A changing focus

Photo:Women meet at the home league - a "cheerful afternoon weekly gathering" - in 1931

Women meet at the home league - a "cheerful afternoon weekly gathering" - in 1931

© Salvation Army Long Eaton Corps

By Natasha Lewer

Homes with new names  

The Salvation Army’s network of social institutions moved with the times and their changing needs. By World War One, the term ‘rescue home’ had largely fallen out of use, but the establishments continued to exist in different forms, as ‘industrial homes’, ‘homes for mothers and infants’ and even ‘homes for Darby and Joan’.  

Healthcare expansion  

The Salvation Army's Women's Social Work department continued to open new institutions, most notably the Mothers’ Hospital in 1913. The hospital continued to expand as funds allowed, over the years gaining new nurses’ quarters, an isolation block, an operating theatre, a VD unit, a dental clinic, x-ray equipment and a premature baby unit. In 1918 the hospital began to receive some government funding in recognition of the important work it was doing. An editorial in The War Cry of 16 November 1918 applauded the fact that the Women's Social Work department "now forms part of a bold and enlightened programme for rebuilding the nation, and this new departure in the direction of state endowment is a matter of immense encouragement to all concerned."

Antenatal clinics and child welfare clinics were set up, both at the hospital and in the community, and the Salvation Army’s district nursing programme continued to grow. As well as district nursing posts in south Hackney, Hackney Wick and Canning Town, by 1930 there were also outposts in the new suburbs of Dagenham, Becontree and Downham, with 17,000 home visits made every year.  

Raising spirits and raising funds  

The “marvellously long arm of the Salvation Army”, as it was described in the Annual Report of 1927, also included a whole raft of small-scale initiatives. Home League, “a cheerful afternoon weekly gathering for women”, offered support for isolated mothers, and social gatherings such as “babies’ parties”, Christmas parties and garden parties were regular events attended by mothers and children who had been in Salvation Army maternity homes.

The Ladies’ Association was established in 1926, with Princess Louise as patron, to collect linen, blankets, clothes, shoes and furniture for those in need, as well as to raise money. Always, in the background, the constant campaigning and fundraising continued. In the middle of the First World War, a shortage of affordable foster mothers led to the Salvation Army appealing for “some loving hearts who would take care of baby for LOVE rather than for money.”  

Towards a welfare state  

By the 1940s, however, the Salvation Army’s extensive social work department had begun to wind down. The Liberal reforms of the Edwardian age had laid the foundations for what was to become the welfare state, and finally the government began to take over. With the advent of the National Health Services Act of 1946, the Mothers’ Hospital became part of the NHS, though a clause of the act allowed its religious character and individuality to be preserved, and the hospital was still allowed to accept donations.

By this time, many – though not all - of the Salvation Army’s other institutions in Hackney had closed. There were still three maternity homes (Cotland, Hope Lodge and Sapsworth House). Lorne House had become an ‘approved school for girls’; Lanark House was a ‘hostel for girls’; and there were ‘young women’s residences’ at St Oswalds, in Lampard Grove. At last it seemed that the state would take responsibility for people’s needs, and the Salvation Army’s social work department in Hackney might finally be allowed to bow out.  

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

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