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Description of Kempston Lodge in 1912

Kempston Lodge in 1910 [Z1091/4/1/14]
Kempston Lodge in 1910 [Z1091/4/1/14]

The Bedfordshire Times & Independent of Friday April 19th 1912 had a long article on the opening of the children's home at Kempston Lodge: "The children of 'our Board' [Bedford Board of Guardians] have a very nice home to go into this spring when the furnishing now in hand is completed. Kempston Lodge is a handsome mansion standing in its own spacious and well timbered grounds, which are enclosed by a high brick wall, and situated opposite the wide space where Bunyan and Springfield roads converge towards Up End, Kempston. This house was the residence of the late Colonel E R Green, and before his time, of the Beaumont family. It originally belonged to the Stuarts of Tempsford Hall. The Bedford guardians of the poor made a wonderful bargain when they secured this fine property for £1200. A few hundreds have been spent on furniture, structural alterations and legal expenses, but we can easily understand that it would have cost a great deal more to erect a new building. As a case in poit, our attention has been drawn to a Home near Lichfield, with accommodation for sixty children, who are to be over five years of age, and the cost was £5488, exclusive of furniture. The Kempston Lodge is intended for children of three years of age and upwards , and will accommodate forty or fifty, but will not cost one third of the above sum, inclusive of furniture and everything. The LGB [Local Government Board] has sanctioned a loan for the purchase money for thirty years and a loan has been negotiated by the clerk at 3¼ per cent".

"There has been a good deal of controversy during the last two or three years among the members of 'our Board' over this scheme, and not a little difficulty in finding a Home to satisfy the mandate of the Local Government Board. For some years, however, there has been a strong and increasing public sentiment in favour of removing children from the precincts of the Workhouse, and the right Hon. John Burns has interpreted the vox populi in no half-hearted fashion. There are scarcely two opinions about the desirableness of protecting the children from Workhouse influences, and as a matter of fact that was not the point of difference that vexed our excellent Guardians of the poor. A number of children including some who have been adopted by the Board of Guardians have been boarded out with foster parents, and the system has been so successful that several of the Guardians failed to see why  the same system should not be extended to the remainder of the children. It appears, however, that under existing regulations of the Local Government Board, no child can be boarded out unless it is an orphan, deserted, or adopted by the Board of Guardians. There is another class of children who find their way into the Workhouse under various other circumstances. It may be that their parents are in the Workhouse through destitution, or under temporary detention for having committed some offence, and it is conceivable that they may againbe in a position to claim and maintain their offspring. Whatever the circumstances may be, it comes to the same thing so far as the unfortunate children are concerned; they are destitute and must be provided for. These are the children who up to the present have lived in the institution which is sometimes euphoniously termed the House of Industry, though they have been receiving their education at the handsome halls of learning in Goldington Road, going there day by day dressed like other children. This is of course a great advance on the state of things not many years ago when the childrenwere taight in the Workhouse school and only went abroad in procession, two by two, dressed in uniform.Now the fiat has gone forth, as the result of a national movement which has characterised the last decade, that no child over the age of three years shall be brought up within the precincts of the Workhouse, and probly the majority of Poor Law guardians and officials are in sympathy with this view".

"In the Bedford Union, the Boarding-Out Committee, with Mr T. W. Quenby as Chairman, is directly concerned with the care of the children, and has appointed two sub-committees to make the arrangements as regards the Children's Home. There is a Structural Works Sub-Committee consisting of Mr. Aveline, Mr. Lansberry and Mr. Hull; also a Furnishing Sub-Committee, of which Mr. Leppard and the lady-Guardians are the members. They have shown considerable zeal and care in carrying out the details of this scheme".

"The Children's Home will still be called Kempston Lodge, as indicated by the name boldly painted over the rounded arch of the gate in the high wall. Within thisportal a covered way - or pergola we may politely term it - shelters the paved approach to the porched entrance in the north front of the house. The wall of the house is trellised for roses and creepers and there is honeysuckle clambering over the pergola. What O! A la Watteau! we may even more fittingly say when we see the children picturesquely garbed in this pleasing environment. To the right and left extends the verdant lawn adorned with shrubs of aucuba, box, yew, and hawthorn, and there is a rockery of gypsum. To the west is the gravelled playground for the boys. On the east side of the house a large iron staircase, supported by columns, has landings and emergency doors to the first and second floors. This is the permanent fire escape. Passing through the rustic trellis we emerge upon another spacious lawn , and are able to view the south front of the mansionwith its lower wall covered with trellis on which climbing roses are full of buds, and anexotic variety of Lonicera near the door is already out in sweet scented flower. Roundabout are groves of variegated holly and ilex, cedar and cypress, lilac, laburnum and the large leaved box, with rose bushes here and there.The lawn is bounded on the south by a fence and retaining wall with a gracious view of green meadow-land beyond, and in the blue distance are the hills of the Greensand range. The outlook is altogetherdelightful. Is that a summer house in yon corner near the kitchen quarters?So it would appear at first sight, but it turned out to be a large isolated meat safe, which is so defended with perforated zinc that no blue-bottle can gain access to the game and haunches of venison or humbler fare that may hang within. However that may be, plain food and sufficient will be the diet as hitherto. In acquiring a property which has been a gentleman's residence, the guardians of course took it as it stood and the envious ratepayers must not runaway with the notion that these provisionshave been made at their expense. They are rather so many 'extras' which have been thrown in. In the same locality if the laundry which might prove useful for teaching the girls the fine arts of washing clothes and starching linen. There is also a swing where they may pass the sunny hours 'in maiden meditation fancy free'. And if the boys should be encouraged to take up the science of gardening there will be scope for their experiments".

"Having noted these extrernals we ascend the stone steps, enter at the south door and arrive in a spacious hall. this part of the house is for the girls and infant boys, who together are likely to be bore numerous than the older boys who will have their quarters in the western wing. The first large apartment on the right of the hall is the dy room for the girls. There is a white marble mantlepiece, and the fine window in a bay overlooks the lawn and the meadow beyond. Ceiling and cornice are very ornate. This and the other rooms are prettily papered and the floors are laid with linoleums of very pleasing colours nad design. Gas incandescents provide the artificial light. Another large room on the north side is papered in warmer tint. The Matron's room is on the south front and is west of the entrance hall. From the latter a corridor leads to the west wing, opening into a large lavatory and cloakroom for the girls".

"The hall staircase leads to the first floor where the Matron has an apartment, and there are practically five bedrooms for th girls, two of them being dressing rooms to the very commodious bedrooms, but large enough for two children in each. The rooms on the south front command beautiful views of the country. The woodwork in the apartments is painted white and the decoration of the walls is extremely cheerful. There is also a room for the Matron's assistant. Near it is the bathroom, which has a lavatory basin, with hot & cold laid on. At the end of the corridor is a large linen store, excellently equipped with cupboards, drawers and airing stove. The pleasantest room in the house is the sick-room, with its south and west outlook, through 3 windows, towards Millbrook and Lidlington and the nearer gardens of Up End. There is suitable provision for ventilation and a neat little fire place. This room is at the extreme west end of the house. The single cots on which the children have been accustomed to sleep at the workhouse will be placed in these bedrooms, and other furniture in this institution will be utilised".

"The boys' sleeping rooms are on the top floor, two on the south and one on the  north side. If they have to climb another flight of stairs they are rewarded by having a still finer view of the landscape. From one of these rooms an emergency door opens by a patent push bar on to the fire escape. Only the older boys will occupy the top floor. In proximity to their rooms are the apartments of the foster-parents. There is also a neatly fitted bathroom for the boys. the staircase is shut off for the landing by a sliding door as a precaution against somnambulism and the wakeful falling downstairs. A large box-room in the skylight room about completes this part of the premises".

"Descending by the back stairs into the wing we visit a suitable day room for the boys. This was formerly the butler's pantry and besides containing the usual capacious cupboards it has a substantial bench which boys may find useful for toys, models and their works of ingenuity. The boys have their own separate entrance to the grounds and house, and we may here remark that the children will go to the Kempston Schools, the local managers having readily made arrangements for their admission. There is no intention to keep the children out of school hours within the confines of this institution; they will be allowed to go out to play like other boys".

"There is a magnificent kitchen, with huge cooking range, flagged floor, large dresser, and suitable furniture. This large room will probably be used for the children's dining-hall. Adjoining is a store room for provisions; also a room containing a large oven heated by a furnace, and an arrangement for heating plates. This opens up into a commodious scullery with sink, pump, and taps for hot and cold water. Adjoining is an excellent lavatory equipped with a row of five stoneware wash hand basins and taps. Under the house there is good cellarage, and in the yard a coal store with a lean to roof".

"The matron is Miss Barrows, who comes from the Southampton Girls' Home , and the foster parents are Mr. and Mrs. Parrott, of New Fenlake. There is an assistant Matron, Miss Harris. From what we have seen of these officers we should think the management of the Home will be in very good hands. The administration will be directed from the office of Mr W Payne, Clerk to the Board, who has all along taken a warm interest in a movement with which he is in entire sympathy".