The 28th September is British Home Child Day in Canada. This is a day to remember those children sent to Canada from the children’s homes and charities in the United Kingdom between 1869 and 1948. Over 100,000 were sent to be indentured farm workers or domestics and we know of 17 British Home Children originally from the Solihull district (births in the Solihull registration district also included places such as Yardley and Acocks Green at the time).
The British Home Children from Solihull that we know of are:
- Ida Mary Archer
- Siblings: Alfred Beech, Walter Beech, Frank Beech, Harry Beech and Louisa Beech
- Albert Edward Britt
- Thomas Warner Cater and his brother Alfred Cater
- Albert Edward Duckhouse
- Ethel Mary Everton
- Edith Lilian Godden
- Horace William Lindon
- Clara Malin
- Siblings: Alice Elizabeth Mary Riggs, Walter George Riggs, William Henry Riggs
Ida Mary Archer‘s birth was registered in the Solihull district between October and December 1909. Her mother was Norah Archer.
In 1926, 16-year-old Ida arrived at Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in a group of 35 children and young persons from the Catholic Emigration Association. On 22nd October 1932, at Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, a marriage was registered between Ida Archer, of age, (daughter of Francis Archer and Nora Stalk) and Leonard Pope (another home child from the Catholic Emigration Association), of age, son of Norman Henry Pope and Florence Chamberlin.
Leonard and Ida had six children. Ida died April 4, 1986, aged 76 years, in Ottawa. Leonard died on 18th August 1994, aged 87 years, also in Ottawa.
The 1901 census shows Frank and Fanny Beech living in Sparkhill with children Walter, Frank, Harry and Louisa (shown as Laure) living in Sparkhill. Alfred is living with his aunt and uncle John and Mary Wall.
All of the children were in the care of the Children’s Emigration Homes (later The Middlemore Homes), before going to Canada. On 4th June 1902, Frank & Walter arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The others followed two years later, they also sailed to Halifax, Nova Scotia arriving on 11th June 1904.
- Alfred Beech, born 28th January 1888, was placed with T. D. Harrison at Saltfleet Wenworth, Ontario. He was already married to Jennie A. when he joined the U.S. Army on 5/6/1917 in New York. On the 1920 New Jersey Census they are shown with daughter Ethel M. aged 10. Alfred as a divorcee later married Jennie Merritt Donaldson on 2nd July 1940 at Prince William, Virginia. He died in 1966, aged 78 in Belvere Warren, New Jersey, USA.
- Walter Beech, born 28th August 1889, was placed with Richard Anderson at Wards Creek, Kings County, New Brunswick. He married Mary MacDonald on 14th February 1916, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Walter died on 5th June 1979 in Stoughton, Massachusetts.
- Frank Beech born 24th August 1891, was placed with John King but the location isn’t given. He was married to Edna Chamberlain and living in New Brunswick, Canada when he enlists in the Canadian Army in 1916. He died in 1970 in Canada.
- Harry Beech born 28th October 1893 was placed with John Mitchell & Joseph Mercer at Ratters Cove, New Brunswick. He joined the Canadian Army as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers on 10th March 1917. He was killed in action on 14th October 1918, at Sancourt, France.
- Louisa Beech born 22nd March 1895 – there is no placement given but she married Edmond Earle in 1923 in Boston, Massachusetts. She died on 19th May 1992, in Woburn Massachusetts.
Albert Edward Britt‘s birth was registered between January and March 1911 and he is shown as three months old at the time of the 1911 census, living with his parents Albert Henry Britt and Rose Britt, and his sisters, Annie Elizabeth (5), Ethel May (2) and Edith Rose (1). Two more children were subsequently born – Mary in 1912. and Alice in 1913.
Albert Henry Britt was a former regular soldier and a Boer War veteran. He rejoined the Army on the outbreak of the First World War and was killed on 29th October 1914, leaving his widow, Rose with six young children to look after.
Rose appealed in the Solihull Parish Magazine, February 1916, for any work doing cooking or cleaning, saying that she had help during the day to look after her six young children, so was available for work. She apparently remarried in 1919, and had three more children with her second husband, Joseph Hands (1888-1969).
Her son, Albert, was in the care of the Children’s Emigration Homes (later Middlemore Homes) and appears to be the only one of his family to go to Canada. An application was made at the same time as his application (February 1918) for his sister, Mary, to go as well, but she seems to have remained at home.
Albert Edward Britt arrived in Quebec on 23rd May 1920, aged 9 and was placed with John McDonald at the Marconi Station, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. He is on the 1921 census as living with Otto & Anna Russell Graves in Elgin, St & Albert, New Brunswick. Albert remained in Canada, and married Doris Anne Nicholson in 1937, at which time he was a truck driver. He subsequently became an automotive painter and died on Vancouver Island, aged 86. His ashes were buried with his late wife in Saskatchewan in 1997.
On the 1881 census the Cater family were living in Yardley. Parents, Alfred and Sarah (née Warner) had five children Theodore (5), twins Mary and William (3), Thomas (2) and Alfred (3 months).
Thomas Warner Cater, born 1879, and Alfred Cater, born 1881, were placed in the care of the Children’s Emigration Homes (later Middlemore Homes) and aged 13 and 11 respectively went to Canada. They travelled together, setting sail from Liverpool on 16th June 1892, on the Circassian and arrived in Quebec on 29th June 1892. There are no placements listed.
Thomas married Ethel Maud Darby in Wellington, Ontario on 7th September 1908, at which time he was a 29-year-old farmer. They appear on the 1921 census of Canada as living in Guelph City, Ontario with their five children and Ethel’s mother Olive C. Darby.
We haven’t been able to find any further information on Alfred Cater after his arrival in Quebec.
Albert Edward Duckhouse was born on the 15th October 1901. His parents Frederick, aged 29, and Ellen, aged 30, are on the 1901 census and have three children – John (8), George (6) and Stephen (4) – listed with them. Albert and Stephen were in the care of Barnado’s when they were sent to Canada aged 8 and 12 respectively. They arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 18th March 1910. They appear to be the only members of the family to emigrate.
Albert was placed with John Thompson in Draper, Muskoka, Ontario. He died in November 1982, in Alexander, New York, USA.
Stephen Duckhouse was born on 27th March 1897 and was , aged 14 , was recorded as a domestic in Wentworth, Ontario. He gave his occupation as a farm labourer when he joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force at Freelton, Ontario in January 1916, listing his mother Ellen, in Small Heath, as his next of kin. His unit sailed for England on 22nd August 1916 and landed in France on 6th December 1916.
Private Stephen Duckhouse, 87th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, was posted as missing after action on 14th August 1917 and was declared “presumed dead” a year later. Having no known grave, he is commemorated on the Vimy memorial. There is a story that he was taken prisoner near Lens and was forced to dig a trench with others before they were all killed and buried in the trench they had dug.
Ethel Mary Everton was born in the Solihull district on 10th September 1902. She was placed in the care of Barnado’s before going to Canada, arriving in Quebec on 25th June 1913 and going to the Hazelbrae distributing home in Peterborough, Ontario.
Ethel married William Dryland in Ontario in October 1924 and they appear to have had three sons. Ethel died on 9th September 1995 in Bancroft, Canada and is buried at Boston Mills Cemetery.
Horace William Lindon was born in Knowle on 21st November 1903 and was living in Birmingham Road, Knowle with his widowed mother, Esther (aged 39) at the time of the 1911 census. She is listed as a laundress with five children, four of whom were still living at home – Ella Francis (13), Francis Leonard (9) Horace William (7) and Muriel (5). It seems as if the children’s father, Francis, died in 1905 and their mother, Esther, died in 1912 when Horace was just eight years old.
Horace was in the care of Barnado’s before going to Canada. He arrived in Quebec on 30th September 1912, he appears to be the only member of his family to emigrate. He apparently returned to England in 1930 and married Evelyn Frances Clarke in Birmingham in December 1934 and they had two sons. He died in Birmingham in 1974, aged 70. His youngest son, Dr Paul H. Lindon, was educated in Birmingham and Ontario, and died in Canada in 2014, aged 74
Clara Malin was born in the Solihull district just after the 1901 census, which shows her parents, Frederick (34) and Martha (34), living in Sparkhill with their five older children – Frederick (14), Martha (7), Edith (4), John and Frank both (2). The children’s mother, Martha, died in 1908.
The 1911 census shows the father Frederick (a painter and paper hanger) as a widower living in Aston with his 17-year-old daughter Martha (a button driller) and his youngest children Elsie (7) and Charles (5). Altogether, it seems as if Frederick and his wife had nine children, of whom one had died by 1911.
Presumably, Frederick was unable to cope with all of the young children after his wife’s death and Clara, Frank and Edith were in the care of the Children’s Emigration Homes (later Middlemore) before going to Canada. They travelled together to Halifax, Nova Scotia, sailing from Liverpool aboard the Carthaginian on 25th May 1909 and arriving on 9th June 1909. The children were all initially housed at the Middlemore distribution home, Fairview, Nova Scotia.
We haven’t been able to find out what happened to Clara or Frederick, but Edith (born in Birmingham on 17th April 1896) appears on the 1911 census in Nova Scotia as “adopted daughter” in the household of labourer, Roderick McDonald and his wife, Mary Ann.
Edith married a soldier from Denmark, Robert Emanuel Anderson, who enlisted in the Canadian Infantry on 9th October 1916 less than two weeks before his marriage to Edith in New Brunswick on 25th October 1916. He was demobilised in March 1919 but we don’t know what happened to him afterwards.
Edith Anderson (née Malin) married John Henry Horton on 25th December 1922 in Michigan, U.S.A. and died in Boston, Massachusetts in May 1978.
Walter George Riggs, who was born in Solihull on 11th July 1895 and was the second of three children. His father, Andrew Tom Riggs, died in Olton in 1900 leaving his widow, Alice, aged 25, with three young children.
Alice was working as a dressmaker in Shirley at the time of the 1901 census, and went on to have seven more children, remarrying in 1908. The three children from her first marriage – Walter, Alice Elizabeth Mary Riggs (1894-1985) and William Henry Riggs (1897-1957) – all went to Middlemore Homes to be cared for, and were all sent to Canada.
They arrived in Halifax from Liverpool on 28th May 1908, having sailed aboard the Carthaginian. Although placed separately, they were all placed in Carleton County, New Brunswick. Walter was placed with D.L. Parkes & Fred Fawcett in Woodstock, Carleton County, and also Wallace Hemphill of Debec Junction, Carleton County. William was placed with J.J. Rogers, Woodstock, Carleton County and Alice was placed with W. L. Margison, Jacksontown, Carleton County.
Walter and his brother, William, both joined the Canadian Infantry. Walter was killed on 24th February 1917 whilst William survived the war and married Lucy Hanna Brooks in Ontario in 1923. They had three children and William died in Toronto in 1957, aged 59.
Alice married Edgar A. Neal and had two sons, Edgar, who was born in 1914, and Walter, who was born in 1918 and, presumably, named after her late brother. Alice died in Woodstock in 1985, aged 91.
If you have any further information on the British Home Children with a local connection, please let us know.
The Core Library Solihull
tel.: 0121 704 6977
credits: image of British immigrant children from Dr Barnado’s Homes, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada
emigration details etc. from the British Home Children website