Charity-run children's homes


A large number of the children's homes and orphanages in England and Wales were run by charities set up expressly for this purpose.


Three of the most well-known are Barnardos, The Children's Society (Waifs and Strays), and NCH Action for Children.


Barnardos was established by Thomas Barnardo who wanted to help the street children of East London. He initially set up the ragged school in 1867 and went on to found 95 other homes for children before his death.

Barnardos has continued his work ever since.


A history of Barnardos work can be found here.



Barnardos offer a service to help people  find information about themselves or their relatives fromt their time in Barnados homes. They charge for searches when you are looking for information about relatives. More details can be found here.



The Children's Society: Waifs & Strays

The Waifs and Strays' Society, founded in 1881, became the Church of England Children's Society in 1946 and is now known as The Children's Society. A Sunday School teacher working in London became concerned about the children on the streets and approached the Church of England about helping them. By  1919, he had set up 113 children's homes.


The Hidden Lives Revealed site describes the work and the homes of the Waifs and Strays Society between 1881 and 1918. 

For case papers and more recent records, contact The Children's Society's Post Adoption and Care Service




Action for Children: National Children's Homes


Like Barnardos and the Waifs and Strays Society, the work of Action for Children (previously known as National Children's Homes) was initially started by one man wanting to do something about homeless children in London. In the case of Action for Children, this was a young Methodist minister called Thomas Bowman Stephenson who set up his first children's home in 1869. A history of Action for Children can be found here.

An 1889 sketch of the first Action for Children children's home on Bonner Road in London.

Details of the first NCH children's home, at Edgworth near Bolton, can be found here.

A personal account of living in an NCH home, Their History, can be found here.



Action for Children has an enquiry service for people wanting to access their records, details of which can be found here.

Other charity-run children's homes:

John Groom's Orphanage, Clacton-on-Sea



Examples of charity-run homes can be found here