Reading’s Scattered Homes: Lost and Found

During the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, a significant proportion of children in the care of the Reading Board of Guardians were sent to the Reading and Wokingham District School for the Boarding, Lodging and Educating of Pauper Children in nearby Wargrave. However by 1900, large institutions like Wargrave were perceived as expensive, old-fashioned and increasingly inappropriate. There was a growing emphasis on children being ‘boarded-out’, local authority adoption and emigration to Canada. The Reading and Wokingham District School closed in 1902, replaced (in part) with what were officially known as ‘Scattered Homes’.

Under the heading Reading Children’s Homes, Smith’s Reading Postal Directory of 1906, explained the new system:

These homes are established for the purpose of making provision for the destitute children coming under the care of the Guardians, instead of sending them to the Wargrave District School…Fifteen children are assigned to each Home under the care of a Foster Mother’ to ‘enjoy the benefits of home life and attend the public elementary schools in the town like other children.

If you are researching a child in care or even a foster mother, old street directories are a very good place to start. By way of example, I have compiled the following draft list of Reading’s Scattered Homes between 1906 and 1912 using a combination of local directories, Board of Guardians Minute Books and the 1911 Census:

Reading Board of Guardians Scattered Homes 1906-1912

Headquarters & Receiving Home
Address: (1906) Reading Union Workhouse 344 Oxford Road
Address: (1907-1912) 13 Milman Rd

Superintendent: (1907-1911) Miss Helen Mary ROBERTS
Superintendent: (1912) Miss JM COX

Foster Mother: (1907) Miss SPENDER then Miss MUNN (who left 10th October 1907)
Foster Mother: (1907-1911) Miss Hilda Beatrice BLOOMFIELD (when she applied she was of 19 Filey Rd, Reading)
Foster Mother: (1912) Miss H GILBERT

NB: Due to a shortage of accommodation, HQ doubled as a temporary home during this period, hence the need for a foster mother

Scattered Homes

Camarra House
Address: (1906-1912) 229 King’s Rd

Foster Mother: (1906) Miss A N WALKER
Foster Mother: (1907-1912) Miss Rachel NUTTALL

Rosemont House
Address: (1906-1912) 231 King’s Rd

Foster Mother: (1906-1912) Mrs Adelaide FOSTER

Alexandra House
Address: (1906-1909) 59 Queen’s Rd
Address: (1911-1912) 40 Russell St

Foster Mother: (1906-1912) Miss Ellen VICKERS

scattered home

40 Russell St, Reading. The location of Alexandra House 1911-1912

Wilson House

Address: (1906-1909) 77 South St
Address: (1911-1912) 82 Crescent Rd

Foster Mother: (1906-1912) Mrs Kate DRIFFIELD

scattered homes

82 Crescent Rd Reading. The location of Wilson House 1911-1912

Cifford House

Address: (1906-1909) 75 South St
Address: (1911-1912) 84 Crescent Rd

Foster Mother: (1906-1912) Mrs Matilda Mary EDMUNDS

84 Crescent Road, Reading. The location of Clifford House

84 Crescent Rd, Reading. The location of Clifford House 1911-1912

Palmer House

Address: (1906-1912) 11 Milman Rd

Foster Mother: (1906) vacant
Foster Mother: (1907) Mrs BEEDLE replaced by Miss ADAMSON (who left 10th October 1907)
Foster Mother: (1907-1909) Mrs M COOMBE (when she applied she was of Rugby House, Bexley, Kent)
Foster Mother: (1911-1912) Miss Elizabeth SCOTT

Sutton House
Address: (1906) 11-13 Milman Rd
Address: (1907-1909) 74 Southampton St
Address: (1911-1912) 77 South St

Foster Mother: (1906) Miss E T WALES
Foster Mother: (1907-1909) Miss RICHARDSON
Foster Mother: (1911) Miss Constance Margaret MABBS
Foster Mother: (1912) Miss A BARTON

scattered homes

74 Southampton St, Reading. The location of Sutton House 1907-1909

Ashberry House

Address: (1906-1909) 72 Southampton St
Address: (1911-1912) 75 South St

Foster Mother: (1906-1907) Miss N LOWE (left 24th October 1907)
Foster Mother: (1907-1908) Miss JJ SAVORY (when she applied she was of 71 Cotham Brow, Bristol. Succeeded in October but left 3rd January 1908)
Foster Mother: (1908-1912) Miss Ella LAIDLAW (when she applied she was of 10 Rose Lane, Mossley Hill, near Liverpool)

scattered homes

72 Southampton St, Reading. The location of Ashberry House 1906-1909

There’s lots of background information about the ‘scattered homes’ system on-line via a quick search on Google but the BBC Radio 4 programme on the subject (reviewed by Sheffield Libraries, Archives and Information blog in April 2015) and Peter Higginbotham’s Workhouse website are useful introductions. More locally, I would highly recommend Elizabeth Lloyd’s blog ‘Lost in the Past’, which includes a great article about Guildford’s Scattered Homes here.

© Emmy Eustace


Death of a Factory Girl

Berkshire genealogy silk weaving

On the morning of Wednesday 3rd August 1842, Sarah Parsons was standing above the winding room’s revolving engine shaft at Messrs Baylis’s Silk and Crape Manufactory, staring out of the window. She wore a handkerchief around her neck and shoulders and was carrying some waste silk over her arm.


At 15,1 she was one of the older girls at the factory,2 with a long day of work still ahead of her. Of what (or of whom) she was dreaming, we can only imagine. Somehow, the waste silk, then the fringe of her handkerchief got trapped in the shaft below. For five minutes she was observed quietly trying to untangle herself. No-one thought anything of it, until she let out a sudden cry for help.

The engine was pulling her down beneath it. Her head was being dragged between the iron shaft and the woodwork, lacerating her face, tearing at her jaw and bruising her neck. Continue reading

Berkshire and the Male Servants’ Tax Assessments of 1780

Lord North, the Georgian Prime Minster who ‘lost America’, didn’t just favour the famous tax on tea. In 1777 he proposed a levy on the luxury item of the moment: the non-essential male servant.

Berkshire genealogy

© Trustees of the British Museum

Ostensibly aimed at the wealthy, the new Male Servants’ Tax attempted to make a distinction between “productive labour and conspicuous consumption, necessary work and idle luxury”.1  Employers of the liveried, bewigged and powdered were to pay one guinea a year per male servant, including all butlers, footmen, grooms, gamekeepers and coachmen.

Berkshire genealogy

© Trustees of the British Museum

Employers of agricultural labourers, shop assistants, apprentices or factory workers were not liable as long as their male servants kept away from domestic duties.

In reality, the majority of taxpayers in Berkshire for the year 1780, employed just one ‘luxury’ manservant (rather than the large households envisaged by the government) and I doubt all of them wore livery. Continue reading

Mary Russell Mitford & the Fatherless Boy

NPG D34532; Mary Russell Mitford after Daniel MacliseIn Vera Watson’s biography of Mary Russell Mitford, there is an intriguing reference to a ‘little fatherless boy’ who became such a favourite with everyone, that when he caught smallpox in 1849, the whole household went into a state of emotional turmoil, anxious for his survival.1

Mary Russell Mitford was once one of Berkshire’s most famous residents. Her descriptions of village life in Our Village’ and small town affairs in Belford Regisput Three Mile Cross and Reading firmly on the literary map! Continue reading

Agnes Maria Bowditch & the Cold Ash Children’s Hospital

childrens homesThis photograph of children in the grounds of Cold Ash Convalescent Home and Children’s Hospital was taken by my (Great) Aunt Nella on a trip to Cold Ash in May 1901. It is relaxed and joyful but also a bit frustrating as there are no names written underneath or on the back of the picture.

I would like to think that the smiling lady surrounded by happy children is the founder of the Home, Agnes Maria Bowditch. Continue reading

Her Majesty’s Record Reign – The Diamond Jubilee of 1897

jubilee berkshire

According to Kelly’s 1899 Directory of Berkshire, the main portion of the village of Theale formed one street along the (Bath) road from Reading to Newbury, lit by gas, with a population in 1891 of 909 people.1

Celebrating ‘Her Majesty’s Record Reign’ on Wednesday 30th June 1897,2 Theale was one of the last parishes in Berkshire to join in the Jubilee but by doing so it missed the violent storms which blighted some of the firework displays of the previous week.3

Continue reading