Addlestone: Princess Mary’s Village Homes – A Personal History

The following is a personal history of life at Princess Mary’s Village Homes in Addlestone during the early 1950s. Do you want to share your memories? If so please e-mail us: [email protected]

Addlestone, Princess Mary Homes 1904 (Ref: 51703). Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection

Addlestone, Princess Mary Homes 1904 (Ref: 51703). Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection

The following text remains the copyright of the author and may not be used in whole or part without prior written permission.

 “I was a child at Princess Mary’s Village Homes from April 25th 1949 [the day after my 10th birthday] to 1953. During four loveless years there, I was powerless to do anything about the appalling abuse I endured at the hands of the matron in whose care I was placed. Due to the fact that my mother was deemed incapable of raising me in an atmosphere of care, I was sent to PMVH under a Care & Protection Order, but the kind of care I received would be unimaginable to most people today. That PMVH was Dickensian is an understatement.

Between the ages of 10 to 14, my life consisted of endless punishments for crimes I never committed nor even understood. One such punishment was being made to wash, by hand, in cold water, the sheets of the girls who wet their beds. This had to be done in the back yard of our cottage before school each morning, regardless of the bitter cold temperature outside. I was also made to clean out the drains with my bare hands, which quickly turned blue and became very painful. I was ten years old. No one told me about menstruation, and when it happened, I was so terrified of punishment that I hid my coarse calico knickers in the overhead cistern of the outside WC. To my relief, for once I wasn’t punished.

Princess Mary’s Village Homes consisted of several little cottages set around an oval lawn; each cottage was home to around 10 children, and each had its own matron; the idea being to create a family atmosphere, with matron acting as mother. All well and good unless your proxy mother turned out to be a mother from Hell! I am writing a book about my experiences, which have left deep emotional scars. During World War Two and for some time afterwards, it was all too easy for children to slip through whatever community health care existed at that time. Thus it was that no one realised I was deaf until I was eleven years old. After lengthy treatment for multiple ear perforations and chronic ear infections, my hearing improved. Punishments were frequently for disobedience, yet no one had considered the possibility that I couldn’t hear.

After treatment, my deafness improved, and I seemed to keep out of trouble, but the punishments continued, and matron became ever more inventive. Regularly accused of losing things, my glasses, my school beret or other items would be hidden, and I would have to stay up until very late looking for them. Of course I never found them, but the following morning the missing items would be found exactly where I had left them. Sometimes I would be made to sit on a hard chair in my nightdress, shivering with cold in a draughty hallway until matron went to bed. I would often fall asleep and end up on the floor, and she would pick me up roughly and put me back on the chair. I was so tired that I was often confused about where I was. In fact I was confused most of the time, and the sad truth is that in those days, children were afraid to complain.

I would like to contact other girls who were at Princess Mary’s Village Homes between 1949 and 1953, and at Stepgates Secondary School, Chertsey, when Mr. Jackson was the headmaster. We had a wonderful music teacher there, who brought joy to my erstwhile miserable existence. I would be grateful for any information, links, photographs, etc, concerning the school. In particular I would like to access my own reports while at PMVH. Can anyone help? I am fortunate in that I eventually found happiness, and few would believe my history, but I am still haunted by my time at PMVH, and the pain of the abuse I was subjected to only now seeks catharsis, albeit late in the day. At the time, the only way I could survive was to imagine that it was all a nightmare from which I would soon wake. At the time it felt as if the real world existed outside of me; a world I ached to belong to, but couldn’t because I had been labelled ‘bad’. Only via films, books, and by observing others can I know something of what it means to have a carefree childhood. However, a wry sense of humour and a gift for understanding why things happen the way they do, has helped me to accommodate this chapter in my life, and has somehow kept me on the right road as an adult.”

Author’s name withheld – please use the comment form below, the “contact us” link at the bottom of the page or the “Ask a Question” link at the top of the page if you want to share your own experiences.

Surrey History Centre holds many records and documents related to Princess Mary’s Village Homes, find out more.

104 thoughts on “Addlestone: Princess Mary’s Village Homes – A Personal History”

  1. Patricia Ann Laker says:

    g\’day my name is Patricia Ann Laker and I was at PMVH in or around 1961/62/63 I was a teenager at the time and was sent there through the courts although I did nothing wrong guess they thought it was a natural progression from the ususal Kid\’s homes I had lived in most of my life..I remember being in a cottage away from the other\’s and that when we did wrong we got locked in a room in a cottage that was on the main circle of lawn it was not a happy time as we were treated with great disrespect and like we were criminals which infact we were just children when I turned 15 in 1963 I was moved to a cottage just inside the gates to the right where I was told I was to go to work at Thompsons Bakery {which I loved it got me out} I dont have any happy memories of being there and never once had a visitor it also wasn\’t to be the last place the Council was to move me to…..all in all I think I can say it was one of the worst times in my life… at 1st cock crow the ghosts must go back to their quiet graves below

    1. Janice lloyd says:

      I was at pmvh between 1963 to 65, in melemby house,the first on the right as you go through the gate,the house matron was a miss flex,who wasn’t particularly horrible however she kept no controls of the girls,and had no idea about the bullying that went on,it was a horrible time in my life and I think about it often does anyone else remember her

      1. Patricia Laker says:

        hi Janice not to sure of the name of the lady but I do remember she had real greasy black hair not sure if it is the same lady your referring to….

        1. Brenda Harris says:

          She was Miss Piper. I was there from 1964 until 1967. Brenda Harris.

          1. Patricia Ann Laker says:

            I remember a Heather Harris we were in Crouch Oak together but her parents took her home before she went to the Hostel type thingy at the front of PMVH where we went to work…

      2. Brenda Harris I had a fight with denise says:

        I’m Brenda Harris do you remember me I was in miss flex cottage

    2. Julie allen nee reeves says:

      My name is julie reeves I was in miss pipers cottage first on the left as you came in main gate I think I was there 63 64

  2. dorothy laker says:

    Anna, you can contact Surrey County Council in Woking for your “In Care” records…..I did just this to start my Family Research….I was given copies of all of my records…and found the person who assisted me very helpful…..

  3. Jean Smith (nee Addison) says:

    I was at PMVH during 1958 to 1961 (approx). I felt ashamed for many years after leaving and wouldn’t mention it to anyone but now I have many positive memories of it. I was in Cottage 7 I think, I am also writing a book about my experiences there and the impact it had on my life since then both good and not so good. Thankyou for the link to Woking Pam, I have contacted them today and await a reply. Jean

    1. Sandra Flynn says:

      Hi jean, I too was at PMVH bad memories did you finish your book?


      1. Jean says:

        Hi Sandra, I haven’t finished it yet the reason being that originally my book was (still is) a “Memory Book” for my grandchildren who lost their Mother in 2002. As I went through it and PMVH entered the equation I stopped to go to Chertsey PMVH exhibition and later to Surrey records office to find out more, I actually stayed three days (but they were so kind and helpful) as there were so many ledgers etc to look through, there were quite a few that have not been put into public domain yet either! I also contacted social services for my records of the time I was under their care too. All in all I ended up with a pile of papers about nine inches high to read through which obviously brought to mind many memories which had been long forgotten! I had forgotten all about this site until I received an email concerning your enquiry so I was very pleased and will now get on with my book/story and let you know when its ready. Jean

        1. Jean says:

          When were you there Sandra

          1. sheila davies says:

            hi jean my name was sheila wheatley an i was sent through the courts to princess mary home an i went to stepgates secondary school we were made to walk miles to get to it also i remember running away an when i was court was put in a dark attic to clean all the cutlery

          2. Patricia Laker says:

            ohhh another run away was my favourite thing to do whils’t I was there and yes I got locked in a room for a few days as punishment

    2. Pauline Downham says:

      Hi Jean, we must have been in cottage 7 together !!!! I was there in cottage 7 from 1958 to 1962…….I can remember your name, but cant put a face to it, do you have a photo of you at that age? (I have one in those ‘flowery dresses’ we had to wear )……I know I know your name….(We probably got up to mischief together) :o))….was Matron MIss Gredig? I know Miss Clark (a rotund lady) was the Secretary of the home and she would take us for dancing in the studio on a Saturday and teach us the Gay Gordons, waltzes and other such dancing :o))…Wow this website has taken me all the way back, what memories !!

      1. Pauline Downham says:

        Like a lot of the other comments on here, I did not know why I had been put in this home, as I had not done anything wrong, I was a very young child and could not understand why I was there? I can remember lying awake at night crying and thinking why am I here in this place, why have I been put ‘ here’, Most certainly has scarred me for life. Ruined my education, I would shrink to the back of the class at school Sheerwater, never answer a question, even if I knew it, didn’t want to draw attention to myself as a ‘homes’ girl as we were known, it was sooooooooo painful inside to attend school and be stared at !! You stood out at school, because the homes girls all had the same uniform, old fashioned, as opposed to more modern stuff that the non ‘homes’ girls would wear. Better to fade into the background than to stand out as a ‘homes’ girl. Truly, my biggest regret and the saddest part of my life for me. The authorities had no idea in them days and were very cruel to children.

    3. Dorothy Whiteman says:

      Hi, I was sent to PMVH in 1969 & although I thought I’d landed in hell at the time, looking back I can see what a positive effect it’s had on my life since (and the best thing thst could have happened to me at that time).. . Did you finish your book?

  4. Christine Edgington (nee Chubb) says:

    I was at the mercy of PMVH in the late 50s early sixties and as one other person says was ashamed for many years
    I have been very happily married now for over 45 years and have 2 children and four grandchildren
    I vowed that my children would never suffer as I did at any bodys hands
    I ran away from this gastly place many times and have lost count of the laps I was made to run around the vast green that encircles all the cottages I was in cottage 9 with Miss Flex
    I was also locked away in the room in the cottage at the far end of the green for sveral days in solitary and for a young child this has always made me not want to be alone
    The treatment received at this place has left scars in this day and age it most surely would not have been allowed

    1. Patricia Hopkins nee knight says:

      1954-60 another survivor of PMVH!! Maybe a reunion would help many of us exorcise the ghosts and share our experiences. I hope for all of us who underwent such a traumatic experience that life has proved far happier times.

      1. Jean says:

        I myself find it difficult to “lay the ghosts to rest” no matter how good life is, it was the stigma of the place, the very name “Approved School” puts shivers down my spine? I didn’t know why I was there I had done nothing wrong but thought “I must have done”? Since going through the records I received from Social Services I now know for sure I didn’t deserve to be there and I am in the process of sorting it out once and for all. It won’t change anything but my character is and always has been everything to me. I had 25 wonderful years with a fantastic husband but it is still there just waiting to come to the surface at any opportunity! I was treated kindly and very fairly by my matron but others must have been traumatised by their experiences? I would love a reunion Patricia but its difficult as people live far and wide now! I have met one lady when I went to the Chertsey PMVH exhibition as I love to travel.

      2. Jean says:

        When were you there Patricia?

      3. Michael says:

        Hi Pat Knight, did you go to Sheerwater school? I think I remember you from there.

        Mike Rayner

        1. Sandra says:

          Was that school in weighbridge at all

      4. Pauline Downham says:

        Survivor is right,…..Any sort of a reunion sounds good to me Patricia for anybody who lives local or thereabouts

      5. Pauline Downham says:

        Hi Patricia A reunion sounds good , what area are you living in now?

        I was in cottage seven (the maroon ties) from 1958 to 1962. Be good to hear some of your memories, good or bad :o))

        Pauline x

      6. Patricia Laker says:

        hi a reunion would be great but unfortunately i’m in Australia and have been for 47 years which has helped get rid of some of what PMVH did to me…it made me a loner all my life along with all the moving from kid home to kid home but as they say life goes on regardless of what happens…

    2. Jean says:

      Hello Christine, I was there in 1958 to 1961, do you remember a Miss Gredig small plump lady with glasses? I was in cottage 7 at the back looking from the main gates and to the right. I do remember a Miss Flex and read quite a bit about her in the Surrey Records Office, she definitely had issues as she didn’t want to retire when the time came?

  5. halkynuk says:

    Dorothy, thank you for sharing information relating to contacting County Council’s to ask for “In Care” records. I had not thought of doing that but due to your message, have just done so and am hoping the council concerned will be able to help me ,,, too!

  6. Irini Baawuah nee Mavris says:

    I am so sorry to hear of your mistreatment at Princes Mary Village Homes. I was there from about 1974 to 1980 and I must say things had improved a great deal in the care we received. I remember happy memories of outings, holidays, horseriding etc. and always having someone who listened to your woe\’s and always had time to help and guide you.If I could go back in time and change anything it would not be my time at this home.

    1. Chaim Simons says:

      I am an alumnus of Carmel College (1953-1960) and am writing, on a voluntary basis, a history of the school (which closed in 1997). Included in this history will be a brief biography of teachers who were at Carmel College. One of them was James Archibald Ewart, who was Headmaster at Carmel College between the years 1948 – 51. He was then headmaster of Coombe House School in New Malden Surrey until it closed in about 1963.

      Just a few days ago, I found on the internet that (at least) from 1971 – 1974, he was Headmaster at the Princess Mary’s Village Homes, Addelstone, Weybridge Surrey. I would like to hear your, or indeed any other alumnus’ (pupil or staff member) reminiscences or recollections of James Archibald Ewart as Headmaster of these Homes. If you prefer, you may send them to my e-mail: [email protected].

      With thanks.

      1. Jean says:

        Have you tried Friends Re-united Chaim Simons? They have a PMVH page on there which may be helpful! Good Luck

      2. susan marshall says:

        I was housemother for cottage 7 when James Ewart was headmaster there

        1. Odette Martin says:

          Hi sue remember me Odette tinker

        2. sharon davis says:

          I was there when Mr Ewart was head master. He was a good and fair man. My time there was ok

    2. suzanne pordage/Jasper says:

      Hi i was at pmvh 1977 to 1980, the day i arrived i waited for my social worker to leave then off i went to train station to Waterloo no money off course ! many times i ran away but not because it was so horrible i just missed London. My experiences were OK the staff over all were lovely one in particular she was such a lovely person. i do miss her and miss PMVH oddly enough !

      1. Jean says:

        Have you tried the Friends Re-United Suzanne they have a PMVH page on their site? Try The Surrey Records Office as you may find information there. Good Luck

        1. suzanne pordage/Jasper says:

          hi Jean i had a little trip down memory lane last weekend. i visited the grounds of PMVH, now a housing estate ! Very weird being back there still can place the cottages old/and new school. the other weird thing was even though i had good memories (due to a FEW lovely staff) i felt uncomfortable in the village. When i was there Girls of PMVH were looked upon as people not to approach ! So many not so nice memories came back. very strange ! thank you Jean i will look into friends reunited and surrey records

    3. Jacquibewley says:

      Were you in cottage 5 and into the Mod music???

      1. Jim O'Neill says:

        My Mother was there from the age of 9 years until 14 years, which would have been from 1923 to 1928 ish. The exact dates I’m unsure about. In 1984 I took my Mother back to the school which was just as she had described including the Chapel. We were told by a caretaker that the school had been sold for development, but their was still 4 girls in residence. I’d love to know more. Regards Jim O’Neill

      2. sandra moore says:

        hi I might have been in cottage 5 mrs brown was my house matron and yes into all the mod pop music
        Sandra moore was Sandra maybe then .

        1. Dorothy Whiteman says:

          Hi Dandra, Mrs Brown (or Brew, as we called het) wzs also my HouseMother too. She had a Sausage dog called Amber. A strict but fair woman, and she had her favourite/s ( of which I was’nt one) but you knew where you stood with her. We had a student trainee also, from Chertsey/Weybridge called Cherry Lloyd, could have only been about 18, but she was so lovely. Another HouseMother was Maggie? who was my favourite & whom I kept in touch with afterwards..

  7. Jennifer Pond says:

    My time there was spent in the care of Miss Cole who had a grey cat called Jumbo. in Cottage 4. Miss Weaver was the headmistress and Miss Clarke was the assistant head. I ended up in the hostel and worked for the bakery in town. Housework was the pattern of the week there. I was sent to a Technical School in Chertsey and got on quite well there as I remember. I got home from work one evening and was told simply “put in your notice tomorrow”. The following Friday I was told I could go home and packed off on the train. The only trouble was that no-one apparently had informed my mother and father who very quickly tried to get rid of me again…

    1. Jean says:

      Hi Jennifer, when were you there? I would love to hear more of your time in the hostel as had they not found suitable foster parents for me that’s where I was headed at age 13yrs old

  8. Ray Howe says:

    I was a child with my parents in Addlestone from 1943 to 1948 and remember the girls of the PMVH walking in line up the street they looked very nice , I did not realise the pain some of the girls were going through . I also remember an orphanage for boys over the road that I went to a Christmas party one year . Only recently did I learn that some of them went to Australia and other countries and had a very hard time as depicted in the film “The leaving of Liverpool ” .
    I’d love to know what did happen to them as I live in Australia know.

    1. Patricia Laker says:

      hi Ray I was there early 60’s horrible place but don’t remember a boys orphanage moved to Australia 47 years ago and have had a good life here…

      1. Brenda Harris says:

        I was there early sixties. Brenda Harris.

  9. peter hook says:

    i;am trying to trace my mother time she spent at PMVH from being an orphane. born 1906 died 1995 if any one can help me i would be gratefull as i am the last one left of my family thank you

    1. Jean says:

      Hello Peter, you must get in touch with Surry Records Office and if you can pay them a visit, they are a mine of information and so kind and helpful. I spent three days there ploughing through piles of ledgers etc. You have to email/phone them first and they will tell you what they have available for your search, they get it all ready for you for the day you visit or you can ask them to post the information of which there is a charge. Good Luck Peter.

  10. Pauline herbert says:

    Hi there
    I am doing family history, and was wondering if anyone remembers or know or heard of a mothers hospital for unwed mothers in Addlestone, my mother was born there in 1943. Think it was a private one. Need any info small or big. Then when she was 2 years of age until 10 or 11 years of age went to a home. I think that was private. It was turned into a school when it closed. It will be addlestone, chertsey area. Thank you for reading,

    1. Jean says:

      Contact Surrey Records Office Pauline they are a mine of information, if there is any records available they will have them in their vast vaults. Good Luck!

  11. Pauline says:

    Hi there
    Maybe someone can help me. My mother was born 1943 at kingthorpe nursing home, think it was private, nan was not married.
    Does anyone know anything about it big or small.
    And does anyone know anything about a private (I assume it ) childrens home in same area, or maybe chertsey, my mum was put it there when she was two until 10 or 11. I know it’s a school now.

  12. flynn says:

    I have just come across this site, as I was sending for a photo print of PMVH Miss Gerrard was my house Matron, and what a nasty piece of work she, she would be locked today for her wicked behaviour, I too was so ashamed it affected my life with my mother and father, my work life it as been a stigma I have had to live with I was sent there when I was twelve and left when I was fiftheen, sent miles away from my home town, my family could not afford to visit about once a year, I did have home leave when I had been there two years, will write more soon as I have to go to an appointment. my name is Sandra Flynn age 65

    1. Jean says:

      Hi Sandra, when were you at PMVH?

    2. Jean says:

      Hi Flynn, I feel so sorry for yours and other’s miss-treatment at PMVH, I keep wondering why some girls had it so hard and I didn’t? I don’t know if I could have coped with that and still stayed sane? Was it the barbaric matron’s/house mothers you were unfortunate to have take care of you or was I just easy to manipulate (this I got from my notes) and that’s why I had it easy? We may never know but my matron (Miss Gredig I have since found out her name) was kind, and thoughtful with a gentle personality. She didn’t stand for any nonsense mind but I never saw her punish anyone and we all seemed pretty happy I think? We must have all missed our families of course but I feel now looking back that most of us came from bad backgrounds anyway I know I did but didn’t realise until after reading my social reports, they are a real eye opener I can tell you! I do hope life is good for you all now, it definitely helped make me a stronger person, made me want a better life and it gave me a feeling of security which I never felt as a child.

  13. Deborah says:

    hi, I was in St Marys Approved School as I knew it when I was fourteen. (1969) The only positive thing I remember taking away from that place was the fact I had mastered touch typing and to this day I still touch type. In my book St Marys gets a mention. I ran away from that place several times and taken back. I was placed in solitary in what was named The Birds Nest, does anyone else remember that? It was not nice. Before fourteen I was placed in Stonepound Remand Home for children in Hassocks. Cant believe I found the picture and read other peoples comments, shame could have entered more details in my book.

    1. Lisbeth Coleman says:

      Hi Deborah
      I was at PMVH 69/70 I have some memories mostly for faces not names. I ran away with another girl called Liz. I would appreciate being able to speak/mail you.

    2. Sandra says:

      My name is Sandra
      I must have been at st Mary’s village homes in 1964 approx
      My house matron was mrs brown she had two west highland terriers my best friend was a girl from Scunthorp
      Called Sally
      I remember
      Going in the pantry and doing tidy asnd marmalade but I always got caught
      And had to scrub the red brick kitchen tiles I rennet it so well
      The cottage o was on was on the left hand side about the 4th one down can’t remember the number might have been 5
      Anyone remember me I’m 65 this year but still remember those days

  14. Ruth Lewis says:

    My grandmother (Florence quick) was at pmvh not sure of the exact dates but probably in the late 1920’s/ early 1930’s my parents are interested in finding her records & planning to visit working records center, if anyone knew of her (maybe before anyone’s time there but you never know!) please reach out

  15. Lisbeth Coleman says:

    I was a PMVH in 1968 – 70 and would like to speak to anyone who may have been there during this period. I still suffer from the affects of my time there………..

  16. Elaine Davey says:

    I was at PMVH from about 1959 to 1962. I was in Miss Gerrads cottage. I can remember the treatment of run aways to be very harsh. Being kept in solitary in the main building and made to run round the green in all weathers. I went to a secondary school in Woking during my time there which was good. I was a troubled child because of my home background which nobody seemed to care about. I can remember being told that I had a nasty temper. So I kept quiet and just got on with it. Today children would have councelling but in those days you were treated more like a criminal not because you had done anything bad just because you were unhappy with things that had happened in your life.

  17. Pearl Jacques says:

    I was there in the early sixties I’d like to try and find friends like Susan bailey from Luton I can remember her and anyone else who remembered me as my name was pearl blakemore at the time it would be nice to hear from you and would like to access my records if any exist many thanks and god bless you all

  18. Pearl Jacques says:

    Hi this is pearl again as I’m now thinking about it I do remember miss green house mother cottage 1and Mrs folio I’m crying so hard to remember and its Been along time now so I’ll have to post more as it comes to mind many thanks pearl Jacques \ blakemore

  19. Patience says:

    Hello my name is patience. I would like too know if anyone was at crouch oak approved school P.M.V.H. Addlestone between the years 1957-1959. I have been searching for a photograph of crouch oak mansion but unable to find one. I would greatly appreciate if anyone can help me in my search.
    Thank you.

    1. Patricia Laker says:

      hi I was in Crouch Oak late 50’s early 60’s and can remember a few names mostly girls I got in to trouble with I hape you can find photo of the place and then put it on here…

      1. Elizabeth Gale nee Wakefield says:

        Wow u still around! No I did not live there but could tell u many things!, one is there was a Matron MissManders one lovely person I knew! And her later adopted daughter Jenny ! Wish I could find out anything about them! All good Love to u LizXX

    2. Carol Grunberg nee Wills says:

      Hi Patience,
      My name is Carol, I was at Crouch Oak during that time……two ladies ran it….Miss Zoe Brooker and Mrs Murray. Do they ring any bells? I quite enjoyed my time there and for a short time before I left was made head girl. I’m afraid no photo though.

  20. lesley says:

    I lived in Addlestone through school age and always remember the Girls from P.M.V.H I always felt a little jealous of them as I had a violent dad,I remember there clothes that made them different, they never spoke bad about the home but always running away I suppose to go home to there parents as any child would. But I do remember a […] she was always in trouble at school ( St Pauls Junior School) I remember one particular teacher […] he really picked on her and one lesson he grabbed her by her front and kept punching her like a balloon on elastic, it hournts me from this day, on one particular day [she] came to tea and I sneaked some clothes out for her and she ran away but was in school a couple of days later, she never told me what happend.
    I often what happens to [her],Just hope she found happines. This was year around 1962-1963

  21. Jacquibewley says:

    I was at PMVH from around 1977 to 1979, was in a couple of different cottages, but my most vivid memory is in cottage 7 with Mr and Mrs Wigmore, who had their collie Penny, who had a litter and they brought Lady back who I trained, loved that dog. We also went horse riding a couple times a week, played netball, went on strike. I’m have happy and sad memories from that time

  22. Anne Bell says:

    I wonder if anyone can help me please:- I am searching for records of Uplands Remand School, Maybury Hill, Woking for boys 8 – 14 years old Circa 1910 – 1920.
    Although after reading about PMVH, I wonder what I am going to unearth!

    Many thanks

  23. M. White says:

    I went to PMVH at about twelve and was there in 1952 for about two to three years.

    My memories are mixed, some vivid and some less so. I was in the house away from the green through a side gateway, it was called Homelands. There were twelve girls in that house, Four in each of the dorms. From the start I was an outsider. Used as an example of what not to be. Ridiculed, humiliated and despised by my the little Welsh Matron who informed me, on entering her house, that she had been asked to take me by the school board and had only given her consent as a duty to her country. My reason for being sent there was intimately private and a complete fallacy, used by the courts to remove me from my home and family. I played truant repeatedly, but, as I came from a middle class household this was not regarded as dire enough to be put in an approved school. So they concocted a story of sexual promiscuity. Yet, I was a virgin. Not a living soul, including my parents believing me, after some female doctor had performed an internal physical exam, which had me screaming in pain, which she said told a different story. It was, she added, for my own good.

    As others have related above, I was accused of every mishap in the house, as the others were innocent and therefore could not have cut catgut in a stored tennis racket in the conservatory, or, poked their fingers in the icing of a baked cake as it stood on the kitchen table. It had to be the dreaded, M. Likewise only I could have been so low as to let the rabbits out of the hutch, kept at the back of the kitchen, or, been speaking in the dorm after lights out. So, I had to pay. And pay I did. Not one of the dastardly deeds being due to my hands.

    Sent to the headmistress, that same Miss Weaver, who corseted and immaculately turned out, actually was kind to me. She knew full well I was the scapegoat of that woman in charge of my house but they wanted to keep her. I was asked to scrub the Chapel aisle on my hands and knees, we wore work dresses for that kind of chore, which took most of a day, with no break. Clean the atic where all the additional supplies were stored. Scrub the terracotta tiled floors in my house, until three in the morning, for speaking in my dorm after silence. Which wasn’t me at all but the favourite of the matron, the big, square faced, Diane. I being constantly humiliated and called a liar when my Matron would, at dinner, tell all that her special people in our group had parents who paid the highest weekly amount for their board, which I refuted. They she said, were accountants and could afford it. My Dad had showed me an invoice on an exeat that he was billed for £2.53 shillings a week for my keep. Higher than any of the others. Which infuriated him. Any gifts they sent, such as fruit and a watch for my birthday confiscated never to be seen again.

    The very worst of all, when the kind Miss Weaver gave me a new green cotton pleated Sunday dress, as I had red hair. Mine was in tatters and she was ashamed to see me in it. Matron getting in a spat with me over it and hding it away in the laundry cupboard saying, I had torn it and didn’t deserve any such privilege from a head who clearly wasn’t aware of what an evil little beast I was.

    It became so unbearable that a Matron from another house took pity and told me privately that no one else had been asked to take me and had she been offered me, she would not have refused. I cried all evening form having someone expose their pity on my situation as that confirmed they knew what was taking place but chose to turn a blinkered eye.

    I too was eventually sent to a school in Chetrtsey as it was assessed I was too clever for the in house lessons and as a result of that a boy, in another class, would walk me back to Addlestone after school. He came in through the front gates to Ms Weaver’s office on the right and asked her permission to do so, which she gave. Oh, did my Matron make me pay for that. She told the house I was disgusting and needed to wash myself from head to toe as only that could get rid of the dirt that clinged to me. So, I was sent to ablutions (as it was called) to strip wash, whilst the rest of the girls stood in the hall and watched, giggling and laughing at my plight. After which, I was told I had to go to the scullery and set about cleaning, with wire wool, all the stained and grease ridden pots until the early hours of the morning, as only work would set me free.

    So, I ran away, frequently. Only to be found and returned by police, or my parents, as they did not want trouble from the authorities. It was then three days in the school house attic for me. With only a matrees on the floor and mice running across the room. I was freezing, no heating, and food pushed through he door at various times. No contact and no acknowledgement of existence. As there was no books or any kind of activity, to pass the time, I would sing hymns at the top of my voice. Church three times on Sundays, and the local Methodists on Thursday, made it the only songs I heard or learned. It sent them beserk for some reason I never understood.

    But, I learned a great deal. I was taught how to take care of my house, ‘ceilings, floors and lampshades’, how to embroider with silks, how to lay a formal table with damask table cloths, napkins and silver cutlery. How to iron and starch my clothes to perfection. The sheets went to the laundry, where we took turns in working in. I wore an immaculately clean school uniform, with starched white blouses and had brown leather brogues for school as well as a boater for Sundays. The shoes and sandles we had to polish every evening after tea until they had a shine you could see your face in. Heavily starched fresh bed linen deliverd in a basket once a week from same laundry, the need for which has stayed with me all my life. In essence, I was taught how to be a lady of the manor. As although this stark exisitence was set up to make me suitable for a life in service, it also made me suitable to be the lady of the house. As after it I knew how to run the place, as well as speak and dress as if born to it. It served me well, eventually.

    Emotionally, I take the view that the age in the era I was born, was strict and not easy on its people or their children. No matter which class they were fated to belong to. I was a WWII baby and the fifties were still part of the end of Victorian doctrine. I belive that although this was hard in the extreme, I was fortunate in that PMVH could have been as dreadful as being in care today. Our standards for children protection and their well being having dropped to the level of a thrid world existence. Expectation and aspiration is non existent with so many. All with an added icing of victimhood that leads enlessly to a rotting soul.

    1. M. White says:

      Apologies for not spotting the spelling errors in my post above. The eyes are not what they used to be.

    2. Sandra says:

      Hi I remember scrubbing and then polishing those terracotta tiles for doing wrong seemed I was always to blame those were the days and I worked in the laundry as well my matron was mrs elspeth brown

      1. M. White says:

        You know Sandra, the strangest thing of all is, I cannot remember my Matron’s name. I can see her face and tiny short body with white coat like a doctors hospital coat, over her body but not her name. She used to drink boiled warm water for breakfast out of her teapot and china cup and saucer.

        I remember a girl named Patsy Dallison and an Ellen Swinny, as well a the dreaded Diane, who has a surname I also cannot recall. And that is it.

        When I read this again today I wept for such a long time. However, I didn’t feel the only one to suffer this abuse alone any longer.

        I wish every one who has written and all those who were there the very best of all wishes and hope that they found some joy after leaving it;.

        1. sandra moore then maybee says:

          hi the one you are thinking of was mrs Brown in cottage 5 im sure I was ther I think I was 12 at the time I was there for 2 years ,and when I was good I was allowed to make mrs browms tea and take it to her room on a tray ,yes I remember bone china tea set ,there wa so many ard times there scrubbing floors ect do you remember a girl called sally she was my friend I was there prob 1964 -1966
          although it was hard it did teach you respect discipline and I swore I would never treat my own children like we were treated ,I have 2 lovely sons who I am so proud of who have grown up as good people and in what ever I have done I have been successful at through sheer hard work ,so it must have done some good

  24. Mary says:

    I was amazed to find this site! It brought back so many unhappy memories. I was sent along with my sister Vicky from Jersey Channel Islands. My sister was sent to Crouch Oak and I very rarely allowed to see her. I too was in Miss Gerrards cottage, I remember what a vile woman she was,her pale blue eyes still haunt me to this day! I tried to remember the girls that where with me . One girls’ name jumped out at me Elaine Davey, she was there with me (1959-1961) I remember the punishments ,running a hundred laps around the green in the freezing cold , being locked up for two days in isolation bread and water and my crime was being an hour late from outside school. My sister and I never had any visitors as we were so far from home.To this day I still don’t know what we where doing there. Looking back I can’t think of anything positive to say about our time in PMVH’s Sadly my sister passed away 2006 and I know she never got over the way we where both treated.for myself I’ve never let other people hold the key to my peace of mind! Never blame anyone in your life. Good people give you happiness. Bad people give you a lesson and the best people give you memories. MARY RUBENS X

  25. Dot says:

    I was in PMVH in 1969. I was 14. My house mistress was Elspeth Brown & she had a Daschound called Amber. Another teacher was a Cherry Lloyd. She was a trainee if I remember and was lovely. I met some absolutely amazing girls there; we were all “in it together” and by and large we were a ‘sisterhood’ of so_called social misfits. Looking back, most of us were just a product of our own environment and teen hormones. Going there has put me in good stead all my life: thru some wonderful roll models I learned discipline. My achievements along the way were recognised, and I learned the art of hard work = reward. Had I not been put away by the courts when I was, I’ve no idea how I’d have ended up. As it is, it’s been a long road with more than it’s fair share of hard knocks, but, going to Pmvh was without question played a huge positive part in my life.

    1. Sandra says:

      Hi my name when I was there was Sandra Maybee I was always in trouble and Elsie the brown was my matron to but she had 2 west highland white dogs , she smoked like a trooper I was always nicking her fags
      But totally agree it was hard times then and you learnt the hard way
      But I have always been successful
      In whatever I did worked 100 percent I gave 2 lovely sons that I’m so proud of they are my world remember scrubbing the red brick kitchen floor many a time and
      Your wardrobes used to be spotless or you would have to do it again
      I wonder if you was there when I was .

  26. Brenda swan says:

    My mum [Eileen Finn] went to PMVH in 1967 to 1969…. She can’t remember what house she was in but the house matron used to knit 2 piece cardi and top set and give them to the girls… Does anyone remember Goosy Gander?

    1. Patricia Laker says:

      I knew an Eileen while I was there but am sure her name was Milson I maybe wrong after all these years

  27. sheila davies says:

    does anybody remember a miss dvorak that was a matron in pmvhomes

  28. susan paterson says:

    i worked at p.m.v.h from 1972 until 1974 and was housemother at cottage 7 the headmaster at the time was mr james ewart. i loved my job there and we looked after some amasing girls i am at the moment writing a journal of my life and included a chapter about the homes. i would very much like to be able to trace any of our girls but doubt they would even want to remember their time there

    1. Jean says:

      Hello Susan. I was at PMVH but from 1958 to 1961 so before your time.
      I was wondering if you had any photographs of cottage 7 as that was the one I stayed in and would dearly love to see a pic of it. I was shocked when I found this site and realised the ladies had so many bad memories of their treatment there, so sad as I have fond memories of my time there so I was lucky I guess to have a good matron!

      Look forward to your reply
      Jean (Smith)

      1. bob says:

        BEST WISHES.

    2. marcella Lawrence's says:

      Hi l was there between 73_75

    3. Jennifer stedman says:

      I when to pmvh my name was Jennifer Eaton does anyone remember me it was in the 70s I am sure I was in cottage 7 to just had a house mother

  29. Marcella says:

    Hi l was at pmvh in 1973-1974

  30. Jeannette says:

    Marcella, I was there around the same time as you. My house other was Mrs. Ferris. I can’t remember which cottage.

    1. marcella Lawrence's says:

      Mrs Ferris was in charge of my cottage as well

      1. marcella Lawrence's says:

        Hi l was there between 73_75

        1. Jeannette Hewes says:

          I was there in 1973 or 74.

  31. Andy Cole says:

    I worked at PMVH as storekeeper/inventory person from summer 1980. It was my first ever job; I was 18. The place was closed down completely in June the following year. Fred Bloomfield was the manager I believe. He used to have regular meetings with the Chairman of the Homes, a very elderly, Miss Catherine Edith Godman (1896-1982). I think she inherited the title from her mother Dame Alice Godman, D.B.E.
    Dame Alice made an appeal on behalf of PMVH on the BBC National Programme’s The Week’s Good Cause on 28th December 1930. There’s a substantial entry about Miss Godman’s father Frederick DuCane Godman in Wikipedia.
    PMVH was a very pleasant and quiet little enclave and I enjoyed working there for those last few months of its existence.

  32. Odette says:

    I was at pmvh in the 70s sue and David Marshall were my houseparents they had a little girl Tania my memories are all happy I was a handful testing David and sue constantly .but I felt a part of a family we were in cottage 7 I remember miss becket our games teacher mr Ewart our head and lots of games i.e. Netball rounders swimming happy days does anyone remember me ? Odette Martin nee tinker

  33. Sandra says:

    Hi was anyone there with Elspeth Brown a very slim white haired lady smoked like a trooper very strict you couldn’t get away with anything with her and I went to the school in weighbridge
    I had to get the bus there
    I was there when the song hey carrie Anne what’s your name now it was around 1964 -1966 I think

    1. jacqui davies davies says:

      Hi Sandra

      I was there around 1965 and I also went to school in Weybridge. My House Mothers were Miss Kidd and Miss Killick (or similar name). I did change cottages when I came back from home visit but cant remember the name of the new House Mothers, they were nice though, I think it was the first cottage on the left hand side as you went through the gate, but I may be wrong, it was a long time ago. I remember I was allowed also to go to a church in Addlestone with another girl from PMVH, on Sundays.


  34. Jean says:

    Hello to everyone on this site, I was wondering if anyone has any photos of the individual cottages?

  35. J S Kyme-oliver says:

    I’ve just been talking to my mum and has just told me that she was at this school in the early 1950s. She said it was a nice enough place but this is from someone who came from the Leicester slums in a family of 11 with a violent alcoholic farther. Her name is Doris Kermode and seems very interested in stories of this place. Does anyone remember her.

  36. Janet says:

    Hi I was there around 1969 in need of care and attention ha ha I remember those fire places and the blacking also being locked in a cell like room It was awful can’t remember any staff God bless you all

  37. Neil E Webner says:

    I am researching my mother-in-law, Doris Kate Tidwell who entered PMVH in 1909 at age 2 with her sister Violet. She did not leave until 1926 when she was sent shipping tickets to the U. S. by her brother. Family history is that she was trained for service to the royal family. I have the census of 1911 which places her in Surrey. I would like to have some anecdotal information about the life at the home in that era.

  38. Susan paterson nee marshall says:

    I was house mother for cottage 7 from 72-74, would love to connect with anyone who was at pmvh around then. have some great memories with the amazing girls i was lucky enough to care for.

  39. esther nash-smith says:

    hi my name is frances i was in the pmv when i was 6 years old that was 1940 it was a terrable place cleaning door handels sweeping yards pellingpotatoes and long walks not allowed to talk they wher very strickt i can not remmber any good at that place i was so glad to get out off there i had a living in job but after that i took off and brought myself up i hated the place i whent there because my mother used to bet me it was no fault off mine but i was the one that sufferd sorry for the spelling i am now 83 good luck to any body that got out off there frances

    1. Janet says:

      Greetings from Miami, Florida, Ms. Frances,
      I am writing this reply for my friend, Beryl, who was telling me about Addlestone. Beryl is 83 years old, and she thinks that you two may have been at the home at the same time. She doesn’t have a computer. She would like for you to get on touch with her, or we can figure some way for you two to meet over the internet. You can reach me at the email. Many thanks and stay healthy!

      1. Janet says:

        My friend Beryl said that she lived in the first cottage on the left.

  40. FRANCES says:

    to the lady at the top of this page i was ther when your where i was int what they called the royal cottage when a royalty came that was the one they whent into every royalty that came was one a year i sAW MOST OFF THEM

  41. jacqui davies says:

    Hi. I was just having a trip down memory lane and came across this site. I was also at PMVH it must have been around 1965. After a while I was allowed to go to the local scool rather than the one on site, which I really enjoyed. I cannot remember what number cottage I was living in. When I first moved in my house mothers were Miss Kidd and Miss Killick (or Kinnock) but after I returned from a home visit I was put into another cottage with 2 different house mothers (very nice, but can’t recall their names), there was also a cook who I remember put chopped parsley on everything! I did run away in the early days and was locked in a room for a day or two 🙁
    I believe I was in a remand home before this at Hassocks, all this for running away from an abusive Mother; wouldn’t happen today, thank goodness! I came from Luton, live in Plymouth now.

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