Das Rauhe Haus, Hamburg, Germany
In 1833, Johann Hinrich Wichern, a German theologian, established what became known as Das Rauhe Haus (the Rough House) in Horn, now a suburb of the Hamburg. After working as a Sunday School teacher in the poverty-ridden Protestant parish of St George, which lay at the gates of Hamburg, Wichern decided that he needed to do something 'to save neglected and difficult to educate children'. In October 1833, Wichern, together with his wife and mother, moved into a cottage that had been donated for the purpose. The cottage had previously been known as 'Ruge's house', Ruge being a former occupier of the property, but became corrupted into the Rauhe Haus (Rough House). The original cottage is shown below.
By the end of 1833, Wichern and his supporters had raise enough money to allow twelve boys to be taken into the household. Additional buildings were subsequently erected at the site to allow an increasing number to be accommodated.
A guiding principle of the Rauhe Haus was that children lived in family-like households, each with ten to twelve children and a caregiver, who was called 'brother'. In 1839, an 'assistants' institute' was established where the brothers, who were poor and elementary school teachers and social workers, were trained by Wichern. His first colleague, Amanda Böhme, became his wife in 1835.
As well as housing, other buildings added to the site included a farm, prayer-hall, a spinning mill and workshops for tailoring, shoemaking and carpentry.
In 1842, a printing and book-binding department was established for the production of leaflets and pamphlets to disseminate the religious views of Wichern and his colleagues, who adopted the name the Inner Mission. Despite Wichern's increasing involvement in his mission work, he remained as manager of the Rauhe Haus until his son, Johannes, took over the role in 1872.
Ten family-style households were eventually set up — 120 children in all. In the summer, the daily hours of work amounted to nine-and-a-half hours and in winter to six-and-a-half hours. In addition, there were daily lessons for two or three hours. Each family had a weekly meeting where any problems, disputes, and suggestions were discussed. Any misdemeanours were examined as well as the work performance of each child.
As well as a trade, such as tailoring or printing, the boys were all taught gardening and agriculture. Half of the boys were always at work, while the others were at school. The land of the Rauhe Haus was cultivated entirely by spade labour. At busy seasons for the field, other occupations were put aside, and the entire population of a hundred and fifty, men and boys turned out to work. When a boy left the institution, he was apprenticed in Hamburg to the trade he had studied.
By 1835, a group of girls was being accommodated at the establishment. The girls subsequently had their own house ('The Swallows') and were supervised by a group of deaconesses. The girls and boys only came into contact in the chapel and classroom. The girls were occupied in house-cleaning and kitchen work and were taught sewing and knitting, most of them entering domestic service on leaving the Rauhe Haus.
The family-style accommodation provided for the children at the Rauhe Haus was in strong contrast the large monolithic establishments in which such children were normally housed. From the 1840s onwards, the Rauhe Haus model, along with a similar approach that was adopted at the boys' reformatory at Mettray, in France, proved very influential. In Britain, it was used by institutions such as the Philanthropic Society's reformatory school at Redhill. Housing children in family-style groups was also the basis of the 'cottage homes accommodation developed by a number of British charities and poor law authorities. The Rauhe Haus is sometimes compared to the English Reformatory, but was more akin to the related institution of the Industrial School.
The charity founded by Johann Wichern is now known as Stiftung Das Rauhe Haus (Rauhe Haus Foundation) of the German Diakonisches Werk (Diaconal Work), the charitable work organization of many Protestant churches in Germany. It continues to provide shelter and training for children, the mentally handicapped and disturbed, and cares for the aged. It also trains people for social service careers.
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- None identfied at present — any information welcome.
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
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