Scattered Homes

A house in Recreation Road

Towards the end of the 19th century, Poor Law Guardians were increasingly concerned about the upbringing of children in their care.  The workhouse was a totally unsuitable environment so other solutions were sought.

Boarding out in the homes of foster families was tried but there were few families able or prepared to do this.  In some areas Cottage homes were set up; several houses round a green, each housing approximately 12 children with a foster mother.  This was deemed to isolate the children in an unreal situation.

In Sheffield, J. Wycliffe Wilson, chairman of the Board of Guardians, suggested another solution.  In 1893 he set out to purchase several artisans homes scattered about the city, where approximately 15 children would live with a foster mother and attend the nearest Board School.  No more than 30 children would attend each school so that they could become integrated into the local community.  On Sundays the children would be taken to the neighbouring churches and Sunday-schools.

The success of this scheme lead other unions to adopt it and thus in 1908 Guildford Board of Guardians set up seven of these homes with romantic names such as Elsinore, Restormel and River View.  Each home housed 11-13 children aged 5-14, either all boys or all girls with a foster mother, who was usually a single woman in her 30s.  Brothers and sisters were separated into different homes.  Next door to the Workhouse in Union Road, was a Receiving Home for children where they could be assessed, but some children remained there.

The members of one family were “scattered” in several homes by 1911.  They were the sons and daughters of Samuel Norsworthy.  Samuel had been a contractor’s carman living in Quarry Street, Guildford with his wife Annie and 7 children, until Annie died in childbirth in 1910.  We find Samuel residing in Guildford Union Workhouse in the 1911 census along with his 10 month old daughter Constance, while two of his children, 11 year old Annie and 4 year old Ernest William are next door in the Children’s Receiving Home.  Meanwhile 13 year old Leonard and 6 year old Henry Charles Norsworthy are down in the town at Elsinore Scattered Home in Springfield Road.  Nine year old Cecil Norsworthy was in another scattered home, Newark in Recreation Road.  The oldest two children are at work; Selina as a housemaid in Weybridge and Samuel Arthur working as a gardener on a fruit farm in Shalford.

Another family who were split up after the death of their father were the Longhurst children from Shere.  Dorothea, aged 11, and her 10 year old brother Nicholas Irwin were lucky enough to stay with their mother, Elizabeth, taken in by their grandmother in the same village but younger brothers Edward, aged 8, and Charles, aged 6, were in the scattered home, Elsinore, while 10 year old Henry Algernon was living at Newark in Recreation Road.

Tower Hill Memorial

Henry Algernon Leslie Longhurst, can be found on a memorial at Tower Hill, recording that he was a steward in the merchant navy who was killed on SS Ashcrest on December 9th 1940, son of Elizabeth Longhurst and husband of Annie Maud Longhurst of Grange Town, Cardiff.

A radio programme about the Scattered Homes in Sheffield is currently available on iplayer
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05pr81r

Comments

  1. Gosh - this very interesting post makes one count one's blessings - how sad that so many children had these 'scattered families'.

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