In 1922, a donation from Mrs JF Walker of Clarendon at Gretna funded the building of Clarendon Children's Home on the New Town site of the Home of Mercy, a rescue and maternity home that also took in babies. The purpose of the new Home was to accommodate up to 50 children three years and older who the Committee considered too old to remain in the Home of Mercy. The children attended the local school and took part in other community activities such as Brownies or Girl Guides and singing in the St John's Church choir.
A committee from the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania ran Clarendon and the Home of Mercy jointly.
In 1941, following a bequest from Elizabeth Rose, a new wing opened, comprising bathrooms, dressing rooms, and a large dormitory. At the same time, the Home was completely renovated with new paintwork, curtains, wash basins, and beds.
In 1945, the Clarendon Committee purchased Mount Royal, a guest house with 35 rooms set on 20 acres that overlooked Kingston Beach.The children moved there in September and the Bishop blessed it on 5 October 1945. The Home took in girls aged three to 16 and boys from three to 6, the age when they transferred to Roland Boys' Home in Sheffield.
After the move, the youngest children attended kindergarden in Kingston while those aged between six and 11 went to Kingston or Albuera Street Primary Schools.
In 1948, work began on a cottage known as St Nicholas on the grounds of Mount Royal. It opened in 1953. The cottage was partially funded by the sale of the Home of Mercy in New Town. On 9 November 1958, the Home of Mercy Cottage for babies and toddlers opened. After that the Home was often referred to as the Clarendon Children's Home and Home of Mercy. Later the Cottage took babies rather than toddlers.
Financially, Mount Royal appears to have struggled. It received a grant from the Tasmanian government and the Commonwealth child endowment. There was practical and fundraising support from the women's auxiliary formed in 1948. The Canterbury Tea Rooms run in Church House, Hobart by Anglican women, also provided some funds. However, this was not enough and the Home nearly closed in 1959. It was temporarily saved by an increase in the grant received from the Tasmanian government, some legacies, and the sound financial management of the then Secretary and Treasurer, Canon George Crouch. This improvement did not last and there were further crises.
In 1949, the Board of the Home asked the Director of Public Health for some advice from the Department's nutritionist about the children's diet. Her report provides some insights into routines at the Home and the food the children ate.
The Home had a cook. She had some help from a young kitchen maid and waitress. After school, the older girls prepared the vegetables and packed lunches for the next day. On Sundays, the Matron took over the cooking with the help of the older girls.
The Home produced much of its own food. There was a large vegetable patch that supplied all the vegetables except potatoes. Chickens produced up to 40 eggs a day when they were laying, and a couple of cows provided nearly all the milk the children needed. There were also apples, apricots, plums, pears, and a few berry fruits.
Breakfast consisted of oatmeal or cereal with bread and butter three times a week and bread and dripping the rest of the time. The children at school in Kingston went home for a cooked lunch, consisting of meat or fish, potatoes, and one or two other vegetables. Dessert was usually a milk pudding or a steam pudding with custard. Occasionally the children had an apple pie or sponge. The older children had the same meal at night while the younger ones had a lighter meal of carrot, raisin or marmite sandwiches, or bread and butter with honey or jam.
According to Laura Williams, in the early 1950s, Mount Royal was an unhappy place for the children. There was a rapid turnover of Matrons, six in six years. A report made by a recently dismissed Matron in 1953 stated that corporal punishment was widely used. The children were inadequately clothed and in poor health. They ate separately from the staff and had different food. They either 'ran wildly through the house or sat quietly rocking'.
Clarendon was the first home in Tasmania to be approved for child migrants and the only one to take girls. It received five British child migrants, aged between three and 13, in 1950. They lived in St Nicholas. Clarendon's full quota of migrant children was 12 per year but although more came, the Home hardly ever reached this number. This may have been because it mostly offered institutional accommodation and in Britain the preference was for cottages. In 1951, John Moss, a British delegate inspecting institutions for child migrants in Australia, said that Clarendon was 'not up to standard' and that other children would be better off left in Britain.The situation apparently improved because in 1955 to 1956, when Moss made another visit, he did not criticise Clarendon. In 1954, in order to boost numbers, the Home accepted children under the parent following scheme. The last child migrant left Clarendon in 1960. By then there had been 18, seven of whom rejoined their parents when they arrived and one of whom was adopted.
The Friends of Clarendon formed in 1958 to support girls when they left the Home.
The numbers of children in Clarendon fell as the emphasis in child welfare policy moved from child removal to better support for families. Accommodating children in big institutions also lost favour. In 1976, Upton, the Secretary of the Clarendon Board described Mount Royal as 'too big, too difficult and expensive to heat, needs too many staff, and worst of all it's an institution, not a home, for the children that live there'. This change in attitude led the Board to investigate a cottage style accommodation for boys and girls that would simulate family life. It reached fruition in 1978, following the demolition of Mount Royal, with the opening of two new cottages, one named Fletcher Walker, and the other, de Bavay after Clarendon's architect. Two more opened in 1981. Each cottage had a foster parent known as the house mother.
In the 1980s, Clarendon provided accommodation under the Domestic Service Assistance Scheme. It was for children whose parents could not look after them temporarily, usually because of illness.
By 1990, Clarendon no longer provided long term accommodation for children. Instead the aim was to keep the family together wherever possible. In 1997, Clarendon received funds from the Sydney Myer and Ian Potter Trusts to run a pilot early intervention program known as Reconnections. The aim was to keep families together so that children did not come into the Home. Funding came to an end in 1999 so the program had to be wound up.
When Clarendon closed, funds from the sale of its Kingston Beach property were reinvested to form Clarendon Children which, in 2013, offers early intervention programs for families. Clarendon Children holds the records of Clarendon Children's Home.
28 April 2017
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/tas/TE00028
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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