This week sees the 100th anniversary of the opening of St Mary’s Home in Sandy Lane, Cheam.
The home was built by the Waifs and Strays Society and provided a home for fifty girls aged between 6 and 16 years. The first group of girls moved in on the 30th April 1914, relocated from a home in Peckham. Details taken from a postcard in the Local Studies Collection in Sutton Library records: “As they walked up Sandy Lane to their new home, they were all smiles and excitement”. Two days later the Home held an opening ceremony and the Countess of St. Germans officially declared the home open. All the grandeur made one girl feel as though she were “in London at a royal wedding or coronation.”
Photograph from the David Knights-Whittome collection, Sutton Archives.
The older girls were expected to do the domestic work of the home, preparing them for a useful life when they left. Younger girls attended St Dunstan’s School and all attended St Dunstan’s Church every Sunday. The Society encouraged girls in their homes to join the Brownies and Guides, and the girls from St Mary’s are reported to have been especially successful in being awarded badges for laundry and cooking – at one rally they were awarded a distinction in personal cleanliness!
During the Second World War, the girls were evacuated to Tunbridge Wells. When St Mary’s re-opened in 1946, it was as a nursery for babies and very young children (boys and girls) and also served as a training school for young women wanting to work with children.
For more information about St Mary’s visit Sutton Local Studies & Archives Centre in Sutton Central Library or you can find out more about the Waifs and Strays’ Society on the Hidden Lives website: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/