Ancestry UK

Industrial and Orphan Home for Girls / St Wilfrid's Orphanage, Devon

The Industrial and Orphan Home for Girls was opened at 20 Magdalen Street, Exeter, on September 29th, 1859. Its object was 'to train for domestic service girls of good character, of thirteen years old and upwards, and to educate, board, and clothe orphan children of deserving parents.' Much of the institution's early support came from Mrs Canon Rogers and Miss Anna Lowe. The home subsequently moved to larger premises at Gandy Street, Exeter.

By 1864, the establishment had relocated to Paignton, Devon, though confusingly was now referred to as the Totnes Institution for Orphan Girls — perhaps indicating a brief interlude spent at Totnes. On 27 January 1864, the home was accredited as a Certified School, allowing it to receive girls boarded out by the workhouse authorities.

At some point, the running of the home was taken over by the members of the Community of St. Wilfrid's, Exeter, an Anglican order of nuns founded in Exeter in 1866 by the Reverend John Gilberd Pearse.

On 21 September 1880, the operations of the establishment — now again referred to as the Industrial and Orphan Home for Girls — were re-certified to continue at 2-3 Warborough Mount, Warberry Road, Babbacombe. The premises could accommodate up to 20 girls, aged from 3 to 14 years at their date of admission. A payment was required for each inmate of £14 per annum. The home's long-standing matron, Sister Harriet Lowe died on 27 February 1898. On 13 June, 1899, the home gave up its Certified School status.

By 1913, the home was located at 19 St David's Hill, Exeter, Devon, where it became known as St Wilfrid's Orphanage. Here there was accommodation for 24 girls aged from 3 years upwards. Mrs Harriet Mortimore, who was matron of the home for more than 30 years, died in 1929.

By 1940, the home's address was recorded as 25 St David's Hill, perhaps due to a renumbering of the properties on the road.

The orphanage closed in 1950. The site is now occupied by St Wilfrid's School.


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