Title ID 1588Collection ID41
Title[Southern Railway Orphanage - Life at the Home]
Date[ca. 1952]
CollectionSouthern Railway Orphanage
Genre/TypeAmateurIndependent AmateurInstitutionalNon-fictionActuality/Factual
ThemePublic Services
KeywordsBeaches Camping Charities Children Communities Games Leisure Time Activities Old Age Play Railways Social Welfare Sport Youth
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionNot known
ParticipantsMr Billingby; David; Linda: Marion; Michael
FormatColour Silent
Duration32 min. 30 sec.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


This is a colourful portrait of the children of the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage at Woking enjoying various leisure pursuits. The amateur film uses extracts from a child's letter as intertitles, providing a narrative for the images.


A girl composes a letter in the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage - the camera returns to her across the course of the film, using extracts from her letter to introduce new scenes. Exterior shots of the Orphanage and its gardens follow - girls smell the flowers as a train passes along the railway line which boarders the Orphanage. Children congregate in the playground of a local school - the teenagers return to the Orphanage for lunch, conscious of the camera. A boy reads a comic in the garden whilst the other children play with each other and their pet mice. In the background a British Rail Merchant Navy Class locomotive passes through, hauling a series of passenger carriages. Some of the older boys play roller hockey and light fires in their woodland campsite. A lengthy outdoor gymnastics display sees teenagers skill fully vaulting over a wooden box. Fun is had on the annual Whitsun camping holiday - the children exercise and play rounders at the campsite, paddle in the sea and explore the nearby beach. Exterior shots of Missenden House, the Southern Railway home for the elderly, follow. The elderly male residents pose for a photograph and lead toddlers through the home's gardens. Toddlers have a picnic and a play in the grounds of the Orphanage. The girl completes her correspondence and the film comes to a close.


A still from [Southern Railway Orphanage - Life at the Home] (1952?) - a boy reading a comicA still from TID 1555 [Southern Railway Orphanage - Life at the Home], showing a colour wide view of the orphanage red brick building with white stone statue centred on the paved courtyard at the front.A still from TID 1555 [Southern Railway Orphanage - Life at the Home], showing three  teenage children socialising in the orphanage garden. One girl in a horizontal stripped dress is sat on a bench  looking at her wrist, as a girl in play skirt and core yellow cardigan stands with her hands on her hips next to her. A teenage boy is sat on his bike to the right of the image, on his bike laughing at them.Behind the group in the background on the adjacent railway line, a green British Rail Merchant Navy Class 4-6-2 style Locomotive can be seen.

Contextual information

The production context of [Southern Railway Orphanage - Life at the Home] (1952?) is unknown, but it is a well-constructed amateur record of the Southern Railway Servant's Orphanage and old people's home. It is of interest to compare this film with The Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage (1928 - 1933?). The earlier film has a more regimented feel to it, reflecting perhaps on an institution entrenched in gender division and routine. In contrast the post-war film focuses solely on the leisure pursuits enjoyed by the children, capturing some of them off-guard in what was an increasingly relaxed institution.

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 - located on part of the Woking site it supported former employees of the Southern Railway. In the 1960s it 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 - [The Southern Railway Servant's Orphanage at Woking] (1928-1933?), [Southern Railway Orphanage. Sports and Fetes] (1950 - 1951?) 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.

Related titles

Related resources


Hunt, H.T. Faithful Friends of Woking Homes and Others from 1881, with Railway Anecdotes. n.p.: T. Hunt, 2003

This booklet relates the stories of dogs who collected money for the orphaned children of railwaymen from 1881 to the 1960s. A copy of the booklet is held at the Surrey History Centre.


Cooper, B.K. LSWR: A Tribute to the London & Southern Western Railway. n.p.: Iain Allan, 1988

Copies of this book, which contains reference to the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage, are available at various Surrey libraries.

Crosby, Alan. A History of Woking. n.p.: Phillimore, 1982

Copies of the book are held at various Surrey libraries.

Goodwin, Dorothy M. A Healthy and Happy Life, My Eight Years at the Southern Provincial Orphanage Redhill Surrey 1937-1945. n.p.: Charles Goodwin, 1995

This autobiography recalls childhood memories of life at a Surrey orphanage. Copies of the book are held at various Surrey libraries.

Wakeford, Iain. Bygone Woking. n.p.: Phillimore, 1983

Copies of the book are held at various Surrey libraries.

Wakeford, Iain. Woking As It Was. n.p.: Phillimore, 1985

Copies of the book are held at various Surrey libraries.


National Railway Museum

"The National Railway Museum in the largest railway museum in the world, responsible for the conservation and interpretation of the British national collection of historically significant railway vehicles and other artifacts. The Museum contains an unrivalled collection of locomotives, rolling stock, railway equipment, documents and records." The Museum also houses paper and photographic collections relating to the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage. The museum's database is searchable online.

Surrey History Centre

The Surrey History Centre (SHC) at Woking collects and preserves archives and printed material relating to all aspects of the history of Surrey. The SHC holds several collections pertaining to the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage including brochures from the 1930s and newsletters of the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage Reunion Association. The SHC collections catalogue is searchable online.

Woking Galleries at The Lighthouse

"Woking Galleries provides community access to its heritage and the visual arts, to stimulate creativity, learning, understanding and enjoyment." It also holds ephemera and an oral history tape relating to the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage.


Indian Hosts. Children of L and SW Railways Orphanage Entertained at Woking Mosque* (1921)

This Gaumont Graphic newsreel item shows children from the London and South West Orphanage (renamed the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage) being entertained by a magician and ventriloquist at a mosque in Woking. The film is held at the ITN Archive (ITN Source) and is searchable via the database of The British Universities Film and Video Council.

Children's Railway Home* (1960)

This newsreel item offers, "a look at life at the Southern Railway Children's Home in Woking, Surrey." The film can be accessed via the British Pathé Website.

Further Information on File at Screen Archive South East

The Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage

Screen Archive South East holds a number of items on file relating to the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage. These include a 1955 brochure produced by the Orphanage in association with the Southern Railway Homes for Old People, and a transcript of an oral history interview with one of the orphans seen in The Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage (1928-1933?), carried out by Woking Galleries in 2000.

Other Resources

Surrey on Film 1914-1953 - A community in peace and war

An extract from this film appears on the Surrey on Film DVD, available to view at the Surrey History Centre and some local history groups. Copies of the DVD are also available to purchase at the Surrey History Centre.


Woking Homes Railcare Centre: Woking Grange

This website contains a history of Woking Grange (formerly the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage) and runs a contact service for old boys and girls.

Woking Homes

This is the website for Woking Homes, "a Residential Home for the elderly, who have railway or other transport related backgrounds, or their spouses." Woking Homes is on the site formally occupied by the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage and it holds an archive of registers, photographs, etc from the Orphanage.