|LOST HOSPITALS OF LONDON
27-29 Devonshire Road, Hackney, E9 6QQ
|1888 - 1926
In 1884 the Women's Social and Rescue Work Department of the Salvation Army established a rescue home in Whitechapel for young girls who had entered a life of prostitution or had 'fallen' into pregnancy and had been abandoned.
At this time illegitimacy was strongly disapproved of, and only married women were admitted to hospital to give birth, so the Salvation Army had to send the unmarried girls to the workhouse or to lodgings for their confinement. In 1886 Mrs Walker, a midwife living in Chelsea, agreed to look after girls in her own home sent from the Salvation Army's Girls Rescue Home in Chelsea. Following their confinement, the girls returned with their babies to the Rescue Home, where they received spiritual guidance and social support to help them overcome the risks of a life of prostitution.
Brent House opened in 1888, the first maternity home for unmarried mothers and their babies to be established by the Salvation Army in Hackney. The first patient to be admitted was a 14-year-old girl made pregnant by her brother.
Only girls who were pregnant for the first time were received, on condition that they would stay for a certain number of months after the baby was born (four months or so), although in practice the time was often shorter as the Salvation Army was keen to help them move on as soon as possible to make room for others.
The property was used as a maternity home until Ivy House opened in 1890, after which the girls were sent there to give birth. They returned with their babies to Brent House some three to four weeks later. As well as providing medical care for the young women, the Salvation Army found live-in domestic work for them so that they could support the child, who was put out to nurse. In 1891 Brent House became a Receiving Home until 1894, when it was used again, together with No. 27 Devonshire Road, as a Home for Mothers and Infants. It had about 40 places.
A Social Evening was held once a month at the home, where the former inmates could come with their babies and be with them for a few hours before returning them to their nurses and going back to work. Fifty of so mothers would attend these occasions. The home also kept a room for ex-patients in service where they could come and stay with their babies during their holidays. A Salvation Army officer at the home kept in touch with the former patients for three years, keeping an eye on their welfare and ensuring that they led morally upright lives.
Brent House closed in 1926, when services transferred to Hope Lodge in Upper Clapton.
Present status (April 2012)
The original Brent House was demolished and an apartment block - also called Brent House - built on its site. The private development, built in 1937, has recently been refurbished.
Brent House, containing 36 apartments, occupies roughly the site of Brent House, Devonshire Road (renamed Brenthouse Road) (above and below). The apartment block next-door, built in 2000 for key workers, however, claims to be No. 29 Brenthouse Road.
The locked entrance gate bears the date 1937 in highly stylized ornamental ironwork.
A stone plaque on the front of the building bears the legend 'Brent House 1932' at the top and 'The Bethnal Green and East London Housing Association Limited' at the bottom (left). An indecipherable foundation stone underneath the central window of the block (right).
The Women's Social Work headquarters of the Salvation Army built in 1910 was located around the corner at No. 280 Mare Street. Once derelict, it was restored by Hackney Council in 2008.
(Author unstated) 1912 The Salvation Army Maternity Hospital. The Midwife. British Journal of Nursing Supplement, 14th December, 485.
Rider Haggard H 1910 Regeneration: An Account of the Social Work of the Salvation Army. London, Longman Green & Co.
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