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Hackney Cottage Homes
aka Ongar Cottage Homes
In 1905, the cottage homes were established in Chipping Ongar, between Chelmsford and Epping (and north of Brentwood) in Essex. The homes were built on the corner of Chelmsford Road and Ongar High Street.They were called the Hackney Cottage Homes as they were built by the Hackney Poor Law Union for the children of Hackney.
The buildings were arranged in an oval shape around a grassed green.
As can be seen from the above photograph, the large homes were far from being 'cottages'. They were three storeys high and more than fifty children could live in each. Each cottage home was thus a relatively large institution in itself.
The homes ran as Hackney Cottage Homes until 1939. After this point, they were known as Great Stony School and functioned as such until 19941.
A collection of photographs of the homes can be found here.
A quote from an Epping District Cuncil document indicating the importance of the remaining buildings :
"Built 1903-05 as Hackney Cottage Homes for orphaned and bastard children. Designed by WA Finch with the buildings arranged around a central Green. Buildings are of red brick with blue brick plinths and have tiled roofs with decorative tiles and finials. Some buildings have half timbered gables. A national survey of Poor Law Union Buildings by the RCHME identified the site as being one of the best preserved examples of a Cottage Home Village in England. Of significant evidential, historic and aesthetic value."
A description we have been sent of life in the Homes:
"My mum May, was taken to Ongar Cottage Children's Home in or around 1920/21. Her brother Fred was also taken there but he was a bit older, maybe around 10? My mum is still alive and often talks about her time there.
"She says she remembers there being a big iron gate at the entrance and that the cotttages went round in a kind of circle/oval and there was a large grassed area in the middle. She rememberss the dormitories/rooms being named after trees....she actually remembers..Ash, Birch, Fir, Oak, Hawthorn, Rowan... All the girls had their hair cut short (literally a basin cut!).
"Each cottage had a 'Mother' and my mum remembers hers being 'Mother Wright'. She says there was a hospital on the site near the woods and she went in there as she had a lump removed from her neck. Inside, each child had their own locker. Siblings were not housed together. She says that the only times she remembers going outside the premises was when occasionally the children would walk in two rows to the local shops and were given a penny each to buy sweets. Also, if any of the children recieved parcels from family or friends, these had to be shared among all the children as some children didnt recieve any.
"My mum says there was a baby section and the older female children would have to learn and help feed and change the babies. My mum had a very good friend there called Rosie, and they both left the homes at 13/14 to work as nursemaids to a doctor's children. The doctor and his wife came to the home to 'select' a child for work and my mum was chosen on this occasion. Some children were adopted but my mum's mum was still alive although no one knew her whereabouts. My mum did find her mum many years later, tracing her to an old people's home."
LOOKING FOR RECORDS?
We have contacted the Essex Record Office and they have sent us the following disappointing reply:
"Although we hold records of both the Romford and Ongar Unions (G/R and G/On), they do not include any records of the cottage homes. We are not aware that records survive elsewhere and we are therefore unable to assist with any enquiries relating to individuals in the homes."
It is a great pity if the records have not survived anywhere.
1 Source of dates:
2. INTERPRETATION OF SURVEY DATA: LOCALLY LISTED BUILDINGS - ONGAR PARISH source: http://www.EppingForestdc.gov.uk