Between 1869 and 1932, over 100,000 children were sent from Britain to Canada through assisted juvenile emigration. These migrants are called “home children” because most went from an emigration agency’s home for children in Britain to its Canadian receiving home. The children were placed with families in rural Canada.
Douglas G Barbour of Brockville who was sent out in 1927 on the very day he turned 16 recalled being very sick on the voyage. The journey which took seven days “wasn’t a bad crossing” he said, “but the first day out was rough. All the children were put down below to get out of the way of the waves which were just swishing over the deck.
Another lad and myself just had to see the waves so we walked out on deck. A big wave came along and swept over us and we were washed overboard. I grabbed the rail so hard I think the marks are still there on my hands and I saved myself.
His companion was washed overboard but was rescued. On the same ship was his friend John Thomson now of Gananoque who had been in a home for five years. His father was killed in an accident at the creamery where he worked and he and his four younger brothers had all been sent to live at Quarrier’s Home. He also was 16 years old.
Both boys along with the 40 or 50 others in their group were sent to receiving homes in Brockville. From there Thomson was sent to the market garden farm of Howard Keyes in Cataraqui which then was well outside the city of Kingston.
“It was all right” he said “but it was all work. If you want to eat you’ve got to work they say.”
He worked on the farm from 1927 to 1931 when he married and rented the farm next to Keyes and set up market gardening with his wife. “It turned out OK” he said with a smile, But a lot weren’t as lucky as I was to get a good home.”
Diana Thompson of Huntsville had a sizable display of family photos and documents detailing the experiences of her grandmother Margaret Watt who was with her twin sister Sarah and was sent over in 1890 when they were 14.
Their mother had died when they were three and their father, a joiner, remarried. When he was killed in an accident on a ship his wife gave the girls to their uncle to care for. However one day when he was at work his wife and her sister took the girls to the Quarrier’s Home and left them there.
Their crossing took 21 days and after landing at Quebec the twins were separated and sent to farms in the Brockville area “My grandmother wouldn’t talk about her life story” Thompson said, “She had left two older sisters and a brother behind.”
Beth Bruder, chair of the Canadian organizing committee, also touched on the theme of separation and loss – loss these children suffered going into the home loss when they came to Canada and especially loss of innocence. Many she said were shocked to find that they were viewed only as workers, not as equals in their new country.
Bruder recalled her own mother telling her of overhearing someone ask who she was on her first Sunday in church. “Oh she’s just a Home girl” came the reply- a reply whose sting was never forgotten “Today however” Bruder said “I want to focus on the success that many of these children had in a country that gave them a chance to grow and prosper.”
After arriving by steerage, the children (300-400 per boat) were sent to distributing and receiving homes, such as Fairknowe in Brockville, MacPherson sisters in Belleville, Dr. Bernado in Peterborough and Toronto and then sent on to farmers in the area. Although many of the children were poorly treated and abused, some did experience a better life here than if they had remained in the urban slums of England. Many served with the Canadian and British Forces during both World Wars. read-Canadians Just Wanted to Use me as a Scullery-Maid
A Baby Castle? I had written a few stories about Dr. Barnardos but never ever heard of a baby castle, but there was one.
Dr Barnardo’s Homes, Babies Castle, Hawkhurst, Kent
Contains sensitive personal information where release would distress or endanger an individual who was a minor at date of file
Lord Chancellor’s Instrument:
LCI 89 – Series containing both closure and accelerated opening instruments
LCI signed date:
1990 October 04
Record opening date:
01 January 2041
Morning Post – Tuesday 10 August 1886
THE “BABIES CASTLE” AT HAWKHURST.
Yesterday her Royal Highness the Princess Mary Adelaide visited Hawkhurst, Kent, for the purpose of opening a new institution in connection with the philanthropic work carried on by Dr. Barnardo. The visit was made the occasion of a remarkable display of loyalty by the residents of the surrounding districts. The building opened is termed “Babies Castle,” and the plan for the establishment of the new institution was conceived three years ago, when Mr. Theodore Moilliet bequeathed two villa houses at Hillside, Hawkhurst, to Dr. Barnardo.
Provision was at that time made in these houses for infant children who could be better dealt with there than in the East-end of London, but it was soon found that the old building was too small, and the necessity for a separate building for treating the infectious disorders incident to childhood also became apparent. As a valuable site was included in the original gift, it was eventually resolved to erect a house to accommodate 100 infants and their nurses, and the results of the carrying out of this resolve were inaugurated yesterday by her Royal Highness.
The bulk of the visitors left town by a special train, and the Princess followed in a second special, which arrived at Etchingham Station shortly before four o’clock. Her Royal Highness was received upon the platform by a guard of honour, composed of detachments of the local volunteers. The Princess, who was accompanied bjy Princess Victoria and Princes George and Adolphus of Teck, then entered an open carriage drawn by four grey horses, and with outriders proceeded to Hawkhurst. The scene upon the road was one of remarkable enthusiasm, the villages being gaily decorated, and many triumphal arches marking the line of route.
Upon arriving at the institution the Princess was received by Mr. S. G. Sheppard, chairman of the committee of Dr. Barnardo’s Homes, Viscount and Lady Cranbrook, Dr. Barnardo, and several members of the committee, and was greeted by a royal salute from the West Kent Yeomanry and Hawkhurst Rifle Volunteers. An address of welcome was then presented by the committee to her Royal Highness, who graciously accepted the same; and after a dedicatory prayer had been recited by Archdeacon Harrison, Dr. Barnardo briefly explained to the large company assembled the history and intentions of the institution reminding his hearers that the site had been given by a friend who had been a kind and liberal supporter of the whole work in which he was engaged. The “Babies Castle” was the 30th and last institution established in connection with the homes, and from its operations the best results were anticipated.
Purses containing in the aggregate a sum of upwards of £250 were then presented to the Princess Mary Adelaide, who afterwards formally declared the institution open, and intimated that she desired to become its president. Luncheon was subsequently served, and at the conclusion of the proceedings her Royal Highness and children left for Lord and Lady Cranbrook’s residence near Staplehurst.
The Babies Castle was officially opened on 9th August 1886 this institution was for the reception of babies. In 1908 Babies Castle became a mixed home for children under eight years of age. It was particularly used for babies and young children who, owing to their physical condition, were not suited for boarding out.
On the 21st September 1927 the new extension that had been built was officially opened another outstanding event of that year was the installation of a wireless set which was used for the first time on Christmas Day when the older children listened to the Children’s Service.
In 1964 The Babies Castle was listed as a Nursery with 48 places which was a vast reduction from the early days.
To let you know a little more information we will use the notes of Thomas John Barnardo written about 1887
“Up till the year 1884 the “baby question” met me at every turn in the course of my work, and no answer to its insistent beseeching was possible. I might rescue a family of little girls from circumstances of direct dis*tress, and the Ilford Homes (Barkingside Village) gladly welcomed them; but how about the baby brother?”
So wrote Thomas John Barnardo in about 1887 and the notes give something of the problems he was experiencing in housing destitute children of both sexes. Since The Girls Village Home, Barkingside. (the Ilford Homes, as he describes them), was founded for destitute girls of all ages; the problem of where to house the babies of the male gender, seems to have been really acute, but then he goes on to describe how the problem was eventually solved.
“I need hardly say that I had already placed a baby in every one of the cottages at Ilford, the “mother” of which felt equal to such a responsibility; but this opening was soon ex*hausted, and then what was to be done? I have learned that God never sets His people a problem with*out keeping the answer in waiting, and just when my path seemed hedged with thorns, a way was unex*pectedly opened through the kindness of a friend of long standing, one who has since then, gone to his rest the late Mr. Theodore Moilliet. This gentleman, who owned property at Hawkhurst, offered me the villa of Hillside, consist*ing of two small houses, with the accompanying land, as a free gift to be used for the benefit of the Homes. At that very time my fundamen*tal principle of never refusing ad*mission to desti*tute cases was in imminent danger of break*ing down with regards to the babies. As I have said, most of the Ilford cottages were furnished with a baby, and it seemed impossible to provide for the rescue of several urgently needed cases just then under my observation. How joyfully and thankfully I accepted this timely offer at Hawkhurst can easily there*fore be imagined.”
“The gradual extension of my work brought an even larger number of cases within my purview. When, as during the pe*riod under notice some 7,000 children come under my notice for in*vestigation in a single year, it would, indeed, be strange if not more than thirty babies at anyone time required in*stitutional care. Hence the old trouble began to re-assert itself not very long after the opening of the origi*nal Babies Castle. It was dif*ficult to accommodate sixty babies where there was room for only thirty, as it was to accommodate thirty where there was room for none; and soon an urgent call arose once more for enlarged space at Hawkhurst. Babies – above all, neglected babies – cannot be dealt with rightly … through the mere “by efforts” of Insti*tutions not specially devoted to their rescue. Hence it was definitely decided, after much inconvenience had been ex*perienced, to erect, on the land given, as already de*scribed, a new Babies Castle which should gather in all the waifs whom I find deserted and maimed on the very threshold of life.