1. Introduction

This presentation covers the whole period from 1885 when The Gordon Boys Home was founded to 1958 when it moved to Alexandra Park. During this time there was a revolution in ideas about residential care for at risk children; the role of philanthropy giving way to public responsibility and in recent years a recognition of the importance of keeping children with their families if at all possible.

It will cover the founding of the Home, the philanthropic ethics on which it was based, the management and the background of the boys who lived there. We shall look in some detail at the move to Cranmer Street and the building of the New Memorial Gordon Boys Home there in 1904.

I am much indebted to Margaret Bagley who kindly lent me her dissertation on the Nottingham Gordon Boys’ Home and her excellent research has informed much of this project.


2. The current Gordon House now used for student accommodation by NTU

3. Locations

• 1885 Gordon Home for destitute boys of working age founded in Nottingham in Argyle House, Shakespeare Street

• 1884 Joined with the Nottingham Boys Brigade

• 1891 Moved to 28 & 30 Peel Street

• 1904 Purpose-built home in Cranmer Street opened

• 1958 moved to Enderleigh, Alexander Park

• 1965 Closed

The original Home for destitute boys of working age was founded in 1885. It finally closed as a result of the Children’s Act 1948 and the subsequent changes in national provision for children at risk.

02_General Gordon

4. “Major General Charles George Gordon, C.B.,
Christian Soldier and Hero,
Sympathiser with the Suffering .
The Friend of Poor and Destitute Boys.”

He was a close friend of Lord Tennyson who wrote this tribute to him:

“Warrior of God! Man’s friend not laid below,
But somewhere dead far in the waste Soudan
Thou livest in all hearts, for all men know
The earth has borne no simpler, nobler man.”

Nottingham Gordon Memorial Home for Destitute Boys of Working Age was founded in memory of Charles George Gordon (1833-85). “Chinese Gordon” was an officer of the Royal Engineers, who commanded the Chinese forces against the Taiping rebels in 1863-64. He was Governor General of the Sudan from 1877 to 1880, where he put down the slave trade. When he was sent by the British Government in 1884 to rescue the Egyptian garrisons in the Sudan, he was besieged at Khartoum and was killed.

Gordon had been particularly interested in the education and care of boys in Gravesend where he was Officer-in-Charge of the Royal Engineers 1866-1871. He taught at the Ragged School and Sunday School and took into his home some of the street urchins. He fed and clothed them and taught them in the evenings to read and write. Many boys came along who could not be housed with him but nevertheless attended his regular night school. He found jobs for these boys, many went to sea and had successful careers. After his death in January 1885 there was a public demand that something should be done to commemorate him. A national subscription was launched and the Gordon Boys School for Orphans was founded in Fareham near Southampton with Queen Victoria as patron. The Home was run in the military tradition and Christian ethics strengthened by the Gordon legend. It moved to Woking in 1887. There were other Gordon Memorials established across the country. In Southampton a Gordon Boys Brigade was created and Liverpool had a Gordon Working Lads Institute.

03_Argyle House, Shakespeare Street

5. The Annual Report of the first Nottingham Gordon Memorial Home

• The people of Nottingham were anxious to mark the death of Gordon in some appropriate way. “The number of poor, ragged and destitute boys running the streets was a disgrace to the community. In Nottingham alone it is estimated that there are nearly 1,000 juveniles whose daily life is one of destitution and that every year about 50 children are sent from the town to reformatories and industrial schools”.

• In June 1885 there was a public meeting at the Exchange Hall, a Committee was formed and appeals were made for donations and subscriptions to enable a Home to be founded. to provide more adequate support for theNottingham Boys Brigade founded in 1884 to aid poor boys who were old enough to work but too neglected to be able to obtain employment for themselves. In 1884-5, the first year of the Boys Brigade’s existence, the Nottingham Journal reported that 41 boys had been enrolled. Of these 11 had been found permanent employment, 11 had been discharged with discredit, 6 had left of their own accord, 3 had been sent to industrial schools and 14 were regularly employed. The Nottingham Boys Brigade’s first member was admitted on March 17th 1884 at the age of 14 years. His father was a bricklayer and his mother a home lace worker with a large family. He left the Brigade on June 14th 1884 when a permanent position was found for him with the firm of Cavan & Co. engineers of Beck Street. Although the Brigade had been successful and the demand for the boys’ services was increasing, the Committee was anxious about the home surroundings and bad influences on the boys. It was important therefore that a Home of Refuge should be established.

• The Nottingham Boys’ Brigade formally merged with the Gordon Boys’ Home in September 1885, some of the boys being admitted to the Home whilst others remained under the original conditions, working during the dayand returning home at night. The age range was from ten years to fifteen when hopefully permanent employment was found.

• Any member of society could make an application for a boy to be admitted to the Home and this would be considered by the Committee after interviewing the boy. A Manager and Matron were appointed by the Committee to supervise the day-to-day running of the Home. The Manager was also responsible for organising continuation of the work schedule as begun by the Boys Brigade. The Committee met regularly when the Manager reported to them.

• On 18th December 1885, the Nottingham Gordon Memorial Home for Destitute Working Boys was officially opened by the Right Hon. Lord Belper in Argyle House in Shakespeare Street, since demolished. It had accommodation for 13 boys.

• The Nottingham Boys’ Brigade Society bought uniforms which the boys put on when they attended parade at 8 o’clock each morning. They were then ready to perform whatever jobs needed doing which consisted of housework, errands, bill distribution, organ blowing and selling two magazines published by the Manchester Boys Refuge Committee.

• The charge made by the Society for the boys’ services was 4d for the first hour or part thereof, then 3d per hour, 10d for a half-day and 1/6d for the whole day of eight hours. Railway and tram fares extra. There were reduced charges for customers who employed the boys regularly. The boys themselves were paid 10d a day.

6. Aims of the Home 1885

• To rescue boys who are homeless and destitute, or whose surroundings may sooner or later lead them into paths of wickedness and crime.

• To place them in the Home where there is a good moral and religious influence

• To feed, clothe and train the boys for industrial work, and on leaving the Home to place them in situations


• The Gordon Boys’ Home was originally intended for destitute boys who were old enough to work and able to help pay for their keep. However, many younger boys were admitted to the Home which meant at times the income was quite low and constant funds were needed from outside. The Home received support from the citizens of Nottingham through subscriptions and donations and was fortunate to have a band of generous notable patrons including the Duke and Duchess of Portland who took a particular interest in the Home and contributed from the Welbeck Fund. Shirts and other clothing were contributed from the Duchess’ sewing group.

• The Home was run by a Committee which met regularly and many of those members worked unstintingly in its support. Especially in its earlier years, the Committee set a high moral standard and were obviously anxious to do their best for the boys.

7. Household Regulations 1885

• Each day shall be opened and closed by prayer and the reading of the Holy Scripture

• Each boy shall obey and carry out the order of the master who shall act under the direction of the Executive Committee

• Each boy shall keep himself and all things belonging or entrusted to him in a cleanly and orderly condition.


The Home was run by a Manager and Matron answerable to the Committee which took an active interest in the running of the Home, the selection of applicants, and the applications from employers for their services.

Other regulations were added at a later date:

a) In the bedroom perfect quiet to be observed so as to give each boy opportunity for silent prayer

b) Habits of laziness, disobedience and untidiness to be punished by extra work, by fines or by withholding of privilege according to the offence. Cases of theft, swearing or lying to be brought before the Committee.

c) Once a month all the boys to be brought before the Committee for commendation or reproof.

8. Times and Orders of the Home 1885

6.00am Boys rise 1st April 30th September (inclusive)
6.30am Boys rise 1st October 31st March (inclusive)
7.45am Breakfast followed by prayer etc
8.45am Parade for work
12.45pm Cease work
1.00pm Dinner
2.00pm Resume work
5.00pm Cease work
5.30pm Tea
8.15pm Prayer etc.
8.30pm Retire to bed

Evenings between tea and 8.15pm to be spent in such manner as the Executive Committee may approve.

On Sunday no work shall be done. The boys shall attend at least once during the day at some recognised place of worship.
Each day two boys shall remain in the Home to assist in housework for such time as they may be required.


• The regimented routine and the wearing of uniform was designed to counter the effect of the chaotic backgrounds from which the boys came and to instil self-discipline and self esteem. The strong Christian ethic was evidenced by daily prayers and attendance at church, usually Holy Trinity.

• Many of the Gordon Boys had to attend full-time school which meant that the numbers available for work was at times quite low.

9. Food 1880s

This recommended diet was suggested in 1886:

Sunday: Cold boiled beef, Potatoes, Pudding
Monday: Cold boiled beef, Bread, Boiled rice
Tuesday: Hot roast beef, Cabbage
Wednesday: Fish, Potatoes
Thursday: Hash or cold beef, Potatoes
Friday: Soup
Saturday: Irish stew
Breakfast: Cocoa or coffee alternatively,
Bread with butter, dripping or jam
Tea: Tea, Bread with butter, dripping or jam


The boys’ diet was boring and economical but nourishing and almost certainly better than they would have had at home. The Home received a lot of gifts of food over the years. Benefactors provided more palatable fare on occasions and during 1893 there is a mention of “a liberal supply of rabbits” from Tollerton and at Christmas time in particular there were many gifts of food, especially an anonymous one of over 40lbs of beef and 20 stone of flour.

04_before and after c

10. Before and After, 1900

The boys all came from backgrounds of poverty and neglect, many from the Narrow Marsh and Meadows areas of Nottingham, renowned for their dreadful housing conditions. The following descriptions are from the entries in the Applications register. The first boy to be resident in the Nottingham Gordon Memorial Home for Destitute Working Boys was admitted on December 22nd 1885. He was, at the age of 9 and a half, younger than the suggested age but as his entry in the Applications and Admissions Register notes:

• “Boy had no real home. There was a large family by his mother’s second marriage and the lad was knocked about by his step-father. He had lately been looked after by an aged grandmother who had to go out to work for her living at 74 years of age…”

05_Before and after b

The boy left the Home in November 1886 when he was adopted by a local greengrocer.

• “Boy aged 14 years. Father dead. Family in destitution. Boy obtained a precarious living by hawking matches etc. in the streets. 5 other children at home and none able to earn anything towards their own keep, except this lad. Mother no control over children”.

• “Boy taken from a home of morality which was very questionable, allowed to run the streets half-starved and in rags quite beyond control. (Now doing well in the Home falling in with its rules much better than might have been expected)”.

06_Before and after a

• “One of a family of thirteen. Mother and three children died within three weeks, leaving father, a steady labouring man, with eight little ones none of them earning anything and himself out of work.”

• “Taken from a family of nine, only one of whom was at work, earning 2/6 per week. Father dead. Eldest brother a paralytic, mother delicate, boy unmanageable.”

• Bernard Freeman, 12 years old, of King’s Place, Woolpack Lane suggested by Mrs Mills of The Day Industrial School. “ Boy’s father dead a year, mother a cripple in bed for three years”.

• 1902 Minutes of the Home state there were 39 boys in the Home, 24 working, 15 at school. Average earnings of each boy 7/9d each week, average cost of each boy 3 1/3d a day’. Donations were essential to make up the shortfall. If parents could, they were asked to contribute to their son’s keep.

• On the whole the behaviour of the boys was quite good considering the lack of discipline before they entered the Home. It must have been quite a shock for some of them to conform. Many stayed at the Home until permanent employment could be found, although more than once boys absconded.

• Two boys who seemed to find it difficult to settle truanted from school in April 1886 and were also accused of lying and deception. They were birched by the Manager and reprimanded by the Committee. This did not seem to deter them as again in May 1886 they were “ reported for gross behaviour -running away, staying out all night (they intended to walk to London to gain employment in pea-picking) and destroying their caps”. They were again strongly reprimanded by the Chairman of the Committee and threatened with severe punishment should they repeat their misdeeds. Another lad who was described as a “very insubordinate character” stole 7/6d and the Committee decided to take steps for prosecution so that he might be sent to a Reformatory. They felt that this was the only course open to them in order to maintain discipline in the Home.

07_Peel Street

11. Annual Report 1891 from Nottingham Gordon Memorial Home No.28 & No.30 Peel Street
In 1890 the premises in Shakespeare Street were no longer adequate and the Committee began looking for more suitable accommodation. Two houses, No.28 and No.30 Peel Street which had been a Ladies School were acquired for a rent of £80 pa. In June 1891 the Home was transferred from Shakespeare Street to Peel Street. A great deal of expense had been incurred in alterations of the building which resulted in funds being very low. Although there were 44 boys living in the house at the end of 1893, there was still room for expansion but due to lack of funds this was not possible.

08_Boys with matron and master

12. Group of Gordon Boys with Master and Matron 1891
When the boys entered the Home they were provided with a dark blue uniform with scarlet facings, a belt, cross-belt with pouch and a cap bearing the words “Nottingham Gordon Home” on a red ground. and studded boots. Later on clip hats were introduced along with brass buttons and buckled belts which had to be cleaned daily. In the 1950s the military style was abandoned in favour of a more normal uniform of blue blazor. Uniform was worn during the week for work and for school, and a new suit of Sunday clothes was also supplied. Each boy received an outfit of clothing when he left the Home for permanent employment.

09_matron and manager c

13. The Manager, Matron and Officers of the Nottingham Gordon Home in 1896.

There had been several managers from its founding in 1885 until 1911, some stayed for some time, others less suited to the job only remained a short while.

• In 1891 the Manager and Matron were Mr and Mrs Burrows who had done similar social work elsewhere..

• In 1905 the Manger was ex-Colour Sergeant Laker of the 1st Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment who improved efficiency and discipline within the Home.

• In 1911, a manger and matron were appointed who were to be at the Home for the next 36 years. When they retired in 1947 a new couple were appointed who remained at the Home until its closure in 1965.

10_Matron and Boys

14. The Matron and Boys of the Gordon Home 1890s

11_Proposed new home

15. Drawing of the proposed New Home, Cranmer Street presented by Ernest R. Sutton, architect

• At the AGM held in Feb. 1895 it was stated that the accommodation in Peel Street was no longer suitable for the Home and many deserving cases had to be refused. It was suggested that a site could be purchased on which to erect a purpose built home. By that time finances had improved somewhat because of two legacies and a very successful fund raising bazaar. During the next few years, the Reserve Fund increased and was added to from the contributions made to an Appeal held in 1897, Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee year. The publicity for the appeal shows how well-regarded the Home had become: “The Nottingham Gordon Home is the only institution for solely reclaiming boys in the city and county of Nottingham and has proved a blessing to many poor boys now filling useful and respectable situations. The industrial branch is a great convenience to the city and the demand for the boys’ services are often in excess of the supply.”

• In Dec. 1895 a special committee meeting discussed the possible purchase of a piece of land in Cranmer Street, at a cost of £1018.

The Nottingham Daily Guardian 19th May 1900 stated that:

“An admirable site was secured some time ago in Cranmer Street, one which is desirable in every respect, for while the surroundings, considering its contiguity to the busier parts of the city, are picturesque, its lofty elevation ensures what is, for an institution of this kind, a first necessity, viz., a healthy situation. On this site, which possesses an area of 1,754 square yards, a handsome building is to be erected, and the actual start will be made as soon as the requisite funds are forthcoming. Plans invited and those of Mr E. R Sutton presented. It is intended to erect the buildings in the Georgian style with red brick facings moulded stone strings and cornices. The windows on the front will have stone mullions and transoms, and the main entrance rusticated columns with carved frieze while the boundary wall is to be of dressed Bulwell Stone, with moulded stone coping. There will be two entrances in the boundary wall with wrought iron gates.

The home will accommodate 104 boys, but it is intended to provide at first accommodation for 72 boys.

On the basement floor will be a large recreation and drill room, boys’ library and writing room facing the street, cloak rooms, day lavatories and boot cleaning and brushing rooms, with the heating chamber and a cart and barrow house at the rear. On the ground floor will be the dining hall, with the kitchen, scullery etc adjoining. The committee room, office and waiting room are to be on the south side of the principal entrance and the manager and matron’s room on the north. On the first floor accommodation for 36 boys is provided in two dormitories, with lavatory and bathroom adjoining.

The manager and matron’s and staff bedrooms are also on this floor. On the second floor are similar dormitories and a hospital or sick room. At the back of the main building a small laundry is to be erected. Heating to be by hot water pipes, radiators and open fireplaces and the ventilation will be carried out by fresh air inlets and extractors. The new home will cost £5000 towards which the committee have £1,100.”

• Plans for the new Home went ahead. The terms of the agreement stated that the new Home would be finished by 25th January 1904. The boys were given a roast beef and plum pudding to mark the occasion!

• The foundation stone was laid on the 5th August 1903 by his Grace the Duke of Portland, KG, Lord Lieutenant and provincial Grand Master of Nottinghamshire, with Masonic ceremony. A silver trowel was presented to the Duke on this occasion with an appropriate inscription. “This Home built by public subscription was founded in memory of Major General Charles Gordon, C.B., a Christian hero. A great soldier and ruler he gave his heart to the young, poor and the outcast. Born at Woolwich, January 28th 1833. Fell at his post at Khartoum, January 26th 1885. Faithful unto death”.

12_The opening of the new home

16. The Opening Ceremony of the New Gordon Memorial Home, Cranmer Street

The new Gordon Boys Home in Cranmer Street was finally opened on 5th May 1904 by the Duchess of Portland, who was presented with a golden key to commemorate the occasion. Unfortunately the Duke ‘s presence was required by the King who had just returned from Ireland. The Duchess was received by a guard of honour formed by the boys and greeted with a fanfare of trumpets. The annual report records that the front of the Home was decorated with flags and bunting. There was a considerable concourse of spectators in Cranmer Street. Her Grace was received by the Mayor as President of the Institution, by the sheriff and chairman of the Committee and was escorted to the Recreation Room where a crowded audience had assembled. The Duchess unlocked the door with the golden key presented by the Committee with the band playing the National Anthem. Many gifts were presented to the Home, one of which was a large framed portrait of General Gordon given by Gordon’s only surviving sister given a place of honour in the Board Room.

13_New Gordon Boys Memorial Home

17. Front View of the New Home
• The boys attended various local schools, including the Board School in St Anns Well Road and Holy Trinity School. The older boys would be available for work before school and again at lunchtime. On occasion they were kept too long by their employers and complaints were received from the school authorities. The Committee contacted all employers to ask for their cooperation in making sure that boys were allowed to reach school on time.

• Up until 1895 all boys admitted to the Home were from the Nottingham area but in September 1895 two boys who were “found on tramp” from Manchester became residents. In later years the boys came from many parts of the country. In 1924, fifteen boys were admitted, six from the London area, one from Jarrow-on-Tyne, the rest from Nottingham. The following year the Home admitted eleven boys, none of whom came from Nottingham.

14_The Entrance Hall

18. Main Entrance Hall 1906


15_Boys dining room 1906

19. 1906 Dining Room. Note the text on the wall “Fear God. Honour the King”
General Gordon had set an example as a Christian and held the view that training needed to be founded on a sound religious basis. Throughout its existence the Gordon Boys’ Home aimed to provide the boys with a background of moral and religious influence: “to rescue and by judicious and kindly training in habits of honest industry, followed by an apprenticeship to some useful trade or other suitable occupation”, “ diligence and duty some of the best things in life”. Every day began and ended with prayers and on Sunday, which was regarded as a day of rest when only essential work was done, the boys attended Church or Sunday school at least once. In the later years, boys were members of the choir at Holy Trinity Church.

16_Boys in the Recreation Room

20. Recreation Room showing a gymnasium and musical instruments for the band.

• Some gifts which contributed not only to the income of the Home, but also gave recreation and pleasure to the boys were various musical instruments. There were sufficient instruments to form a fife and drum band and a brass band, as well as a bugle band .

• Gifts of books and games were presented to the Home and in 1903 a gramophone and records were purchased.

• At the Committee meeting held on 7th December 1909 a collection was made amounting to 30/- which paid for a small billiard table.

• After the opening of the new Home in Cranmer Street, it was reported that a set of goal posts and articles for the gymnasium were amongst the gifts received. List of donations included an antique, long cased mahogany hall clock and a bagatelle board.


21. Dormitory.
The posters on the back wall:
“The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous”,
”Cleanse thou me from my secret faults”,
“Union is strength”,
“God bless our home”.

18_saturday bath night

22. Bathroom

Saturday bath night.

19_The Board Room

23. Committee Room.

General Gordon’s portrait above the fireplace.

20_Scale of charges

24. Scale of Charges 1896

• 1888 an advertisement was inserted in the local daily papers for permanent positions for boys graduating from the Home:

Nottingham Gordon Home for Destitute Boys

The Committee are desirous of placing boys under their care into situations, either as servants in gentlemen’s households or as indoor apprentices to some trade.
Apply Hon. Sec., Gordon Boys Home, Shakespeare Street.

This resulted in a few boys being employed as pages in fairly affluent homes, although at a committee meeting in 1900 it was decided that it was preferable for boys to be apprentices rather than to do household work.

• Again in 1900 a Committee report shows:

“Major General….. being willing to take into his service…. age 17 on the 22nd Feb. 1900 agrees with the Committee of the Home as follows:

To provide the boy with suitable clothes, board and lodging and to pay his wages at the rate of 1/6 per week during the first year, 2/6 per week during the second year, 3/6 per week for the third year.”

• At the same meeting it was suggested that when a boy was apprenticed his employer should encourage him to join the Post Office Savings Bank. The money the boy earned whilst in the Home went towards the income of the Home, but each boy received a percentage of his weekly earnings. The amount was one penny in every shilling which was put into a savings account, thus providing the boy with a nest egg when he left the Home.

• The younger boys were available to perform all kinds of indoor and outdoor work and there were many requests from local residents and trades people for their services. The type of employment included window cleaning, bill distribution, organ blowing, parcel delivery and collection and domestic work, attendance at cricket and football matches, bowls, lawn tennis parties, concerts and 4/6 for the fourth year.

21_boys of the nottingham messenger brigade a

25. Boys of the Nottingham Messenger Brigade 1893

In 1893, because of an increased demand for Gordon Boys’ services, the Committee decided to form a Nottingham Messenger Brigade. This Brigade would employ non-residential boys from respectable but poor backgrounds to perform any outside work. These boys would also wear uniform and be attached to the Gordon Home in Peel Street. The messenger would be available for parcel carrying and were on duty at the Market from 8.30am to 3.00pm and on Saturdays from 8.30am to 6.00pm. They were also on duty at the Corn Exchange on Saturday from 12.30pm to 3.00pm. The Midland Railway Company gave permission for the boys to be allowed onto the station platforms, which enables them to assist passengers when required. This branch of the Home only lasted until 1895 when it was disbanded as it had not met with the encouragement anticipated.

22_firewood bundling

26. Boys bundling firewood for sale
Amongst the gifts presented to the Home was a wood chopping machine which was to prove most valuable to the income of the Home.

23_boot repairing

27. Boot repairing

24_An afternoon airing

28. Two Gordon boys taking an old lady for an afternoon airing in a bath chair in the park.

25_Boys with bathchair

29. Scale of charges for boys and bath chair 1898
Two light and comfortable bath chairs one having a moveable hood. One hour cost 1s, 2 hours 1s 9d, 3 hours 2s 3d

26_bands a

30. Bugle Band 1894

• Some gifts which contributed not only to the income of the Home, but also gave recreation and pleasure to the boys were various musical instruments. There were sufficient instruments to form a fife and drum band and a brass band, as well as a bugle band. All these bands could be hired to perform at public and private functions. For instance, a band was asked to play at Workshop on 11th December 1905, when a visit was made by King Edward VII, and on Christmas morning in 1906 a band played in the Park area.

• The Gordon Boys not engaged in the Coronation Day (1901) band concert joined their fellow pupils of the Holy Trinity School in a demonstration on the Forest. Each boy in the Home was presented with a Coronation medal by the Chairman of the Committee.

• A custom was formed that one of the bands should march from the Home with the rest of the boys to attend the AGMs held at the Exchange Hall, and the band would play in the Market Place before lining up with the others inside the Hall. At some meetings a display of physical drill was also performed. Maybe the experience of playing in a band together with the practice of physical drill was the reason for a number of boys joining the armed forces. Mention is made of boys joining the Royal Marines and the Royal Marines Artillery Band.

27_band b

31. Drum and Fife Band 1894

28_Another band

32. The Band of the Home 1896


33. Pastimes: Dominoes. Although a popular pub game, dominoes were permitted

It was not a case of all work for the boys; great effort was made to ensure that they had some relaxation.

• Even as early as 1886 they were given swimming lessons twice a week.

• They also received singing lessons and even performed at concerts to raise funds for the Home.

• The boys too were provided with entertainment; at one stage they were “given a pleasant evening” after the weekly Committee meetings. Members of the Committee took it in turns to organise these evenings which took the form of “magic lantern lecture”, “Punch and Judy show”, “cinematograph entertainment” and one recorded visit to the Mechanics Hall for an entertainment.

• The care shown by the Committee was obviously appreciated by the boys because at Christmas 1906 they purchased an inkstand which they gave to the Committee.


34. Pastimes: Marbles

31_Evening Recreation

35. Evening Recreation

• A day’s holiday was given to the boys in 1901 on Whit Monday when they went to Plumtree by train and returned by brake. This was at the invitation of the Rector of Plumtree who in 1894 had invited the boys to Plumtree for a summer camp. Thus had become an annual event at various locations including Bestwood Lodge, Mablethorpe, Skegness, and Barry in South Wales.

• Recreation included outings, one in 1903 was to Skegness when the boys had a meal which cost 1/6d per head. They were allowed to take 1/- each from their bank accounts for pocket money.

• One outside activity used was the Dakeyne Street Lad’s Club in Sneinton, which also had the 2nd Nottingham Boys Brigade attached to it. The Club had been founded in 1907 by Oliver Hind, a Nottingham solicitor and after his death in 1931 it was renamed the Oliver Hind Boys’ Club. Hind also bought a farm in Nova Scotia to which were sent boys willing to learn farming and become Canadian citizens. On April 4th 1925, two Gordon Boys left the Home to sail for the Dakeyne Farm. Both boys had been at Cranmer Street for at least five years and another boy went to Nova Scotia a year later.

• Another in 1911 was an invitation to attend a menageria.

• In the same year a friend of the Home paid for the boys to attend a performance at the Electric Palace.

• The Home was often given tickets for boys to attend local football matches at the City or County grounds,

• In 1925 an invitation was received from the City Police Force to visit Oxton by char-a-banc.

• An exciting invitation came in 1937 from the Chief Instructor of the Nottingham Flying Club at Tollerton. This included tea in the Clubroom, a tour around the hangars, and if weather proved favourable, a flight, explaining that the Home stood in “loco parentis” and emphasising the possibility of risks.

36. Destinations

• A boy left the Home to go to Indiana in 1901, after an application had been received from a cousin who promised to provide him with a home and a trade. Since the boy’s parents were dead and he was willing to go, the Committee gave permission and presented him with “a writing case, a bible and a character”.

• In 1911 a boy went to Canada, this time the responsibility of an Archdeacon, who paid £10 towards the total cost of £18.16.6d.

32_Boys at dinner

37. Boys at Dinner
The Mayor and Mayoress of Nottingham provided a Christmas Tea and entertainment for the boys and in 1946 there was a tea held on the anniversary of Victory Day.
The Annual Report of 1955 refers to the Annual “General Gordon Birthday Tea”, provided by Miss Daisy Blunt who was a niece of the General. Another reference to Gordon’s birthday was in 1933 when the boys attended the Gordon Centenary celebrations in London.

33_Boys at Pipewood Camp

38. Boys on holiday at Pipewood Camp, Rugeley, Staffs, August 1950

• In the 1950 Annual Report is a note that boys were encouraged to join outside organisations such as the Boys Brigade and Boy Scouts. Some of the senior boys went that year with the Boys Brigade to a camp at Heage in Derbyshire. At this late stage an annual camp was held at Pipewood, Rugeley in Staffs, in army huts with bunk beds.

• During the war years, 1939-45, fifty-nine boys were taken into the Home, the majority coming from the North-East of England. It was still the policy of the Home to obtain employment for the boys if possible, although some did return to their families when they reached the age of fifteen or sixteen.

• Two boys who were in the Home for four years came there in 1961 from the Ockenden Venture, an organisation for care of refugees.

• Many boys remained in contact with the Home and in 1932 the Gordon Boys Memorial Home Old Boys Association was formed. The objects of the Association were:
“To give all possible assistance to the Home and its activities to provide an opportunity for Old Boys to keep in touch with each other.
To promote “esprit de corps” amongst Old Boys of the Home and to offer assistance to any member in need of help”.

The Association was formed by a small number of old boys under the guidance of the then Manger. It met each month and held a reunion dinner every year at the Home. Occasionally the Association made donations to the funds of the Home.

• After the closure of the Home, a Gordon Boys Home Newsletter was started and published details of the whereabouts and happenings of the boys. In March 1869 the Chairman of the Committee wrote the following letter:

“As all Old Boys will know, the Gordon Boys Home was closed two years ago when it was evident that there was no longer a need for such an organisation in Nottingham. The other Trustees and I considered, however, that we could continue to use the income from our invested funds to help boys and girls in Nottingham who are in difficulties. This we are doing successfully. We do, however, feel a real and particular duty to all our Old Boys, whether they were at the Home sixty years ago or as recently as 1965. If the Trustees can help in times of sickness or any other adversity we do want to know the circumstances. We would like to hear the names and addresses of any Old Boys you happen to know are not in touch with us. We would be very interested to hear of your and their successes and of failures too, particularly if we can help”.

39. Post Closure

• Shakespeare Street Home demolished

• Peel Street Home used by The Church Army as a Girls’ Home

• Cranmer Street Home taken over as a Civil Defence Centre and in 1968 by the LEA which built a nursery for the Elms School on the football pitch and used Gordon House as a Teachers Centre.

• 1996 The Centre was rented to NTU for student accommodation and was on the market in 2001 as a residential investment.

40. Conclusion

• The last boy was admitted on December 18th 1964. The few remaining were discharged in September and October 1965 returning to their families or going to foster homes.

• During the 80 years of its existence, 758 needy boys were cared for in the various Nottingham Gordon Homes.


Margaret Bagley, Gordon Boys Home University of Nottingham Dissertation

Gordon Boys Home Application and Admissions Register

Gordon Boys Home Minute Book

Gordon Boys Home Annual Reports

Gordon Boys Home Newsletters

Iliffe, R. and Bagley, W., Victorian Nottingham; A story in pictures (Vol. 2) Nottingham Historical Film Unit

© Megan Zadik