She was sent to the Home in Hill Street as a very young child with her sibling. Her mother had died in childbirth and the father soon after. She remained in a Home until the age of 14 when she was sent into service at Packington Hall. Her sister was there for longer. She related that children kept arriving. Those orphaned by the bombing were sent to Town Thorns. After the war a lot of unwanted babies were placed at Town Thorns.
The family lived in the area of Much Park Street in Coventry. She was the eldest of three children. The parents were profligate and rarely at home. The family were constantly moving house. They did not own a teapot. Tea was fetched from a café and drunk out of jam jars. During the bombing raids, she, as the eldest would gather the younger ones together and take shelter under the stairs.
When this family arrived at Town Thorns (having been told they were going to the seaside) they were split up. The boys and girls were not allowed to mix and the youngest sister was put among the very young. This little girl was subsequently adopted and taken to the USA, all unbeknown to Francis. It was decades before she even knew where her little sister was, and even longer before they finally met up. Francis recalled her time in the home with bitterness. Her brother had been caned. As an older girl she was set menial tasks such as polishing the oak floors on her hands and knees. She also darned socks.
Story From An Anonymous Lady
A lady who did not identify herself volunteered her disappointment week after week. Parents could visit on Saturdays. Our unknown subject would go down to the gate to see if her mother had come.
She stood there for long periods in vain.
My name was Barbara Steele and I was thirteen years old. My father was head cowman for a local farmer. A cow lashed out and he broke his leg and was unable to work for a long time. The farmer could not wait until my father got better. He wanted his tied cottage back. He had to have someone to look after his cows. We lived in that tied cottage in Mill Lane Binley, along with my eleven brothers and sisters.
One day I came home from school and the bailiffs were taking all our possessions out of the tied cottage and putting it in the lane. The farmer had to have someone to look after his cows, so here we were with nowhere to live. It was 1946 and nobody helped you like they do today when everything is taken for granted and it is your right to have social help.
We walked all the way to London Road looking for somewhere to stay the night. We were put in a place where there were some old ladies lying in beds. I remember we were put in a ward where there was an old lady with bandages on her face. We must have looked bewildered at her, when all of a sudden she took off the bandages and exposed her flesh-eaten face. It had eaten her nose and cheek away which I now know was cancer. The old lady said, ”I’ll give you something to look at”. It was a terrible frightening sight.
The next day along with my five brothers and sisters we were driven to Easenhall, Town Thorns Children’s Home. It was a very large place to us. We were taken in. The family was split up. My father and two brothers went to the Salvation Army Hostel, and my mother went to High View Hospital. One brother was boarded out at Sandy Lane, Radford. My youngest sister and brother went with my mother, as they were only one and two years old. It was a very frightening experience.
The rest of us were looked after at Town Thorns Children’s Home with loving care by all the nurses, teachers, cooks, etc. We had dormitories with about ten beds in each. I actually had a bed all to myself to sleep in. It was like a five star hotel as we know it today, good food, a nightcap before going to bed. We wore straw hats, Wellingtons and gabardine coats. We walked to church on Sundays and played in the lovely grounds. I don’t know where we would have gone if we had not gone to Town Thorns Children’s Home.
Being the oldest, I tried to protect my sisters and brothers in Town Thorns in particular my sister June aged five. One day a girl hit one of my sisters, so I took Vera’s bottle of lavender scent and poured the whole bottle full over my dress. Everyone knew who had taken Vera’s perfume as everywhere I went the smell went with me (I was smelt out) I had to write 100 times, ‘I must not take Vera’s perfume’. That taught me a big lesson in life.
We stayed at Town Thorns for about five or six months. It was a very kind and caring home, and we were looked after excellently.
Eventually we were found a house in Woodway Lane, Walsgrave.
I have some lovely memories of Town Thorns Children’s Home and all the lovely staff and children in it. Some children had no visitors as their parents had died. I tried to comfort and shelter them all. Having a childhood like I had makes you a considerate and caring person.
Sir Alfred Herbert must have been a wonderful man to have left this lovely hall for the benefit of us children and the people of Coventry.
Town Thorns 1946
John and his five sisters were sent to Town Thorns from Holbrooks for a few months because of parental neglect. When given pyjamas, he didn’t know what they were for. They attended schools in Binley travelling there by by coach. He enjoyed his stay exploring the countryside. He saw weasels, stoats and foxes in the grounds and nearby fields. Each week he received one shilling pocket money and went to Brinklow Church on Sundays. He was taken on holiday to the seaside at Dymchurch. He mentioned the Grey Lady. The tale was that she had hanged herself from the banisters at the top of the stairwell. Was there such a person? Or is there such a ghost?