1881 to 1970

photograph of old houseEdward Rudolf did not like the idea of children going into workhouses. These institutes were regarded with fear and distrust by many of the population and were often places of last resort. They certainly did not provide a good environment for a child to grow up in.

Rudolf wanted children to be part of their local community, not removed from it. His vision was to give poor, homeless children a loving and secure family environment.

To do this he set up small family group or cottage homes, each with around 10 children aged between five and fourteen, with a master and matron to act as parents.

The first home opened in Dulwich, south London, in 1882. It was very successful and Rudolf's views were vindicated as many new homes rapidly opened in other areas of England and Wales. This movement towards providing a new style of home for destitute children played its part in helping to highlight awareness of child poverty and contributed to the movement towards a more enlightened society.

In highlighting social problems such as this and taking the difficult first steps towards addressing them - making people feel that these problems need not always be with us - The Children's Society played a part in laying the foundations of the Welfare State.

Sheer poverty was a major factor in children entering The Children's Society homes, but family breakdown or dysfunction could also be factors. Runaways and children in trouble with the law were both well-represented.