St Mary's Home for Boys, Runwell, Wickford, Essex
St Mary's Home for Boys, a Waifs and Strays Society home at Runwell, near Wickford, was opened in 1901 through the initiative of the Rector of the village, the Rev. H.K. Harris. The Rev. Harris, not only donated the land, but also designed the building and paid for its construction and furnishing. The house, which was which was erected in a field opposite the rectory, was a two-storey red-brick building with five bedrooms, a bathrooms, kitchen, and boys' play room. Outside there was a large playground. Mr and Mrs J. Sugden were appointed master and matron of the home, which could accommodate twelve boys aged from 7 to 12.
The boys at St Mary's were taught practical skills such as carpentry, gardening and poultry keeping. The were also to be trained as choir boys for the parish church. The Society contributed five shillings a week for the maintenance of each resident. Local people were also invited to sponsor a child by an annual donation of three pounds which would meet the cost of one boy's clothing.
The home closed in 1915. The property still exists, now used as residential and business premises.
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.
- Index of the Society's first 30,000 children's case files ordered by surname.
- Index of the Society's first 30,000 children's case files ordered by date of birth.
- The Children's Society Records and Archive Centre is at Unit 25, Springfield House, 5 Tyssen Street, London E8 2LZ (email: email@example.com). 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.)
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- 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.
- 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)
- 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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