By Rosemary Bailey
This article was published in the December 2021 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society
Being very interested in social history, when I read in John Slaughter’s co-ordinator’s report that George Saul had been living in a foster home at the time of the 1901 census I wanted to find out more. The home was in Barton Latimer in Northamptonshire about five miles from Kettering where George’s mother Rose was living at the time.
Burton Latimer has a Heritage Society and there is information on its website about the Cottage Homes. By the mid 1890s the Kettering Workhouse was overcrowded and the decision was taken to open a Cottage Home. The Cottage Home system was introduced in the 1870s in England and Wales in an effort to bring up children in a better environment than the workhouses. In some larger unions the homes had facilities for games, swimming, their own school rooms, and chapels.
The home was officially opened in November 1897 and the first children, aged between three and 12, arrived a few days later. Some of those initial children later left to go into some kind of work, for example into service or into the armed services. It looks like some returned to their parents, for example the Crane brothers who left on the same day in 1903. There were some sad outcomes too, Alice Wileman left to be treated for TB at Margate, and later returned to the workhouse and Alice Crane was trained for service but ended up in an asylum as an adult.
The Uxbridge Board of Guardians visited the Cottage Home in 1899, with a view to sending children they couldn’t accommodate in their own Union, their report is an interesting read and paints a picture of well cared for children. The building had twelve rooms and was run by the Master his wife (the foster-mother), an assistant foster-mother and a charwoman. The 16 boys slept in one room and the 16 girls in another, and the large landing could accommodate more beds. There was a bathroom and kitchen with power which perhaps contributed to the good health of the children, since the report states ‘there has never been a case of isolation’, presumably serious infection. Also it seems that the children had a better diet than they might have had in the workhouse, albeit perhaps a little stodgy. The children attended local schools and on occasions children from outside came in to play. There was no segregation of sexes and boys and girls both ate together and played together.
At the time of the visit sadly their wasn’t room for all the Union children and 28 remained in the workhouse.