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Middlemore Children’s Emigration Homes

Dennis Williams

Proud Brummie
Spurred on by a plaintive post by a Jeanie Ellis on another blog, who posted an Emigration Form for her old Great Uncle, Jim Cooper...who was sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada from the Middlemore Homes in 1905, for a 'better life'.......so I turned to Peter Higginbotham for some more info on the Middlemore story.....this is what she and he wrote.......

Children's (Middlemore) Emigration Homes, Birmingham, Warwickshire
In 1872, the Children's Emigration Homes in Birmingham were founded by John Throgmorton Middlemore (1844-1924), the son of a wealthy leather manufacturer. After finishing school, Middlemore spent time travelling in Canada and in the USA where he had relatives, and gained a degree in medicine at the University of Brunswick, Maine. After he returned to Birmingham, he became interested in the plight of the city's orphan and destitute children. Like others of his day, Middlemore believed that emigration to a new life in Canada offered the best opportunity for such children. The homes he established were intended to give children practical training to prepare them for life and work in their new country. The girls were taught domestic skills, while the boys learned manual trades.

The first home, for boys, was opened in August, 1872, at 105 St Luke's Road, in the Highgate area of Birmingham. At the end of 1872, a home for girls was opened a short distance away at 36 Spring Street. A third home followed at 94 Summer Road. In around 1877, a large new building for boys was opened at 157 St Luke's Road. This was subsequently enlarged to include a section for girls and the other homes were then closed. The expanded premises, which occupied 157 to 161 St Luke's Road, could accommodate 90 boys and 60 girls, aged from 7 to 14.

After making arrangements for their reception in Toronto, Middlemore set sail for Canada with his first party of 26 children on May 1st, 1873, on board the SS Sarmatian. A further group of fifty children made the crossing in May, 1874, aboard the Prussian. In 1875, a receiving home for Middlemore children was established at London, Ontario. The home, known as Guthrie House, continued in use until its lease expired in May, 1879. In its place, Middlemore purchased a building known as Swartz's Tavern which took on the name of the Guthrie Home.

As well as children from his own homes, from 1887 onwards Middlemore also took children to Canada on behalf of other institutions such as workhouses and reformatory schools. These included the Wolverhampton, Chelsea, St Olave's and St George in the East unions the Shustoke Industrial School. Conversely, children from the Middlemore homes were sometimes taken across with other emigration organisers such as Annie Macpherson.

The Guthrie Home appears to have closed in the early 1890s and was replaced by new premises known as Fairview, just outside Halifax, Nova Scotia, with John S Rough as its Superintendent. Apart from a suspension in emigration during the First World War, Fairview continued in operation until 1932 by which time it is estimated that more than five thousand children had emigrated through the Middlemore homes.

Middlemore served on Birmingham Town Council from 1883 to 1892, was elected Member of Parliament for Birmingham North in 1899, and was made a Baronet in 1919. However, he continued his active involvement in the homes until his death in October, 1924. In recognition of his work, the Emigration Homes were renamed the Middlemore Homes in 1925.

From the mid-1920s, Canada became more restrictive in its policy towards child emigration. In its place, Australia gradually became the main destination for British 'Home Children', with many children from the Middlemore Homes starting their new lives at the Fairbridge Farm School in Western Australia.

In 1928, The Middlemore Homes moved to new purpose-built premises on Weoley Park Road, Selly Oak. The U-shaped building was designed by the firm of Buckland and Hayward. A babies' home was added to the establishment in May, 1939.

Following a steep decline in numbers emigrating to Australia after 1948, the Weoley Park Road property was leased to the Birmingham City Council who used it a children's home known as Middlemore House. The home closed in 1955 and the site later became part of Westhill College. The former home building was demolished in 2004.

Middlemore's work is now continued by the Sir John Middlemore Charitable Trust which supports small non-profit organisations working with children and young people.

All that now survives of the various Middlemore Homes' buildings is 157 St Luke's Road which, at the time of writing, was being used by the City Council for administrative purposes.


This is Jeanie's post.....

Jeanie EllisBirmingham Ancestors Family History & Genealogy Group -England .
Following on from a previous post...... This is a copy of my great uncles deportation under the Middlemore homes scheme.
It's heartbreaking really..... You will note that his applicant has crossed out clothing, medical attention and education...... Paying him $4 a month....... This was a result of my great grandma dying in the workhouse and leaving 4 children, including my Grandma who was taken into service....... He told my grandma that he would never set foot in England again due to this despicable act. Sorry it's not very clear...
On the reverse.... Which I have not copied..... It states..... "This boy has run away " ....Very chilling.....

He managed to make a life in Canada..... Married, had kids, this is him in uniform, he joined the Canadian Army in WW1


The Building is still there in St Lukes Road......in splendid isolation.....



59295675_1174742519373784_8996560002273509376_o.jpg58619760_1174751992706170_6721871100982067200_o.jpgBirminghamMiddlemore1.jpgBirminghamMiddlemore3.jpgMiddlemore St Lukes aerial now.jpgMiddlemore St Lukes Rd now.jpg
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Interesting to see that Jeanie calls it as it was, deportation. I don't think that the man himself, John Throgmorton
Middlemore has featured much on the Forum, even though he was an MP for North Birmingham.
 

Phil

Gone, but not forgotten.
A couple of early engravings, one of the Children's Emigration Home on St Lukes Road as Dennis says, and another of the Guthrie Home in London, Ontario, Canada. I'm not sure of the function of the latter, but I believe it was a reception centre for the immigrant children.

Balsall Heath St Lukes Rd Childrens Immigration Home (2).jpg

Balsall Heath St Lukes Rd Childrens Immigration Home.jpg
 

Brock

master brummie
Does anyone know how it came about for children to become Middlemore Home children? Were struggling families approached by the homes or did families apply to the homes believing that it would give their children a better chance in life?
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Does anyone know how it came about for children to become Middlemore Home children? Were struggling families approached by the homes or did families apply to the homes believing that it would give their children a better chance in life?
An interesting question, but the the emigration homes started in 1872 and only aquired the name Middlemore in 1925, they ceased around 1955. The way the children were “accepted" may well have changed over the years. Back at the start it was described “to pick up the waifs and strays of our dirty back streets.” The first boy was said to have been in prison three times. The aim were to rescue children, supervise and then send them abroad.

1909 it was described as rescuing boys and girls from lives of crime and poverty.

Jump to 1941... “They are sometimes illegitimate, or only one parent left, or orphans, all from poor homes. Typical applications... Mother of one boy dead, father at work, and housekeeper unsympathetic. Another legally adopted, but adopted parents had separated.... They must be strong before they emigrate, have a normal intelligence quotient...”
 

Brock

master brummie
Many thanks for your reply.
I have 4 ancestors who became Middlemore Home Children. Two brothers went out to Ontario in 1881 & their ship's passenger record shows all of the children listed within a huge bracket with the wording Middlemore alongside the bracket. They had a brother who travelled out the following year as a Middlemore Home Child with their young sister following suit in 1887. I have now learned that their parents were drunkards who used to beat the children with a strap & I wondered if it was the drunken parents who gave their children away to the home or whether their plight became known about leading to them being taken away from their parents.
I know that not all children were treated well in their new lives in Canada but fortunately my ancestors seemed to fare well.
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Many thanks for your reply.
I have 4 ancestors who became Middlemore Home Children. Two brothers went out to Ontario in 1881 & their ship's passenger record shows all of the children listed within a huge bracket with the wording Middlemore alongside the bracket. They had a brother who travelled out the following year as a Middlemore Home Child with their young sister following suit in 1887. I have now learned that their parents were drunkards who used to beat the children with a strap & I wondered if it was the drunken parents who gave their children away to the home or whether their plight became known about leading to them being taken away from their parents.
I know that not all children were treated well in their new lives in Canada but fortunately my ancestors seemed to fare well.
Were the relations living in Birmingham? We can search around 1881 for mentions of the Emmigration homes. Would you be willing to quote the names, as it is sometimes easier to find things from the petty sessions?
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Do you know the ships that the relations sailed in? It is sometimes possible to find info from the shipping news.
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
The Emigration Homes seem to have issued an annual illustrated report. The pictures of the children are four months apart, which may suggest that they were taken before they set sail for Nova Scotia?

I wonder if the children were related, and if so were they split up in Canada?
 
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Brock

master brummie
Were the relations living in Birmingham? We can search around 1881 for mentions of the Emmigration homes. Would you be willing to quote the names, as it is sometimes easier to find things from the petty sessions?
Thank you all.
I actually have been able to discover records to learn of when they travelled out & of what became of them in Canada, etc so help is not needed concerning that. My query is just how they came about becoming children within the Middlemore system.
I have discovered that their parents were drunkards & that their father would often use a belt on them so their home life would have been awful. I now wonder if their plight became known about with the home stepping in offering to take the children in or did the parents quite literally give their children away? I have read various records of how the streets were full of poor children who obviously were seen as being the very type of child who needed the help of the homes but none have referred to exactly how children were taken in by the Middlemore Homes in Birmingham.
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Have you tried the Balsall Heath History Society? This would be local to St Luke’s Road, and as they have a specific project on the subject, it would be interesting to see what their take is on the question of how children came to end up in the home.
 

Brock

master brummie
Have you tried the Balsall Heath History Society? This would be local to St Luke’s Road, and as they have a specific project on the subject, it would be interesting to see what their take is on the question of how children came to end up in the home.
I wasn't aware of the history society & their interest in this subject so thank you for bringing it to my attention. The photos really pull on your heartstrings don't they.
Thank you.
 
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