Beechholme - A Children's Village, published by the Banstead History Research GroupBeechholme Memories from the 1960s

A collection of memories or stories relating to events, or people who resided at
Beechholme (Kensington and Chelsea District School) during the 1960s.

If you recognize a name or would like to add your own memories or story please contact us here

You can also order our book Beechholme – A Children's Village.

 

Added
to site
Person at
Beechholme
Period Details of contribution — Click links to view full stories.
Jan
2017
Paul Brooks ?-1961 Paul tells us about the grocery deliveries and the shop under the swimming pool.
Nov
2016
Margaret O'Neill 1960-1962 Margaret recalls her childhood memories from Lime House to finding her family in Ireland.
Feb
2016
Denis Martin 1961 Denis sent in his memories in response to Susan's recollections of her parents, Frank and Freda Gibbs.
Feb
2016
Albert Akintibubo 1958- 1967 Albert sent in a small group photo and a few memories
October
2013
Kossy
1960s
Kossy spotted himself on one of our pictures and has more pictures from Beechholme that he would like to share.
June
2013
Diana
Graham
1960s
Diana visit to Banstead, all the way from Melbourne.
Apr
2012
Christine
Flaherty
1960s
Christine sent us an email in response to Diana Graham's story. Christine was also a resident in Drake cottage.
Jul
2011
Diana
Graham
1961-1969
Diana Graham (Drake) sent us her memories of life at Beechholme in the 1960's as well as her fond memories of Eva Knights, houseparent at Drake.
Jul
2010
Diane
Lawrence
1960s
Diane Hipple nee Lawrence (Elm) sent us her memories of the 1960's.
Jan
2009
Yvonne
McCarthy
1960s
Yvonne Russell nee McCarthy met June Brown, her best mate from Beechholme, after forty-seven years.
See their old Beechholme photo, and reunion photo here .
Apr
2008
Susan
Charlott
1960 -
1967
Susan Furlong nee Charlott (Acacia) wrote about her time at Beechholme . She was only 3 months old when she first went there and in her own words "I would love to be in some kind of contact with people who might be able to put some meaning into my early years."

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Public contribution to BHRG February 2016 - Paul Brooks wrote . . .

I left Beechholme in 1961 when I was fifteen. I don't remember the house name but I do remember the shop under the swimming pool. The house mothers would order the groceries and there was a van that dropped them off at the house.

On Derby day we would stand on Fir Tree road and cheer the coaches as they went by and the people used to throw us
pennies. We used to pick potatoes on a farm above drift bridge for holiday spending money.

It was a great experiment from the London County Council as the state after the war made a point of looking after my  generation as we had lost a whole generation in the war. Money unlike now wasn't the problem as the state needed us for the future. That all changed after the 1960swhen they had replaced the war loss and since they don't seem to care.

P. B.

Gillian Los adds: Beechholme Mr Wheeler and Barry Watts

The food store was behind the Administrative building and was lauded over by Mr. Dealey and Mr. Berry in my time. There may have been a Mr Shiption later who may have taken over after Mr. Dealey

The 'Van' was loaded every week with the preordered food for each house; Mr. Wheeler and a couple of the boys would then deliver the food to each house. The boys loved doing it as it got them out of other chores, I remember Derek Hiscock and Barry Watts doing van duty.

The photograph on the right shows below shows Mr. Wheeler with Barry Watts and one of the housemothers, I don't know who the little boy is with them.

In this photo Mr. Dealey sitting in front on the left but who are all the rest? If you know mail the BHRG webmaster .

Beechholme Mr Dealey


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Public contribution to BHRG

November 2016 - Margaret Griffin nee O'Neill sent us memories of LIME HOUSE and finding her family in Ireland.

Margaret GriffinI lived in Lime house from about 1960 to 1962.  I was very young and I had lived in a lot of places; I lived with my dad before going into care and we were always on the move.  Dad and I lived in other people’s houses, mostly girlfriends of his. He was a journeyman’s hairdresser. I had been in two homes prior to Beechholme and it was so nice to have one place to stay in and have a regular school to attend. I remember my time at Beechholme as been strict but not unpleasant compared to previous places I had lived in. 

  I remember the school well as it was the first time I was happy to be in school.  I remember having to argue with the minister every Sunday to get into Sunday school, as he refused to let me in. He thought that because of my surname I must be Roman Catholic but I didn’t know what he was talking about.  In the end he let me in after I begged and begged, as I would be in trouble if I went back to the house. It was only later that I found out that he had been right and I was Catholic.

Generally,  I remember feeling well looked after and I didn’t mind helping out with the  younger children.  It was nice to feel part of something.  We had to eat everything we were given, which was usually nice, except the jelly as I could not swallow it. I was put in the kitchen until I ate it so I put in the dustbin but forgot to cover it up. Of course I had to be punished, but it was still better than eating the jelly.  To this day I still can’t eat jelly.

  Lots of children came and went. Most of them were short stay and soon returned to their parents. I don’t remember the names of the house parents, but I was treated well as long as I did what I told.  If we went out when it snowed we did not get back in till lunch /dinner time. The only children I remember were two young black brothers Lee and Roy; they were lovely, but again not there for long. I helped to dress the younger ones, make their beds, also helped with the washing up and putting away.  I was still only nine when I left in 1962.

I do remember a young couple who had a baby daughter and a lovely dog, taking me home with them for a few weeks. I became unhappy and withdrawn as I thought I would never see my dad again; needless to say I was soon back in Beechholme.  My dad abandoned me anyway.

Margaret and her newly found brother and sisterOne day I was told about having a brother who was in another home.  I was also told I had grandparents in Ireland who had been searching for me.  As far as I knew there was only dad and I.  He had never mentioned my mum or a brother. Arrangements were made for my brother to visit me at Beechholme but it was an awkward meeting, as we had not been aware of each other and did not remember having been split up. We did look alike however.  

On the 19 July 1962 my Welfare Officer, Miss Harris, took me to Ireland for a two-week holiday to meet my grandparents. My brother came too, and much to my surprise, a sister I never knew I had. This is a picture of the three of us with me on the right.

I never returned to Beechholme.  The London County Council sent a cheque for £8.00 to my grandparents every two weeks to cover food, for my brother and myself. They also sent £100 each for spring/summer clothing and a further £100 each for autumn/winter clothing until we reached the age of sixteen.  I suppose that must have been cheaper than covering the cost of two homes. We all stayed together unit I left in 1972 and came to Manchester where I have lived since.

I have often thought about Beechholme, and because of my being there, I was somehow reunited with my family in Ireland.  It turned out that mum had died in a car accident in Ireland in 1955 when  I was two years old.  I stayed with my grandparents for a year or so until dad brought me back to England to live with him, leaving my sister with our maternal grandparents. My brother was left with paternal grandmother and step-granddad. 


Margaret, her two siblings and three cousins and her grandparents

I have copies of mum’s birth, marriage and death certificates which confirm all details.  I have read the newspaper clippings from the time of the accident.  I put flowers on mum's grave when I lived in Ireland.

So you see, dad kept all these details from me. Going back to Ireland opened my past and at last I realised why I had no mum. A lot of other questions had been answered.  

It was lovely to find this site and read some of the other stories, and to know I had remembered some things correctly like, the Hospital at the bottom near the playing field, I remember cricket being played on the other side. The railway line running at the back of Lime house I think at the bottom of the garden, the school being on the same side. 

 

I have looked at BEECHHOLME -A Children’s Village, the publication produced by the Banstead History Research Group, and it sparked some memories. One such was being pushed into a swimming pool and not been able to swim; the other children thought it was funny, just kids' pranks, but it did give me a water phobia, which I overcame when I learned to swim at the age of 27.

I remember being told about a fire drill, the house was evacuated.  On doing a head count there was one missing.  So they searched and searched and eventually found me, fast asleep curled up underneath the bed. I continued to sleep walk for many years after.

In 2013 my siblings and I revisited the very same place where we were confirmed

Confirmation day for Margaret and her siblings. The year was about 1965

I am now Margaret Mary Grifffin.



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Public contribution to BHRG

February 2016 - Denis Martin wrote in response to Susan Gibb's memories of her father at Beechholme.

 

Dear Susan Gibbs

My son downloaded the page about Beechholme for me. I didn’t recognise any of the children’s names but I do remember your father very well. I was sorry to read that your dad had passed away. I arrived at Beecholme on the 4th of July 1961 with my brother Phil. We had both been transferred from Woodvale where I had been since the 7th December 1960 and Phil from 24th October 1960.  I went to Fir cottage and Phil to Pine cottage. I liked Mr Gibbs from the very start; he was fairly strict but also very funny. He used to say to some of the other boys how clean I always was and should follow my example, to my embarrassment a bit. I was only at Beechholme for six weeks as I was going to be fifteen on the 13th September and would be leaving school. It was all over very quickly.

I started at Welbeck School with my brother Phil on first or second week of July, we then broke up for summer. Towards the end of July we then went for 2 weeks holiday to Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. We were taken by a lady in her forties and a young lady in her twenties.  We arrived back at Beechholme about the middle of August. I went to see Mr Banner and told him I didn’t want to stay on at school until Christmas.  He said okay and that would talk to Mr Gibbs.  I remember my last day at Beechholme, 18th August 1961. Mr Gibbs came up to the bedroom and asked if I was alright for socks, vests, pants and shirts. I said I was okay with the stuff I had.  I still remember packing my little 20 inch x 18 inch suitcase while your dad looked on.  He had a concerned look on his face and was very quiet. When the subject of Beechholme comes up I always mention your dad.  I do also remember your mum and the three children. They looked after us very well and I only have happy memories of my short time in Fir cottage.

Other boys I remember in Fir was two brothers who came to the Isle of Wight with us, I also remember another boy who used to do Judo and a boy called Frank Mapp who I knew from Pimlico.

Other boys I remember in Beechholme who had come from Woodvale are Malcolm Flannery, Paul Jones and John Bradley.

Thanks

Denis Martin



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Public contribution to BHRG

February 2013 - Albert Akintibubo wrote in . . .


I have found this website today and it is fascinating as I was at Beecholme between 1957/8 until 1967. I was in Laburnum with my sister, Rebecca Akintibubo. My brother Stephen Akintibubo was there earlier than us - I see he has already been in touch.

I am struggling to remember many names, but I do have a couple of names - Ivor Franks, Frank Merritt, David Epriko (I think), he was my best friend, Susan and Kim Midlane, Michael Flaherty, Pat Badu and her sister (can't remember her name).

Albert AkintibuboI have attached the only photo I can find and the names from left to right in the front  are:-

Rebecca Akintibubo - my sister
Frank Merrit
Me
Peter Scott (head under Andrew's arm)
Andrew Akintibubo - my older brother who was at another home but used to visit in the holidays

I don't know the names of the two helpers at the back

I have ordered the book as it should be interesting reading, although I don't have particularly good memories of Beecholme as most of the people were really cruel to the children, although I have one good memory of Aunty Nancy, who was Welsh, as she was the only person whoever showed me any kindness!

The other good memory was sports day which I loved and playing football.

The worst one I remember was Miss Pellee (not sure how that's spelt), but she was evil as she would put us in the bath and rub soap all in your eyes and mouth and she also used to make the boys and girls have baths together which was not a great experience! She was evil!

I also remember if you didn't eat all your dinner, then they fed it to you for the next few days until you finished it! Lovely people they were and it is a wonder than any of us came out of there as normal people!

I now have five grown up children and nine grandchildren who are all fabulous people!

I will continue to follow the site and I do have a couple pictures that I will pull out and send in when I get the chance.

Albert.


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Public contribution to BHRG

October 2013 - Kossy says "That's me in your picture!"

I was doing some research and discovered a photo of me and my sister along with my other childrens home (family) on this page.

In the picture, Binny [Benny] has his arm around me (Kossy) and my sister Maria is next to me. We were in Anarth Lodge childrens home prior to moving to Drake house around 1971. We were there for about a few years before the school was demolished. We, all the residents and staff moved to 1a Larch Close in Balham Bedford Hill where we spent the next ten fantastic and wonderful years with all the children coming through the doors as well as Eva Knights and Sue Davies who are both in the photograph. Eva was like a mother to us although we called her Auntie Eva. I am still in regular contact with Lenerd Wilson who is Gloria Wilson's brother. Unfortunately, Gloria has passed away.

I have lots of questions I would like to ask but don't want to ask them all here. I have lots of other photos of most of the children and no scanner to upload them. It would be nice to get in touch with Diane or Christine Connolly who was Binny's sister. Binny whom I know sadly passed away. I would love to know where his sister Pauline is now. I can be contacted on [email supplied] if anyone has any information or would like information and to see the photos I have. I would like to add them online for others to enjoy.

I look forward to hearing anything from anyone who can fill in some gaps and need some unanswered questions answered.

Thanks

Kossy (aka Kostakis Costas)

Since sending in the above, Kossy has written up a lot of what he can remember about his childhood in various care homes:

My first experiences of Drake House childrens home at Beecholme all started when my mother left the family home in 1967 taking my elder sister Lefki who was aged three to live with grandparants in Cyprus. My mother has never been seen since. We tried to find her using local newspapers to no avail. My father was then left with me aged one year old, and my sister Maria who was two. He then placed us in care.



On the left is staff Richard Briscoe.
Calvin Johnson is next to him.
Unsure of the person next to him.
Rodney Ruff is in the white top.
Sammy Davis is in the red top.
Behind him and hardly visible is Maria in the blue top.
Behind her with his arms up is Eamon.
Next to him in front, with the purple and brown jumper is Binny Flaherty who has his arms around me, Kossy.
Behind me in the white top is Pauline Flaherty.
Just behind her and hardly seen is Rosyln Bristoe/Bostic.
Sammy Johnson has his arm on my head.
Gloris Wilson (Leanard Wilson's sister) is on the far right.

We were first placed in Hartsleep Nursery in Sandhurst, Surrey, until we moved to Anarth Lodge childrens home at 44 Oaklands Drive in Weybridge. I was two and Maria was three. We stayed there for about four years. (photo enclosed taken when we were leaving to follow). I am in the lower left of picture and Maria is in the blue dress. The tallest person was Tommy who was the house keeper). It would be good to know what happened to the others in the photo. While at this home it was very strict and I have only many bad memories of that place.

Our father used to visit us when he could. Both me and Maria were very happy in care and did not want to move back with our father even if he re-married and wanted us to, which had always been his plan. The childrens home was our home.

We then were moved to Drake house home, 1 Firtree Lodge in Beecholme when I was about five. I have nice memories of Drake house and the school I went to was Ashley Fir primary. I remember the swimming pool and visiting the sweet shop with just a penny and leaving with a huge bag of sweets. Those were the good old days for sure.



Because Drake house was going to be knocked down we all moved to a new childrens home at 1a Larch Close in Balham, Bedford Hill, London.

The picture on the left shows a group of the children when we first moved in.

The people who were not in this picture but were at this home that I can remember were Claire Davies, the deputy, who was Sue Davies' Daughter. The kids were Andrew Ruff, Leonard Wilson, Irvin and Earl Johnson.

We were all very excited when we moved to Larch Close because it was so big and brand new like a mansion. This is where I had the most fantastic years of my life. Eva Knights was amazing and like a mother to us.

Sue Davies was also very nice. While there we used to holiday ever year camping in Black Forest, Hayling Island and many other places. We mainly visited Newquay Cornwall staying in caravans.


We had so many days out visiting pantomines and shows at Wembley On Ice, and the cinema visits were endless. Christmas and birthdays were always celebrated to a high standard and we were all very spoilt. We had two TV rooms and a piano and all the toys one could want to play with, and thinking back, I never knew how lucky or how privileged we were compared to other children living in the area. We were always clothed and fed very well, and I have very fond memories of the staff and also children that came and went, except one member of staff called Bill McCreedy who used to give us the slipper when we were naughty.

I remember Eva Knights telling me years later she never liked him. While there I first attended Telferscott Primary school and then Hydeburn secondary school in Balham and when I was twelve I was expelled by Mr Thorn, the head Master, and was then sent to Earlsfield House assessment centre. They then referred me to a Boarding school called St Thomas Moor in West Grinstead, Sussex which has since been knocked down.

Even though I was at this school, I still had my bedroom at Larch Close and when I was well behaved I would have home visits every month for the weekend. While I was at this boarding school for about three years I learned many life skills, as well as canoeing, gardening, building and fishing. My key worker was called Bob Gladman (the fisherman). It was a really nice place although the research I did tells other stories of how rough it was, but I thought this was just normal and kids being kids.

Our father at this time had re-married and moved to Cyprus where he has since died. My sister Maria followed the same path as me and was also expelled from her school and sent to various homes and units. It was when I was sixteen I left the boarding school and was no longer under the care of the social services. It was now the probation officer's job and I moved into various hostels and BandBs along with my sister Maria, but we stayed in different places once we left care. I discovered that the reason we had stayed in care for so long was because our father kept telling the social services he would re-marry and have us home one day. Although he did re-marry, we were not fostered at all.

It was after leaving care that me and my sister started having pretty hard times due to us misbehaving and getting in trouble with the law. At that time we never knew any better. After many years in a number of establishments we have both since settled down. We would love to hear from anyone from any of these places mentioned, especially if you recognise yourself in any of the photos, or anyone else from the other homes who would like to know anything about anyone else's experiences or fill in the missing gaps we all have. Where are you now?

Recently, I managed to get access to my social services records which cost £10.00. I was allowed to read through them for as long as I wanted but could not keep them. I learned a lot about my past from this. Maybe you too could, by contacting your local social services where you lived for further advice about accessing your files.

The other kids I can remember who also lived at Larch Close children's home in later years, who are not in the photo were sisters Pauline, Judith, Cecilia and Jennifer Padmore and their brother Dana. Paul Morrison, brother and sister Teresa and Joe Lindo, brother and sister Rogar and Claudia Partner and David Cook.

The staff I remember were Paul Martin and his live-in-wife Liz. Their daughters were called Oonah/Una and Zoe.

Valerie took over as superintendant from Eva Knights, her and son was Mark. Doroty Ince, Donna Davies, Kate Haley, Silvia, Ira, Bill Mc Creedy and Richard Briscoe are other past staff members.

My social workers were called Margaret Bower, Nick Cosin, Linda Reaich, Miss Jennings, Geneviene Hogg, Liz Hickman and Jackie Quennell. If you recognise yourself and could give me and Maria any information or memories you have about any relavent information about my mother and any notable events that you can remember then please get in touch.

Kossy


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Public contribution to BHRG

June 2013 - Lara to Banstead for a cup of coffee!

Diana and Lewis at Banstead Station
When someone who lives in Australia promises to buy you a cup of coffee in Banstead, it is highly likely that it will never happen, but true to her word, Diana Graham whose memories are included below made the long trip and met up with BHRG member and webmaster Lewis Wood.

Sitting outside one of the many coffee shops, Diana recalled her time at Beechholme recounting in great detail her many memories, including the eventful trip to Chessington Zoo. It was Eva, her housemother, who looked after Diana and her siblings so well, and enabled them, in difficult circumstances, to have a happy childhood. Diana, whilst acknowledging that other children had not been so lucky, remembers her time at Beechholme with great fondness.

After coffee and a quick trip to Epsom Downs, Diana visited Banstead Station, where she had been many many times all those years ago.

===============================================================================================

On her return to Melbourne Diana wrote:

Hello Lewis,

Well that trip to England just went by too quickly and I m back home in Lara.

It was so nice to be able to meet you and share some Beechholme stories with you. It was a surprise to me to learn you had been in Banstead for just 15 years; the area is so lucky to have you and your team working on their history.

Eva Knights Housemother at Drake Beechholme Banstead

This photograph from my collection shows a very young Eva Knights who is the lady with the dark hair.

Sitting next to Eva is Helen Deering  her deputy housemother in Drake  a lovely gentle Irish lady who married, and as in those days left her employment; this was a great loss for us.

I would say the photo was taken between 1961-63, and it looks like a concert, pantomime or play that groups of Beechholme children were often invited to. Eva would have been in her early forties. It s such a shame that she always ran from the camera as it would be nice to have had more photographs of her.

Diana


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Public contribution to BHRG
Beechholme children outside Drake House
April 2012 - Memories from
Christine Connolly nee Flaherty.

I m so pleased to have come across your website. I was also in Drake cottage in the 1960 s and was a close friend of Diana Graham's sister, Caroline. I was even bridesmaid at her wedding at All Saints Church in Banstead. She married a man called Raymond Casmere who was also at Beechholme in Maple.

I had two brothers and one sister, also in Drake. They were Michael, Brendan known as Benny, and Pauline, and myself Christine Flaherty as I was known then.


The photograph was sent to us by Christine, and Diana Graham tells us that it taken outside Drake Cottage and shows Brendan Flaherty, the boy with glasses, and Sue Davey, deputy housemother, is the younger woman standing in the middle of the photo.

Eva Knights, the housemother is on the right in a yellow top, and in front of her is Gloria Wilson. The two little boys in the white shirt and red shirt are two of the Johnson brothers, she believes Earl and Kelvin. They had another brother called Samuel.

The date of the photo is around 1970/71.


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Public contribution to BHRG July 2011 - Memories of life at Beechholme in the 1960s by Diana Graham .    

I remember the day we three Graham's arrived at Beechholme as if it was yesterday. I was nine years old and we were to live in Drake cottage; however as it was being repainted, the Drake children and staff spent a few months in Elm cottage before moving across the road into the newly painted Drake.

We had already been in care for about five years, firstly in small nursery type homes and then a few months at Earlsfield House. While in Earlsfield House children used to say 'if you didn't behave they sent you to Beechholme'. I didn't even know what Beechholme was but the prospect of going there was very frightening in my nine year old mind. It didn't matter how good we tried to be we were eventually to end up there.

We arrived that day with our mother and a welfare officer. It was a very cold, dreary afternoon in November 1961, I recall feeling quite frightened and overwhelmed. We met Miss Eva Knights, our housemother who told us a bit about the home and some of the children who lived there. She was very nice and made us feel welcome. A boy, Hugh was setting the tables for the evening meal and I couldn't believe how many place settings there were.

My sister Caroline and I started school at Beechholme's primary school, with our younger brother Michael going to the Nursery school across the road. I then went onto Cheam Secondary School. After leaving school I worked in London, travelling by train from Beechholme each day.

The Grahams at Beechholme
Diana (standing), Michael, and Caroline Graham

During my time in Beechholme I felt that I was lucky to have been in Drake as Eva Knights took a real interest in 'her children', she certainly gave us good guidance and really cared for us. She was very supportive, instilled in us a sense of right but to also be able to stand up for ourselves. She was always looking for ways to give us additional opportunities; one that comes to mind was when she decided that elocution lessons would be a good idea. This didn't last long though as we didn't really want to participate, found it boring, mucked about and thought it a waste of time - an opportunity missed! Staff came and went but Eva was always there, she worked in childcare from 1951 until she retired sometime in the mid to late 70's.  

As I've said our housemother was good to us, which was not always the case with some of the other staff that came and went. While many were compassionate and demonstrated a love for their chosen career, it would be remiss of me if I did not say that there were a number of staff whose treatment towards children was, at times inappropriate and harsh. As a result of this mix of people some children had a relatively easy journey through the home, while for others life could be extremely difficult.

Most of the children in Drake were quite close and we had our way of supporting each other. I remember lots of fun times - Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and Guy Fawkes Night. We had two weeks holiday each summer and Eva always organised different, interesting places for us to visit. We had plenty of parties and outings and could take part in lots of activities if we wanted to. We actually had far more in this regard than a lot my school-mates from secondary school.

It wasn't until I was at secondary school though that I realised how very different I was from my classmates. It makes me feel quite sad today when I think about going through those four high school years without ever explaining to any of my classmates of where I lived, or my circumstances. My teachers, of course, knew but it was never spoken about. One of the boys from Drake, Fred, was also in my class all through secondary school. However we never acknowledged each other while at school, except to maybe give one another a quick glance of support if one or the other was in any trouble in class. One of the great embarrassments to us was that we had to obtain receipts for all money paid at school for lunches, books, excursions and the like. We always tried to do this with the least fuss possible for fear our classmates would notice and ask questions.

Further education was never encouraged and I left school at the end of 4th year and went to work, first at ICI in London and then at various other administrative positions in the Croydon area.

In early 1969 I was selected to be part of an experiment to prepare us for living outside Beechholme. Oak cottage was set up with bed-sit type accommodation and I moved into one of these. I remember three other girls of similar age were sharing the house with me. It didn't really work out very well as Oak's kitchen was also used to prepare the school dinners for the primary school children and the cook complained so much about how we left 'her kitchen' that eventually it was locked each day before we returned home from work. This meant we had to return to our original house for meals and baths (as we couldn't get in to put coke or wood in the boiler for hot water). For me, that meant walking three quarters of the length of the avenue. It seems absurd today that at age sixteen I was being groomed to go out on my own, without any support but that's how it was for all of us.

In November that same year I left Beechholme and shared bed-sit accommodation with another Beechholme girl for a couple of years, during this time we were good mates and a good support for each other as we learnt how to get by.

In December 1972, I left England for Melbourne, Australia. The decision to go was easy really as apart from my brother and sister there was not much to keep me in England. I was living on my own by then, working two jobs to keep my 'head above water' and life was quite a struggle. In Australia, I settled into work and life here, I married and have three wonderful children, two girls, Tracey and Amanda and a boy, Christopher. I later divorced but then remarried in 1986.

Diana Graham
Diana Graham pictured in Sydney, Australia

My sister Caroline followed me to Australia in 1973. Caroline now lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland, while I still live in Victoria (Geelong) with my husband. We are very close sisters and although we are a two hour flight away from each other we manage to see one another a few times each year and also spend many hours in phone conversations.

Sadly, Michael died in February 2008 at 52, after many years of poor health. His life was tragic really. I consider him to have been one of the many innocent victims of the system that he was forced to grow up in. Life was always very difficult for him; he didn't fit well to the children's home environment and as a result was often treated very harshly. You had to be emotionally strong to survive or else you became a target, not only from staff, but also, sometimes from other children. Michael had a multitude of problems as a result of his childhood most of which remained with him for all of his life.

I've been back to England a few times, firstly in 1993 (over 20 years after I left). In 2009 my sister was with me and we decided to visit the area that was a huge part of our childhood. We caught the train to Banstead and spent some hours wandering the lane that led from the railway station to the children's home, the avenue that was once lined with Beechholme's cottages and administrative buildings, Nork, Fir Tree Road, Drift Bridge and Banstead Village. It felt very strange as while the whole area was so very different, there were still quite a few recognisable signs of the past.

From my perspective, while I would not wish the difficulties of my early years for any child, I feel my Beechholme experience was overall reasonably positive. I was lucky to be placed where I was within the home. It shaped who I am, and it gave me a determination to provide for my own children a happy, safe and secure home life.

I did pick up on a comment from the website that says "The regime was tough, but not altogether unlike that of paying residential schools of the time''. My response to this is that the regime in paying residential schools may have been tough; however presumably the children who attended those schools did so to receive a quality education. At term end they would return to their homes, and hopefully loving parents. By comparison, the children who lived at Beechholme were resident full time and often for most of their childhood years. There were no loving parents; the education offered was basic at best, without the opportunity for further learning past form 4 or 5. For long term residents their reprieve from this system was usually when you were informed that it was time for you to get a job, a place to live and leave.

I would like to close with a funny story about an outing to Chessington Zoo. Eva allowed a group of us to go, unaccompanied, by bus to Chessington Zoo. She gave me the money for the bus fares and entry fees for the girls while the money for the boys was given to one of them. In the late part of the afternoon we were chased out of the zoo by the zoo staff for playing inside one of the animal enclosures. Although the zoo staff had no hope of catching us, during the chase the money for the girls return bus fare fell from my pocket. We decided that we would all get on the bus anyway, however when the conductor realised we girls did not have any money he told us to get off at the next stop. It was by now dusk and the five of us girls had to walk all the way home to Beechholme.

I can't remember what time we got home, only that it had been dark for some hours. Eva had been beside herself with worry when the boys arrived home without us. She was so relieved to see us, she never told us off. That was not the case for the boys though, once she understood the story she was very cross with them, and gave them a lecture that they should have shared the bus fare money to get us all as close to home as possible and then all walk the rest of the way together.

Caroline and I remained in touch with Eva Knights and last saw her in April 2009. She passed away in December of that year. We felt so sad when we heard that Eva, who dedicated years and years of her life to so many children, died alone in her home in London.

Finally, hello to anyone reading this who remembers Caroline, Michael or me.

Diana Graham


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Public contribution to BHRG January 2010 - Memories from Diana Hipple nee Lawrence from the 1960s.    

I just wanted to get in touch and let you know that what Clive says is exactly how I remember it, although my story was slightly different. 
Diana in Acacia - Beechholme
Diana in Acacia


My brothers and sister went to Beechholme, in about 1960/61. We were the Lawrence family that were put in Acacia house.  My name is Diana and I would have been five years old, my sister Cherry was 3, brother Tony 7 and brother Terry 9.  Tony, Cherry and I were put in Acacia and my brother Terry was I think in Laurel.

I remember the first day of arrival even at such an early age. It was a Sunday salad for tea. Being kids we were not that keen. The auntie that took us in was auntie Grace, a lovely old lady and really kind. Then there was auntie Marie who married  Mr. Singh. Then a rather stunning young aunt called Wendy; all the boys loved her and wanted her attention.

I was very rebellious and got into lots of trouble, can't remember exactly when it all started but for some reason I just would not conform no matter how hard they tried with me. I can remember being sent to Mr. Dicker's office for the ruler across the knuckles on a regular basis so much so that he quite liked me.  He used to say "Diana not again. Why do you keep getting into trouble and make me punish you." Sometimes he would just send me away without the ruler if I promised to behave.

I went to the primary school in the home and also took part in activities after school in the hall which were tap dancing, ballroom dancing and ballet, not any good at it, but at least it meant staying up a bit later. I was also in the church choir. I am tone deaf but liked going to Bible classes on Tuesday nights, as a person was picked every week to recite the Catechism and if correct got sixpence. I also rang the church bell but used to make more noise as I could not control the rope and it used to crash against the wall. I also used to go to the press shop and turn the wheel sometimes to print the paper.


Diana with her brother Tony and younger sister Cherry at Banstead Station when there were still two tracks.
I was rather naughty but I passed my eleven plus and got sent to De Burgh grammer school following in my brothers footsteps.  Unfortunately I told everyone that I was from a childrens home which made life unbearable for my older brother as he had never told anyone. When they found out, he suddenly only had a few friends, you see there was a stigma about being in a kids home; we were classed as the dirt of the area and all trouble outside was put down to us. That is how I was treated, so I rebelled. I did not learn much and I was always looking out for a way to be sent home.  The only lesson I enjoyed was any kind of sport, except hockey when the others would hit me with their sticks. They finally expelled me, not that I am proud of it now, but then my only thought was - great no school.  I didn't reckon on them sending me to the Orchard to Mrs David; what a lovely woman.

After being in Beechholme for eight years I was totally out of control so I got sent to Pine End boarding school in Reigate.  On the morning of my departure I arranged for my friends to open the staff room window when they saw me in there with the staff.  They did and I jumped out and tried to run away but they caught me and I was on my way to this other place.

That was my young life but I am a completely different person now, completely the opposite to what I was then.

I have three fantastic kids, all grown up now with children of there own. Living in the kids home had its ups and downs in my life but I can tell you it makes you value family, especially chidren and grandchildren. It has given me such pleasure to have these around me now and as a parent I could not be prouder. They are my life and I can't imagine being without them, but as Clive says, you over compensate.

Janice Langford with auntie Nikki and auntie Kay
Janice Langford with auntie Nikki and auntie Kay outside Elm House - Beechholme
Back to the home - we were in Acacia with other kids but a family we were close to were the Langfords, David, Janice and Joy. Does anyone know of them? Also do you remember anyone else from the house and can you remember having to queue up for that awful spoon of malt every winter morning when they used to shove a big spoon of it in your mouth. We also had to amuse ourselves as the uncles and aunts were always in the office. You had to knock on the door to speak to them. I was smoking by the time I was nine, not something I am proud of but I wanted to be with the older kids as they had more fun. We used to go to the Chocolate Box and try and buy cigarettes it was 5 Park Drive then.  We used to buy single ones. She was a lovely lady who owned that shop, used to give me sweets because I came from the kids home and gave her sob stories.

My sister left the home in 1973/4 just before it closed. She was moved into Ash I think; can anyone remember her or another girl called Susan Doolin. I also spent a lot of time in sick bay that was scary.

Well I have enjoyed reading the other experiences and I know that this just breaks the tip of an iceberg of our individual stories.


Note from Webmaster - I was intrigued to find out how Diana had made the change and she says:-

 I made lots of mistakes in my early adult life, mainly because of not having any knowledge on how to live in a family. I was, and still am over protective with my family.  I got pregnant at 18 years old, single mum, and did not have a clue on how to raise a baby but managed for a year muddling through. I then met my husband who I am still with today and happy.  


Note from Webmaster - If you knew Diana or her family, or others she mentions, do write and tell us here.

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Reunited after 47 years.

Yvonne Russell nee McCarthy contacted us when she found her photograph on our Beechholme feature.

Yvonne is an ex Beechholme resident who now has a studio at Morden Hall Park, just a few miles away from Banstead.   A sample of her work can be seen on the right. 

Yvonne trained as a painter and earlier this year (2009) held an exhibition of her work at Morden Hall Park.

Yvonne is a big character in more ways than one and would be delighted to see you, so if you are in the area, pop in and ask for her and tell her you saw her pictures on the BHRG website. Everyone knows her!

  Yonne Russell painting
See more of Yvonne's pictures at www.yvonnerussell.co.uk.
 
Beechholme 1962 Yvonne only had four photos of herself up to the age of twenty so she was really pleased to get the one on the left which shows her next to her best friend June .

June now lives in Canada but visited the UK in July 2009 and met up with her old mate Yvonne a mere forty seven years after the photo on the left was taken! Here they are in 2009 - hardly changed at all. 

June and Yvonne in the UK 2009


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Public contribution to BHRGApril 2008 - Memories from Susan Charlott (now Mrs Susan Furlong). Pictures to follow.

Quite by chance I have found this site . I am really pleased, as it establishes the fact that I did not dream the past and that it really did exist.

I went to Beechholme in December 1960 when I was just three months old. I stayed there on and off with my brother and sisters, eventually leaving for the last time in June or July 1967. My brother's name is Kenneth, then there is Carol, myself, Judith who passed away in 2006, Lorraine and Chrysella. Someone may remember our names hopefully.

I have a memory of standing in the playing area listening to trains passing by and willing them to stop and take me home.

The house that we stayed in as I remember it, was very small and dark. I can remember going to the hospital which was at the end of the street we were on and seeing a baby in a cot who had been badly burned. For some strange reason this has always stayed with me and helped I suppose to see that what I saw as a bad life was really much better than what that baby had to endure. The house mother's name where we stayed was Violet. She used to like us to help in the kitchen podding fresh peas. I can remember too that porridge was always served for breakfast and without any help. I hated it. We were always told that we should think ourselves lucky to be looked after so well.

I can remember that there was a Town Hall at the top of the street and if we had been good we could go on Sunday and collect ice cream from there and take it back for dinner. The Town Hall as I call it, may well have been the Administration building; it just seemed very grand to me as a child. I remember the swimming baths and being really scared of the place.

We had small dorm like rooms and they had partitioned walls that you could see over if on the top bunk bed. I remember leaving the site once and seeing some of the big wall that we had been inside.

I stayed in this place between 1963 and 1967. I cannot remember the name of the house that I was in but my memory tells me that the houses were named after trees or flowers. I can remember that the road was pretty and tree lined.

I would like to read about this place as it did play a big part in my early life.

I would like to be able to say that I remember Beechholme fondly however this would not be true. I find myself now looking back on what could be described as a transient life. We would arrive at the home and leave the home all without warning.

I think that from an early age I must have chosen not to be noticed and as a result, I feel that I existed in the shadows. I remember that the place I felt most at ease was sitting on the fire escape of the hospital. I was given a play nurses outfit as a present I seem to remember so I must have spent some part of my birthday at the home.

I can remember eating apples that had fallen from trees; an awful stomach ache was the result of that escapade. Needless to say I never did that again. I can remember one visit by my mother to the home when she brought Milk Tray chocolates but she would not come in. I also remember getting a huge doll in a box that had discs to put in the back to make it talk. This was for Christmas so we must have been there over a Christmas time.

In September 1967, my mother committed suicide and as a result we went into care full time to a place called Dorney towers in Swiss Cottage London.

I left care at the age of 15 and went to live with my dad then went on to work for Camden council for a time in a residential unit for adults with learning and physical disabilities. Leaving there I became employed by the Jewish Blind Society until making my move to Hillingdon where I now live and until recently was employed by Hillingdon Council as a senior day center officer. I now have a thirteen year old son attending secondary school.

I do have photos and will send them on to you.

I would love to have the names of the houses and be in some kind of contact with people who might be able to put some meaning into my early years having spent time there as well. If anyone who spent time there can remember me or my mother's visit or my doll (it was big) please get in touch. Maybe I did not dream it.

Many thanks.

Mrs Furlong (Miss Susan Charlott at time of living in home)

NOTE FROM THE WEBMASTER - For Susan and others who may want a list of the house names, here they are: Acacia, Almond, Ash, Beech, Cedar, Chestnut, Drake, Elm, Fir, Hazel, Jasmine, Laburnum, Laurel, Larch, Lavender, Lime, Maple, Oak, Pine, Rendel, Rowan or Roedean, Thistle and Willow.
Susan's photos will be added as soon as I receive them. 21 April 2008.

 

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