PRINCESS MARY VILLAGE HOMES, ADDLESTONE: RECORDS
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- SHC Ref No: 2591
- Repository: Surrey History Centre, Woking
- Date: 1870-1981
- Description: The records comprise minute books, 1902-1973, and annual reports, 1883-1950. The early minutes of the trustees and first annual reports are missing. The registers of girls with case histories, background notes and reports are preserved in full from 1870-1973 and there are accounts, 1920-1973. There is a large accumulation of building plans including a bird's eye view of the site in the 1870s (-/6/1) and photographs including some of Queen Mary and the Princess Royal (eg, -/9/10) successive patronesses of the homes. A small booklet contains photographs of the homes and activities of the girls in the early years of this century (-/9/8). A handbook published by the trustees in 1927 for the management of the Homes gives recommended weekly quantities of food revealing a generous and enlightened approach, eg, demerara sugar is to be given in much larger quantities than white sugar (see -/4/4).
- Admin History: The Princess Mary Village Homes were founded as an expression of the evangelical piety of two Victorian ladies Mrs Susanna Meredith and Miss Caroline Cavendish. Mrs Meredith's concern for women prisoners led her to organise a Prison Mission in about 1864 and then to set up the Marble Laundry for the employment of discharged women prisoners at 143 Clapham Road, the headquarters of the mission.
As a natural sequence to these activities she turned her attention to the children of criminal parents whose physical and moral health were threatened by the poverty and depravity of their environment. The first little girls were sent to foster parents in and around Addlestone, but as the numbers increased this was found to be inconvenient and in 1870 a home was set up in Essam Farm House, Longcross, by Miss Cavendish. After about six months the sixteeen girls then in residence were moved to a cottage on the New Haw Road (see -/3/1.)
These institutions, together with the Palestine and Lebanon Nurses Mission were collectively known as Mrs Meredith's Insitutions, and were apparently under the wing of the Women's Missionary Association, one copy of whose magazine Open Doors is preserved in this archive (2591/9/2).
It would seem that the ladies recognised the value of small family groups reflecting normal family life and so the idea of a village of cottage dwellings was born with house mothers caring for about ten children in each. This was a new departure for institutions of an orphanage type and was later widely adopted by children's homes as far as building permitted.
The name of the new institution was to be Mrs Meredith's Prison School, but Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck (granddaughter of George III and cousin to Queen Victoria) who became patroness, thought otherwise. 'The children will be called prison children and go forth into the world bearing the stigma of hereditary crime. You had better call the Homes after me.' (see -/9/16 and 17).
By the trust deed of 12 January 1872 Miss Cavendish conveyed to Mrs Meredith and others a piece of land on the east side of Crouch Oak Road between the Crouch Oak (an ancient tree still preserved on the site) and Crouch Oak Cottage on which to erect a schoolroom and other buildings for the institution to be called 'The Princess Mary Village Homes for Litte Girls' for the board, lodging, clothing and education of little children who have parents convicted of crime or who have no home, or are exposed to demoralising influences (see -/4/1).
According to a note in the front of the Record Book (-/3/1) written in 1879 by the Hon Secretary, Miss M A Lloyd, (sister of Mrs Meredith (see -/1/1) the children moved into the first cottages on 22 March 1872. By 10 May the total number of children, she states, was thirty-seven. Building costs were defrayed by benefactors contributing three hundred pounds each for six separate cottages, and other contributions, (-/4/4).
In February 1872 the Homes had been certified by the Home Secretary as an Industrial School under the Industrial Schools Act of 1866 (-/4/3). Later building included the schoolhouse, the Shaftesbury Wing, the infants' schoolroom and staff accommodation (later extended as a training home for older girls before being sent out, usually to service), an infirmary, a laundry to provide employment for older girls and a source of income for the Homes, and in 1887 a Chapel. A sewing room was built in1893 given by the Duchess of York, later Queen Mary, who succeeded her mother as patroness. In 1911 a holiday home was added to provide accommodation for girls who had left the homes but wished to return having nowhere to spend their leave (see -/9/17). Homeland, a house on the south, had been acquired by 1905 and Crouch Oak House on the north was bought in 1915 (see -/1/1 and -/4/4).
In 1933 the Homes became a Home Office Approved School under the Children's and Young Persons Act of that year. In 1964 a new education building was opened by the Princess Royal, who in turn had become Patroness on the death of her mother Queen Mary, thus maintaining the strong royal interest in the Homes until her own death the following year. Under the Children and Young Persons Act of 1969 the Homes became a Community Home for Girls (see -/4/10) and in 1973 were taken over by the London Borough of Merton (see -/4/19). In 1980 the Borough Council decided to close the Homes and sell the site for a housing development.
- Level: Collection
- Access Status: Open. 2591/1/30-32, 35, -/2/22, -/3/2-26, -/4/11, and -/7/1 are closed for 100 years; 2591/2/35-48 and -/3/27 are closed for 75 years.
- Provenance: Deposited by the secretary to the Trustees in May 1981.
- Bibliography: M A Lloyd, Susanna Meredith ? a record of a Vigorous Life (Hodder and Stoughton, 1903)
- For more information contact: Surrey History Centre
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