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Apr 28 11 3:38 PM

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BIRMINGHAM The Donor stipulates that home must be for orphans only.
Princess Alice Drive, New Oscott, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire
1930: 271 Children.
General branch for 124 children.
 Nursery for 20 children
Founded in 1882 on a site just outside the city boundaries, the Birmingham branch was intended to meet the needs of orphan children of Christian parents. Queen Victoria gave permission for the orphanage to be named after her daughter, Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, who died in 1878 of diphtheria, caught while nursing her own children.
The original building scheme included a school hall, which is now the chapel. Nine family houses grouped round the middle field and additional school premises were built before 1906.
Later a sick-bay, community hall, swimming bath and workshops were added.
Four additional children’s houses were built in 1951-1953 and improvements brought the older houses up to modern standards.
As new nursery school and a residential nursery were built and some older buildings were demolished. Placed at a road centre on the doorstep of Birmingham, the branch has easy links with the great city, but within the smaller community of Sutton Coldfield our families enjoy the warm, friendly and personal contacts of the dormitory suburb.

More Photos at.

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#5 [url]

May 27 11 7:53 PM

A History of Princess Alice Orphanage

A History of Princess Alice Orphanage, with special thanks to Barry Guy for his research in "A Hurried History of The National Children's Home at Princess Alice Drive, Birmingham 1882 -1982"


In pouring rain, at 3.15pm on Tuesday 19th September 1882, Mr Samuel Jevons, using a suitably inscribed trowel, laid the foundation stone of the Princess Alice Orphanage at Birmingham.   


The building of the Orphanage had been made possible by the generous gift of £10,000 by Mr Jevons' father and a similar donation from the Methodist Thanksgiving Fund – and came at a time when the National Children's Home and Orphanage was stretched to breaking point with children in need of care.


The first 'Governor', Mr Thomas Durley of Abingdon, was appointed to the position for the sum of £100 pa and it was under his care that a clear evangelical Christian approach to the work was developed and the principles of obedience and punctuality were instilled. 


The first houses, Shaftesbury for girls and Marsh for boys, quickly became oversubscribed, but with additional funding over the next ten years a bakery and kitchen, dress-making room, carpenters and painters shop and working farm and garden were added, providing children with a wealth of skills.  At this time, 108 children were resident.  An infant department was added in 1895 – a year of financial difficulty for the Orphanage – and to meet the growing need, children with one known parent were occasionally admitted to its care.


The turn of the century was a time of change for the Orphanage, with the retirement of Thomas Durley in 1903 and the appointment of a series of successors over the following decade. 


The school at Princess Alice Orphanage was charged with the very great responsibility of educating all the boys and girls in its care, although one resident remembers at one time that the schoolmaster, Mr Ratcliffe, often taught up to 150 children at a time. Divided into three classes, the children excelled at spelling under Mr Ratcliff's teaching.  Although children of all abilities copied the same manuscripts, for each mistake the lower class was make to rewrite the word ten times, the middle class twenty times and the top class fifty times.  Subsequently, spelling mistakes became few and far between!  


The Orphanage Choir, under the direction of Sister Jessie Drayton, was a great success in the years before the outbreak of the First World War.  There was also a Scout Troop set up around this time.  For Old Boys, an association was established, although the girls had to wait until 1919 (and chain themselves to the gates in protest!) before they were admitted to the ranks.


With the outbreak of war in 1914, the home felt the hardship along with the rest of the nation, however the farm and gardens made rationing more bearable for the boys and girls.  With the development of the war came the unfortunate and inevitable news of the deaths in the battlefield of some of the earliest Old Boys.


Between the wars, the Orphanage survived the influenza epidemic, thankfully without fatalities and acquired a new hospital through the generosity of Mr G E Lowe in 1923.  During this time, the school was taken under the directorate of the Local Education Authority and day boarders were admitted for the first time.  Developments planned for the Orphanage were regrettably prevented by the Depression following the Jubilee in 1932.


During the Second World War, the Orphanage swelled to 300 residents through the intake of evacuees from other branches of the Home.  Although several bombs fell around the Orphange, the only casualty of the war was a work horse from the farm.

Following World War Two, changes in childcare within the Home and within the national strategy as a whole, began to affect the way in which the Orphanage was run.  By this stage, the children at the home were far from all being orphans, with many having one or even two relatives known to them.  The operations of the Orphanage became much less self-sufficient and looked to integrate to a much greater extent within the community.


During the 1950s, smaller family-style homes replaced the larger 'orphanage' setup that prevailed throughout the first half-century of operations.  In keeping with this approach, the orphanage's name was changed at this time to Princess Alice Drive.           


In the time leading up to its centenary, Princess Alice Drive acquired a College and for a period, a Nursery School.  At its time of closure, the home cared for sixty children from infants to adolescents and catered for the specialist needs of children in a changing society.  The impression that the Princess Alice Orphanage made, both in the hearts and minds of the many Boys and Girls that came into its care and in the wider community, reflects the dedication of the Sisters and staff who worked so diligently there and is a credit to the history of NCH.

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#6 [url]

May 27 11 8:35 PM

I had no idea that Roysten had passed away! I am so SORRY. I have just released a photo of us on Sports Day!
I remember Roysten as a Brilliant Guy, Boy or whatever you want to call him as a Friend, Mate. I remember once aggrevating Roysten who then ran after me! I ran into Beatrice House Back entrance slaming the back door but Roysten stretched his arm out and went straight through the glass window. His Arm was lacerated and it didn,t look too good but he didn,t budge a wink. After Surgery we were still good Mates.

Servabo Videm

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#8 [url]

Nov 29 11 8:56 AM

I am trying to arrange a re-union for either easter monday or whit monday at the brampton hall princess alice drive. all old boys and girls of the n.c.h. would be made most welcome please contact me a.s.a.p.hamlet


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#9 [url]

Jan 19 12 5:49 PM

Hi Hamlet, you contacted me earlier to see if my mum would be interested in going to the reunion, can you let me know if it is happening.  Thanks Christine ( mums name is Joan Edna Tiddiman 1940 princess Alice )

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#10 [url]

Feb 5 12 12:59 PM

Graham, I have sent a couple of emails to you re info on the reunion; please can you let me know if there has been any progress.

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#11 [url]

Feb 15 12 11:25 PM

If Only These Walls Could Speak


Alan Hamblin


The True Story of life in an orphanage, including the personal recollections of several of those who lived there.


The Royal Albert Orphanage in Worcester was set up independently by local businessmen in the 1860s. For the Victorian and Edwardian periods the book draws on the Orphanage’s records. However from 1910 onwards, the personal recollections of 33 of the children who lived there during the forty year period up to the early post-war years provide us with a vivid and striking first hand picture of what life for them was really like.


Eventually in the mid 1950s dwindling numbers caused the orphanage to move elsewhere before closing entirely in the 1960s. The original rather forbidding looking building in Henwick Road, now listed and occupied by the YMCA, survives to remind us of what many children had to endure in the not so very distant past.

Alan Hamblin was born in Gloucester in the mid 1930s. When he was seven he and his older sister Margaret were sent to an orphanage. However in their case they went to the Princess Alice Orphanage in Birmingham. Part II of this book tells something of his memories from the four years that he spent there. Only on arrival did they discover that, far from his sister being able to help look after him, the orphanage was separated so strictly into boys and girls that brothers and sisters were never to meet! Providentially, his sister was sent to a mixed family home on the Hampshire coast for health reasons and shortly thereafter Alan was allowed to join her there. A Tesco now stands where the Princess Alice Orphanage used to be. Educated at Privett School in Gosport, the author trained as a compositor and subsequently worked as a typographer for advertising agencies in London. Now retired and living in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, his hobbies include table tennis and collecting postcards.


ISBN: 978-1-906302-21-4

PRICE: £15.00 (plus P & P £3.00 UK, £4.00 EU, £6.50 RoW)

Blenheim Press Ltd
Codicote Innovation Centre, St Albans Road, Codicote, Herts SG4 8WH
Phone: 01438 820281

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#12 [url]

May 5 12 5:39 PM

Hi there. Me and my three sisters were placed at Princess Alice Drive Children's Home back in the 1970's. We left the children's home in 1977, when I was ten years old. The house that me and my sister stayed at during this time was BEATRICE HOUSE. Sister Joan used to look after us and also a staff member called Lynda. They are the only two staff i remember. 


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#13 [url]

May 5 12 5:43 PM

Hiya, Shabana here. I am wondering if and when you are going to arrange another meet up at Princess Alice Drive, children's home. I used to live in Beatrice House both me and my sister and our staff members who looked after us were... Sister Joan and another staff member called Lynda. Would love to know what happened to them.

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#14 [url]

May 10 12 11:54 PM

hi shabmeah  
i left the alice in december 1977 aswell i lived in elizabeth house which used to be the old hospital its still there today , on your email to me you mentioned julie gumbley and paul gumbley well i met paul gumbley last week at a boldmere reunion he lives in kansas in america he moved over there 14yrs ago  ... i speak to julie now and again . my brothers used to live in wand and beatrice houses and also jeavons house  my brothers were charles , david , steven ,paul , and peter how time has flown by we were all origanally in marsh house when we arrived there in 1965 and sister nora was our house mother back then family name was cole 

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#15 [url]

May 19 12 10:25 PM

Hi wolf, I was in Princess Alice Drive during the early 70's. Me and my sister Maria was in BEATRICE HOUSE. Our house sister was SISTER JOAN. what about you?

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#16 [url]

Jun 8 12 11:35 AM

My mother Valerie Turner (may possibly have been known as Valerie Wilkes) was a resident during the 1950`s and the early 1960`s. Val is alive and well living in Worcestershire. If anyone remembers Valerie from St Alice's she would love to hear from you. My mother does not have a computer hence why i am poting on her behalf.

Kind regards Rob (son of Val) on behalf on Val Wilkes

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#17 [url]

Jun 8 12 3:49 PM

Hi Rob, I remember Valerie Wilkes; I was at PAS from 1950 to 1962 and was known as Sonia Taylor (now Sonia Nelson-Cole). I lived in Icknield House with my sister Remi - Sister Evelyn was in charge and Sister Margaret, who was later replaced by Sister Molly. Icknield House was closed down when Sister Evelyn got married and I was transferred to Meriden House with Sister Kathleen. I live in London and would love to hear from Valerie.

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#18 [url]

Jun 10 12 9:52 PM

Hi Sonia
thanks for the reply, I have just spoke to my mom and shes over the moon that someone remembers her. I will print of your message and pass on to Val, and Val will reply to you soon.
again many thanks for getting in touch.

Kind regards Rob (son of Val) on behalf on Val Wilkes

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#20 [url]

Jun 18 12 7:49 PM

Hello all ex Princess Alice, val wilkes here, attached are some photos from my time at the orphanage (47 - 63)

Kind regards Rob (son of Val) on behalf on Val Wilkes

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