BARNARDO'S CHILDREN OF STOKE GOLDINGTON
It was in May 1918 when, on the spur of the moment, my mother, a keen cyclist, decided she would like to accompany me on the 150 mile journey by road from York to Stoke Goldington, knowing full well that there would be a warm welcome awaiting us from her Aunts, the Miss Godfrey's.
Naturally they were more than surprised when we arrived, but we ourselves were in for a much greater surprise for, with warnings to 'hush' we were shewn into the front parlour and there, asleep in their pram, were their latest Barnardo's foster children, twin baby girls Joan and Cynthia Angliss, complete with identification labels.
Realising the great responsibility her maiden aunts were about to undertake, my mothers' first reactions were none too favourable, but it was not long before nature intervened and she found herself as much in love with the babies as anyone, attending to their needs in her usual efficient manner. Not that my great aunts were entirely without experience for, in keeping with their strong Christian beliefs and unselfish devotion to others, they had previously been foster 'Mums' to several other children from Dr.Barnardo's Homes. Also their married sister Elizabeth, my grandmother, was usually available if required.
For twelve years Joan and Cynthia were surrounded by the loving care and devotion of those dedicated spinsters; happy carefree days as young members of that peaceful village community. Why, I could almost envy them for, during my formative years in the previous decade, I too had the privilege of enjoying those delightful salad days -- but in my case merely for one month in each year. Even so those regular holidays created such a profound impression, that sixty years later it gave me great satisfaction to be able, with the aid of a few old photographs, to convert those scenes into words and see them published. The broad picture of village life portrayed in those stories illustrates clearly why that particular environment proved such an ideal 'nursery' for growing children No wonder those twins became so deeply attached to their 'Mum' (Esther Godfrey), her sisters, and all around them; each day developing in mind and body from the time they were first 'planted' in that rich fertile 'soil'.
By 1918 Dr.Barnardo's Homes had been established over 50 years, and in their widespread dealings with thousands of children, had accumulated a vast fund of knowledge on the subject of child welfare and Maintenance. It is not surprising therefore that when it came to trusting their young charges to foster parents, they were most meticulous in their efforts to ensure that each child was well protected, and that every contingency was fully covered. Catering for this they introduced a form of contract setting out detailed Boarding Out conditions which, as an added safeguard, included a local and high level inspection procedure. At first sight readers could well get the impression that, by today's standards the conditions laid down were far too rigid, consequently it needs to be strongly emphasized that we are, in effect, viewing the product of an era not entirely free from Victorian influence. In this respect it may be helpful to quote from a report made by Dr.Jane Walker, M.D.,dated 1888 when, as an Inspector employed by Barnardo's, she detailed her findings with particular emphasis on the then Experimental Boarding Out Scheme. Over a period of 15 months 426 children had been visited and, summing up the financial implications, the report states:-
'It is the most economical way of disposing of the children. Each child costs 5 or 6 shillings. per week...could not be maintained for considerably more than that in an Institution...It is a help to the villages, enabling agricultural labourers to live more comfort- ably, and making a nice addition to their weekly earnings; also bringing more money into the hands of the shopkeepers, and making it easier for owners of cottages to get their rents...I hope the Boarding Out System will develop..'
That inspection did reveal odd cases where the chance of a few extra shillings had seemed the prime objective of the foster parents, but the neglect which followed was soon detected and the children withdrawn immediately. On the other hand there is little doubt in my own mind that in the majority of cases foster parents gladly accept the added responsibility, looking upon it as their personal contribution to the welfare of some unfortunate child, to be treated in every respect as part of the family. Certainly this was the state of affairs in the Godfrey household, and in my judgment children fostered elsewhere in the village was treated likewise. At this point it is interesting to note that the number of children Boarded Out in 1910 was 3,573 in England, and 1357 in Canada. Today, the children in foster homes is around 350, and the allowances paid to parents varies between £28.57(ages 0-4) and £22.68 (ages 16-17 if receiving full time education), plus allowances and other grants made for holidays, Christmas, Birthdays etc. It would seem that a 19th.century social evil has been almost eliminated.
Sadly, children fostered from infancy have, whilst still in their tender years, to face up to the knowledge that 'Mum' is not their mother after all. Subsequent reactions can prove quite a problem, particularly if at the same time the attitude adopted by their playmates is unhelpful. foster parents also may find this a trying time, especially if they themselves have to sever the artificial relationship, and then at a later date give up their charges altogether. With Joan and Cynthia the break came when they reached the age of 12 years and one can imagine what a severe wrench it must have been. Both were transferred to Barnardo's Homes at Barkingside, Essex; a very successful project launched in 1879. This 'Village’, a multi-purpose haven in rural setting, was made up of several cottage-type 'Houses' each accommodating about 25 girls. (Only in later years was provision made for boys as well). Church; Hospital; Nursery; School; Library; Laundry and large recreational area were all part of the 'Village', and in addition good training facilities were available whereby children could be prepared for employment and eventually independence. Each 'House' had a 'Governess' who always had to be addressed as 'Mother' by the children. Unhappily it appears that some of these 'Mothers' were unnecessarily strict and the children concerned had a pretty rough time. It was in this environment [fortunately] with a very kind 'Mother' that Joan and Cynthia found themselves, and considering their previously unfettered years, it is hardly surprising that they were not particularly impressed.
Days began at 6-30 a.m. and no talking was permitted before breakfast. Then it was 'Good-Morning Mother' and Prayers. Beds, dormitories, washing up etc had to be attended to before School -- the latter providing a happy release from chores. After tea and shoes prayers, such jobs as cleaning, cutlery, cooking utensils etc, then if lucky a short time for recreation. Plain wholesome food. No tea, always cocoa. cake and butter on Sunday if everyone behaved well. Incoming and outgoing mail all scrutinized.
Holidays, or camp for those in the Guides, were all paid for. Country walks -- in crocodile formation -- were rare but very enjoyable. Outside the 'Gates' was only permitted with a pass, and 'on your honour' to return. Christmas,Easter,Founders Day, Empire Day, etc., each celebrated in grand fashion, and greatly enjoyed by all
After appropriate training the twins, barely sixteen years of age, each went their separate ways, entering Domestic Service, starting at five shillings a week. Cynthia has remained with the same family to the present day, whilst Joan, after an early change, is still employed by the family she was recommended to in 1939. With such lengthy records no finer character references are needed and, in reflecting upon their experiences Joan pens me a few words which surely speak volumes :-
'We left Stoke Goldington after a very happy childhood...Our only pocket money was from 'Mum'...Little did we know what a different life we were to have...leaving us very home-sick...It was very strict while we were there (Barkingside) but I think we benefited by it, leading to a good Christian life...We have both been very lucky as we each have a home...I am very happy here; life is not so hard as when I first started...I really don't know how I stuck it...Just before the war I travelled to Stoke Goldington...unfortunately 'Mum' was the only one living, and she was not very well, so I went to sleep there (after working at the Rectory) and am very pleased to say I was able to look after her till she passed away...I have a nice picture of the old house (Godfrey's), in my bedroom where I can see it every day,so I will always have very happy memories.'
Having based most of my story on the lives of the twins Joan and Cynthia it is only necessary to refer briefly to the Barnardo's children fostered by the Godfrey's prior to 1918,
|Anne Ruth M||Returned to her father at the age of seven
|Annie D||Sent to Canada in 1915.|
|Amy L||Died in 1918.|
|Mary Ann||Returned to her mother. Mary married in 1931|
|Edith W||Returned to her mother|
Usually one or two of these children were living with my great-aunts at the same time that I was there on holiday with my parents, consequently I came to know all of them quite well and, as I recall those long hot summer days, it seems to me that altogether we were one happy family. The children(and I was only a youngster myself) obviously loved it all and, greatly to their credit, for a number of years after their departure, they kept in touch with their 'Mum' either by letter or in person, ever mindful and sincerely grateful for the loving care and guidance bestowed on them in earlier years. It is doubtful whether the total number of children fostered in Stoke Goldington at any one time, ever reached double figures, although a grand total of forty five Barnardo's children appear in the school registers in the period between the two World Wars.
But one outstanding case is worthy of special mention. It once again serves to highlight the deep affection so often existing between foster parents and their charges, also demonstrating the strong ties which naturally develop between the children and the village life generally. I refer to one Fred Guntrip who, with his elder brother, was fostered by a Mr. and Mrs Edmunds. Both boys attended the village school and later Fred joined the American Forces, whilst his brother joined the Canadian Forces. Unfortunately only Fred survived active service in the First World War and he eventually went into business on his own account in California, an interest which took him to many parts of the world.
On the death of his wife he took the opportunity of returning to Stoke Goldington where later he expressed a wish that, when the time came, he would dearly like his ashes to be laid on the grave of his foster parents. He then returned to America and, on his death in 1975, at the age of 79, his wish was granted and his remains sent to England, finally to be laid beside the grave of Thomas and Mary Edmunds. Then came the surprising news that apart from leaving a donation to the Church, Fred had left the handsome sum of £40,000 to the old people of the village.
The Guntrip Trust is managed jointly by The Parochical Church Council and The Stoke Goldington Parish Council and makes payments on a twice yearly basis to village residents who have reached the age of seventy.
A Trust was formed to administer the Fund and annually, about Christmas time, an allotment in accordance with the terms of the Gift, is made to all the elderly residents who qualify. Looking back, though only three years my senior, I cannot actually remember Fred, or his brother maybe because they were 'Church' and I was 'Chapel', but it is more than likely that we 'rubbed shoulders' sometime during those far off days.
Cynthia Angless - now in her late eighties - is still alive and still living in Stoke Goldington.