Marchmont House, Belleville, Ontario, Canada

Marchmont, at 193 Moira Street West, Belleville, was a receiving/distributing home established by Miss Annie Macpherson for children emigrating to Canada from Britain. Some of the children came from Macpherson's own Home of Industry in the Spitalfields area of London. Others were from children's charities such as Barnardo's and the Quarrier Homes in Scotland for whom she acted as an agent. As well as Marchmont, she set up other homes in Ontario at Galt, Knowlton, and Stratford.

Annie Macpherson. © Peter Higginbotham

Miss Macpherson's Home of Industry, Spitalfields. © Peter Higginbotham

The original Marchmont home, opened in 1870, had been destroyed by fire in January 1872, resulting in the death of a six-year-old boy named Robbie Gray. A replacement building also burned down in April 1875. Its successor was built in brick rather than the wood construction of the previous two structures and was heated by a hot air system rather than open fires.

In 1875, a report by British Local Government Board Inspector Andrew Doyle criticised the treatment of children taken to Canada by another emigration agent, Maria Rye. Following the bad publicity resulting from the report, Miss Macpherson reorganised her own operation and, in 1877, handed over the running of Marchmont to her assistant Ellen Bilbrough (known as Ellen Bilbrough Wallace after her marriage to the Rev. Robert Wallace in 1887).

Thomas Barnardo made some use Annie Macpherson's services during the 1870s, with some of his children staying at Marchmont. The arrangement ended in 1882 when Barnardo established his own Canadian home, Hazelbrae, in Peterborough, Ontario. William Quarrier also used the Macpherson homes for fifteen years before he opened the Fairknowe home in Brockville, Ontario in 1887. Likewise, the home was used by children sent by Dublin-based Ellen Smyly.

After Ellen Bilbrough took charge of Marchmont in 1877, its children came mainly from Scottish homes, such as Quarrier's, and from the Manchester and Salford Refuges, a charity for homeless children found in 1870 by Leonard K Shaw.

Ellen Bilbrough Wallace died in 1900 but Marchmont carried on operating under the charge of her widow, Robert Wallace, who remarried two years later. Marchmont also survived the death in 1904 of Annie Macpherson. Her work was continued by her nephews Edward, James and William Merry.

When Robert Wallace retired in 1913, Marchmont was set to be taken over by the Manchester and Salford Refuges. With the onset of the First World War in 1914, emigration came to a halt. When it resumed in 1920, operation of all the former Macpherson homes was taken on by the Liverpool Sheltering Home, a charity inaugurated in 1872 by Annie Macpherson's sister, Louisa Birt.

The final party of children to use Marchmont arrived in July 1925. In the same month, Barnardo's took over the Liverpool Sheltering Home and a few weeks later the home was closed down. One estimate suggests that around ten thousand children passed through Marchmont between 1870 and 1925.

The former Marchmont home has now been converted to flats.

Records

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

  • Records for the homes run by Annie Macpherson were inherited by Barnardo's (see below). These include:
    • Home of Industry, Spitalfields: History books, register and emigrant register (1870-1924)
    • Annie Macpherson Home, Stratford, Ontario: Register and history books of children sent to Canada (1871-1915)
    • Marchmont Homes, Canada: History books and lists (1870-1914)
  • Records for the Liverpool Sheltering Homes were inherited by Barnardo's (see below). These include: Registers (1872-1925); Committee minutes (1873-1933); Annual reports (1873-1907); Miscellaneous items (1903-73).
  • Barnardo's Family History Service deals with enquiries regarding records of individual children — various services are available costing from £15 upwards.
  • Making Connections — a service for those wishing to access their Barnardo's adoption records.
  • Barnardo's historical administrative records are now deposited with Liverpool University's Social Welfare Archives with stringent restrictions on their access.

Bibliography