Chapter 1 - Children in Need


In 1886 responsibility for the copious numbers of orphaned children in Britain rested with parishes. Voluntary organisations, like those founded by August Frecke, George Muller and TJ Barnardo, started up homes for orphans, which were like army barracks and gave elementary education and perhaps a job afterwards


In 1886, over one-third of the population of Great Britain were children under fifteen - 10,835,000 in the 1881 census. The population explosion was at its peak, and was concentrated in London and in the industrial areas of the Midlands and the North. There was as yet no national structure to cope with the social problems generated by uncontrolled urban growth, and responsibility tended to fall on the traditional local authorities - the parishes and the boroughs. Responsibility for deprived children still lay with the parish in which they had been born. For the past fifty years, parishes had been grouped into local Poor Law Unions, with an elected Board of Guardians who discharged their duty through a Union Workhouse that catered for the homeless and unemployed, the mentally and physically handicapped, vagrants and the elderly, as well as for orphans. However, for many years the Guardians of the Poor had recognised that it was undesirable for children to be institutionalised in this way, and had been experimenting with various alternatives such as fostering and cottage homes. In this, they were following the lead set by voluntary charities and philanthropists who for many years had recognised the special plight of needy children.

"HOMELESS". Engraving from a picture by L Bruck Largos
in the Graphic, 5 September 1891, page 283.

The earliest attempt to tackle this problem on a large scale was the Foundling Hospital set up by Captain Thomas Coram in the 1740s. At the end of the eighteenth century the Philanthropic Society sponsored orphanages for boys and girls, and made sensible provision for young delinquents.

George Muller was a Prussian who came to Britain in 1829 in order to train for Christian missionary service. Some years later, inspired by the example of August Francke's orphanage in Halle (founded in 1696), George Muller began a similar work in Bristol. Muller's Homes - a complex of five gigantic barracks at Ashley Down, Bristol - provided accommodation for over sixteen hundred orphans mainly aged from seven to twelve years, who received an elementary education and were trained for trade or domestic service. The outstanding characteristic of Muller's work was that it depended entirely on faith in God: George Muller had no personal resources, yet he never asked for money; his Institution never went into debt; all his assistants were committed Christian believers and, on leaving, children were apprenticed to Christian employers or placed in service in Christian homes. His orphanages never attempted to be children's hospitals or reformatories; incorrigible delinquents were reluctantly expelled, and, curiously enough, George Muller did not accept illegitimate children. But the scale of Muller's work created a public awareness of the problem of orphan children, and aroused Christians to their responsibilities. George Muller was one of the early founders of the (open) Christian Brethren.

T. J. Barnardo became the most flamboyant publicist of children in need. His encounter with John Jarvis and discovery of eleven homeless boys sleeping on an open roof in 1866 revealed the existence of a social problem that was not being adequately tackled. Destitute children could have found their way into a charitable orphanage, or should have been provided for in the Union Workhouse; in reality, many of them slipped into the underworld of vagrancy and crime that was an unacceptable characteristic of industrial towns. Barnardo, a Protestant Irishman with a living faith and a passionate concern for children, took up this challenge with a missionary zeal which brought him into conflict both with other agencies such as the Roman Catholic Crusade of Rescue, and with the ponderous procedures of the legal establishment. There can be no doubt that, to achieve his aims, Barnardo was autocratic and sometimes unwise; he solicited support by unashamed publicity; and more than once he was involved in unsavoury litigation from which he emerged tarnished but triumphant.

"Waifs and Strays". Engraving by Joseph Clark from a picture exhibited in the Royal Acadamy.
Appeared in The Sunday at Home, 21 February 1885, page 113.

Three years after Barnardo began his work, Bowman Stephenson, a young Wesleyan minister, opened the first National Children's Home in Lambeth, and this was to be followed in 1881 by the Waifs and Strays (the Church of England Children's Society).

Orphanages seemed to be falling into a pattern similar to that of the contemporary education system. Statutory provision was made for destitute children in workhouses through locally elected Boards of Guardians, just as statutory education was available after 1870 in elementary schools built by locally elected School Boards. But whereas education for all children under eleven was made compulsory in 1893, the workhouses were not compelled to seek out clients for their children's wards. A parallel system of charitable provision had been developed by voluntary agencies inspired by humanitarian and sectarian motives. In education, the churches had established systems of denominational elementary schools early in the nineteenth century - 'National Schools` for Anglicans, 'British Schools` for Protestant dissenters, Catholic Schools and so on - and this pattern was repeated in the orphanages. Muller's Homes were closely linked with the influential Christian Brethren; Barnardo's were aggressively evangelical; the National Children's Homes were nonconformist, and the Waifs and Strays were Anglican, and some of the bitterest litigation in the child rescue field was between rival religious factions.

It would be untrue to imagine that only the voluntary agencies had vision and a progressive outlook, but they were certainly at an advantage in being able, if they wished, to choose whom they received, to experiment with different types of provision and to keep their orphans long enough to give them adequate industrial training. By contrast, the Guardians of the Poor had to accept whoever came to them for uncertain periods, and were moreover responsible primarily for destitute and handicapped adults. Despite this, the Local Government Board (a department of the central government) after 1873 showed an active concern for the plight of pauper children. From 1877, Guardians were beginning to look at the value of Cottage Homes of twenty or thirty children, with married staff, and homes for boys and girls grouped together; there were experiments in Bolton, Swansea, Neath and Addlestone.

The issue of 'Children in Need` was brought to a head in 1885 when the journalist, W. T. Stead 'bought` an under-age girl to draw attention to the appalling fact of child prostitution, only to have himself most unjustly prosecuted and convicted for the offence.

"Homeless ! Helpless ! Hopeless !" Cover picture by an unnamed artist
in the monthly periodical British Workwoman, October 1866.

It might be considered, not unreasonably, that by the end of the 1880s orphans were provided for in England, however inadequate and ill-organised that provision might be. But Charles Edward Baring Young, probably through his involvement with the London Working Boys, had detected one significant gap in that provision. There were many children in what we would today call dysfunctional homes - usually one-parent families where the responsible adult was unable to cope with children and at the same time earn a living. These were the children 'with a home need` for whom Charles Baring Young was called to make provision.

It is against this background of diverse and largely unstructured provision for deprived children that we must assess the contribution made by Charles Edward Baring Young of Daylesford. By comparison with most other philanthropists in this field, he had one outstanding advantage: he was extremely rich. He therefore had no need ever to call on financial help from individuals or from public bodies; indeed, he was determined to be solely responsible for the establishment and running of his Homes, and went a long way to exclude outside interference. It is true that there may have been a small income derived from the rents of his properties in Kingham and elsewhere, but the cost of purchasing the site, building the Homes, employing the staff, and feeding and clothing his orphans, year after year, was stupendous. It is an indication of C. E. B. Young's financial acuity that he must have costed his project so that it never exceeded his income, and therefore exercised a careful constraint to prevent the development from getting out of hand. After all, there would have been room on Kingham Hill for many more houses to have been built.

The second main difference between the Homes that Baring Young created and other orphanages is that he provided for the need of boys who were not necessarily orphans, but who came largely from one-parent families where the surviving father or mother was no longer able to cope with them. This provision for 'boys with a home need` was to remain the governing characteristic of Kingham Hill until well into the second half of the twentieth century. It was a field that lay largely outside the provision offered either by the statutory or by the voluntary bodies. The third characteristic of the Kingham Hill Homes was that they followed the most progressive ideas of the time: the boys were grouped into families, each living in a separate Home, and the Homes themselves, instead of resembling giant barracks like Muller's Homes, were built with local materials and in the style of traditional Cotswold Houses. Finally, but most importantly, the entire concept was imbued with an uncompromising spirit of evangelical Christian faith and practice. Boys as they arrived, one by one, were accepted into this loving, caring community, and in turn responded unhesitatingly to the Christian ethos that they found - the daily prayers, the Sunday services, and the strict uncompromising observance of the Sabbath - no matter how alien these must have been to anything that they had known before.

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  • Caroline Ashby - Thursday, 29 October 2015

    My father Albert Harris was living in Latimer House London in the 1920's - 1930's and visited Kingham Hill for his holidays. He meet my mother from Chipping Norton whilst at Kingham Hill. They married in 1940

    Is there any register of the children living in Latimer House at that time? If so where could I look at it.


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