Collection Southern Railway Orphanage


A selection of films illustrating life at the children's home in Woking from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Collection ID41Reference codeS 970703
TitleSouthern Railway Orphanage
Dates1920s to 1960s
ProductionWoking Homes. Academy Pictures Corporation
MaterialsFilm 16mm Audio Documentation
Access statusContact Screen Archive South East for details


The Southern Railway Orphanage collection comprises of four films, three of which are extensive records of life in the orphanage during the late 1920s and early 1930s, and the early 1950s. It is not known who made these films but it is highly likely that the first film, The Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage at Woking (1928-1933?), was commissioned by the Orphanage as a professional record of the workings of the institution. As a charitable body dependent upon voluntary contributions, the Southern Railway Orphanage employed various fundraising tools, and this film, with its positive portrayal of the orphanage and the orphans, is likely to have been used to help raise funds.

The production context of the collection's two amateur films, [Southern Railway Orphanage: Sports and Christmas] (1950 - 1951?) and [Southern Railway Orphanage - Life at the Home] (1952?), is uncertain but these films offer a more informal record of the orphanage than seen in the earlier film. This informality reflects not only upon the film-making style but also on the institution itself - the intervening years had seen a relaxation in both attitudes and behaviour. This relaxation is nicely illustrated in the 1952 film which tells the story of the home from the children's perspective. In the final film of the collection, [“Blue Peter”: Handing Over a Puppy] (1964), the orphanage opens its doors to a puppy donated by the BBC television programme 'Blue Peter'.

The history of the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage is itself an interesting one. Founded in 1885, it offered a home for children whose London and South Western Railway railwaymen fathers had lost their lives. It originally opened in Clapham before moving to Woking in 1909. Here it grew in size, opening itself up to children from across the Southern Railway. In 1947 an old people's home for former Southern Railway employees was also opened on the site. Today the site is called Woking Grange and is part of Woking Homes which caters solely for retired railway and transport personnel and their spouses. The Archive's collection therefore, not only provides a snapshot of the orphanage's long history but gives an indication of the ideologies which drove the institution, which is of particular interest at a time when such institutions are no longer a feature of modern childcare in the United Kingdom.