St George's House,
A Few Memories of My Life by Valerie Partridge.
St George’s Old Girl 464.
My father, George Albert Lea, was born in Walton on
Trent, Derbyshire, the youngest of ten children, in 1892.
He became a member of the 6th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment aged 22 but was discharged as a Sergeant on August 8th, 1917 having been seriously wounded in the knee on July 16th on the Somme.
My mother, Muriel Jane Constable (born 1898) spent her childhood three miles outside Tetbury in Gloucestershire at Shipton Moyne. She later worked in the kitchens of the Mansion House, London.
The 9th Duke of Devonshire became Governor General of Canada (Quebec) in November 1916 (until 1921) and in 1917 both of my parents were employed there. My father as first footman and my mother in the kitchen, where she became the sauce cook, preparing banquets for the then Prince Edward of Wales. They met, played ice hockey together in The Maple Leaf Team, canoed, swam in the Canadian lakes and fell in love. They married in Quebec on February 11th, 1920 and returned to England in July 1920.
My sister Heather was born in Merrivale Road,
Bearwood, on March 27th 1922. My father was a policeman
serving in Brierley Hills, Staffordshire. I arrived four years later on
Heather and I both had natural shantung dresses with
red spotted collars and cuffs. Heather’s had a waist whereas mine fell
from a yoke. I was dressed but, because I didn’t like it, pushed myself
back in the bath. I then cut round the brim of a hat I had, as I felt it
improved the shape.
Just before Christmas 1930 we moved to 74 John
Street, Brierley Hill, near the steel works and Black Country furnaces
So many times in my childhood did we travel to Shipton Moyne. Grandma Constable, my maternal Grandmother, was sweet and gentle. She had a wooden leg and wore her skirts ankle length. She
made dolls’ cradles and fairisle socks for us and lavender bags for all her family. There was a well and a village tap for drinking water and oil lamps and fires for cooking. On either side of the huge black range was a walk in cupboard with stable doors – a lovely place to play.
Heather and I had a little doll’s pram with slatted wooden sides, iron wheels and handle. A monk’s bench in the stone floored hall held balls, bats and skipping ropes. We made Bulb Bowls by placing black gramophone records on top of basins in the oven.
We collected the milk from the farm – straight from
the cows. We crayfished in the Fosse Brook.
One of the things that happens very differently today
was this. I had to have my tonsils out at the school clinic. It’s there
to this day a large white painted house by St Michael’s church in
Brierley Hill where a small cannon rests high above the road. There were
about twenty children I think.
My sister Peggy Alberton Lea was born in 1932 and we
moved to Cradley Heath Police Station, Staffordshire. It was a lovely
house with coach house, stables and two large walled gardens. The rear
garden was entered by an oval gate in the high wall.
In April, 1935 when the tulips grew in rows specially for cutting, Dad died.
Policemen lined the roads for his funeral. St Luke’s church was over the road. I was sent to school.
I think my mother was given two weeks to leave. We
stayed in a small modern house until July.
One day came a knock at the door. It was Miss Carne the Junior Matron from St George’s who offered to take me to Harrogate to save Mother going. Mother said she would rather take me herself.
In September 1935 we journeyed to Harrogate. I was fortunate to always have some lovely clothes as Auntie Nell was nannie for a very wealthy family in High Wickham. The daughter must have been a little older than I was. I had a Jaeger dress, fine brown tweed coat and matching hat with a little feather and a beautiful pintucked heavy silk dress and jacket with lots of tiny covered buttons in soft grey blue. Auntie Nell sent parcels to Mother telling her how much or how little she must pay if she wanted them.It was my shoes which made me remember these at the end of the day.
We arrived late afternoon I think. Miss Knocker met
us and quickly showed us around. I’m amazed when I look back! I think
she must have sized me up as sensible or maybe she didn’t think!
I was stripped, weighed, measured and my clothes were taken away. Combinations! I’d never seen such things. Gym slip, liberty bodice, navy knickers, black woollen stockings and shoes that pinched with every step. Muriel Watson joined St George’s the same day and we giggled for days about our pinchy shoes.
We slept in No 4 dormitory in iron beds on horse hair
mattresses. There were brass plates at the head which read ‘Subscribed
by Bradford City Police’. Counterpanes were uniformly folded every
evening by two older girls and then placed over the footrail of the
beds. We all had embroidered cases for our nightdresses and a white
embroided bag tied to the side rail to hold a hair brush.
We rose by a bell at 6am, washed, dressed, made our
beds and knelt for morning prayers with the matron in attendance. We
wore coarse aprons and went about our allotted tasks. We polished and
dusted and shined the wooden floors with ronuk. All the brass bed plates
shone like mirrors and the baths and basins sparkled. Then the bell was
rung for breakfast – lumpy porridge and bread and marge. Lunch was
always a good meal with lovely Cornish pasties, lentil cakes etc. Banana
compote for pudding, with lots of second helpings. Tea was bread and
marge and jam, or no jam, with cake only on Sunday.
Boys and girls were always divided. Girls walked in
crocodile round the town (the Valley Gardens, Birk Crag ?). Sometimes
people would stop and ask admiringly which school we were from.
I remember all the musical festivals we entered as
girls’ choirs. We used to win them all ! Pontefract, Leeds, Ilkley,
Harrogate, Bradford, we sang to them all.
Every Saturday evening we had entertainment such as lantern slides, or films such as Lassie or Rintintin or there were Police concerts from Manchester and Bradford City Police etc which were always enjoyable. The outings were many. Every year we went to Scarborough for the day. We called at York on the way and once were allowed to slide down the poles at the fire station. Each small group had an adult with us and all the rides were free. We had lunch in a large hotel and everyone stared as we stood and sang grace.We also went to see Fountains Abbey. I felt it had a wonderful atmosphere. It was surrounded by flowering garlic. I loved it. Bolton Abbey too was visited and Peasholme Park in Manchester where we saw an ice show. We were also taken to a Leeds Tattoo.
On Sundays lunch was always cold. We had prayers in the bedroom and church in the morning and at night. We could not knit or sew though texts could be crayoned. I used to love making bible clocks. A clock face was marked on a nine or ten inch stiff white card. I chose a word such as ‘lamb’ and then found twelve sentences from the bible which included the word. These were written in the twelve spaces, with the book and the verse in the space where the hour was usually placed. Then came the decorating and my clock would have skipping lambs and flowers everywhere.
At times we held services in the gymnasium and in my
older years I sat on the stage and read the lessons and the prayers.
I loved Sunday tea times when Miss Knocker would sometimes read to us, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Pilgrims Progress.
We all went home only once a year for six weeks.
Suitcases were sent in advance. Every year we wore a button hole of
sweet peas but leavers were given a red rose. After singing ‘Lord
dismiss us with thy blessing’ we set off. Everything was well organized.
We were met in Leeds by police women if we were travelling that way.
They escorted us to the toilets, even having to pay our pennies as none
of us carried any money. We were then put on the right trains for home.
In September the journey was repeated in reverse and ‘Lord receive us with thy blessing’ was sung.
Christmas was very special. In November a red post box stood in the hall beneath a beautiful divided mahogany staircase. We were told to write to Father Christmas asking for two gifts from the Christmas tree. Whatever age we were, it must be ‘Dear Father Christmas’. The first Christmas I was there I asked for a baby doll and a conjuring set. The doll was dressed in white satin trimmed with white fur round her cloak and bonnet. Another of the days before Christmas we all gathered in the gym to stir the pudding. When Christmas arrived we all decorated our bedrooms and a programme was pinned up in the hall, showing the many days of special occasions.
On Christmas morning, Miss Knocker dressed as Father Christmas, woke us all by blowing a trumpet and when we were dressed we gathered at the top of the stairs. The girls were then told to go and search for their stockings which were hidden in the playroom. These were quite large and made of red paisley cotton with our names on a label. Invariably they held chocolate or toffee, or a drawing book with pens and pencils or a small game. There was always something in there which made a noise!
We all then put on warm coats and scarves and silently walked through the gardens to the Police Convalescent Home which shared our grounds. We crept into their hall and then burst forth with song..’Christians Awake’ ! The policemen, all in dressing gowns came smiling to the top of their stairs. Then it was back for breakfast and afterwards to church… lunch with Christmas pud and we all managed to get a silver threepenny piece. In the afternoon we gathered in the gym where our gifts from home were given out.
During the Christmas festivities we performed a play at The Incurable Home. Yes, that’s really what it was called. Beds were wheeled into the room holding strange shaped beings who shrieked and laughed and made noises. We were not warned or ever spoken to about this. I think we performed well but with a feeling of hysteria.
We always had a special concert by one of the police concert groups. For two years we had a fancy dress party and could borrow from the dressing up cupboard. I insisted against all advice on being Cinderella in rags with a dirty face and rags in my hair. The second time we had more notice and Heather sent me an Oxo Cube costume. This was a dark red dress with a large webbing cross and a cardboard O on each shoulder. It also had a cube as a hat.
As we were never normally allowed to mix with the boys, a party with them was bound to be a bit odd. After the first half hour the boys were supposed to wait on their partners with refreshments but suddenly we were all sent to bed. I never knew why!
Another day was “Christmas Tree Day”. The tree was set up in the gym on the stage. One year four men dressed as cooks came through the hall carrying a large Christmas pudding. With great hilarity they cut it open and out stepped Father Christmas. Our names were called to receive our two gifts.
On party days we wore our pretty pink blossom blouses with puff sleeves. In November we had firework displays. I never liked fireworks but the parkin and treacle toffee were fine.St George’s Day meant a huge cake and an outing and each Whitsuntide or Easter we cooked our lunches on the field. I remember rhubarb and custard and toffee.
For the St George’s A.G.M. we always performed. Was it the Jubilee or Coronation when we had red dresses with a small apron and red, white and blue fissues (a small triangular scarf – neckerchief or kerchief which could be worn around the neck or on head) and we danced the Irish Jig and The Sailors’ Hornpipe with appropriate hats. Another year, we formation marched, being taught by a sergeant major ending with us forming the St George’s flag.
Sports Day I hated. I never had the breath to run. I tried every year to break my leg by jumping from high places, but it never happened. Swimming sports – I always won the first race and was then finished for the rest. I probably had asthma then as I do now.
War broke out when I was thirteen while we were still
at home. We had no holiday at home the next year. We spent hours making
camouflage nets, knitting seaboot stockings in oiled wool and I made
navy sweaters and helmets.
One night at about 9 o’clock Joyce Barrington and I were wakened from sleep and told to get dressed. We were accused by Miss Knocker of not drawing the blackout curtains correctly and made to scrub the girls’ toilets – about ten of them, on our hands and knees. At that time Joyce and I were going out every day to the Technical School and Art School together. I attended both although I belonged to the art side. My sister Peggy (526) joined me at St George’s in October 1939. She had been evacuated but the place where she had been sent to was not very satisfactory. Peggy later had meningitis and was very, very ill. In those days children often did not recover. Mother was sent for and stayed at St George’s for a while. The illness affected Peggy in later life unfortunately. Although she had previously obtained a builder’s certificate after attending Moseley Art School for three years. She became an Architect’s assistant designing windows in London and also produced beautiful miniature portraits of children painted on ivory. She has one son but her little girl sadly died.
I left St George’s in July 1942 with an outfit of
clothes chosen by Miss Knocker and me on a visit to Leeds. I value the
work Miss Knocker did at St George’s. I remember her telling us that
when she first arrived the tables and benches were old and battered and
children drank from enamel mugs.
We were well brought up, having plenty of confidence,
knowing how to behave in any situation, even though we may have felt a
little different from the rest of the population.
All young people were called up at eighteen during the latter years of the war. I became, for a short time, a telephone engineer which was a ridiculous position for me as I’m useless with gadgets. Nevertheless I attended Post Office School and was supposed to be capable of building a switch with my tool kit. At the end of the war I returned to M & S until I married in 1952. My husband became an innkeeper for about three years. I cooked meals for large groups of old people. I also catered for many people for Bed and Breakfast, ran ladies darts teams and whatever else was required – but it was not a particularly happy time.
Later I was employed by Queen’s College, Stourbridge to teach College of Preceptors Art & Needlework, Cookery and History of Art. However I gradually found myself teaching history, cooking, country dancing and even… football! You name it.. I did it! I then took on the small Kindergarten.
In 1964 my husband Eric was found at the foot of his office stairs with a severe fracture at the base of his skull. He was in a coma but came home after surgery many weeks later with brain damage. Life changed. He died in1980.
In 1965 I became a class teacher at Elmsfield School, Stourbridge, which is a Rudolf Steiner school based on the Waldorf system – teachers moved up the school with their classes. I also taught upper school needlework and started cookery classes for boys and girls. I remained there for twenty-five years having been a Class Teacher for five different groups of children. Three times I stepped in to take classes for a term when the school had problems.
I retired when I was sixty-four and proceeded to tutor children at home. I also volunteered to work one day a week at the local hospice. So here I am now! I have had a very fortunate life. I was very lucky in my lovely family and with wonderful friends, so life has treated me very kindly.
There has been so much beauty surrounding me.Valerie Partridge nee Lea.
St George’s Child number 464
What is privilege ?
Adam Robertson Drummond (ARD)
was born of Scottish parents
in Wark on Tweed, Northumberland, directly south of Coldstream, which is
near Berwick upon Tweed.
became a volunteer soldier at the age of eighteen, when he responded to
the call of the Recruitment Sergeant in 1914, at the very beginning of
the First World War. He became Private 63897 Drummond, and was attached
to the Royal Garrison Artillery.
was lucky to survive the war, and probably did so because he was an
Artillery Gunner. It was usual for the big guns to be located just
behind the Front Line, although their actual positions were changed at
very at short notice, to avoid being pinpointed, and shelled in
in November 1918, but ARD wasn’t demobilized until March 1919.
Desperately needing a
career, ARD decided to join the Police Force. The nearest big
City to his home was Newcastle upon Tyne, and they needed policemen.
In his early days of police service, PC 79 Drummond had the fortune to be allocated a police house, conveniently next door to the police station at Blyth Terrace, Gateshead.
When war was declared in September 1939, mother, father and some of the younger members of the family were on holiday in Norham, staying with our twin Aunts Eve and Ethel. I remember the sirens being sounded and the sense of impending doom. Later as the air raids became more regular over Tyneside, some of us stayed in Norham in a form of self inflicted evacuation, but we the kids loved it. At the far end of the village were the ruins of an old border fortress, Norham castle, we played there every day.
Many of my older brothers
and both sisters were born in Norham where mother had the benefit of her
twin sisters to help with the birth, and care of the other youngsters.
During the early years of World War 2 Adam Robertson Drummond was now the head of a large family.
The eldest, a daughter,
Margaret Carr Drummond was born in Norham in 1920.
The blitz was an everyday assault on Tyneside during the early war years, insistent nightly bombing of the riverside, the main targets for German bombers, trying to destroy the shipyards, bridges and factories, as well as the berthed Naval and Merchant shipping.
As young as I was at the time, I remember the raids, the bangs, and the searchlights, sometimes even the sight of the German bombers overhead, and how when the sirens sounded, being rushed into the air raid shelter which was part of the cellar of our house. On our way to school we would look out for bits of shrapnel. My brother Jim had quite a hoard of it.
During the spring of 1944,
a Diphtheria epidemic hit Gateshead, and the effect it had upon the
Drummond family was traumatic. Mother, and eldest son Adam (who was at
home on leave; from the Army.) Desmond, and baby Alby, were all infected
and taken to hospital. Adam and Alby were soon released, being judged
clear of the disease, but Mother and Desmond (the writer) were detained
in quarantine, severely infected. The Diphtheria strain was
Imagine the trauma that my Father ARD faced at the news of his wife’s death. A serving Policeman with a large family. The war on. Duties including regular nightshifts away from home. Four children under the age of ten, and one child just three years of age.
My two eldest sisters were both working away from home. Margaret engaged in the war effort making the fabric that was used to make parachutes for the Army. Isobel was a Nurse in an isolation hospital. Adam was in the Royal Marines, serving in North Africa. Richard was in The Royal Army Service Core, serving in France. Jim was only fourteen, but in those days could choose to leave school if he wished to.
Brother Jim went to live with my father’s brother James, and his wife, who had a small building concern in Workington, Cumbria, and served his apprenticeship indentured to his Uncle Jim along with his cousin, also called Jim. Three Jim’s in one household!!! All of them called after my Grandfather.
My father’s youngest
sister, my Aunt Maggie, lived with her husband, my Uncle George, on the
western edge of Newcastle upon Tyne. They had no children.
Unbeknown to me and my younger brothers, the Gateshead Police Chief Constable, Edward Bainbridge was already planning the next move, which would completely alter the rest of our lives.
He took my Father and my
Great Aunt Aggie, (Paternal Grandmother’s sister, and head of the
family) to Harrogate, to view St Georges House. He recommended
that their considerations should favour the invitation that was given to
them; that we, “the four boys Des, Doug, Eddy & Albie”, should move to, and live at St. Georges.
Miss Knocker was the Head, and did all she could to ensure that we were well cared for. Looking back as a parent myself, I now appreciate more than ever the wonderful job she did as the Principal of a well oiled organization with her concerns not only for the children in her care, but also for all the Old Boys & Girls too, and how they were fairing. She was a wonderful example of selflessness, having dedicated her whole life to the benefit of the children in her care.
For a time my Aunt Maggie got a job at St. Georges with the intention of ensuring that we ‘the boys’ were being well cared for. She wasn’t allowed to work in the Boys wing, as that might have been described as preferential treatment, so she worked in the Girls wing, but managed to keep an almost daily contact with us, often waiting for us to pass her in the corridor, when she would slip us a few sweets. She had no cause for concern, St. Georges Boys & Girls were well cared for. After a couple of months she was able to go home to Newcastle assured that all was well.
Visiting day was the first Saturday in the month, and at morning assembly we would be told who the visitors would be. My Fathers name was almost always called out. He seldom missed a date, and when he did, he would send some other member of the family in his place. Visiting day would be spent in Harrogate, perhaps with a walk around the Valley Gardens or a trip to the cinema, but it always finished in Standings, a restaurant at the top of a long flight of stairs in a shop in James Street; where we could have things we didn’t get at St. Georges, like pop, and chips.
A lot of people have asked
me the same question…”what did you do at St. Georges, what was it
Were we deprived kids (?) …never. We were taught to be independent, to be a good sport, that honesty was the best policy; that good manners counted, always encouraged to do well at school, and to respect others.
Looking back…there was a degree of elitism, a pride in being from St. Georges.
With the retirement of Miss Knocker, and the appointment of Miss Duke-Turner, there was a relaxation in the strictness of the way of life at St. Georges, but in the main, things went along as normal. As far as the boys were concerned, we were a fairly happy bunch with strong friendships between us, and plenty to keep us occupied. Christmas was the ‘most looked forward to’ event of the year, and I think that most of us given the chance to go home for that holiday, or to stay at the school, would have chosen the latter. We all had a great time with lots of treats.
Did it do us any harm? … Of course not, quite the contrary. It bred independence in all of us, proved by the lives that the ‘Old Boys & Girls’ built for themselves after leaving. Studying careers we can see Doctors, Solicitors, Clergymen,Schoolteachers, Journalists, Police Officers, Civil Servants, Military Servicemen; some of esteemed rank; Engineers, Nurses, Managers, Hotel Proprietors, Business Owners, Trade Union Executives, and best of all Good Parents.
The Drummond brothers all
left St. Georges at the same time, in July 1951. Our father had
remarried, and retired from the police force at much the same time, so a
normal home life was available to us after many long years of being
away. Going home for good was a welcome but strange thing. We all missed
our pals. It took some time to settle into a new way of life.
Around my eighteenth birthday I received my call up papers from the MOD. Shortly after the medical and the interview which followed, I was conscripted into the RAF where I served my two year stint as a Snowdrop… A Royal Air Force Military Policeman. .. I enjoyed my time in the RAF, it was similar to the way of life I had left behind at St. Georges; lots of friends and a well ordered life.
During my spell in the RAF, I met my future wife Eileen, and we married in March 1957. We have two children; Andrew, born in 1959, and Sarah, born in 1966. Andrew married Belinda in 1985, and they have two children. Katy the eldest, born in 1992, is at present at University in Warsaw, Poland, where she is studying to become a veterinary surgeon. Amy, born in 1995, is presently preparing for her school exams. My daughter Sarah is unmarried, but has a long standing boyfriend, Mike. They each work for the BBC.
After some years working within Private Enterprise, I eventually started my own business, manufacturing a range of products for the Packaging and DIY markets, with an emphasis on Plastic and Chemical products. My son Andy now runs the business, and Eileen and I are retired, living a quiet life together in Mildenhall, a small County Town situated between Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
My brother Doug, very
successfully ran his own automotive engineering business in Newcastle
upon Tyne for many years, before retiring to Spain, where he lived until
his untimely death in 2004. We all miss him.
And so back to my time at
To all of them I say a big Thank-you. Summing it all up in the fewest words possible, let me say…for me, and I know I speak for many more, St. Georges turned Tragedy into Privilege.
A tribute to George Squires, Leeds, child admission number 210
When St George's old boy George Squires died, his good
friend Harry Lunn wrote an obituary for him which was published in the
Harry Lunn, like George Squires, was a member of the local Home Guard
and was also Secretary of Harrogate Hotspurs Football Club.
George Squires - A Tribute
During my years as secretary for the Harrogate Hotspurs A.F.C. George was my right hand man and many's the time that I have been indebted to him for the rough jobs he did for the club.
George was probably a law unto himself, straightforward, decisive and independent. He did what he set out to do without fuss and bother, and with no thought whatever of praise or thanks, and whatever job he set out to do, whether it was erecting the posts, blowing up the footballs, marking out the ground, or any other menial task, in whatever kind of weather the job was done, and done well.
When, during the last war, hostilities threatened to put an end to local football, George Squires for a long period was the one man who kept the Hotspurs going, and to a big extent his work at this time must have had a big bearing on the existence of the present Harrogate Town Football Club.
I pay this small tribute, not only for myself, but, I am sure, for the many friends he had made throughout the years, and I know that they will all express with me their heartfelt sympathy to those whom George has left behind.
My Recollections: written by Les Ball, child admission number 637
Life at St George’s
Following my Police Sergeant father’s death in December 1951, life at
home in Sheffield was financially tough for my mother. It was with great
reluctance and sadness that the decision was made for me and my brother
Raymond to go to St George’s House Police Orphanage, Harrogate. We moved
there in September 1952. I was given the number 637 and Raymond 638.
I looked forward to mail from home, playing football / cricket on Saturdays and crab-football in the gym, and to the monthly visits by family and friends. Being from Sheffield I was particularly interested in watching a Sheffield engineering firm, Henry Boot & Sons, build the covered reservoir opposite.
Naturally, friendships were made at St George’s and these often sparked new interests & hobbies which last to this day. For example, my interest in playing snooker and spotting aircraft types originated at St George’s.
Food was reasonable, though I admit to having an instant dislike to “Marmite” such that I’ve never touched it since 1954. We all tolerated doses of Cascara pills once a week, but much preferred our own food, which usually included Farrah’s Harrogate Toffee, that we smuggled into our dormitories for the last night of term.
None of the staff ever asked about how new residents were settling. There was really nobody with whom I could discuss my circumstances or my questions about life in general. Friendships were made but amazingly that did not always prevent “friends”from marking ones freshly scrubbed corridor with black shoe polish or rubber. Nor did it prevent them from ridiculing anyone who had any slightly deviant physical feature. I should know, I was ridiculed every time we went for a walk simply because my legs were not growing straight ( a problem that was totally resolved by surgery in 1961 when I was 21). This situation greatly affected my confidence during my teenage years and it’s regretfully one of the main reasons I hated St George’s. It is the only time in my life that I have kept a calendar simply to cross off the days to the next holiday. That really tells its own story.
Harrogate Grammar School
I attended 2nd year stream at Harrogate Grammar School (HGS) while Ray attended the junior school in Cold Bath Road.
Once I had settled in and began to know a few of my new classmates, I enjoyed HGS. Compared to life at St George’s, which was often confrontational, I found HGS to be a welcoming well-structured school, with good teachers. Moreover I found it refreshing to have pupils and teachers of both genders, and to witness the tremendous mutual respect across the teacher pupil boundary. I cannot recall any pupil disciplinary problems nor teacher tantrums. There was a vast curriculum of science, literature, history, geography, music, and wood/metal work. It was enjoyable – I now wished I had done more justice to the opportunity.
It was somewhat unfortunate that the time restrictions placed on us at St George’s made it difficult to socialise with fellow HGS pupils to any extent, ie apart from occasional Saturday soccer matches. Of course none of my classmates could believe that I had to scrub floors etc before arriving at school. It was probably very appropriate that our study book for English Literature was Dickens’ “David Copperfield”.
Sundays were dreadful. It seemed to be all church and bible, intersected by an afternoon walk. When I eventually heard the news that the Otley Road St George’s was to close down in July 1954, I could hardly believe my luck.
Leaving St George’s
We both finally left St George’s in July 1954, just prior to it being relocated (1955) to smaller premises, Albany Lodge, Hereford Rd, Harrogate. I returned happily to my former Grammar School in Sheffield (High Storrs), obtained GCE “O” levels in 1956, “A” levels in 1958, then worked in Sheffield for 3 years before entering Leeds University (LU) in 1961 to study Chemistry. I left LU in 1965, married Mary in the August and almost straightaway we emigrated to Canada. After a year in Toronto, where I worked in the paints research industry, we moved west to Edmonton for me to study for a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Alberta. Our son Stephen was born in Edmonton in 1967. In February 1971 we returned to the UK, where I took up university posts in Sussex (Brighton) then Sheffield, before beginning Research work with a company based on the Wirral peninsular, in September 1974.
Throughout all of this time I had never forgotton about St George’s where I had made good friends, neither did I forget my two years at Harrogate Grammar School, which I enjoyed.
As mentioned previously, I hated my time at St George’s and couldn’t wait for each term to pass so that I could return home for a brief holiday of real life with original friends who accepted me for what I was. Initially, I simply could not begin to accept how / why, over a period of nine months, I had moved from a normal happy home life to one where I was expected to carry out menial duties at 7.30 most mornings.
Return visit to Harrogate Grammar School
Years went by, our son Stephen finished university in 1989 and found employment as a Civil Engineer – based close to Harrogate. Naturally our visits to Stephen and his wife reopened my “Harrogate history” and I used to purposely walk past St George’s (or at least where it had been) en route back from fetching my Sunday papers and thinking “If only I could have known in 1952/54 how marvellous my life would turn out”.
It was on such a visit in June 2001 that I arranged for a noon visit to Harrogate Grammar School – but more of that in a minute. On my drive into Harrogate that morning I noticed “Police Station” so I called in and asked the Desk Officer “What ever happened to St George’s and all the residents’ documentation”. He replied “You need to talk to the Superintendent at St Andrew’s Police Convalescent Home” . So, being early for my HGS visit, I called in to St Andrew’s. I was flabbergasted when within 2 minutes I was given access to documentation about my 1952 arrival at St George’s etc. I was asked if I attended any reunions, to which I replied “never knew they existed”. It was recommended that I get in touch with Sheila Stephenson (the St George’s old girl who organised the reunions), and within days I received a telephone call from St George’s old boy Arthur Boschi (in Stockport). The rest is history and I was able to catch up with a few friends of the past at subsequent (emotional) reunions.
Now back to my 2001 meeting with the Headmaster’s Secretary at Harrogate Grammar School. I had an interesting trip right round the school and given access to various “Speech Day” and “Annual” booklets of the 1952/54 period. Accordingly I am in possession of a full list of teachers of that period and I must say that I remembered all of the ones that had taught me. I was even provided with school group photographs of all the teachers, some of which might be suitable for inclusion in the website, on the Education/Religion page.
Although I still regard my two years at St George’s as being the worst of my life, I realise that the experience helped me become a wider more understanding person. I feel St George’s made me recognise the problems of others more intensely, value friendships, and made me appreciate the good times more deeply. I suspect the early death of my father, coupled with St George’s, forced me to stand on my own feet at an early age. I believe it taught me to have more faith in my own ability and to really work for something if you wanted it. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to attend university despite only being rather average at school. While I accepted that I was not naturally academically gifted, there was no way I was going to be denied if hard work could get me there. So it turned out, and I suspect St George’s seeded my driving enthusiasm.
A Tribute to Richard Peacock, DFC. (402)
Eldest of two sons, Richard and Max Peacock.
Both boys entered St. George’s, Harrogate, in February 1930. Their father H Peacock was a Police Constable with the Middlesbrough Police Force. I believe, from my memory of my chats with Richard, that his father, who was a mounted policeman at the time of great unrest in the north east, caused by the ship building yard workers being sacked in droves, was assaulted whilst on duty, injured, and later died from his injury. Richard was at St. George’s for 10 years. I know nothing of his brother, Max’s life. Richard attended Harrogate Grammar School. From St. George’s he went to work in Middlesbrough Town Hall for two years until he was old enough to join the RAF, and was posted to Canada, where he earned his wings. He returned to the UK, serving in Bomber Command for the duration of WW ll, during which time he was awarded the DFC. At the end of the war he served as a Bomb Disposal Officer in Indonesia for eighteen months. In 1947 he returned to Middlesbrough, where he again took up a post at the Town Hall. Having missed the opportunity of University because of the war, he instigated his own four year part time programme of professional development, culminating in a successful entry into the Chartered Institute of Secretaries, which allowed him to take up the position of Chief Executive of Stokesley. Altogether, Richard served fifty years in Local Government.
He met his wife, Pearl, in 1949, when they were both serving in the Auxiliary Air Force at Thornaby, and they were married at St. Barnabas Church, Linthorpe in 1950. They were married for fifty four years and had two children, Susan and Simon. Simon is married to Sian , with two daughters, Mara and Lucy.
Richard was ill for the last three years of his life, with a Parkinson type illness, but even that didn’t dampen his zest for life and his love for his family and friends. He enjoyed his work, hill walking, amateur dramatics and the friendships he had made, especially during his time as a St. George’s boy and later as a St. George’s Old Boy and was a staunch and loyal supporter of St. George’s Old Boys’ and Girls’ Reunions. He died in Stokesley, 30.1.2005, aged 81 and Pearl died 12.12..2007, aged 83. He is greatly missed, as is his wife, Pearl.
Tribute written by Elsie Gale nee Bradley. (541)
Following the awarding of the
D.F.C. to Richard Peacock the following letter, dated 30/9/1945,
from Miss Knocker’s letter (reproduced above) to Richard Peacock.
My dear Richard,
1167145 W/O Madew C
You all talk of the
lovely blue of the Mediterranean, and of swimming in it, it must be very
different from our grey green seas. I have heard that Tel Aviv is a
wonderful modern, very up to date Jewish city. Is that so?
Let me know when you can, how you got your DFC.
With best wishes,
E M Knocker.
How Arthur Deakin (Archie) got his
nickname. Child admission number 597
Memories of St George's 1929-1939 Written by Gwen George nee Mitchell (394)
In September 1929 my mother took me to St. George’s. The next few weeks were emotionally traumatic. Eventually I settled and began to appreciate the companionship of other girls. The busy school life together with evening and weekend activities helped to assuage my homesickness.
Then came Christmas. Suddenly, a change took place, there was laughter and even happiness. The Hall Dining Room, corridors and Playrooms were ablaze with lovely colourful decorations. The Christmas trees were heavy with tinsel and miniature toys. A large notice was in the Hall, in the form of a calendar of forthcoming events.
began with “Find your Stocking”, then breakfast, then Church and then
Christmas Dinner. Delicious turkey and all the trimmings, rich fruit
pudding in which threepenny pieces had been hidden. I still have my
Our lives continued to be busy with school, Guides or Scouts, hockey or football, tennis or cricket and gym. We were taught to sing well and won many music competitions. In the Starbeck Baths we learned to swim. Some of the girls became strong swimmers but I wasn’t one of them.
The next break in
our routine was the Easter Holiday. Church on Good Friday and as always,
Church morning and evening on Sunday. Religion played an important part
in our lives. Come Easter Monday though, we all enjoyed our chocolate
During each year we had visits to such places as Brimham Rocks, Bolton Abbey and best of all, Scarborough. We were given two shillings to spend. Great fun was had, especially at Peasholme Park.
For the celebration of King George V’s 25 years on the throne, in 1935, we were taken to Manchester. It was a wonderful day. After a five course meal we were given the freedom of Belle Vue, a combined Amusement Park and Zoo. All the fun of the fair was there, the Big Dipper, roundabouts, swings and coconut shies. For me the best of all was a ride on the top of an elephant.
A few weeks later came the much longed for ”Going Home Day”. Great excitement and six wonderful weeks of holiday. How quickly the days slipped by. The last few days were heavy hearted as we knew it would be forty six weeks before we saw home again. As the years went by we were able to cope with the new St. George’s year more easily.
Looking back after so many years, I still feel sad at the total lack of love from the Staff. People who were put in charge of children had no idea of how to treat a child. There were two notable exceptions, one (Miss Carne) looked after the little girls and left in the mid 1930s to be married. The other (Mr Styan) looked after the boys and took them for games and gymnastics. He too, left in the mid 1930s.
On the other side
of the coin we had plenty of food, plain but wholesome. Our clothes and
shoes were of good quality. We were held up to high standards in all we
did. Many lessons were learned from communal living which helped us in
Most important of all I made friends, good friends. The Reunions in Harrogate show very clearly the tight bonds that bind us all together in friendship and love,
St George’s and all it represents is UNIQUE.
Written by Gwen George (394) nee Mitchell, 2009.
My father Ernest James
Taylor died in 1942 at the age of 52 whilst serving in the CID with
Sunderland Police Force, he left behind Hilda (my mother) and five
children, Dennis, Christina, Reg, Peter & Pamela. Two other brothers
Ernie and Worthy had joined the Army and Air Force so were no longer
living at home. During WWII times were not easy for anyone and constant
air raids and food rationing were commonplace conditions which were felt
by families all over the country.
Ours was a Police family through and through, in
addition to my father I also had three uncles and a brother who served
in Police Forces around England and to this day I have two nephews who
serve in the Force. For practical reasons our mother Hilda reluctantly
accepted the offer from St George’s (Northern Police Orphanage) to care
for my brother Reg and I and we entered the institution in 1943.
Personally, I accepted the situation quite rapidly and soon felt proud to be part of St George’s, wearing the uniform also developed the feeling of belonging to a family like group – boys or girls, we were all looked after in a similar manner, there were no favourites or special treatments allowed.The routine of walking to school and church in pairs in a crocodile line no matter what the weather was like was unquestioned, just like the sports days, the assemblies, carrying out our work duties, the daily dining room ritual of sitting on hard benches at tables and eating whatever was placed in front of us was accepted as being completely normal.
To this day the greatest joy for many of us came with Christmas and its celebrations. Gifts and presents were very limited and many children would have received perhaps one gift and maybe a piece of fruit. This made the occasion all the more memorable, I can recall opening up my present one year to find I had been given a Kaleidoscope, I was overjoyed and treasured it for a long time.
In our case visitors were rare, this is not surprising given the distance and circumstances our family had to negotiate. Sadly over time this separation from family during the formative years inevitably brought about not so much a division but a loss of closeness which in retrospect is only to be expected. It just wasn’t possible for St George’s to replace the loss of family emotional support for such a large number of children and we had after all been taught to not only cope, but to think for ourselves and learn how to be independent.
As I mentioned earlier my brother Reg and I entered St George’s in 1943 and left to travel to New Zealand in 1947. Some of the children at the orphanage spent many more years in care than us, in some cases entering as toddlers and leaving in their late teens, they could well have a different point of view to orphanage life as they experienced it.
If I was asked to sum up my time spent at St George’s House I would have to say that it was beneficial and a good experience for me and not one that I would want to change. Coming to live in New Zealand at the age of 10 however meant that I lost contact with my orphan friends for a period of about 57 years – when I eventually reconnected with them in 2004 a virtual lifetime had passed and, after my wife Vera and I attended two of the annual reunions, although we were all by that time elderly, the friendship bonds were renewed. It was fascinating to hear about the lives and achievements of those I had known as children so many years ago, most of whom had found success in their chosen occupations and lifestyles. I should mention that thanks to our organizing Chairperson and Committee, reunions are still held every year in Harrogate, as close to St George’s Day as possible, long may that last.
The enthusiasm of the old boys
and girls for St George’s has led me to build and manage a website:
which records information from and about anyone connected with the
orphanage, this includes not only the orphans, but our founder Catherine
Gurney, the Lady Superintendents, various contributing Police Forces
that generously supported the institution, The St George’s Police
Children Trust, Orphanage Staff and The Police Treatment Centre, to
mention just a few. The site was launched in Sept 2007 and to date has
been visited 100,000 times.
Finally I want to make special
mention of Catherine Gurney OBE, a woman who achieved so much in her
lifetime that she warranted her own special category on our website, I
recommend that you view
and arrive at your own conclusions.
I say thank you St George’s.
Remembering St George's
Old Boys/Girls and friends.
Email contact: email@example.com