extracts about the Home from Our Lady's Mirror and the Walsingham Review 1939-77: until the 1950s the Home almost always had at least a paragraph. If there is no extract on this page it is because it was only about the children, who are not identified here.
Our Lady's Mirror Spring Number 1939
A new venture is being made. It has been suggested that there ought to be a charity connected with the Shrine, and so the decision has been made to have a home for poor and destitute children. If support justifies this work then perhaps the scheme may develop into a series of homes. As a preliminary to this plan we hope Father Bernard Walke's home at S. Hilary will shortly be transferred to Walsingham and that it may eventually be incorporated into our scheme. As we all know the Church has suffered grave persecution there and the impossible conditions of Church life which have been introduced since the resignation of the last incumbent have made it out of the question for the children of the home to remain. We hope Walsingham will take them to its heart and that they will be real Children of Our Lady. Two cottages have been bought for this home by Father Walke's Committee.
from Our Lady's Mirror Summer Number 1939
S. Hilary is at Walsingham and already the children are digging themselves into the life of the village. The invasion occurred early in June, six boys and five girls and their Mother. At the Chapter of the College, the Guardians definitely decided to adopt the Home as part of the organisation of the Sanctuary, and although they are the Governors of the Home they are not, of course, personally responsible for the finances, so we hope that all pilgrims and friends of Walsingham will add a mite to their already generous donations to the Shrine for the maintenance of these children. It is going to cost us at least £400 a year to support this family and we are entirely dependent upon charity. This is a work which all Catholics will like to help in, and it seems right that children should throng the House of Our Lady, especially those who have suffered so much owing to the Protestant aggression in their Cornish Home at S. Hilary.
from Our Lady's Mirror Autumn Number 1939
S. Hilary, The Walsingham Children’s Home, has had to move from its temporary quarters in High Street, as it was considered impossible to find the extra money required to keep them there, and as the cottages which have been bought for the Home could not be vacated at the time, (and it is doubtful if we shall be able to adapt them during the war) it was deemed advisable to house the children in the Vicarage for the time being. Half of the first floor has, therefore, been given over to them and as those rooms communicate and can be shut completely off from the rest of the Parsonage, it really does seem a good emergency plan. They have two dormitories, one for boys, the other for girls, with the Matron's room between: a dining room and kitchen, while the Scouts' room, in the stables, is used as a play room. There is also the additional advantage of a field adjoining, so that the children need not be off the premises, or scattered during their recreation time.
from Our Lady's Mirror Spring Number 1940
The children are still in their flat at the Vicarage, but we hope they will soon be able to get into their own home. But we do want to be able to put in a proper cooking range and heating stove, as well as a bath. These things being found in everyone’s house – it seems a strange thing to say, but readers must remember we are quite in the wilds at Walsingham.
from Our Lady's Mirror Winter Number 1940/1
The cellar has been converted into a shelter, and here we have fixed up a dozen bunks and put up a "cosy-stove" which has happily enabled us to spend our time there without being suffocated by an old oil stove which we had to suffer. If it had gone on much longer we should have had to have sat in our gas masks. We have come to the conclusion that it is more satisfactory to have the children in the Vicarage until after the war and so we have let their two cottages for the "duration". We certainly could not at the present time have spent any money on the necessary repairs and adaptations.
from Our Lady's Mirror Spring Number 1941
Miss Treby, who has been Matron of the Home for several years, including a long period at S. Hilary, when the Home was in Cornwall, is leaving us at the end of May. She hopes to get work with “Blitz Babies” and so identify herself more closely with war work.
from Our Lady's Mirror Summer Number 1941
We have been most fortunate in securing Miss Lewis for the Matronship of the Home. Miss Lewis has worked both at S. Hilary and S. Joseph’s, Hinton Martel. At the latter home she was Miss Eden’s assistant. Many of our readers who remember S. Hugh’s Home here will recollect Miss Eden as our Matron in those days. So the new “Mother” has known of us for a long time.
It was a sad day for the children when the news of Father Bernard Walke’s death reached us. Not only was he the founder of S. Hilary, in Cornwall, but a real and loving father to all the boys and girls who are there. Several of them have played in his now famous Christmas Mystery when Broadcast from S. Hilary. It was one of Father Walke’s great joys to know that this family had found a home here in Walsingham, and especially that it had been adopted as the charity of the Shrine of Our Lady. We have made appeal through the Church Times to all friends of the Father and S. Hilary to perpetuate his memory by contributing to a Bernard Walke endowment fund for the Home, and even if only a small income is derived in this way it will be a reminder through the coming years to pray for a loving friend and a holy Priest.
from Our Lady's Mirror Winter Number 1941/2
Miss Lewis, who was splendid in many ways, has left us, and we find it very difficult to supply the post. The majority of suitable people seem to be doing war work and those who have applied seem to want an easier job. Is it not possible among all our readers to get into touch with a woman who likes, and is good at, young people's work, and would undertake to mother the home as a vocation? We need two: a Matron and an Assistant Matron. Two friends might like to undertake it. One real difficulty is that the ages range from eight to sixteen years and most people with experience seem only to have dealt with children of an equal age and younger. We are very grateful to Mrs Underwood, who has come temporarily to look after the children until we can find a permanent staff. Mrs Underwood has her own family and home and so cannot take up the work as a permanency. Miss Bacon too is another heroic support, who is always willing to come to the relief of "Mother" at the week ends. There are unfortunately no suitable people here. We are doing all we can to make the Flat more comfortable, the last plan being to install a rotary pump when we can and to save the carrying and fetching of water - a problem unknown to town dwellers.
from Our Lady's Mirror Summer Number 1942
What we should do without our good friends Mrs Underwood and Miss Bacon it is impossible to tell. We still have no Matron and there seems little possibility of getting one. After seven months without a "Mother" it is becoming a very serious matter, especially as Mrs Underwood is expecting to be called home to London at any time and Miss Bacon can only help us over the week-end. Cannot you do something about it? Surely if all who read these lines got "a move on" someone would appear who would undertake this very important piece of work.
from Our Lady's Mirror Autumn Number 1942
At last we have a Matron. Miss Milliken has come from that very live and delightful Parish Church, S Leonard's, where she has been a pillar of strength. The test will be to see if she can adapt herself to the humdrum life of the country after the whirl of town. Anyhow we are delighted to have her and we hope and pray that all may work out so that she will decide to stay. We have had to make some expensive improvements in the Home since the last quarter, such as laying on hot water to the flat - town folk will raise their eyes in amazement at this, but they seldom realise the problems of the country - the installation of another cooker, the re-colour washing of the kitchen and dining-room. All these expenses make us want to go round to some well-known churches and stand with alms bags at your doors.
from Our Lady's Mirror Winter Number 1942/3
On S. Hilary’s Day Mass was at the altar of S. Helena (and S. Hilary). All the family, who are as a home under the patronage of this Confessor, Bishop and Doctor, turned out, indeed they all were in Church by half past six, thirty minutes before the Mass, which was sung. In the evening twenty of us sat down to supper at the Knight’s Gate Café, after which we played games in the Refectory. During the evening we were delighted by a visit from Father Howard, of Grimsby, and Father Daniel (who people here will persist in calling Father Lions, such is suggestions) so the cloth was well represented at the party.
from Our Lady's Mirror Spring Number 1943
We really are a most unlucky family. Miss Milliken was suddenly taken ill. When the Doctor arrived he ordered her to be taken to the Hospital immediately, and within half-an-hour of her leaving the Vicarage she was on the operating table. It was a matter of life or death. Certainly it was bad enough for her, but there we were with three months ahead and no Matron again! However the irrepressible, unfailing, kind-hearted Miss Bacon again came to the rescue, and although she teaches in a village five miles away, like clockwork she came each evening and stayed to give the family its breakfast before going off to her work. The rest of the day the two Priests had to look after the Home. Hey-ho! such is life. And now the Matron is back again - and seems stronger than ever.
from Our Lady's Mirror Winter Number 1943/4
We have quite come to the conclusion that after the war it will be necessary to build a modern bungalow, with surrounding grounds. If the war does not take all our big boys, an Hospice will be required for them in order to make room for younger people to join the family. The two cottages originally acquired to house the Home are both let, and so form the basis of an endowment, while experience has taught us that they are by no means ideal for a growing family, being too open to the road and shut in at the back by other cottages. Offerings to enable us to start our Home Building Fund would be welcome.
from Our Lady's Mirror Summer Number 1944
The Matron, at the time of writing, is hale, hearty and full of beans, very interested in colour schemes, and doubtless full of plans. We hope to be able to build a cottage for the family after the war, on up-to-date laboursaving methods. So don't forget!
from Our Lady's Mirror Spring Number 1945
As some of our readers may have noticed in the “Church Times”, the Guardians of the Shrine were particularly anxious to build a permanent house for the children. A flat in the Vicarage house does not have much security of tenure, for it has to be vacated in an emergency at three month’s notice. A site off the Wells Road, Walsingham, has been acquired, but since this was done an excellent modern house, built about ten years ago, has come into the market, and we feel justified in making a very great venture of faith, so we have bought it and up to date paid the deposit. We know you will realise our acute need, and our good fortune in being offered it, and will help us to purchase it. We want £1,200. It is a lot of money, we know, but it means that there will always be a house in Walsingham where some of those less fortunate children in this world can find a real home. An authority on housing matters in this district wrote to us recently: “It is quite impossible to build a similar house for anything like the price or, indeed, build it at all for a very long time”. We shall, of course, easily be able to use the other site.
from Our Lady's Mirror Summer Number 1945
Wednesday, June 13th, is our move day, when the family leaves its war-time refuge, the Vicarage, for its own home. The house we are purchasing stands high and in its own grounds, commanding a lovely view over the vale of the Stiffkey; among the trees the Shrine tower stands up boldly, and in the far distance the spire of S. Mary’s Church points heavenwards. We think we shall be proud of showing our visitors round our house, and when you come to Walsingham be sure you ask the way to S. Hilary’s.
from Our Lady's Mirror Autumn Number 1945
At last the family has got into the new house, and it really is very charming. There have been quite a large number of visitors, and they all express their delight at the house with its surroundings. There is a nice little hall and a large sitting room, a small dining room with a minute little room leading off, and a good kitchen, while on the first floor there are four bedrooms. We are trying to get a play room and an extra bedroom added as soon as possible. We have a permit for a temporary wooden room for games, etc, but the problem is to get one.
from Our Lady's Mirror Autumn Number 1946
The Matron seems as brilliant as usual and is still very house-proud. Unfortunately the garden, as far as the fruit trees are concerned, has not proved very successful; a little bird whispers that the orchard is too high and exposed to the north winds, but another season may prove this to be untrue - however, it would assist matters very much if friends would send or supply plants to form a good wind-screen hedge - beech or some such evergreen plants. There is nothing like asking - and we seldom have to ask in vain.
from Our Lady's Mirror Autumn Number 1948
Of course, it is said that "it never rains but it pours". So after six years as Matron of the Home Miss Milliken has at last resigned. Ever since the family moved to the new house she has warned us of a possibility of a change, but we had become used to these rumblings and took little notice of them. We shall all miss "Millie", as everyone called her, and the absence of her splash of colour will darken the long winter months. Miss Bartholomew has bravely stepped into the breach, and we hope she will settle with us, and that the work will develop under her leadership.
from Our Lady's Mirror Summer Number 1949
Miss Bartholomew - "Barty" - or "Our B." - as she is familiarly called, has quite won the hearts of us all. She is full of fun and "a real pal" and knows well the way to boys' hearts - so she feeds us well, and like the new aspirants, as Father calls the porkers, we sleep contented!
from Our Lady's Mirror Summer Number 1950
We hope to start building the new playroom and extra bedroom at the Home on August 5th.
from Our Lady's Mirror Autumn Number 1950
Slowly the new playroom and dormitory are rising, and we hope we may be able to use them by Christmas, as by an arrangement of folding doors, the dining room and play room can be thrown into one, and we want it for our Christmas party.
from Our Lady's Mirror Winter Number 1951/2
The family has been living in the College for the past three months owing to the work of the extension at the home. A play room and new dormitory has been added, with an enlargement to the kitchen, and a bicycle shed. We hope the boys will be more comfortable and be properly housed according to the requirements of the Home Office, who have generously helped us to make the necessary improvements. Living out of their house has been difficult for them as some of them had to sleep in College, some at the Hospice and some at the Cafe whilst in the daytime they occupied the pilgrims' refectory, using it as a playroom, dining room and everything else; they have been wonderfully good and no trouble to the College; indeed we miss them very much.
from Our Lady's Mirror Spring Number 1951
What a blessing the new rooms are - light, airy and bright - they add so much to the joyousness of S Hilary's family.
from Our Lady's Mirror Spring Number 1952
Now that the builders have left the house, after months of hanging about, we want to get our garden in order, and the first move in that direction is to get a good hedge planted: one that will grow tall to the north, from which direction the wind howls over from the North Sea. "Barty" is quite enjoying cooking on the new Aga stove, and needless to say we revel in the cookies.
from Our Lady's Mirror Autumn Number 1953
The new Hostel for those at work from S. Hilary’s is in occupation. The house is situated in the High Street and several years ago belonged to us, and was known as SS. Michael and George. Before that in pre-reformation days it was part of a pilgrim hostel and known as the Dower. We have been happy in securing Mr and Mrs Shepherd to run it for us. Mr and Mrs Shepherd belong to Walsingham and have always been keen church people. The opening of this Hostel is a great venture of faith, but it is a development which has been in our minds ever since the Children’s Home was opened.
After all these years since the authorities of the Shrine opened the Children's Home here in Walsingham, there are still pilgrims and visitors who do not know of its existence until they are invited to visit it. This seems incredible!
To remind you, therefore, and to get you to encourage others to take an interest in the Home, we ask you to recall the scandalous events at St Hilary's in Cornwall caused by the Protestant agitators before the last World War. It was then that Father Bernard Walke who started a Children's Home under the auspices of the Holy Family Homes, founded the Jolly Tinners in his parish; which was a happy and jolly home set in a lovely country district served by a loving Priest. When the parish was turned upside down and fell on bad days, Father Bernard Walke asked the Administrator of the Shrine to adopt the children of St Hilary; Fr Walke bought a cottage for their accommodation in Walsingham but, the War coming, the Matron and children were moved into a Wing of the Vicarage. Those who were fortunate enough to be members of the Home at that time still speak of the happy days. At the conclusion of the war a better house was offered and the cottage purchased for the Home was disposed of and this modern and up-to-date place was acquired and the Family established there. This is now the Shrine Children's Home; we have our Matron known to all as "Barty" and her Assistant is "Miss Will" or Auntie, and a happier band could scarcely be found anywhere.
Owing to the kindness of several American Airmen stationed in the neighbourhood a lot of painting and redecorating has been done to the interior by the men themselves, and the few pilgrims and members of S.O.L.W. who go to visit the Home all express their delight at the bright interior of the house. If those who have done this good work see these lines - again we say - "Thank you".
The boys serve both at the Shrine in which is their own particular chapel and at St Mary's. They all attend the secondary School at Wells or the Primary School at Walsingham. But like all of us they need feeding and clothing as well as boots and shoes - "Oh, dear," said the poor old lady that lived in a shoe. (Does she exist still? I haven't heard of her since I was a boy.) She hadn't half as much worry as we have these days; there is always something wanted and the cost of living is entirely different from the old St Hilary days.
With this copy of the Mirror you will therefore find the customary Christmas Envelope. We ask you to pass it round the table when you are enjoying your Christmas dinner, and offer it to your many friends who come to see you during the Christmas festivities, and get them to follow your example by putting a little present in paper or coin.
from the Friends of Walsingham Occasional Paper XI December 1960
of the results of seeing Father Ronald Wills’ sound and colour film,
“The Walsingham Story,” is that many, even of those who have
been on pilgrimage to the Shrine, learn for the first time about the Walsingham
Children’s Home. In the film they see the devoted Matron, Miss Bartholomew
and her devoted assistant, Miss Williams, with the boys; and see their
rooms and pets and treasures; and are left wondering how it is run. The
Annual Report tells us about that; and about what the boys do –
besides attending school at Wells or Walsingham. The Story of how the
Home came from St Hilary’s, in Cornwall, in 1939, and how the boys
help in the Shrine and the Parish Church; how much visits by pilgrims
are welcomed, and how greatly gifts of groceries, etc, are appreciated,
is told in the “Mirror” of Autumn, 1957. The Home has been
called the Shrine Charity; but it makes no mean contribution to the life
of the Shrine. It subsists in far the greatest proportion on Christmas
gifts, Lenten Savings and donations or parts of donations earmarked for
it. Perhaps you will find that an envelope about this has been enclosed
with your copy of this paper.
from Walsingham Review No 33 September 1969
It was in
1948 that "Barty" and "Miss Will" came to St. Hilary’s
together. The home had been having a rather chequered history, but 1948
was the end of all that. It has really been a most wonderful time. They
have provided just that security and home atmosphere that we all want
St. Hilary's to have, and several generations of boys have passed through
it in their days. To all of them it has been a real “home”,
and most of them look back with real affection and take great pains to
show it. There have been difficulties, of course—it wouldn't be
natural without them but they have never been allowed to get out of proportion.
Now the time has come for Barty and Miss Will to retire. They find it
as hard to leave St. Hilary’s as we find it hard to let them go.
If anyone has done a worth-while job in their lives, these two ladies
may certainly feel that they have, and they deserve the gratitude of all
who love Walsingham and Hilary’s. It will not be quite the same
without them, but happily they will not be too far away, since they are
to live at Warham. We hope they will be able to make frequent visits to
Walsingham. Their many friends would certainly want to make a present
to Barty and Miss Will on their retirement—there have already been
many urgent enquiries. "When are you starting the Presentation Fund?"
If we seem to have many presentations lately, there can be no doubt that
this one will be wildly popular. Contributions should be sent as soon
as possible to the Shrine Office, and labelled "St. Hilary’s
from Walsingham Review No 34 December 1969
St. Hilary’s deserves a section on its own this time. Barty and
Miss Will left on October 7th. As we said in the last Review,
they are living at Warham, so we see them frequently, and the boys are
able to visit them. Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor moved in the same day.
It would not be any reflection on them, or on Barty, to say we dreaded
the changeover, for after twenty years we felt it would be very difficult,
etc. As things have turned out everything has gone so smoothly and happily,
that it is almost too good to be true! We certainly welcome Neil and Judy
O’Connor to Walsingham and already owe them a debt of gratitude
for the way in which they have carried through the changeover. We feel
they are very much part of the Walsingham family already. Kerry, now one
year old, is the pet of the whole household. To be the only girl must
be a position which many young ladies might envy.
from Walsingham Review No 35 March 1970
has settled down wonderfully. Niall and Judy O’Connor gave the boys
a wonderful Christmas, and activity has never ceased. Felix Adewoye, aged
five, has recently joined the family, so the second Paul has a playmate
of his own age. But Felix is not the only newcomer: you must meet Moses,
the goat who is quite the hero of the household. It is rumoured (untruly)
that the Administrator thought of borrowing him to lead the procession
at the National Pilgrimage.
We had a
special St. Hilary's party in the Hospice on the 17th January, thanks
to the Sisters. Many friends and some old boys were able to come and we
made a presentation to Barty and Miss Will. If anyone intended contributing
towards the presentation and forgot it, it is never too late.
When you read the annual report, you will find that we have plans to improve St. Hilary’s. We must extend it and make various alterations if we are to keep up with requirements of children’s homes in these days. You will not want to be wearied by an account of what is planned here—it is in the Report. The cost? £4,500 we think. What we hope is that the money will be forthcoming, or be promised, this year, so that work may be done next summer. Hope? Yes, we believe that it will be forthcoming, for Walsingham is a place of faith. St. Hilary’s is one of its outstanding and most delightful works, so we are going ahead. We have simply suggested that our friends, individuals and parishes, might hold one special event—coffee morning, whist drive, sale, garden party or whatever “goes” in your part of the world. If four hundred events were held, we could not fail to have all the money we need.
from Walsingham Review No 36 June 1970
Fr. William took all the boys for a short Easter holiday to the Derbyshire peak district in Easter Week. It was not the warmest of weather, in fact there was snow on many days, but in spite of this their first venture into the great open air was a tremendous success. They stayed in Youth Hostels, and walked every day, and came back even fuller of health and vitality than ever before. Again, immediately after the Spring Bank Holiday, i.e. to recover from the National Pilgrimage, Fr. Hewitt and the congregation of St. Augustine's, Queen’s Gate, invited them, with Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor, to London for three days. They set off in a hired minibus, and though the clutch gave out at Newmarket, they reached London that night. Staying in Kensington, they were able to visit the museums. Then, by the kindness of Lady Joan Zuckerman, a member of our house committee, they all went to the zoo. On Thursday, at the invitation of Mr. Edward Barnes they went to the B.B.C. Television Studio, and saw everything especially an edition of the Blue Peter programme of which several of them are enthusiasts. They were sorry to hear Mr. Barnes is stopping producing Blue Peter, but hope they may be invited to the Studio again. The Fete for the Home is being held on the 15th August. What better day could there be? We will be grateful for you support, even if it has to be by post. Several promises and gift towards the improvements at St. Hilary’s have reached us. With these, and the promise of a generous grant from the Home Office we hope to set the work in hand very soon.
from Walsingham Review No 37 November 1970
The additions and alterations at St. Hilary’s are well in hand, and should be finished by the time winter comes. No more of this, however, for a special leaflet will tell you more about the home, and you don’t want to read it all twice.
from Walsingham Review No 38 April 1971
"Barty" died after a very long and painful illness on 7th January. It was a great loss to very many people. Most of the boys at the home had been there with her and until the last few months had all been frequent visitors to Warham. They all felt it very deeply indeed. Then there were all the old boys, several of whom were able to come to the funeral, and all those not only in Walsingham but all over the British Isles who felt that she was a personal friend. She had been nursed and cared for by Miss Williams right up to the end, and we all know how deeply she must feel the loss. The Requiem was sung in the Shrine and followed by burial in Walsingham churchyard, on 11th January. A tribute to Barty’s memory is being printed in the annual report of St. Hilary’s, which most of you receive, so we will not repeat it here. It will suffice to say that as time passes we appreciate more and more the wonderful work she did.
The postal strike has made it impossible to know the effect of the very special letter which went out with the Christmas Review. Indications are, though, that the response had been very generous. We have received from several sources very generous gifts, and we hope that the extra £1,000 a year we need to run the home as we would like will be forthcoming.
There have been further changes. Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor left at the end of February, and after a brief interval, Miss Christine Smith and Miss Carole Baker are taking over the care of the home.
In another way too there have been changes. All the building work, improving and extending the house has been completed, and it has been redecorated ready for the boys and the new house-parents when they come.
from Walsingham Review No 49 December 1973
Break' by Stanley Smith
The early years were not easy for money was in short supply and the War made it necessary to treat Norfolk as a closed area. For a time the Home was housed temporarily in a wing of the Vicarage. The cellar had been fitted out with bunks and made a fine shelter for use in times of emergency; fortunately the danger from air raids was more apparent than real, and these rare nocturnal visits were something of an adventure. Eventually a more modern house was acquired in the centre of the village and the Home settled down in its present permanent quarters in 1945. Since then the house has been extended twice to bring it up to the standard required by the Home Office. Staff was a problem and matrons came and went with monotonous regularity; no doubt this situation was exacerbated by the need to work for love rather than reward. But much needed stability came with the advent of "Barty" and "Miss Will". Recently demobbed from the Land Army they joined St Hilary’s for a trial period and stayed over 20 years. This continuity of service meant a great deal to the children for they could really grow to maturity in the knowledge that the years at Walsingham had given them roots. Barty and Miss Will made many sacrifices but the work was their vocation. It has been a privilege to know them and we take this opportunity to pay tribute to their memory.
Today, St Hilary’s remains a voluntary establishment which means that the Guardians are entirely responsible for its management and financial welfare. Day to day control is the direct responsibility of the Warden and Hon. Secretary who are supported by a Management Com¬mittee which meets once a quarter. The Children’s Welfare Office is represented on this committee and provides much useful professional advice, while the wider facilities and back-up support of the State agencies are readily available. Such places as St Hilary’s come into existence for the best of humani¬tarian reasons—we certainly do our utmost to give our children every care and attention that is possible. But there can be no moral justification for children’s homes; they stand as an indictment of this enlightened age and highlight the failure and selfishness of human relationships. They can only be second best when compared to the expectations of the normal child in his own family circle. Undoubtedly such places do fill a gap in the social services. For obvious reasons, St Hilary’s was traditionally called an orphanage, but today children come to us from all walks of life and for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they are not suited for fostering, or the breakdown of family life is a temporary disruption; and tragically there is still the unwanted and abandoned child. Such experiences can be shattering and especially to a young child. We can help them to pick up the pieces and make a fresh start and adjust to the realities of life.
One of the aims of the Children’s and Young Persons’ Act is that Homes should take children into care from within the geographical area it is situated: thus enabling parents and relatives to visit more easily and thereby speeding the process of rehabilitation, for the return of these children to their natural homes wherever possible is a primary concern. There was a time when voluntary organizations like St Hilary’s gave a lead in child care, but the State now makes much better pro¬vision for children than in the past. But it cannot give that specifically Christian care which homes such as ours, when properly run, can give. Nor as yet can local authorities find sufficient accommodation for all the children who come into their care. After a series of consultations with the Norfolk County Council we are assured that homes, such as St Hilary’s have a useful and continuing role in the Welfare State. We can therefore face the future with confidence, sure in the knowledge that when a good home is needed St Hilary’s will not be found wanting.
At the time of writing we have seven children in residence with ages ranging from six to fifteen years and they are cared for by Mr and Mrs Terry who with their two children have settled down happily and perform their duties as House Parents with dedication and responsibility. The welfare of other people’s children can be an arduous and demanding task; the frustration and emotional problems can be overwhelming for a too sensitive person. But there are rewards for those in charge, and it is particularly encouraging when old boys return home with their wives and girl friends. St Hilary’s is only a small part of a big social problem, but it has enabled several generations of children to make a new beginning, and this is worth all the sacrifice, the disappointments and the effort involved. Naturally, establishments such as St Hilary’s need to raise several thousand pounds a year to cover housekeeping bills, and the fact that we have been able to do this is entirely due to the unselfish efforts of our many friends and supporters, who for years have always responded generously and readily to our needs. But if we are to continue this work we must be able to do it well; clearly we shall need the encouragement of your generous help, and we shall depend on this interest for many years to come. It is our hope that all who read this will feel St. Hilary’s is as much their concern as ours.
from Walsingham Review No 60 December 1976 (from the Administrator's Letter)
item of news concerns S Hilary’s. This is to close in April next
year. The reasons which led the Guardians to make this decision are simple:
the supply of children has dried up, therefore there is no income from
the Local Authority. Friends may wonder why this is so and a word is necessary
by way of explanation.... In recent years all the children have entered
S Hilary’s under the auspices of the Local Authority. Now their
policy is no longer to send children to such homes but to foster them
with families. Homes such as S Hilary’s are needed for special cases—maladjusted
children, problem adolescents etc. for which a bigger staff would be needed.
The Guardians felt that this was a role for which our S Hilary's was not
fitted and therefore came to the conclusion that there was no alternative
other than to close. Four children only are in residence and they will
be fostered in the area within the next six months.
Walsingham Review No 60 December 1976 pp 10-11
Most of us are familiar with the arguments which preface some change or other, and if we have a choice will probably opt for the status-quo. But in every organization there comes a time when you have to take stock—a kind of internal audit, and often painful decisions have to be made. The Shrine is no stranger to this sort of situation for on October 5th during the Autumn Chapter the Guardians decided that S Hilary’s Home should close in the Spring of 1977. No doubt this news will come as a shock to many people, others will be less dismayed; but surely all of us will share feelings of sadness at its passing.
Many will recall that the Home was established in Walsingham in 1939 when Father Bernard Walke asked the Guardians to adopt the children from S Hilary in Cornwall, and thus it became the Shrine charity. From the very beginning there was a special emphasis on Christian care. It fulfilled a social need and gave expression to the pastoral work of the Shrine. During the War S Hilary's was accommodated in a wing of the vicarage; with only one part-time domestic it was necessary for the children to take a full share in the household chores. The view that this was an excellent training was not always appreciated! Sanitation was somewhat primitive and in winter a sledge was sometimes used to convey buckets to the outside loo, often the convoy was attacked by catapult and the job was accomplished in no time at all! Those who were fortunate enough to be members of the Home at that time still speak of the happy days.
The Pilgrimage was in its infancy and there was plenty of opportunity to give such a venture the support and guidance necessary to ensure its success. In Our Lady’s Mirror for 1936 we read of eleven small organized groups, petering out during the War years when Norfolk became a restricted area; The ban on travelling was not lifted until 1944. Today the picture is somewhat different with the pilgrimage season lasting from Easter to mid-November; at least 250 organized groups making heavy demands on accommodation and catering, involving some 73,000 meals alone.
At the conclusion of hostilities a new house was purchased in the centre of the village, and there the family has remained until this day. But not undisturbed for the buildings have twice been the subject of major improvement schemes to bring them up to Home Office standards; today, they provide first class accommodation. The Administrator was not one to suffer fools gladly and staffing the Home often presented an explosive situation. Fortunately Barty and Miss Will came to the rescue after their demob from the Land Army and gave the next twenty years to S Hilary’s. It was a time of stability for the family and ensured a warm welcome to old boys returning home after a period of absence.
The children coming into care nowadays are very much the same but their problems have changed, requiring a more professional approach. Since the inception of the Children's and Young Persons Act it has been necessary for us to work more closely with the County Authorities and the Trust’s influence has steadily declined and its contribution become less positive. At the same time the administration has become more complicated and expensive!
It is difficult to give hard and fast reasons for the Guardians decision to close, more an amalgam of many things. One can detect a weakening of purpose and enthusiasm towards the Home in recent years, and the comment that "S Hilary’s has historically met a need which no longer exists" has more than a germ of truth in it. These doubts became crystallised in the statement by the County Authorities that they could no longer send children to S Hilary’s on terms which were acceptable to the Trust. The decision to close is therefore a sad and inescapable reality. It is ironic that it should be a time when more children are coming into care, but these days there is greater emphasis on fostering situations. However, we should not be despondent for these have been wonderful years and service of lasting value has been accomplished. But when the State moves into areas previously pioneered by the Church, one can only bow to the inevitable, and be grateful that the Welfare State is adopting a more responsible attitude towards those in need.
That S Hilary's has always remained financially viable is undoubtedly due to the help and inspiration so generously given by our many friends and supporters (individuals and parishes). To all of these, known and unknown, we say "Thank You" for your alms and prayers which have sustained us through four decades of service.