The Waifs and Strays Story

Edward Rudolf Departs

On December 22nd, 1907, Edward Rudolf finally fulfilled his long-standing ambition when he was ordained as a priest by the Bishop of London at St Paul's Cathedral. Thereafter, on visits to the Society's homes, he took considerable pleasure in being able to administer Holy Communion to the children and staff.

His mother died in 1910, a time which marked the beginning of a decline in his own health. However, he continued to work as hard as ever. Although he seriously considered becoming a parish priest, the demands it would have imposed on his time would have greatly reduced his involvement with the Society. He was, however, appointed as a Prebendary (a senior member of the clergy) at St Paul's Cathedral.

With increasing health problems, and rumblings in some quarters that he was 'past it', Rudolf took his retirement in September 1919, thirty-eight years since he had founded the Society. At a farewell celebration the following month at the Caxton Hall, the Bishop of London presented him with a cheque for £1,000 and book inscribed with three thousand names of those involved in the Society, ranging from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the children at the Society's smallest home.

Rudolf was succeeded as Secretary by the Rev. W. Fowell Swann, who held the post for five years. During Fowell Swann's tenure, the Society inaugurated what was to become an important aspect of its work — the provision of residential nurseries. This was a response in part a response to the rise in illegitimate births which had taken place during the latter years of the First World War — a trend that also subsequently resulted in the 1926 Adoption Act. The Society's first nursery, the Edward Nicholl Home for Babies, was opened in Cardiff in 1918. The £21,000 cost of constructing the building was met by the Cornish MP, Sir Edward Nicholl, with the proviso that a similar amount had to be raised by the Society's supporters as an endowment fund for the running of the home. A second nursery, opened in Bristol in 1920, was named the Victoria Gibbs Memorial Home Memorial Home for Babies, commemorating a member of the same family that had helped fund the Gibbs Home in Canada. Others followed at Brislington and Plymouth.

Edward Nicholl Home For Babies, c.1924. © Peter Higginbotham

Fowell Swann was succeeded by the Rev. A.J. Westcott who served as Secretary from 1924 to 1932. In the latter part of his leadership, it became increasing clear that the Society was heading towards a financial crisis, with its core General Fund increasingly in deficit. Although some economies were made, and at least one home was closed, the Society was fortunate to have a lifeline in the form of a special jubilee fund which had been set up to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. The use of the jubilee fund meant that many planned improvements and new ventures fell by the wayside. These included a scheme for expanding children's emigration into Western Canada.

Since his retirement, Edward Rudolf had made his home in Eastbourne but had remained actively involved in the Society, remaining a member of all its committees. He had also occupied himself in matters such as a detailed analysis of the expenditure on food in each of the Society's homes. He discovered, for example, that the annual cost per head at Knebworth was £22 4s 8d, a figure that was disturbingly higher than that at any comparable home of £14 15s 17d. All the time though, his health was declining. He also suffered the loss of his wife, Emma, in 1929, and his younger brother Robert in 1932. On May 29th, 1933, he himself passed away.

Edward Rudolf, 1922. © Peter Higginbotham