Untitled and unattributed account of the opening and use of Belgrave House
The paper was found in 2014 in a box of Sunday school memorabilia from Endlesham Hall, Balham
In the early part of the present century [ie the twentieth century] a Children’s Gospel Service was held on Sunday evening in Bell Green, Lower Sydenham. This work was conducted by Mr. C. F. Kennedy and his wife, assisted by a band of faithful workers, mostly drawn from the Mayow Road Assembly, Sydenham. In these days, long before a Welfare State was visualised, or even the First World War had begun to change our ways of living, there was much poverty and distress in that part, as in many other suburbs of our great cities.
Not infrequently, the friends working in this Children’s work found their children absent because of sickness, and kindly interest soon revealed the fact that convalescence and recovery were often hindered, as there was no possibility for the children to get away to the pure country or seaside air.
In 1913 a sister of Mrs. Kennedy left a legacy to be used for any work in which it is known that she was interested and the friends at Bell Green were given £100 of this with which to provide holidays for some of the needy ones they were continually contacting in their work. With this sum – a quite considerable one in these days – a number of children were sent to the Southern Convalescent Homes, Lancing, and also to other places; but, of course, even in those days £100 and did not last forever; and when it was finished the question arose – “Is there anything else that can be done?”
Early in 1920, at a meeting of Sunday School Superintendents at Devonshire House, London, the question was put forward as to whether others ever had to face the problem of their Sunday School children badly needing a change and the almost impossibility of their getting it. To this question there was an immediate response – many of the superintendent’s having been oft-times saddened as they knew how sorely some of their scholars needed a holiday, and there seemed nothing they could do to help them.
As the result a fund was started called the Sunday School Holiday Fund; and for a time children were sent away to stay with different Christian families; but for several reasons this did not prove entirely satisfactory.
About this time a Mr. Cecil Pittman of Kentish Town – well known to many of the elder generation for his well-organised open air meetings during the summer months on Hampstead Heath – was staying in Littlehampton and conducting a CSSM house party. In business Mr. Pittman was an accountant.
During his stay in Littlehampton he was approached by a Christian lady concerning a Children’s Home which had been founded in 1878 by a Christian lady, Mrs Roe. This home was originally founded in Manchester, then transferred to Putney, and was maintained by Mrs. Roe as a home for poor children from Union and the other Societies. During the stress of the Air Raids in 1917 it was transferred to Littlehampton, and was at first domiciled at Green Lady Hostel, and eventually found its permanent home in Belgrave House.
During the year just prior to Mr. Pittman’s contact with the Home, Mrs. Roe had died and Miss Tite was acting as Matron. Expenses had increased, and although the children were then being housed, fed, and clothed for 13s 1d per week, the funds were not forthcoming to cover the costs. Mr. Pittman approached the chairman of the Committee responsible as to whether the premises could be taken by others. This was arranged shortly after a circular, headed ‘Notice of Change of Control’ was sent to those who had been interested in Mrs. Roe’s work: in which it was stated – “Proposals have been put before the Committee which, after careful consideration, have been accepted as being in the best interests of everyone concerned. The control and administration of the Home will be surrendered by the present Committee forthwith into the hands of an influential committee of London gentleman associated with the Open Brethren.
The functions of the Home will be somewhat modified, and it will, in future, aim at providing necessary holiday and healthful change for children taken from poor districts in London, rather than affording, as it does at present, a permanent home for children for whom various local authorities are responsible.”
The pamphlet from which this is an extract is dated 21 November, 1921.
Sometime in October 1921, the following letter had been circulated among the London Sunday School Superintendents:
We have pleasure in bringing before you a scheme which promises to meet the needs that many Sunday school workers have felt for years. Probably all workers amongst the young have from time to time longed for a suitable place where a child needing a change could be sent to recover health and strength in Christian surroundings and influence. Without our seeking such a home, one has come to a notice which would be most suitable in every respect, and with the other brethren who may have it laid on their hearts to help in such a work, the undersigned are prepared to take up this work from the Lord, providing proper support is forthcoming.
The home is Belgrave House, Fitzalan Road, Littlehampton. It is large enough to accommodate 50 children and is in charge of an experienced Christian Matron who has the spiritual welfare of the children at heart as well as their material benefit. For various reasons this home is in the market and can be purchased, including house and furniture, for £1,500: this price also includes a hall in the grounds large enough to seat 150. If purchased the property would be held under a Trust Deed ensuring that it is never used for other than its original purpose.
We should be glad if you would bring this matter before Christians who have an interest in the welfare of boys and girls, DV it will be mentioned at the forthcoming Sunday School Teachers’ Conference at the City Temple on October 29.
Your prayers for God’s gracious guidance and help will be valued.
Yours in His Service
A Cousins, Cecil Pittman, C. F. Kennedy, Wm Stunt
On 7 October, 1921 Mr. Stunt forwarded to Mr. Kennedy the draft of the suggested Trusts to be inserted in the Assignment of the property to the Trustees of the Convalescent and Holiday Home for Children.
That Belgrave House had been acquired so quickly and almost unexpectedly was but another instance of God’s working at “both ends” and put His seal that this new effort to help Sunday Scholars as was of His desiring.
A Board of Trustees was formed of seven well-known Brethren who were particularly interested in work among young people in the London assemblies:
Sir James Bird Archibald Cousins Charles F. Kennedy
Cecil Pittman Edward Lance William Stunt Gerald Vine
The following circular was drawn up and circulated among the assemblies:
Convalescent and Holiday Home
The above Home has been taken over to meet the need of a seaside Holiday and Convalescent Home for Sunday School Scholars of assemblies in London and elsewhere who are unable to go away to the seaside when rundown in health or needing a change.
It is situated in the centre of Littlehampton, close to the seafront.
There is a Hall connected by a covered way with the Home, which is used as a Playroom on wet days.
The climate of Littlehampton, where there are large and safe stands, is so mild that delicate children would benefit throughout the whole year, and more particularly in the winter months.
The Home is in charge of a Christian Matron. Special services are held in the Hall, and the one great aim of all associated with this work is that the children may be blessed, and learn to know, love and serve the One Who said “Suffer the children to come unto Me.”
There is ample accommodation for 50 children.
The Home is supported by Freewill Offerings of “The Lord’s People”, the parents of the children being expected to contribute to the expenses as mentioned on the other side.
Application for admission (on the special form) and payments for children should be made to EDWARD LANCE, address as below.
Funds to be sent to either of the Joint Secretaries and Treasurers:
EDWARD LANCE, Barossa, Caterham, Surrey
CECIL PITTMAN, 26 King Street, Guildhall, E. C. 2
FITZALAN ROAD, LITTLEHAMPTON
The Committee are prepared to receive applications for sending away Sunday School Children for a holiday. Friends are requested to note:
- The Conditions on which children may be recommended are:
- That they are weakly in health and a change of care would be beneficial.
- That they have not the necessary means to go away without assistance.
- That they do not require special medical treatment.
- Careful inquiry must be made as to ascertain that every child is free from infection and fit to go. Children that are subject to fits or St. Vitus Dance or suffering from consumption, must not be sent; any child who has suffered from any infectious disease or who has been living in the house or been in contact with anyone who has so suffered within a period of three months must not be sent. (Scarlet fever six months)
- Each child should have a change of underclothes and be provided with a clean brush and comb, also a stout pair of boots and slippers. The children must be clean and tidy. Please draw parents’ attention to this, as if children are not the only clean, they will be sent home at once.
- The charge will be 10/- per week for children under 10 years of age and 12/- for those over, in addition to the Return Railway fare from London to Littlehampton.
- The Superintendent of the Sunday School which the child attends will be responsible for the above charges. Parents of the children should, however, be encouraged to pay as much as possible towards the expenses.
- Children going to the Home there must be taken to London Bridge Railway Station by Teachers or friends who also must meet them on their return home.
- In the event of a child being unable to go, the Secretary must be informed at once. It is strictly forbidden to substitute another child: only the child mentioned on the certificate will be allowed to travel.
EDWARD LANCE, Hon Secretaries
At the Sunday School Teachers’ half-yearly conference that month the possibilities and opportunities afforded by such a Home of physical and spiritual help was put before the Teachers by the Secretary – Mr. A. Cousins – and very considerable interest was aroused.
Children began to come to Belgrave House in the Summer of 1922, and in September of that year it was reported that 95 children from 31 districts and assemblies had been accommodated.
From the first it was the desire of the Trustees that on Sundays the children should, if possible, attend the morning meeting, and should have an afternoon class in Belgrave Hall, or if there were only a few children, they should attend the Sunday school at Argyll Hall.
At the beginning of the time some of the children who had been in with Mrs. Roe had stayed on until other arrangements were satisfactorily made for them.
In November 1922, an Easter Conference for Sunday School Teachers was suggested and the first of these was held the following year, when 64 attended. These Conferences have continued ever since, except for a time during the 1939-45 War. They have proved times of spiritual refreshment, challenge and encouragement to all who have attended.
In the spring of 1923 Mrs. Aubrey Moore took over the Matronship of the Home. Mr. Moore also took an interest in the work when he was home from his evangelical activities elsewhere. In that year, one fortnight of the holiday was reserved for boys are only.
The following year, 1924, the field at Climping was obtained and the Boys’ Camp were commenced under the Superintendence of Mr. Moore. In 1925 the number to be accepted there was fixed at 60 boys and 10 workers, and the Season was to commence on the 29th June.
At the end of that season Mr. and Mrs. Moore had resigned from their responsibilities.
The following January Mr. and Mrs. C F. Kennedy came into residence as a Superintendent and Matron. Mr. Kennedy continued his active interest in the Home and Camp until 1945 (?) and his advisory interest to this present day (1961). Mrs. Kennedy retired from the Matronship in 1936, and from then until after the War Miss Abbott was responsible for that side of the work.
Since then there have been two married couples who have jointly undertaken this work, and in April of this year Mr. and Mrs. Nickless took over these responsibilities.
During the years those responsible have been helped by various devoted Christian women among whom Miss Wilson – as Cook at Camp – and Miss Todd and Miss Mogford in the House, merit special mention; not only for the performance of their general duties, but for the godly exercise and interest in the salvation of souls.
In 1927 it was decided to purchase the Field at Climping for £300, as the Camp work among the boys had proved fruitful.
In 1933 the freehold of the Field adjoining Belgrave House and of the House itself was purchased for £974.
During the intervening years improvements have been made to both the House and Camp. In 1956 it was reported by the Director of Education for Stockport that he considered that the Camp was the best equipped permanent Camping site in the country. (For a number of years one of the schools under his supervision have camped there for ten days after Whitsun.)
At various times and a number of London Brethren interested in the Sunday School work have made special efforts to increase the interest in, and understanding of the work, and this has been of great help.
With the change of conditions which have developed during the years, and the greater affluence of the Welfare State, acceptance in the Home for holidays no longer depends upon the financial position but upon the desire for a healthy, happy holiday in Christian surroundings. That many have found the Saviour, either while in the House or a Camp, can be testified by many now in the Assemblies, and from some who are serving the Lord in many parts of the world.
With the increase of other Christian Camps there has not been the same claim in accommodation, and it has been possible to accept applicants from a larger area of the country than London. This has led to an enlarged number of friends and circle of usefulness, both for the children and the workers.
Under the Children’s Act of 1947 it is not possible to have quite so many children in Belgrave House as a fixed square footage of floor space is necessary for each bed. At the present time it is possible to sleep 30 children and helpers, besides the permanent staff, although during the holiday season extra sleeping accommodation can be obtained elsewhere.