Thursday, 13 November 2008

Boys' Industrial Home, Perry Rise

Early in 2000 Shaftesbury House, 67 Perry Rise was demolished. This building was the "Forest Hill Boys' Industrial Home".

The original Boys' Industrial Home was opened at 17 Rojack Road on 3 May 1873 "for the reception and industrial training of destitute boys". There were just six boys in the home in 1873. By 1875 the home included 16 Rojack Road (both these houses still survive), and the number of boys had increased to nine.

The purpose of the home was to ensure that "a boy is rescued from the perils of the street, fed, clothed, housed, educated [they attended Christ Church School] and taught a trade [shoe-mending for the older boys while the younger ones made bundles of firewood to sell], and finally started in life with a fair prospect of doing well".

The home was largely supported by voluntary contributions. As usual, F J Horniman was a major benefactor - he subscribed 18 guineas a year, the annual cost of supporting one child. Further support came from the Reformatory and Refuge Union. This was a national organization, founded by the great philanthropist the Earl of Shaftesbury, to offer grants and advice to homes set up to help deprived and destitute children. The Union also provided annual inspections and reports on the homes.

Admission to the home was carefully controlled. Children needed a recommendation, and the committee offered places to "those whom they know to be destitute, or the children of poverty-stricken parents".

By 1881 there were 25 boys in the home. The committee felt that having the school in two houses was inefficient. Finally they found a suitable site for a new home in Perry Rise. Thomas Aldwinckle, an active member of the committee, was a young architect living at that time in Church Rise, Forest Hill. He agreed to make plans for the new home. Aldwinckle was responsible for several other local buildings including Forest Hill Pools, the old Ladywell Baths and the Girls' Industrial Home at Louise House, Dartmouth Road.

As the president of the Boys' Industrial Home the Earl of Shaftesbury laid the foundation stone on 18 June 1883. The 83 year-old earl returned to Forest Hill on 13 May 1884 to attend the formal opening. This was clearly quite an event. The Daily Dispatch reported that the Lord Mayor of London "attended in state". Other guests included Viscount Lewisham and the Hon and Rev Canon Augustus Legge, vicar of St Bartholomew's Church. "The road from the Forest Hill station", the paper continues, "which is known as Perry Rise, was gaily decorated with bunting...a large number of residents turned out to cheer the Lord Mayor". The Home was called Shaftesbury House, in honour of its president. Shaftesbury House continued as the Boys Industrial Home until at least 1939.

The Girls' Industrial Home originally opened in Rojack Road on 20 July 1881. In 1891 Louise House, Dartmouth Road had been completed, also to the designs of Thomas Aldwinckle. The Girls' Industrial Home gave girls the skills needed to become domestic servants.

When I realised that the building had been demolished I contacted the Council Planning Department to find the reasons. They knew nothing about it. I finally spoke to someone from the Education Department who admitted that they were responsible for the demolition. The principal reasons he gave were that squatters had occupied the building, and the land would allow an extension to the adjacent school. He was unaware of the historical significance of the building, or that an important local architect designed it. When I mentioned these points to him he implied that they were irrelevant. He also saw no need to consult with, or even take account of, local opinion. Four years on the site is derelict, with only a pile of rubble to show where the Forest Hill Boys' Industrial Home once stood.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is a disgrace that they knocked this building down. I remember it well and often admired its' stunning architecture. I am sure that they could have easily evicted the squatters and renovated this bilding. What a waste!