Ancestry UK

Headingley Orphan Homes, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire

The Headingley Orphan Homes (occasionally referred to as the Headingley Orphanage) were founded in 1859 by Mrs Williamson, wife of the then Vicar of Headingley, after she had read an account of a similar institution in Hamburg. A small, disused building near the parsonage was converted for the purpose and the first child, picked up in the back slums of Leeds, was received in January, 1860. Financial help for the scheme came from local Quaker couple John and Ann (or Anna) Whiting. Ann subsequently became the charity's honorary secretary and acted as overall superintendent of the Homes.

The institution, originally just for girls, expanded and moved to more suitable premises on Reservoir Street (now the northern portion of Clarendon Road). Continuing growth led to a further move, to a house on Grosvenor Mount owned by Mr William Henry Conyers, who subsequently donated the freehold of the building to the charity. As well a being treasurer of the charity, Conyers personally supported the running costs of the Homes. He later also founded the Ilkley and Wharfedale Orphanage and Children's Home.

Headingley Orphan Homes, Grosvenor Mount from the south-west, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Headingley Orphan Homes, Grosvenor Mount from the north-east, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Headingley Orphan Homes, Grosvenor Mount from the north-west, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Headingley Orphan Homes, Grosvenor Mount from the south-east, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1871, the Leeds School Board considered an application for 26 girls from the Homes, aged from 4 to 14 years, to be given free education, with half going to the Town School, Headingley, and half to Mr Briggs's school on Cliff Road.

In 1872, a new home for 30 girls was erected at 55 Cliff Road, a short distance from the Grosvenor Mount house. The new building was extended in 1876 by the addition of another block of the same size, taking its total accommodation to 60 places. In May, 1883, a sanatorium serving all the Homes was added to the site, which could house a further twenty children. The new home and sanatorium were both designed by William H Thorp in the Domestic Gothic style.

Headingley Orphan Homes, Cliff Road from the south-west, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Headingley Orphan Homes, Cliff Road from the west, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Headingley Orphan Homes, Cliff Road from the west, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Headingley Orphan Homes, Cliff Road, 1872 memorial stone laid by John Whiting, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

The opening of the new girls' home allowed the Grosvenor Mount premises to be used for housing boys. The building was enlarged in 1880 to provide 30 places.

Headingley Orphan Homes, Grosvenor Mount boys' home, c.1909. © Peter Higginbotham

Headingley Orphan Homes, boys' cricket team, c.1913. © Peter Higginbotham

On 26 July 1878, the Homes were certified to receive children boarded out by the workhouse authorities for a payment of three shillings a week.

Headingley Orphan Homes, girls on swings, c.1906. © Peter Higginbotham

Headingley Orphan Homes, 'teatime', c.1911. © Peter Higginbotham

Headingley Orphan Homes, girls in garden, c.1912. © Peter Higginbotham

Regular walks were part of the Homes' routine.

Headingley Orphan Homes, girls taking a walk, c.1909. © Peter Higginbotham

Headingley Orphan Homes, girls ready for a walk, c.1919. © Peter Higginbotham

After Mrs Whiting's death in 1897, her daughter Mary succeeded her as the charity's honorary secretary.

In the summer, seaside trips were organised for the children. The boys had an annual camping expedition.

Headingley Orphan Homes, girls at the seaside, c.1908. © Peter Higginbotham

Headingley Orphan Homes, boys at camp, c.1916. © Peter Higginbotham

Children at the Homes underwent regular evacuation drills in case of fire.

Headingley Orphan Homes, fire drill at Cliff Road, c.1910. © Peter Higginbotham

Fund-raising was a constant concern for the homes. A valuable contribution came from the annual Pound Day, held at Cliff Road, when supporters of the institution were invited to contribute either a pound in cash or a pound weight of household goods such as flour or soap.

Headingley Orphan Homes, Pound Day, 1919. © Peter Higginbotham

From 1920 onwards, children from the Homes were taken on an annual three-week summer holiday to Scarborough, where they were accommodated at South Cliff Congregational Church.

By the 1930s, the Grosvenor Mount house had been closed and the boys transferred to the Cliff Road premises.

At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, the fifty-one children then at the Homes were evacuated to stay on farms and other homes in the Nidderdale area. By the summer of 1942, however, the number still in the Homes' care had dwindled to eleven. Some of the boys, having reached school-leaving age, had taken up farming. Some of the girls had returned to Leeds to take up domestic training. Some had been apprenticed to trades, while other had been reclaimed by relatives. One or two of the babies had been adopted. At the same time, no newcomers could be accepted as there were no vacancies to fill. In July 1942, in an effort to keep the Homes together, it was decided to re-open the establishment. The Headingley premises were by then in use for other purposes so, for the rest of the war, the Homes occupied a house in Newton Road, Chapeltown.

With a steady decline in its numbers, the home closed in 1959. A charitable trust was then formed, known as the Headingley Orphanage Foundation, which administered the income from investments. The funds were used to make grants to other charitable children's institutions. The Foundation does not hold any records relating the Orphanage itself.

The Cliff Road building subsequently became a student hostel known as Methodist International House but is now in use as a residential care home. The Grosvenor Mount premises are now in private residential use.


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  • West Yorkshire Archive Service (Leeds Office), Nepshaw Lane South, Morley, Leeds LS27 7JQ. Holdings include: Details and photographs of children admitted (from c.1873); Committee minutes (1905-66); Annual reports (1898-1957); Correspondence (1930-54, including letters in 1940 concerning evacuation); Accounts.



  • None identified at present.