Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Bedford > Bedford Training Home for Girls > Opening of Home at Park Road North

Opening of Home at Park Road North

Bedfordshire Times & Independent 10 May 1912

Bedford Training Home for Girls

"This Home, Preventative & Industrial, was established 33 years ago…it was the first attempt at preventative Work in Bedford. For alas! This pleasant town has slums and dark spots where it is humanly impossible for children to grow up pure & honest." So opens the last published report of the Committee, with which is enclosed an appeal for donations towards the cost of erecting and equipping the handsome new home on the breezy slopes of Foster Hill, which on Wednesday afternoon was consecrated by the Bishop of Ely.

During those 33 years the Home has been quietly and unostentatiously carried on in Tavistock Place. It is a work the need for which does not lessen but rather grows with the development of the town. The success of the undertaking has been its best justification. For most of the time the institution has been self supporting, thanks to the proceeds of the laundry, and the Committee hope that the public response will be such that the mortgage on the new building will be reduced so that the Home may continue to be self supporting.

Long since the work outgrew its habitation. At first a small house in Tavistock Street was rented, and eight girls were received. In 118 the premises at Tavistock place, containing accommodation for 16 girls, were purchased, and a laundry built on the adjoining land, and nearly 200 girls have gone out from its walls into the world, trained to work as good servants, wives and mothers. In 1889 it was found advisable to open a branch Home at Woburn Sands for girls of school age, so that the whole of the accommodation at Bedford could be given to senior girls. Here ten little girls, aged from 7 to 13, received motherly care and training in the country air. This cottage Home has proved a most valuable adjunct to the mother-home. In the new home it is hoped to further augment the number of girls under training to 20, in addition to the matron and the trained laundry maids. At the moment there are 16 girls in training, and seven laundry maids, who have been girls in the Home.

The new Bedford Training Home for Girls, Park Road North

The girls are now housed in a bright roomy new building amidst the most salubrious surroundings on Bedford's only grassy slope, with the wide sweep of country to the east, west & north. To the west of the acre of land upon which the Home stands embraces the fine orchard which was the delight of the late Mr W E Taylor and the Mecca of all the boys in the neighbourhood at certain seasons. Climb up a dozen or so steps to the drying ground and one gets a glorious view of the Ouse valley and the well-wooded country beyond, from Cranfield mill, which can be seen working on clear days, to the pines of the Greensand at Sandy & Potton.

The Home is approached from Park Road North by a long gravelled cartway. The first impression on passing into the hall is one of brightness, airiness and spaciousness. The woodwork is exclusively of pitch-pine. The walls are coloured pale terracotta duresco, and harmonise well with the dark terra cotta Minton tiles, with black and primrose edging. To the right is the Committee room. On the left is the matron's room. Passages lead to the laundry, and to the domiciliary and living apartments. The dining hall is an ample, cheery, well-lighted and ventilated room. It has its piano, and on the walls are photographs of girls – former residents in the Home. The floor is cork – linoed, the walls durescoed a warm red tint above a 4ft 6in dado of pitch pine. The adjoining kitchen is reminiscent of the old farmhouse – a large kitchen with ovens each side, useful cupboards and a dresser, with its complement of shining dinner and tea services. There again the colour scheme is light blue, and the appointments generally show thoughtfulness and care. A roomy scullery is attached. These two rooms are floored with 6 inch red tiles and the walls of plain brick lime-washed. The larder and coal barn and other offices are on the same liberal scale.

The hand laundry, which runs the whole length of the side of the building, is built & equipped upon the latest most approved lines. A soft-water tank of the capacity of 9,000 gallons accepts the rain water from all parts of the roof, and a pump in the laundry fills a cistern with it, and from this the water runs by gravitation into the coppers and washing troughs. When the rain water runs short, the towns supply can be substituted. There are two large coppers. Twenty washing troughs are affixed to the walls, and each is fitted with its taps for hot and cold water. A sudding and rinsing machine, and a hydro for extracting water from clothes without passing them through mangles and thus saving the annoyance of broken buttons, are amongst the equipment. As an ante-chamber to this the receiving room is fitted with sorting bins. The ironing-room has a drying closet, heated by furnace, and containing eight 'horses' which are run out on single rails for the necessary charging and changing process. This will only be used to supplement the drying ground when the weather makes it imperative. The iron heating stove accommodates 35 irons at a time. The last stage in the clothes' journeyings is the packing room, which again is suitably fitted, and opens out into the yard for delivery.

The first floor is reached by a staircase of pitch-pine, with walnut stained treads covered cork lino, and is occupied by two bathrooms, linen cupboard, th bedrooms and dormitories.

Exterior view of Bedford Training Home for Girls, Park Road North

Outside there is a provision made for flower beds and a strip of land the full length of the property from north to south will be utilised as a kitchen garden.

The architects are Messrs Usher & Anthony and the builders Messrs A J Dawes. The total cost is estimated approximately at £3250, of which £2400 was for the  contract and £500 for the site.

The Home is managed by a Committee, of which Mrs R H Kinsey is the Chairman, and Mrs C G Colson is treasurer, and Miss M E Lawrence, secretary. Other members of the Committee are Miss H Fitzpatrick, Mrs Joshua Hawkins, Mrs C Hemsley, Mrs C W Kaye, Mrs J P Langley, and Mrs W Gifford Nash. The Building Committee is Mr W L Fitzpatrick, Mr J H Howard, Mr C W Kaye, and Mr R H Kinsey. The purchase money for the land was paid on Christmas Day 1910.

Girls are taken for two years and the curriculum comprises three month turns as scullery maid, kitchen maid, hall maid, housemaid, and laundry maid. The Matron is Miss Bell.


The Dining Hall was crowded on Wednesday afternoon when the Bishop of Ely (D Chase) read the consecration prayers and presided over the subsequent meeting. Others present included Mr & Mrs S Howard Whitbread, Miss Whitbread, Bishop Hodges, the Revs W H Davis, C Hemsley, J Speck, Mr & Mrs R H Kinsey, Mrs Harold Howard, mr J H Howard, Mr W L Fitzpatrick, Mr & Mrs C W Kaye, Mr J H Twamley, Mrs F J Cockburn (Vice-President), Miss H Fitzpatrick, Mrs C Hemsley, Mrs J P Langley, Mrs W Gifford Nash, Mrs C G Colson, Miss M E Lawrence.

Mr Kinsey observed that when the Home was established 33 years ago the population of Bedford was less than half what it is now. Its centre then was close to cornfields, pastures and orchards, which came up to St Cuthbert's and St Peter's and were not far from holy trinity. How the birds sang in the early morning in Sheppards nurseries opposite Albert Terrace. Bedford was then a quaint and quiet country town. Now, with its motor cars, bicycles, telephones, theatre, and picturedromes it was neither quaint nor quiet. But in spite of outer changes, human nature was the same and a Home of this kind was as much needed as ever. Three members of the original Committee were present that day (applause), including the gracious and venerable lady whose fertile brain and practical sympathy planned the work. The first six girls admitted were from her eldest daughter's night school in Holy Trinity parish, and four of the teachers now in the Sunday School there were from the Girl's Home (applause). For 33 years the Ladies' Committee had given time and thought and care to the work, and they had found a full reward in the happiness and usefulness they had helped to create. "Among others to whom the Home is indebted" concluded Mr Kinsey, "I must mention one unhappily no longer able to take an active part in the life of the town and county, who has supported the Home from the first, not only by material help but by wise counsel and unwearied sympathy. This is only one of the smaller things in which Mr Whitbread (applause) has taken part. I do not suppose and one person knows how essential to the success of the undertaking much Mr Whitbread has done for Bedford, and I am sure he does not know how fully Bedford recognises and appreciates his grasp of affairs, his insight, his balanced judgement, and his unfailing courtesy, and how universally his inevitable withdrawal is deplored."

In a charming address Mrs Howard Whitbread declared the Home open. She said Lady Isabella Whitbread was very sorry she could not be present. She felt she was voicing the views of the feminine portion of the gathering when she said that if the Home succeeded in sending out servants who knew their work and did it, it conferred a very great benefit upon the community. An institution like that could not flourish without some people taking a great deal of trouble. It would be impossible to enumerate the names of all of them, but she must mention Dr & Mrs Kinsey (applause). All would agree with her in wishing the venture prosperity in that new Home, and she had much pleasure in declaring it open (applause).

Mr John Howard proposed a vote of thanks to the Bishop and Mrs Whitbread. He need hardly tell Mrs Whitbread that any member of her family, a family which for generations had done so much good for the town, would always receive a genuine welcome in Bedford.

Mr Fitzpatrick, seconding, remarked that Mrs Whitbread was keeping up the splendid record of the Whitbread family. He hoped the public would now give them their support.

Replying, Mr Howard Whitbread said no one who had anything to do with Southill or Cardington would willingly miss that occasion. The Committee were to be congratulated upon the splendid building. He had had a private view of the laundry, and the brightness and happy faces he saw led him to believe that the Home would be a lasting benefit to the town and neighbourhood and the girls. There was no-one in the neighbour hood who did not applaud the work, and he had not the least doubt that many of them would translate that applause into practical and concrete form (applause).

The Bishop of Ely said it seemed to him that this was a very homely Home. He believed that he more they approximated to the real home the better it was for the girls. It was one of the good works of the diocese of the very best kind, and he hoped it would go forward in its new domicile (applause).

The company then inspected the buildings and expressed themselves delighted with all they saw, and later took afternoon tea in the Dining Hall.