|Title ID||1586||Collection ID||41|
|Title||The Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage at Woking|
|Date||[1926? - 1933]|
|Collection||Southern Railway Orphanage|
|Keywords||Celebrations Charities Children Communities Cultural Events Festivals Handicrafts Pageants Parades Railways Social Welfare Sport|
|Format||16mm Black & White Silent|
|Duration||26 min. 30 sec.|
|Copyright & Access||Copyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details|
This compilation illustrates life for the children and their relatives, staff and local volunteers at the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage in Woking during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Each sequence is introduced with intertitles.
The film opens with exterior shots of the buildings and grounds which comprise the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage. Waterloo Bessie, a dog who helps to collect contributions for the orphanage (primarily at Waterloo Station), is filmed in close-up before being seen leading a church parade of marching bands, local people and banners. Laundry workers and auditors work behind the scenes whilst the orphans study in the library, practice needlework and woodwork, and display their bathroom washing techniques for the camera. A child's leaving outfit is laid out on a table, ready for collection.
Mothers walk to the orphanage for their monthly visit. Guests pose for the camera at a New Year's party. The foundation stone is laid for the new hospital block - a service of dedication is performed at its opening in 1930. Sports Day (?) sees the children riding aboard a train of the Southern Miniature Railway, and competing against each other in egg-and-spoon races, three-legged races and a tug-of-war battle. The winning children collect their prizes after the mothers and staff compete in their own running races.
"A Pageant of Empire"
"Given by the children on Empire Day 1933". The children perform an Empire Day Pageant. Groups of the children are in Scout and Guide uniforms. A girl dressed as Britannia is escorted on to a stage by a man dressed in an costume resembling Sir Walter Raleigh. The various scout and guide groups carry banners and wear costumes representing their interpretation of countries of the Empire including Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, West Indies. Some are wearing 'black face makeup'.
The production context of The Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage at Woking (1928 - 1933?) is unknown but it may have been made to publicize the workings of the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage, a charitable body dependent upon voluntary contributions. The generous screentime afforded images of local guests and events (notably the church parade and the opening of the hospital block) suggests that the film would have been screened locally to an audience of (potential) donors. It portrays the Orphanage in a positive light, showing studious, well-clothed children whose lives were brimming with fun and inclusive events such as a sports day and an Empire Day Pageant.
The history of the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage dates back to 1885 when Canon Allen Edwards, supported by the workers of the London and South Western Railway, opened an orphanage in Clapham for the offspring of railwaymen. The institution moved to the 9 acre Woking site in 1909 - a £24,000 budget provided a home for 150 fatherless children. In the 1920s the Orphanage was opened up to children from across the Southern Railway. The building of a hospital block in 1930 was followed by a new accommodation wing in 1935 housing a further 90 children. During the Second World War the whole site was commandeered for a hospital, reverting back to an orphanage in 1946. Missenden House opened its doors to the elderly in 1947 - it was located on part of the Woking site and supported former employees of the Southern Railway. In the 1960s the site became known as the Southern Railwaymen's Home for Children and Old People - today it is called Woking Grange and is part of Woking Homes which caters solely for retired railway and transport personnel and their spouses.
The Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage initially accepted children over the age of 6 who had lost their railwaymen fathers. Many were not orphans however - financial concerns forced the mothers to choose an orphanage upbringing for their children. As seen in The Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage (1928 - 1933?) mothers would visit their children at the Orphanage but this could be as infrequent as once a month. Typically, the children remained at the Orphanage until the age of 14 (later 16), leaving the institution with a hand-picked outfit and a guarantee of welfare support until the age of 21. The Orphanage was primarily funded through voluntary contributions, the bulk of which came from the employees of the Southern Railway. It also called upon the public to donate at Flag Days and at railway stations where dogs with collecting boxes publicized its work.
Screen Archive South East holds three other films about The Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage - [Southern Railway Orphanage. Sports and Fetes] (1950 - 1951?), [Southern Railway Orphanage - Life at the Home] (1952?) and ["Blue Peter": Handing Over a Puppy] (1965). It also has a film entitled Southern Railway (1937 - 1938; 1946) which documents the network, trains and employees of the Southern Railway.
The Screen Archive South East film [Children's Society Home] (ca. 1952) looks at The Children's Society's homes for disadvantaged and vulnerable children; Beyond All Time (ca. 1963) films life at Reedham School (formerly Reedham Orphanage) in Purley, Surrey; and Fellowship of St. Nicholas Homes for Children, Christ Church, St. Leonards-on-Sea (1940s) records some of the work being undertaken by a local charity.. In addition God Speaks Today. Part III. The George Müller Story (1960s) offers a dramatised story of George Müller, an English evangelist and philanthropist who built orphanages in the latter half of the 19th century.