The former Tattenhall Home for Boys is located on Tattenhall High Street and is now known as ‘Olympus House’. The Home was run by the Church of England Children’s Society who were committed to providing accommodation for ‘Waifs and Strays’ and boys were admitted to the Home from near and far. The Lord Bishop of Chester opened the Home on 23 July 1896. The Honorary Secretary was Miss Joyce, while Mr and Mrs Hicks were the boys’ master and matron. In total the Home could house between 40-45 boys, aged 8-15.
A typical day at the Tattenhall Home for Boys started at 5.30am when two boys, called the ‘fire-boys’, got up to clean and light the stoves that heated the water. This at least meant that the other boys could wash in warm water when they got up at 6.30am. All the boys would then be inspected by the school captain to ensure that they were ‘presentable’. After the beds were made the boys undertook their daily chores which usually involved helping to clean the Home. The boys then had 15 minutes of exercises. At 8.00am they said morning prayers in the dining room, prior to breakfast. Band practice followed, after which they walked to the village school. Lunch was at 12.15pm in the Home. Thereafter they were allowed to play until 1.20pm when the boys then left for afternoon school. Home time was at 4.00pm and again they were allowed to play until tea at 5.30pm. In the evening they had evening prayers and yet more band practice until 7.00pm. By 8.15pm all the boys were in bed.
The Society encouraged children to learn new skills such as music and it was common, particularly in boys’ homes, to have a ‘Home Band’. They would regularly perform for the local community to help raise money and as part of village celebrations.
The band of the Tattenhall Boys Home is very well documented within the ‘Scrapbooks’ of the Bolesworth Estate and in the national and provincial press and there are some excellent photographs of the boys with their instruments. On 8 January 1896, for example, the ‘Band of the Waifs and Strays from Tattenhall House’ were scheduled to give ‘recitations and music’ at Harthill School, the proceeds of which were to go to the Tattenhall Boys Home. Similarly, the ‘Scrapbooks’ of the Bolesworth Estate record that during Robert Barbour’s coming of age celebrations in February 1897, not only was there a display of fireworks in the park (which nearly 1000 tenants, neighbours and friends of the family attended) but that ‘Boys from Tattenhall Home for Waifs and Strays gave a musical selection’. This celebration was followed by a further Fete in June 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. In addition, not only is there a wonderful description in The Guardian of 29 July 1899 describing the wedding of Miss Caroline Barbour but there is further mention of the ‘drum and fife band of Tattenhall Boys Home (who) played music while the party left the church’ and departed for a reception at the Castle. In the provincial press too, namely the Chester Courant 31 July 1901, there is reference to the ‘drum and fife band from the Tattenhall Home for Waifs and Strays’ who were part of the celebrations in welcoming Lieutenant Robert Barbour back from the Boer War. This event appears to have been a spectacular celebration with large crowds of people at Tattenhall Road Station awaiting Lieutenant Barbour’s arrival. Lieutenant Barbour and Mr Barbour, then seated in front of their carriage, were drawn by about forty of the Bolesworth tenantry – all of this whilst proceeding to the village accompanied by the music of Tattenhall Boys’ Home Band. The band, therefore, appears to have been highly accomplished and was a major feature in village celebrations.
Team sports were also encouraged as it taught the children how to work together.
Many homes had football and cricket teams that would play in the local leagues.
In addition, many of the boys and staff from the Society’s Homes enlisted in both The Great War and subsequently, the Second World War.
Archive material details this 1906 photograph to the left as ‘Boys of Tattenhall Home that served in 1st Battalion (Prince of Wales) Berkshire Regiment’.
This is probably an Edwardian misprint as no such regiment existed. In reality these old boys were probably enlisted in the Princess Charlotte of Wales’ Royal Berkshire Regiment.
We have often wondered why boys from the Tattenhall Home for Boys joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment during the Great War. In an article in the Reading Mercury, Oxford Gazette, Newbury Herald and Berkshire County Paper dated Saturday 17 April 1915 (p5), all is revealed. James Hicks who was the Boys’ Master at the Tattenhall Home for Boys had previously been a Colour-Sergeant of the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshires; in fact, he was awarded the silver medal for long and highly meritorious service. He continued to support the Royal Berkshires after service and whilst Master at the Home ‘… he did good services to the Berkshire Regiment by sending well-trained lads into it, all of whom did well, many distinguishing themselves in cricket, football and rifle shooting …’.
In 1902 (or thereabouts) it was felt that the Home was in an unsatisfactory state. A ‘Home Fund’ was established to raise monies for renovation and enlargement. These refurbishments were completed in 1904 at a cost of £1,300. The Home closed in 1936, however, because of the poor state of the building. Interestingly, the Home’s closure had a significant impact on St Alban’s Parish Church since the need for the boys’ pews in the south aisle was now redundant. It was proposed that the area which previously accommodated the boys’ pews be used firstly as a Memorial Chapel but subsequently as the ‘Lady Chapel’. During WWII the Home was used as an army barracks.
The Waifs and Strays’ Society regularly considered the suitability of various children for residence in the Tattenhall Home for Boys. Below is a letter from the Tattenhall Home Committee dated 14 October 1909, the result of which was that ‘W’ was granted residence at the Home. ‘W’ and his brother ‘C’ were born in Bombay, India – their mother at the time of the application was described as
“a lady of intemperate habits” (click on each page to enlarge).
This Case Study was an exception to the rule because ‘W’ was actually aged 26. However, it was felt that since ’W’ had joined the 1st Royal Berkshire Regiment at Portsmouth, an exception should be made. ‘W’ had developed tuberculosis and was discharged from the Army – presumably this is why the Executive Committee of The Waifs and Strays Committee required assurance that ‘W’ was not contagious (page 2 of the letter). He was taken into the Tattenhall Home for Boys in August 1909 and left the Home in January 1910 and was “camping out” in the neighbourhood nearby.
Notwithstanding that ‘W’ had left the Tattenhall Home for Boys, Miss Joyce (Honorary Secretary to the Tattenhall Home Committee) … then attempted to pursue employment for ‘W’ some two years later when ‘W’ was aged 28 …
The request was rejected.
Interestingly, the Malpas Deanery Magazine of December 1898 also sheds light on life within the Tattenhall Home for Boys. An ‘Annual Pound Day’ was held to supplement the running of the Home, during which ‘pounds’ of goods appear to have been donated. The notice below appeared in Edition No. 12 for that year.
Olympus House (formerly The Tattenhall Home for Boys) is shown below (2012). The building has had varying uses, Donald Good (professional photographer) having had his studio in the building.
My particular thanks to ‘Bolesworth Estate’ in allowing access to their Archival Records and to the ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ archival material (see links).
The remarkable story of a former boy of the Tattenhall Home for Boys can be viewed by simply clicking on ‘Sydney George Nunn‘ which will direct you to this section of the Website.
Further information about the Tattenhall Home for Boys can be found at The Children’s Home Website and by following this link www.childrenshomes.org.uk/TattenhallWS