Collection Fegans Childrens Charity


The Fegans Children’s Charity collection comprises twenty-four films dating from the mid-1930s to the early 1970s, which were largely made for publicity purposes - promoting the work of Fegans which was to provide a safe upbringing for orphaned and abandoned girls and boys. Founded by James Fegan, a Christian philanthropist, in 1872, the organisation created several homes and schools throughout southern England during the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, Fegans continues its charitable work by providing care and support for children and families.
Many of the films in the collection feature daily life at Fegans’ schools with class-room scenes, celebrations of birthdays and Christmas festivities, day-trips to a variety of venues, sporting events and seaside holidays. A number of the films show life at Fegans’ Goudhurst Farm School in Kent, where boys were taught agricultural skills in preparation for their adult working lives, which in many cases was overseas, particularly Canada.

Collection ID1611Reference codeK 180417
TitleFegans Childrens Charity
Dates1936 - 1970
Productionca. 1930s to 1970s
MaterialsFilm 9.5mm 16mm Documentation
Access statusCopyright and access restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


The Fegan collection is made up of 9.5mm and 16mm films, shot on both black & white and colour stock. Produced to publicise the work of the organisation, the films depict life at Fegans’ schools in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, Buxted House in Buxted, and Beechwood House in Heathfield, both in East Sussex and Goudhurst Farm in Kent, where boys can be seen training for future careers in agriculture. Besides showcasing the educational side of the organisation’s work, the films reveal many other aspects of the children’s lives whilst in the care of Fegans and its staff. Some films show daily activities in the schools; woodwork classes, model-making, housekeeping and daily chores - both inside and outside. We see children helping in the kitchen at mealtimes, making beds, cleaning shoes and being attended by Matron when they are unwell.

At the farm schools, boys can be seen learning how to plough fields with horse-drawn ploughs and later tractors. Harvesting scenes, horticulture and animal husbandry also feature throughout the collection. Boys are also seen assisting staff in the London Head office of Fegans, located at Millbank as well as on many out door trips and visits to other parts of the UK.

Sporting activities feature prominently throughout the collection with cricket, football and swimming being especially prevalent. Novelty sports like sack-races, jousting and tip-the bucket add to the mix of physical activity and play. There are many trips and holidays featured; to Liverpool, Whipsnade Zoo, the Isle of Wight, pre-war Croydon Airport, Cornwall and numerous visits to beaches, fun-fairs and seaside resorts. Camping holidays are also seen many times, with the boys organising themselves; erecting tents, building bonfires, cooking meals, playing lots of games and exploring the countryside.

Many films feature ‘open days’ at the schools, where the children and staff put on sporting, gymnastic or theatrical pageants for the entertainment of visiting dignitaries, governing board members and people of influence as well as the children themselves. There are numerous films which feature ‘Old Boys Re-unions’ where adults who grew up within the Fegans Family, return to visit the schools across the organisation. One particularly interesting film [Tid_12272] shows a young ‘graduate’ of the Buxted Farm school packing his suitcase and being waved off by the staff and children, to a new life, possibly in Canada.

Another interesting film from 1942 shows bomb-damage at Goudhurst Farm, where tragically, the widow of James Fegan, who set up the organisation, was herself killed during the air-raid.

Earlier films in the collection reflect the single-sex tradition of schools at the time, so they feature either girls or boys in their respective schools. The later films show more mixing, especially at events, both sporting and theatrical. The same is true for ethnicity, which as time goes on, sees films beginning to show children of colour coming under the care of the Fegan Family.

Films in this collection:

Showing 15 results.

Showing 15 results.