Memories of a children's home

LIFE in a Children's Home must have been very difficult with no family to share life's ups and downs with. Children would often find themselves in an institution after the family had hit difficult times.

LIFE in a Children's Home must have been very difficult with no family to share life's ups and downs with.

Children would often find themselves in an institution after the family had hit difficult times.

It could be following the death of both parents and with no other family to care for them or a single parent left with little or no income to support the children.

The heartbreak of being left alone as a child is difficult to imagine.

Bryan Cloud, who lives near Bristol, appealed through "Kindred Spirits" recently for memories of the Britannia Road Children's Home in Ipswich, where he grew up when he was orphaned in the early 1940's.

I understand the home was originally the St John's Children's Home and was at the corner of Bloomfield Street and Freehold Road.

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In the 1930's when children arrived they were stripped, bathed, examined and given a very short haircut.

Arrivals were greeted by an ex army sergeant with a huge waxed moustache. He ordered the children about with a very strict military manner.

Beatings were normal under the strict discipline. Other forms of punishment meant going to bed early without food or extra tasks.

The day started at 6am with a strip wash in a basin of almost cold water in the outside washhouse.

After breakfast of stodgy porridge, a thick slice of bread and margarine and a mug of tea, the children would carry out daily tasks before going to school.

In the evening floors were scrubbed with six boys kneeling in a line with buckets and brushes.

Saturdays always brought a dose of "opening medicine" before going to the washhouse. There was always a queue outside the doorless row of cold seated toilets!

Rex Gardiner, of Booth Lane, Kesgrave, was at the home in the 1940's, when it sounds as if things had improved from the decade before. He can still vividly remember how "sad and hurt" he was when he first went there, but has fond memories of how kind the staff was to him. Rex said.

"In my ninth year, when the Second World War ended, I was put there because my mother and father split up. Even so I have some fond memories of the place. I was at the Britannia Road Home for a couple of years. I did feel sad and hurt, but I soon bucked up when I met the other kids in the same boat. It was strict but the staff were fair".

"I remember Mr Churchyard who marched us to school in Clifford Road every school day. I recall running for the school at Portman Road during the annual schools sports day. The superintendent, who we called "Super", was a good man and his wife was the matron who was also very nice".

"I also remember Mr Battie who was also good with us. We had sport on Saturdays and I remember running and training on a field in Britannia Road which was where flats are now".

"I had a close friend called Roy Barlow who I shared work chores each morning after breakfast and before school we carried hot buckets of water to the toilets outside and scrubbed the seats and swilled the floors. Times were hard for us young ones but it did us no harm and I soon learned to stand on my own two feet".

"I also remember the staff taking us to Rushmere Heath for walks on Sundays and some of the older boys would "bunk off" (run away) but were usually caught and brought back to the home the same day".

"My father remarried in 1947 so I left the home then and went to Landseer Road School. I also met Roy Barbour there and it was good knowing someone at a new school".

Linda Sexton, of Crofton Road, is a mature degree student at the Suffolk College and is researching the history of the St Johns/ Britannia Road Children's Home. Linda is hoping Star readers might be able to help with her project. She sent me a post-card view of the home taken around 1912 featuring the carpenter's shop.

Linda said "The picture appears to be one of a set of twelve cards, but I have not been able to locate any others. Pictures of the Home are hard to find. Ipswich Records Office has plenty of documents relating to the home, but few photographs. The site has now been re-developed, and at the moment I only have memories of what it looked like. Can any of you help Linda? If you have any more photographs send them to me Dave Kindred, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN.

Did you grow up at the home? Write to "Kindred Spirits" and tell your story.


Photographers were busy at the end of the Second World War capturing dozens of Street parties celebrating the end of the fighting. There were Victory in Europe (VE) gathering and Victory in Japan (VJ) celebrations. The pictures, treasured memories of great relief, capture life in a unique way as all generations celebrated together.

I featured a party in Westholme Road recently and Maurice Colman, of June Avenue,

Ipswich, has sent me information about the event.

"The street party was held on Saturday, May 19, 1945, and apart from the tea, we enjoyed side-shows and races for the children, which included the usual three legged race and a slow bicycle race".

"With the end of the war in Europe, we had the day, May 8th off from school, which was good! As children growing up during the war, most of us could not remember what peacetime was like".

"We were used to air raid sirens and disturbed nights and although these came less as the allies gained more victories, for many of us the war was quite an exciting time. We in Ipswich did not suffer in quite the terrible way as many large cities and towns".

"Even now, after all these years, if I hear an air raid siren on film or television it still leaves me with a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. The lights soon appeared once more in the streets and roads, but food was still on ration for several more years, as were clothes and sweets!

I do not remember going hungry, but perhaps that is because my parents had less! This probably applied to my friends as well".

"One young man from Westholme Road, Godfrey Walker, was in the Parachute Regiment and was killed at Arnhem".

"Casting my mind back nearly fifty-eight years I can remember the following who appear on the photograph:

Children: Peter & Jean Newman, Gerald Gable, Peter Clarke, Betty & George Braddick, Beryl Francis, Jean Finch, Beryl Wright, Michael Saunders and my brother Dennis and of course myself. Adults: Mrs Minter, Mr & Mrs Lynn, Mr & Mrs Francis, Mrs De'ath, Mr & Mrs Finch, Mr & Mrs Saunders, Mrs Braddick, Mr & Mrs Skedge, Mr & Mrs Hankinson, Mrs Cross, Mr Moore, Sgt & Mrs Storey and Canon Mitten from All Saints Church, and my parents. Perhaps readers can remember other names".

"The war for us children was in many ways a very happy time. We did not really know, living in Westholme Road, the real horrors of war and our parents did their best to make sure we children did not suffer too many hardships. I am sure I can speak for all the children in the road when I say how much we owe to our parents for helping us to lead a happy childhood".


Life in the Stoke area of Ipswich is rich with memories. Of all the subjects I have featured on these pages Stoke seems to bring more letters than any other. I featured life at Wherstead Road, and Luther Road schools recently. Neil Martin of Manchester Road, Ipswich was a pupil at Wherstead Road School. He said. " I started school in 1932 at Wherstead Road. Miss Pulham was my first teacher, I think she always took the first infants intake. Miss Jolly was headmistress. I have always been very grateful to teacher Miss Leathers who was very keen about my ability to read, also I suspect many others, I enjoy reading to this day. It was the only subject I was good at".

"In the summer in Wherstead Road, children could buy ice cream from a wooden push barrow belonging to Peters Ice Cream. Luther Road Parish Hall was much used in those days for parties, scouts, wolf cub and shows etc. My cousin Nancy Winny ran a dancing school, she lived in Phillip Road. Nancy and her troupe put on several shows at Luther Road Hall".

"Like many others I went on to Luther Road Junior mixed. My teacher for the first year was Miss Dunthorne".

I also recall taking my grandfather's accumulators for his radio to Nightingales shop for recharging and buying "meths" from Threadkell's Chemist for our toy steam engines".

Reg Farrow, of Windermere Close, Ipswich was a pupil at Croft Street School. Reg said

I went to Croft Street School during 1933 and 34, the headmistress was Miss Rush and my teacher was Miss Macdonald, when the school closed we were transferred to Wherstead Road School".

"Mrs Brooks was my favourite teacher there. When Wherstead closed we transferred to the new Luther Road School (Hillside), Miss Hack was headmistress along with Miss Thurlow, Miss Leathers and Miss Jackerman who married and became Mrs Stewart, a lovely teacher who incidentally also taught my daughter there".

"Croft Street played a big part in my life as I worked in Croft Street Railway Yard for forty eight years. My father worked for forty-two years in the same yard. He was badly injured in a railway accident on February 1, 1936. He suffered further in the East Coast Flood of 1953".

I am always pleased to publish her memories of life "Over Stoke". Write to "Kindred Spirits" Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN.


Pic 1 (used before)

The VE Day party in Westholme Road, Ipswich, which brought memories from Maurice Colman.

Pic 2 (Big picture, lots of faces)

A classic VE Day street party picture taken in Kelly Road, Ipswich, sent to me by Pam Cousins (nee Carter) of Ipswich. Are you in the picture? Write with your memories of that day to Dave Kindred, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich. IP4 1AN.

Pic 3 (optional pic)

A Peters ice cream handcart, as recalled by Neil Martin

Pic 4 (Must use)

Linda Sexton sent me this picture of the carpenter's shop at the St John's Children's Home in Ipswich. Do you have any more photographs or information about the home?

Pic 5 (Use small)

Dorothy Larter (nee Ling) of Whinchat Close, Ipswich, sent me this photograph of herself and friends at Wherstead Road School. Dorothy is on the right. She said "I lived in Wherstead Road until I got married then I lived next to Hallidays Newsagents, in Vernon Street, there was a little lane in between. I lived there five years before moving to Chantry where I have been for nearly forty-eight years".

"Jean Pascal's memories in "Kindred Spirits" recently brought back many memories. We also took our accumulates to Nightingales for recharging when I was a young girl"

"Like Jean's family Sundays were very quiet for us, no washing etc. We were happy living over Stoke, although times were harder".

"My father worked at Thurmans in Vernon Street. It was a small mill. They also had a shop.

They delivered by horse and cart. I often went along for the ride. Weekends my father took us to feed the horse which was kept in a stable in the grounds".

Pic 6 (Optional)

A group of boys at Wherstead Road School, Ipswich probably in the 1930's. Their clothes are typical of all schoolboys until the 1960's when fashion items appeared. These boys are all in shorts with a sweater or jacket. Can any Star readers name any of the boys featured?