Children's homes

Photo:Up to 62 girls lived in the Nest, in Springfield

Up to 62 girls lived in the Nest, in Springfield

© unknown

Photo:There was a large garden for the girls to play in - and some even slept there too

There was a large garden for the girls to play in - and some even slept there too

© unknown

By Natasha Lewer

Described “one of the most pathetic homes in the world,” the Nest, at 10 Springfield, Upper Clapton, was a home for girls who had been sexually abused. "Here some 60 little girls, most of whom have been maltreated in an indescribable manner by those who should have been their natural guardians, are being taught the innocence of childhood, and the results are most splendid," claimed a Salvation Army appeal in the Times in 1913. Set up in 1901, the girls – who were aged up to 15 – lived in an atmosphere that the all-female staff tried to make as homely as possible.  

There was a strong belief that they could regain their childhood innocence if only their recent experiences could be forgotten. They were not allowed to talk about what had happened to them – and were monitored closely to make sure they did not do so – and were encouraged to play with skipping ropes and other toys and to spend time in the large garden. Florence Soper Booth recalled how they “were helped to forget evil things and to become children again; they were taught to play and laugh as well as work.”  

Fresh air was seen as vital – there was even an outdoor bedroom, converted from a greenhouse, for those with weak lungs – and they were given vegetarian food, as it was considered purifying. A sister home was set up in Ramsgate, called the Haven, where the girls were sent for revivifying seaside holidays.  

Visiting the Nest in 1910, H Rider Haggard described the house as “very charming, with a good garden adorned by beautiful trees. It has every arrangement and comfort possible for the welfare of its child inmates.” A governess was employed to teach the girls, and they also had religious instruction and learnt needlework. When they reached the age of 15, the Salvation Army found them jobs as domestic servants, but they were still watched over from a distance, and if they were unhappy in their work, were allowed to come back to the Nest.







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This page was added by Natasha Lewer on 11/11/2009.

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