Woking Homes

From a railway magazine of July 1969

Sixty years of the Southern Railwaymen's Home for Children Woking

WOKING has few prominent landmarks from the railway. It is a comparatively modern town for when the London & Southampton Railway opened its Woking Common Station in 1838 a contemporary description of the temporary terminus gave it as being situated in the middle of a common and with a solitary inn as his only neighbouring house.
Eventually two conspicuous buildings were erected cheek by jowl to the south of the embankment leading into the station from the London direction and these together help fix. Woking in the mind of the traveller; they were respec¬tively the Mosque (now partly obscured by a factory exten¬sion) and the London & South Western Railway Servants* Orphanage, which this month celebrates its 60th anniversary of the opening on the present site.
Now known as Woking Grange it owes its position to the foresight and obduracy of Dugald Drummond the chief mechanical engineer of the LSWR.
To trace the origin of the orphanage it is necessary to go back to 1884, at that time, decades before the advent of the welfare state, there existed on the LSWR a line relief fund which was administered by a permanent staff body organized for charitable purposes, aid being dispensed to employees and their dependants at times of personal missfortune.
The fund was financed by proceeds from weekly entertainments under the auspices of the committee and attended principally by LSWR employees. In addition to the line relief fund there was also a widow and orphan fund.

In close association with the committee were the clergy of St Stephens and Ail Saints Churches, both of which were in South Lambeth, who would on occasion hold special memorial services for deceased railwaymen at which collections were taken for the dependants. 
The eleemosynary aid which was available from these sources was usually made on a non-continuing basis and evidently this was a matter of concern to some members of the committee because early in November 1854 a meeting of three uniformed railwaymen and the Rev Allen Edwards took place in All Saints vicarage to seek ways of establishing a home for fatherless children of LSWR staff.
It has been suggested that already some railwaymen had undertaken to foster two girls and board them out with a widow; although this might have been the case there is no documentary evidence to support the theory.
Little time was lost after the November meeting for within a month circulars were issued to the LSWR staff, and a notice appeared in the South Western Gazette of January 1S85 concerning the proposal.
By November 3 of that year sufficient support had been attracted for an inaugural meeting to be held and for an announcement to be made that premises at 78 Jeffreys Road, Clapham, had been rented.
Ten girls were admitted and the orphanage was officially opened on March 11th 1886, for the staff of the LSWR to become the only body of railwaymen owning and managing their own orphanage, in contrast to other foundations at Crewe Works and Derby.
Indeed the company insisted that the word " Servants " be incorporated in the title in order to avoid the impression that the home was run under the auspices of the employers.
Nonetheless the railway management did take and has always continued to take an interest in the matter.
Difficulties were encountered and surmounted so that the venture prospered to the extent that the freehold of the premises together with the adjoining house (No 76) was purchased and the extension opened on December 4th 1891, by this time 50 girls were being housed.

No 80 was eventually purchased to accommodate 26 boys and that in turn opened on June 12th  1895, a few weeks before
Mr Dugald Drummond took up the post of LSWR Mechanical Engineer.
Drummond spent some time reviewing his new domain and it was November 18th  before he paid his first visit to the orphanage when he professed himself pleased with all he saw and was duly elected a vice-president the same day.
It is unlikely that either the orphanage board of management or Drummond himself realised just how much he would influence the future of that institution as he stepped into its orbit that day.
For a time there is little record that anything transpired other than the very regular and substantial personal donations being greeted with applause at committee meetings.
The girls* home was transferred to newly acquired premises at 29 Guildford Road, Clapham, and opened in August 1901 and allowed expansion at Jeffreys Road for the boys.
The properties suffered from various drawbacks and it was obvious that specially designed premises should be erected and accordingly sites were inspected at various places on the LSWR including Winklebury (near Basingstoke), Butts Junction at Alton, and Cove, near Farnborough.
At length, in February 1902, the trustees decided that Cove would be suitable for the purpose.
Following this decision Drummond was elected as a trustee on
May 26, 1902.
                                                   Dugald Drummond
Plans were prepared and tenders for construction received and all was set for work to com¬mence when on December 14th  1903, it was intimated to the board of management that the trustees objected to the Cove site.
It transpires that although Sir Charles Scatter had agreed to the location Drummond did not and Canon Allen Edwards indicated he had no objection but would not go so far as to oppose his fellow trustee, Mr Drummond!
Three stormy years of deadlock followed.
The board of management had, on the one hand local committees urging forward the construction of the building and, on the other, the trustees— or rather one trustee—blocking it.
They could afford to offend neither party.
The March 1904 meeting of the board had two letters from Drummond to consider; firstly he wanted to know why he had not received a verbatim copy of a report of a meeting between the board and local committees at the same time as the other trustees and, secondly, he offered to provide at his own expense training for elder girls in cooking and dressmaking at Battersea Polytechnic.
A member of the board boldly volunteered to see Drummond and explain matters with the result that a few days afterwards Drummond withdrew an offer to meet the repayment of interest on the purchase money of the Cove site and followed by demanding that the verbal rejection of his training proposal be conveyed to him in writing!
Nine months passed before the next brush; a trustee had died and the Board appointed Sir Charles Owens to fill the vacancy but Drummond maintained that the filling of the place should be the duty of the remaining trustees.
He lost the day and then proceeded to complain about the large amount of capital locked up at Cove.
The board obviously could see no way out of the impasse for no moves came from that direction. Drummond then proposed the new orphanage should be located at Eastleigh and went so far as to submit plans indicating a suitable position at the rear of the institute club.
The board ignored this by wanting to know why Drummond contended that the trustees had decided against a building at Farnborough.
Drummond, in his turn, chose to ignore the question but in November 1905 intimated he would defray the cost of sending ail the children to a pantomime in the New Year of 1906.
He repeated this the following year by which time he had won his battle against the building at Cove.
The board, to resolve the deadlock, purchased ground from the London Necropolis Company at Woking and in March 1907 obtained the trustees' full approval.
Little time was lost in construction;

 HRH The Duchess of Albany laid the foundation stone on October 1st 1907, having travelled from Esher to a specialty greeted platform adjoining the site in the Royal train which, doubtless to general satisfaction, arrived five minutes early.
July 5th 1909, again saw the Duchess at Woking, this time for the opening ceremony when the station was used and a procession paraded around the town
Even in the hour of rejoicing the board fell foul of Drummond for, to pile Ossa upon Pelion, his formal invitation card miscarried (he surely could not have failed to know of the arrangements in ether his capacity of trustee or chief mechanical engineer) and he stubbornly stayed away. 

A whole page of the minute book is devoted to a special resolution passed by the board expressing, in abject terms, its sincere regret of this misfortune. Drummond's munifi¬cence continued unabated however; he defrayed the expense of providing cot names and continued the panto¬mime outings so that when he died almost 17 years to the week from his first visit to the orphanage the board was able to record at its meeting in the evening of November 11th 1912 that by his death that day the orphanage had lost one of its warmest and truest friends and helpers."
This was only a brief note but it was a sincere tribute devoid of unction and a fitting eulogy.
The passing of Dugald Drummond was. in a sense, a divide in orphanage affairs and was soon followed by the first world war, just before which it was agreed to make children of the Somerset & Dorset Joint and Midland & South Western Junction companies' employees eligible for admission to the home.
After the war came the railway amalgamation and from January 1, 1925, children from all sections of the Southern Railway were accepted which put pressure on the accommodation to the extent that in Novem¬ber 1929 a memorial hospital extension was opened, so releasing 20 beds in the main building, to be followed by a new 100-bed wing opened by Mrs Holland-Martin on July 20th 1935.

The front entrance to Woking Grange         [British Railways]
On the outbreak of the Second World War the buildings were taken over for use as a hospital, reverting to the original use at the beginning of 1946. Missenden House, a home for old people was opened in September 1947, a few months before railway nationalisation, with a second similar home commissioned in November 1950.
A 32-bed nursery extension was brought into use on June 27th  1967, and to stress the forward-looking approach of the board of manage¬ment an extension to the old people's accommodation, possibly incorporating a geriatric unit, is envisaged.
Today the Southern Railwayman's Homes for Children and Old People caters for 164 children and 52 old people.
To maintain the homes £250 a day is required and three-quarters of this figure is found by railwaymen themselves, the remainder coming from the general public,
a complete reversal of the position in early days.

The contracting railway system with declining personnel numbers has presented the management with financial problems although these have never been far removed in one form or another down the years.
In 1886 the first railway excursion organised to raise funds was made to Rowlands Castle, a train being hired, as well as roundabouts and swings for use of the participants on arrival at Leigh Park.

The arrangements were made by a committee member who subsequently sadly reported a loss of 3s 8d on the venture!
The minutes of the board record that two or three fellow committeemen refunded the loss. Nothing daunted, however, further excursions were operated, at first to the New Forest and later annually to Bournemouth.
Boys (and girls) interested in railways wholive at the Woking Home have a first class opportunity for observing the SW Divisionmain line from   Waterloo, which runs alongside the grounds, although sceneslike this with Bulleid Pacifies are now part of history.           [British Railways]   
 Children from the Woking Orphanage pose on the up platform atWoking station while waiting for a traintaking them on a day trip. Although thestation has since been rebuilt the buildingsin the background have largely remained unaltered. The photograph was probably
taken in the 1920s.    [British Railways]

The excursion of 1895 required three trains, the profit amounting to £440, and was the most successful of all those running on the LSWR before the first world war put a stop to the outings.
The trains were provided by the railway company at no cost to the promoters who were assured of a good number of passengers by the closure of Nine Elms works for the day.
On the 21st May 1906 two special trains were run over LRSCR metals to Brighton, one from Victoria and the other from London Bridge. William Forbes of the LBSCR agreed that the charge to the organisers would be 1s 6d a person and they in turn added 1s for their own profit (or 1s 6d to the tickets purchased on the day).

The LBSCR refused to repeat the arrangement in 1907 but relented for May 25th 1908, as a "special ease ".
A revival of special trains has occurred in recent years directed principally towards the railway enthusiast clientele.
One of these specials, operated on the annual reunion day in October 1966, proved to
be noteworthy in as much as a speed slightly in excess of 100 mph was recorded near Andover with a near miss for a three-figure speed down Porton bank.
This revival has resulted in a sum well in excess of £2,030 being passed to the Homes.
The ban on steam operation has prevented a continuation of these special trains for the benefit of the Homes' finances; it would be pleasant to think this is a temporary ruling and that the Homes will again benefit from excursions.

This photograph was probably taken on the same occasion as the above and depicts the LSWR non-corridor stock then used on stopping services on the main line, with children from the Home at the start of a day trip.         [British Railways]

These notes could not have been written without tire ready assistance and enthusiasm of Mr A. G. Evershed (secretary-superintendent of the Homes) who allowed the author to consult the minute books; the chairman of the Homes, Mr B. T. Wright, has taken a keen interest in searching for details of the founding of the orphanage and also provided personal recollections of early days at Woking. The files of the South Western Gazette were inspected for references through the facilities afforded by the British Railways Board's archivist.

 The Southern Railwaymen’s Home for Children

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