His widow, Mary, continued his work until her death at the farm cottage during a German air raid on October 7th, 1943.
In 1954, the site was opened as the Blantyre House Senior Youth Detention Centre, incorporating the former Training Farm buildings. The establishment was redesignated as an adult prison in 1991.
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.
- Fegans Child and Family Care, 160 St James Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN2 1HE. Holds the organisation's children's case files.
- Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, Civic Centre, Mount Pleasant, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 1JN. Acquired Fegan's non-case archives in 2015 — contents currently being processed.
- Library and Archives Canda, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario. Holds microfilm copies of Fegan Home settlement records (1885-1939).
- British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO). Has online indexes to Fegan Home settlement records.
- Fullerton, William Young J.W.C. Fegan: A Tribute (1931, Marshall, Morgan & Scott)
- Sharp, Syd Black Boots and Short Trousers (1995, Syd Sharp)
- Tiffin, Alfred Loving and Serving: An Account of the Life and Work of J.W.C. Fegan (1976)
- Bagnell, Kenneth The Little Immigrants: The Orphans Who Came to Canada (2001, Dundurn)
- Birt, Lilian M The Children's Home-Finder: the story of Annie Macpherson and Louisa Birt (1913, J. Nisbet)
- Corbett, Gail H Nation Builders: Barnardo Children in Canada (2002, Dundurn)
- Kershaw, Roger and Sacks, Janet New Lives for Old: The Story of Britain's child migrants: The Story of Britain's Home Children (2008, The National Archives)
- Kohli, Marjorie The Golden Bridge: Young Immigrants to Canada 1833-1939 (2003, Natural Heritage Books)
- McEvoy, Frederick J 'These Treasures of the Church of God': Catholic Child Immigration to Canada (in CCHA, Historical Studies, 65 (1999), 50-70)
- Parker, Roy Uprooted: The Shipment of Poor Children to Canada, 1867-1917 (2010, Policy Press)
- The Fegans Child and Family Care website
- From Gruel to Gourmet: the story of Fegan's homes for boys in Stony Stratford — a school project, including vintage video clips.
- British Home Children in Canada.
- National Library and Archives Canada especial the Home Children section.
- Young Immigrants to Canada.
- British Home Child Group International - has database of over 23,000 Canadian British Home Children
- British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) - has several indexes of the names of children brought to Canada by various organizations in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
- National Archives of Australia — Immigration Records.
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.