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“Social purity work” – Dunbar Lodge, Maternity and Rescue Home for Deaf and Dumb Girls, 1927-1940?

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 8 August 2014

Dunbar Lodge, 20 Kings Avenue Clapham,the Maternity and Rescue Home for Deaf and Dumb Girls was founded by the Royal Association for the Deaf and Dumb in 1927.  It had its roots in 1924 “the year a Committee was first appointed to deal with the question of making special provision for Deaf and Dumb girls in this branch of Social purity work” (Annual Report 1929-30).  It aimed to rescue and house “Deaf and Dumb unmarried mothers and their babies, and […] other Deaf and Dumb girls in moral danger” (see various annual reports).  In March 1929 there were eight girls and seven babies.  “The girls stay at least one year and longer if it is thought necessary” (Annual Report 1929-30).  In addition to annual reports we have two minute books that cover the period up to 1938.   They cover all sorts of issues including building work, for example on 18th December 1929 we read that

A letter was read from the Architect giving estimates for various items in his original report. It was decided to authorise Miss Daniels to have the tiles and gutters attended to and the Baby Shelter re-roofed with asbestos but not to proceed with the other items.

We can only hope that mesothelioma was not a consequence in those babies.Dunbar Lodge

Although of the nature of these minutes, covering delicate issues that include illegitimacy and having the names of some of the women concerned might make us consider that early parts of the minutes are closed records, they pretty quickly started to refer to the inmates by number, thus ensuring anonymity.  An early Medical Officer for the home in 1929 was a Dr. Janet McGill.  I am sure it would be possible to find out more about her from a medical directory of the appropriate date.  That same year the home was visited by H.H. Princess Marie Louise who “spoke most feelingly to the guests, assembled in the garden, of the handicap of Deaf and Dumbness, and of the need which the Home was supplying.”  In the 1937/8 report we read that

Minutes Dunbar LodgeThe Home is financed by payments made for the girls  and their babies by those responsible for sending them to the Home, usually Public Assistance Committees, and by the grant from the L.C.C., these represent, roughly, two thirds of the total cost, leaving the final third, about £350 to be met by subscriptions and donations. The Committee decided last year to raise the charge made for the maintenance of the girls but it is impossible to raise it sufficiently to cover the whole cost and the Committee therefore appeal again for increased supposrt in the for of subscriptions and donations, an additional £250 p.a. is needed.

As we see, it was not a cheap place to keep running.  The 21st January 1938 minutes say there was an accumulated deficit of £1,213!  Without checking the R.A.D.D. annual reports I am not clear when the home closed, but wonder if the war was the final nail?  In the last report we have, for 1940, Lord Nuffield had generously given £500 on condition that they raised £100 more.  The building is gone now.

Click onto this page from the minutes where we read the shocking news that nurse Masters had joined the Church of Rome!

 

Annual Reports 1928-38

Minute books 1929-38

Updated 4/2/2019

 

 

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