Ancestry UK

The Waifs and Strays Story

The Society's First Home

On December 16th, 1881, after looking at a number of properties, the Society's committee decided to rent a small house at 8 Stamford Villas, Friern Road, East Dulwich where twelve girls could be accommodated. The home opened its doors early in 1882. With a long-standing civil servant like Edward Rudolf involved, it is inevitable that a comprehensive set of rules should be drawn up for the running of the home:

  1. Children to rise in summer at 6.30, in winter at 7.00.
  2. On leaving the bedrooms, beds to be stripped, and windows thrown wide open top and bottom, unless it be either raining, snowing or foggy weather, in which case they must only be opened a little at the top.
  3. After prayers, breakfast at 7.30, in summer, and 8.00 in winter.
  4. After breakfast, girls above nine to be set in turns, day about, to help the matron in the house, kitchen and laundry work; girls above eight may help to make beds, wash up, and such light work.
  5. Dinner to be at 1.00 p.m.
  6. Children to attend school twice daily.
  7. Saturday being a holiday at school, all girls above nine are to clean the house from top to bottom.
  8. Little ones to be in bed by 7 o'clock, those under nine by 8 o'clock, under twelve by 8.30, above twelve by nine o'clock.
  9. Grace to be said before and after meals.
  10. Prayers, with a short portion of Scripture, to be read before breakfast and after tea.
  11. Tea to be at 5.30 in the winter, and at 6 in summer.
  12. Children to be taught a simple prayer (in addition to the Lord's prayer) to be said at their bedsides morning and evening.
  13. The matron is to see that the children are washed to their waists, before going to bed; that they wash their face and hands in the morning, and that they are bathed once a week; also that their hair is cut short on their admission and kept perfectly clean. They should wash it every morning when washing their faces and rub it perfectly dry.
  14. Sheets must be changed once a fortnight, half the beds one week, and half the next; blankets and quilts to be washed once a year, in the summer.
  15. Children are to go to church on Sunday morning, and to Sunday School in the afternoon, and those above ten who wish it may go in the summer evenings to church with the matron's approval.
  16. Average cost of housekeeping to be 8s. per head per week for adults, 3s. 6d. for children.
  17. If the matron wishes for a day or two's holiday at any time, she must put her request before the local committee at the monthly meeting on the first Wednesday in the month.

The mention of the local committee in the final item indicates Rudolf's clear philosophy that management of the homes was not to be controlled by the central organisation, but largely devolved to a locally constituted body. This was another feature which distinguished the Society from other large children's organisations, although it later sometimes proved to be a source of problems.

A weekly dietary, or menu plan, indicated how each child was to be fed on the suggested sum of 3s. 6d. a week:


  • Sundays, bread and butter, with cocoa.
  • Weekdays, porridge and milk, and bread; and bread and dripping, with milk and water, on alternate days.


  • Sunday, meat, vegetables, rice pudding, or stewed rhubarb, or fruit in summer.
  • Monday, soup with thick round of bread and milk pudding, alternating with boiled apple or rhubarb pudding.
  • Tuesday, Irish stew with rice and carrots, or a dripping crust.
  • Wednesday, boiled suet pudding with treacle.
  • Thursday, meat and green vegetables, with a little bread.
  • Friday, soup and bread, and a milk pudding.
  • Saturday, baked suet pudding with raisins, apples or carrots.


  • Sundays, bread and butter, and tea.
  • Weekdays, bread and dripping and bread and treacle alternating, with milk and water.