Olive House Girls' Industrial Home, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

The Olive House Girls' Industrial Home was established by the Waifs and Strays Society at Hemel Hempstead in 1884. It was officially certified as an Industrial School on October 7th of that year, allowing magistrates to place children there for offences such as vagrancy, begging, living in a brothel or associating with prostitutes, or having committed an imprisonable offence while under the age of twelve. The home's premises, on George Street, Hemel Hempstead, had previously been used as a school. In its new role, the home could accommodate 20 girls aged from 8 to 14.

Olive House Girls' Industrial Home, Hemel Hempstead, 1884. © Peter Higginbotham

Girls at the school were given a basic education, plus activities such as singing and exercise in the from of physical drill. They were also taught needlework and knitting. The older girls assisted with the work of the house, kitchen and laundry.

An official inspection in 1892 found that 'the house and premises are small, and defective in accommodation. They are made the most of, but are really unsuitable as an industrial school.' It was also reported that between February and June, the school had suffered a severe attack of scarlet fever, with most of the victims having to remain on the premises while being treated. As a result of this episode, a new sick room was added to the building in 1894.

Continuing problems with the George Street building led to the home relocating in 1900 to a larger premises that had been bought at Shipton under Wychwood in Oxfordshire.

The George Street property is now a private house.

Former Olive House Home, Hemel Hempstead, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

Records

Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.

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.
  • King, Steve, and Gear, Gillian A Caring County?: Social Welfare in Hertfordshire from 1600 (2103, University of Hertfordshire Press)