Dr. Barnado's Baby Castle - Hawkhurst, Kent...

 

 

In 1887 Thomas John Barnardo wrote,

"Up till the year 1884 the "baby question" met me at every turn in the course of my work, and no answer to its insistent beseeching was possible. I might rescue a family of little girls from circumstances of direct distress, and the Ilford Homes gladly welcomed them; but how about the baby brother? I need hardly say that I had already placed a baby in every one of the cottages at Ilford, the "mother" of which felt equal to such a responsibility; but this opening was soon exhausted, and then what was to be done? I have learned that God never sets His people a problem without keeping the answer in waiting, and just when my path seemed hedged with thorns, a way was unexpectedly opened through the kindness of a friend of long standing, one who has since then gone to his rest, the late Mr. Theodore Moilliet. This gentleman, who owned property at Hawkhurst, offered me the villa of Hillside, consisting of two small houses, with the accompanying land, as a free gift to be used for the benefit of the Homes. At that very time my fundamental principle of never refusing admission to destitute cases was in imminent danger of breaking down with regards to the babies. As I have said, most of the Ilford cottages were furnished with a baby, and it seemed impossible to provide for the rescue of several urgently needed cases just then under my observation. How joyfully and thankfully I accepted this timely offer at Hawkhurst can easily therefore be imagined. The gradual extension of my work brought an even larger number of cases within my purview. When, as during the period under notice some 7,000 children come under my notice for investigation in a single year, it would, indeed, be strange if not more than thirty babies at anyone time required institutional care. Hence the old trouble began to reassert itself not very long after the opening of the original Babies Castle. It was difficult to accommodate sixty babies where there was room for only thirty, as it was to accommodate thirty where there was room for none; and soon an urgent call arose once more for enlarged space at Hawkhurst. Babies - above all, neglected babies - cannot be dealt with rightly through the mere efforts of Institutions not specially devoted to their rescue. Hence it was definitely decided, after much inconvenience had been experienced, to erect, on the land given, as already described, a new Babies Castle which should gather in all the waifs whom I find deserted and maimed on the very threshold of life."

Construction began on a new two-storey red brick building in the spring of 1886, and on 9th August it was formerly opened by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, accompanied by her daughter princess Victoria who was later to become Queen Mary, the wife of King George V.  

In May 1959 a local Townswomen's Guild expressed 'considerable surprise' at the large number of 'coloured infants' at the Babies Castle. They warned that unless they could be assured that no white child was being refused admission as a consequence their support of Dr. Barnardo's would cease but they were reassured and the matter blew over. Clearly they had never bothered to read Thomas Barnardo's aims, known as "The Nine Nos"...

1. No destitute child refused
2. No Race Barrier
3. No Creed Clause
4. No Physical Disability
5. No Age Limit
6. No Money Promise
7. No Voting
8. No Waiting
9. No Red Tape

By 1965 the number of children in care at the Babies Castle had so reduced it was decided to finally close the orphanage. It was re-named 'Hawkhurst Castle' and became a private old people's nursing home, but in 2005 it was sold again for 1.7 million and planning permission was granted to turn it into the inevitable "luxury apartments". At the time of our visit in September 2011 nothing has been done and the house is in the inevitable state of advanced decay. This is depressingly common - a listed building is left to rot on land upon which developers would much rather bung up a few ticky tacky boxes in order to make a fast buck.

To be perfectly honest this was not a brilliant explore and the dodgy floors and absence of floorboards upstairs make it potentially lethal. Access was simplicity itself but there was very little of interest to see until we went into an out building. Scattered across the floor and upon a medication trolley were the complete records of a former pensioner who had been resident there during the castle's time as a care home. We were very shocked to find his bank statements, his doctor's reports, and even a copy of his death certificate. It just goes to show that it's not only the NHS who are careless with patient's records et all...

 

Below is a selection of the photographs we took in and around the orphanage.

If you wish to view any in a larger size then click the picture of your choice...

 

 

The old sign down on the road...

 

 

The side of the "castle"...

Bay window and "parapet" over the main entrance...

 

 

 

 

The castle's name...

 

Ground floor corridor...

 

 

 

 

The ubiquitous Lego brick...

 

 

 

 

Stairs up to the first floor...

 

Pretty glass...

 

 

 

 

Corridor names...

 

Dodgy bedroom corridor floors...

 

 

 

That's a bit academic really!

Trashed!

 

Damp has dropped many ceilings...

 

Stripy - quite appealing!

 

 

 

The inevitable rampant chavvery...

Blue bathroom...

 

 

 

Pink bathroom...

 

 

The rear courtyard from the first floor...

White bathroom = the full set?

 

 

 

One of many badly stained mattresses...

 

 

Evidence of some work having been done?

 

 

No, we just found a yellow one too!

Do as you are told...

 

Or Santa might not call...

 

 

 

 

"Music For Pleasure" - Mantovani?

 

 

 

 

More Lego up in the loft...

 

And a stack of abandoned plates...

 

 

 

There's always a shoe on every explore...

Peppermint Patty's room?

 

A kitchenette on the first floor...

 

"Framed"...

 

Going down...

 

The out buildings where we later found patient's records...

 

 

The kitchens proper...

Thermos...

 

 

A cosy bed time drink?

Note to Mrs. Bates?

 

 

 

Pizza anyone?

Oh dear...

 

 

 

The laundry...

Necessary in view of that book...

 

Common room...

 

 

Dedication...

 

Chandelier...

Safe...

 

 

Rotting...

 

Any messages?

Lonely teddy...

 

Is this the pattern for teddy's natty jummy?

 

Lets watch the news...

 

Disabled access...

 

 

King size diapers...

 

I said, "make the bed, don't try to hide it"...

Well appointed?

 

 

Candle...

 

Lamp shade...

Out back...

 

 

 

Not much cover for security...

Stacked in the out building...

 

 

 

Bed pan and trolley...

 

 

Carelessly discarded patient records for one individual...

Robert loves Hilda...

 

Robert's death certificate...

 

Redundant beds...

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