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Norfolk children's homes and children in care

Norfolk Poor Law Unions 1834-1930

The Poor Law Unions were responsible for the care of children whose parents, for various reasons, could not provide them with a satisfactory family life.

These children were usually accommodated in the Union Workhouse during the 19th century where, unlike most of their contemporaries, they did receive some basic education.

In the early 20th century, there was a growing movement to take children out of the workhouse and either accommodate them in a children’s home or board [foster] them out in the community. 

In Norfolk, there were 22 Poor Law Unions, including those for the City of Norwich and the Boroughs of King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth. 

Minutes of boarding out committees and children’s homes committees have survived for only about half of the unions in Norfolk. It is possible that most of them never maintained a children’s home.

It may therefore be necessary to search the relevant board minutes and records of the Union Workhouse (admission and discharge registers, creed registers, birth registers) for references to a particular child.

Reference has been found to the following Poor Law Union children’s homes:

  • Gresham Children’s Home, The Old Rectory, Gresham had been established by Erpingham Union by 1922, when it is listed in Kelly’s Directory of Norfolk. For a photograph and reminiscences see Keith Entwistle, Gresham Voices and Faces (Aylsham, 2000), pp39-43, 70-71.
  • Long Stratton Children’s Home (for 14 children) had been established by Depwade Union by 1916, when it is listed in Kelly’s Directory of Norfolk.
  • Lyde Cottage, Docking, Children’s Home (for 12 children) was opened by Docking Union in 1915.
  • Poringland Children’s Home was opened by Henstead Poor Law Union in 1915.
  • Red House, Little Snoring, Children’s Home had been established by Walsingham Union by 1916, when it is listed in Kelly’s Directory of Norfolk.
  • Thetford Children’s Home, Old Market Street, Thetford, had been established by Thetford Union by 1929, when it is listed in Kelly’s Directory of Norfolk.
  • North Walsham Children’s Home, 60-62 Norwich Road, North Walsham, had been established by Smallburgh Union by 1916, when it is listed in Kelly’s Directory of Norfolk.

Records, 1834-1930:

  • Board minutes of all Norfolk Unions (including King’s Lynn but excluding Norwich and Great Yarmouth) - see lists C/GC 1-20 for more detail
  • Blofield Poor Law Union Boarding Out Committee minutes, 1912-18 (C/GP 2/52)
  • Depwade Poor Law Union Boarding Out Committee correspondence files, 1906-24 (C/GP 3/189-191)
  • Docking Poor Law Union register of boarded out children, 1904-17 (C/GP 4/72)
  • Docking Poor Law Union Children’s Home [Lyde Cottage, Docking] registers, 1915-37 (C/GP 4/4/81-83)
  • Downham Poor Law Union Boarding Out Committee minutes, 1915-23 (C/GP 5/93-94)
  • Henstead Poor Law Union Children’s Home [Poringland] and Boarding Out Committee minutes, 1909-30 (C/GP 11/95-96)
  • St Faith’s Poor Law Union Boarding Out Committee minutes, 1911-29 (C/GP 15/70)
  • Smallburgh Poor Law Union Boarding Out Committee minutes, 1912-30 (C/GP 18/113)
  • Smallburgh Poor Law Union Children’s Home [North Walsham] Committee, 1920-23 (C/GP 18/82)