Ancestry UK

Ely (and St Albans) Diocesan Deaconess Home / St Etheldreda's, Bedford, Bedfordshire

In 1869, at the instigation of the Rev. Prebendary Sadler, the Anglican Diocese of Ely (later Ely & St Albans) established a Deaconess Home at Bedford. Its object was "to afford opportunities to faithful women of dedicating themselves to the special service of God, in the work of the Church." The work of the Deaconesses, as they were know, included nursing the sick, teaching in schools, and working with the Girls' Friendly Society. Its first Deaconess was Fanny Elizabeth Eagles ('Sister Fanny') who had charge of the institution until her death in 1907. (Miss Eagles was baptised 'Fanny' and not 'Frances' as is sometimes stated.)

By 1871, the Deaconesses had opened a girls' orphanage at 49 St Loyes Street, Bedford. In April 1881, its address was given as Dame Alice Street. In May, 1881, the orphanage relocated to 9 Bromham Road, with the neighbouring property at 11 Bromham Street subsequently being added to the premises. A chapel was erected in 1890, adjoining 9 Bromham Road.

On 4th September, 1908, the home was accredited as a Certified School, allowing it receive children boarded out by the workhouse authorities. Accommodation was provided for up to 20 girls, aged from 4 to 12 years at their date of admission. A weekly payment of 5s. was requested for each girl; this had risen to 10s. a week by 1935.

After the Second World War, the orphanage became known as St Etheldreda's Home.

Former Ely Diocesan Deaconess Home / St Etheldreda's, Bedford, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Ely Diocesan Deaconess Home / St Etheldreda's chapel, Bedford, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

The home closed in 1984. The property is now largely used for business purposes.


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.

  • Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service, Borough Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford. MK42 9AP. Holdings include: Minute books (1911-1984); St Etheldreda's Quarterly (1893-1919, incomplete); Annual reports (1960-82, with gaps); Lists of children in home (1965-84); Lists of staff in home (1965-84); Individual case files of children in home (1882-1982).



  • None identified at present.