St Faith's House of Mercy, Lostwithiel, Cornwall
In 1861, St Faith's House of Mercy (also referred to as the Cornwall House of Mercy) was established by the Church Penitentiary Association as a Magdalen Home for 'fallen' girls.
In 1862, construction of new premises began at Bridgend, in the parish of St Winnow, on what is now Grenville Road to the east of Lostwithiel. The building, designed by Mr Street, was erected on a site given by Mr Robartes, MP, with the construction work being carried out by Messrs Bone and Firks of Liskeard at a cost of nearly £1,300. Initially, a lack of funds meant that the erection of the chapel, laundry and boundary walls had to be postponed. The building was completed in 1864.
The House could accommodate around 24 inmates, with no payment required. Applicants were required to be between the ages of 12 and 30 and to remain for two years. A medical certificate was required before admission. The establishment was run by Sisters from the Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage. The girls were occupied in needlework and laundry work.
In August 1882, the House was certified for the reception of children below the age of six placed by Boards of Guardians. In fact, St Faith's appears to have been receiving workhouse children before that date. The minute books of the Bodmin Board of Guardians for 10th May, 1879, note that 'Emily Pedlar, aged 4, to be sent to the House of Mercy at Lostwithiel and be allowed £1 for clothes and 2/- a week for maintenance'. The decision clearly raised an eyebrow with the central poor law authority — two weeks later, at their meeting on 24th May, the Guardians agreed, in relation to E. Pedlar, that the Clerk was to reply to the Local Government letter and 'state that the House of Mercy at Lostwithiel is not a hospital for treatment of cripples but that the object of sending her there is to have her cared for'. Whatever the objection had been, it now seems to have been resolved. The minutes of the Board meeting on June 21st note that following a letter 'from the Local Government Board, E. Pedlar should be sent to House of Mercy without delay'.
By 1930, the establishment had become known as St Faith's Training Home. It is believed to have closed at around the time of the Second World War.
From 1950 to 1969, the premises were used as a youth hostel. The property has now been converted to holiday cottages.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.
- No records noted at present for this establishment — any information welcome.
- Bartley, Paula Prostitution: Prevention and Reform in England, 1860-1914 (2000, Routledge)
- Finnegan, Frances Poverty and Prostitution: A Study of Victorian Prostitutes in York (1979, CUP)
- No surviving local records identified at present.
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