Harold Wood Children's Homes


Having had a few enquiries about childrens homes in Harold Wood, I have spent some time trying to piece together what turns out to be a complicated picture. What follows is my best effort but, please, if you know anything more or can correct or confirm what I have written, please let me know hello@formerchildrenshomes.org.uk



Harold Wood is in Romford, Essex. In this small area, there seem to have been a number of children's homes from the time of the Romford Poor Law Union up until the late twentieth century.


  Romford Scattered homes  


In the early 1900s, Romford Poor Law Union (effectively the forerunner of local social services), following the national move to house children in need separately from adults in the workhouses, set up what were known as scattered homes in Harold Wood. These were large houses taking in up to 30 children who were destitute, abandoned or orphaned, with a house 'manager' living on the premises with the children.


We understand that there were such homes on Brentwood Road and Manor Road.


To manage which children went into which home, there was a reception / receiving home in Laurie Square which is now approximately under Havering Town Hall.



  Harold Wood Hall  


Harold Wood Hall was a mansion built in the middle of farmland in 1846 in an area now known as Gallows Corner. In the 1940s (or perhaps as early as the 1933), it was bought by Essex County Council for use as a childrens home.


It was a large house which girls and boys dormitories surround by orchards and farmland, mostly cow fields.


A children's home opened in around 1934/1935. Initially, it was considered as one of the Romford Scattered Homes and managed by the matron of the Scattered Homes (Mrs Beamend until 1943).


In those intial years, it accommodated 60 boys. There were plans to build 12 cottages on the site to accommodate 280 children but while these plans did not come to fruition, a new cottage was built on the site which opened in 1940 for 32 boys.


Through the 1940s and 50s, there were at least two cottages (known as House 1, House 2 etc.) on the site and the Hall itself was known as the main block. which each cottage run by a live in couple known as the foster mother and father. In 1944, it remained a boys home. By 1949, it was mixed.


Later, it seems, the different buildings were given names. People who lived in Harold Wood Hall as children remember The Grange, Rodney House, and Little Heath, for example. In the 1960s, the Hall was known as Woodstock (see below).


There were two cottages in the grounds which were knocked into one in 1964 and used as a children's home which we believe was called Hamelins Children's Home.


It is understood that all, or some of the homes were closed by the 1980s, or perhaps earlier. certainly, the Hall itself seems to have been used as a day centre from the 1970s and was empty by 1990. In 1991, there was an extensive fire and the building was made into private flats.


The childrens homes on this site are variously described as being on Colchester Road, Neave Crescent, Junction Road, Widecombe Close or Bryant Avenue. Because it was set back in farmland, it was not really on any road, and the roads in the vicitinity have been added to over time.





Two hostels were set up for children who had completed their education and thus their time at a children's home. They were for children who were starting work  and did not have a family home to go to and so needed somewhere to live while they got themselves established.


There was a boys' hotel on Southend Road and a hostel for girls was set up in the former scattered home building on Manor Road.



  Woodstock Children's Home 


Records suggest that this was sited in Woodstock Hall House on Gubbins Lane. The House has since been demolished and replaced by private flats.


However, at some point, the home moved location - to Harold Wood Hall - but retained the name Woodstock. Certainly, in the 1960s, Harold Wood Hall was known as Woodstock, having opened as Woodstock Reception/Observation Centre in the early/mid 1960s.


These memories of Woodstock are from John who went into the children's home in 1967 when he was 11 years old and it was based in Harold Wood Hall.


"I loved living there. I felt safe and secure. I never had that feeling when I was at home - too many bad situations.


"It was my mum who suggested that I go into care to save me from further punishment.. I thankse my mom for that. Woodstock was for me a saviour, a kindness I had never had.


"It broke my heart when I had to leave aged 16. Not wanting to go back home, I went to the boys hostel in Hornchurch and stayed until my 18th birthday.


"My father came and demanded that I go back home but needless to say, I left home and never went back..


"I looked after myself. Nice job, nice bedsit in Ilford. Met my girlfriend, now my wife. We've been married 41 years and we have a lovely son and grandson.


"I will never forget Woodstock. It made me the man I am today."



  Harold Court  


This was built in the 1860s, but was taken over for use as a children's home in 1882 when the owner became bankrupt. The home was not for local children but run by Brentwood School District (which covered the Hackney and Shoreditch Unions). In 1891, it became a lunatic asylum, and then a TB sanatorium. It is now private flats.

We are indebted to the very excellent Lost Hospitals of London website for this information



  The Grange  

  Children's Convalescent Home  


In 1908, a house on Gubbins Lane, Harold Wood called the Grange became a children’s convalescent home. This was to become part of Harold Wood Hospital after the Second World War.