Whitehaven Orphan Home

The Whitehaven Orphan Home and Industrial School for Girls (also known as the Whitehaven Girls' Home and Industrial Institution) was established in 1860 "to befriend destitute girls, especially orphans. training them to industrial habits. fitting them for domestic service, and providing them with suitable situations".

The institution was maintained by public subscriptions and donations, supplemented by income generated by the labour of the girls. It was managed by a committee of ladies. The home was initially based in the former Preston Quarter township workhouse in the Ginns area of Whitehaven but by the early 1870s had moved into a property purchased at Granby Place, on Michael Street.

The building could accommodate twenty girls aged from 13 to 17. For each girl admitted to the, home, an initial fee of 5s. was requested and then a weekly contribution of 3s. 6d. However. the charges could be negotiated according to the circumstances and a few free cases were taken. New entrants were required to be in good health not feeble-minded.

Girls in the home were occupied in laundry work, needlework and knitting. You were sometimes scrubbing floors, or tidying and dusting, sweeping and brushing the carpets, making beds or you might be on kitchen duties, raking out the kitchen range, black-leading it and lighting it, baking the bread. Breakfast was usually porridge and bread and dripping. It was quite a strict regime.

Girls slept with the others in a dormitory for 10 girls up on the attic floor. There would be another 10 on the floor below. At the home the girls had to get up very early, four or five o’clock, and do their chores before going to school. There was a rota listing who did what.

The Waifs and Strays Society was founded in 1881 by Edward Rudolf (1852-1933). He was a civil servant and at 19, he and his brother Robert, 15, began running a Sunday School in South Lambeth, London, a very poor area with many needy children.

The first children were received into the society’s care on February 14, 1882, and it rapidly grew. By 1890, just nine years after the inaugural meeting, the society was running 35 homes. It was also arranging foster care for children. By 1905 it had 93 homes.

The Waifs and Strays Society looked after about 22,500 children between its foundation and the end of World War One. In 1946 it became known as the Church of England Children’s Society and is now just the Children’s Society.

In around 1904. the home moved to new premises known as Granby House at 1 Victoria Road. Whitehaven. The Home was transferred to the Waifs and Strays Society in 1905 and became St Agnes' Home for Girls.

The girls from the Home took part in various fĂȘtes and bazaars to raise money for the Society. In 1906 they helped to look after the Society's stall at the annual Church Congress in Barrow-in-Furness. According to the Society's magazine Our Waifs and Strays the girls "won gratifying praise for their manners and services."

At another event in 1908, the girls took part in a "fete and bazaar" at the Barrow Town Hall. Over £185 was raised, which is the equivalent of around £10,000 in today's money.

The Home carried on its work for 54 years, finally closing in 1938.

Granby House, Orphan Home For Girls, Whitehaven
Granby House


Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

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