St Pelagia's Home
St Joseph's Maternity Home
34 Highgate West Hill, N6 6NJ
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1889 - 1972


St Pelagia's Home for Destitute Girls at No. 25 Bickerton Road in Upper Holloway was founded in 1889 by the Roman Catholic order of the Sisters Servants of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. It provided accommodation for unmarried mothers and their first-born babies, who were allowed to enter the Home when the child was a fortnight old.

The girls were admitted free of charge on condition that they contributed to the earning power of the Home by working in its laundry.

The Home later occupied the neighouring house at No. 27 Bickerton Road.

In 1934 it moved to West Hill Place, a large house on Highgate West Hill, where it re-opened in 1936 after the Convent of Sacred Hearts had been built adjoining the original mansion.

In March 1948 Mayfield, an adjoining 2-storey Victorian house, was bought and equipped as an antenatal and maternity home.  It had 18 beds and was named St Joseph's Maternity Home.

The Labour Ward was on the first floor, while the ground floor contained 6 antenatal beds, and 12 postnatal beds in 3- or 5-bedded wards, with 12 cots for the babies.  An isolation room was added later.

The patients, who stayed for an average of 12 weeks,  were cared for by three nurses.

The LCC paid a guinea (21 shillings - £1.05) a weeks to the Home for expectant mothers and 25 shillings (£1.25) for mothers and babies (this was later increased to £2 10s (£2.50) a week).

In 1954 the Homes had 70 beds for mothers and their babies.  Both properties had extensive gardens of 2 acres, but the buildings were in much need of repair, with damaged ceilings in St Joseph's and a leaking flat roof.

The Homes closed in 1972.

Present status (February 2009)

The Homes and the convent were demolished in 1970.  Their site now contains Hill Court and the West Hill Park estate.

Bickerton Road

The original Home, built in 1889 at 25-27 Bickerton Road (above and below), is now Bickerton House and contains studio space and offices.

Bickerton Road

Bickerton Road
The main entrance to Bickerton House.


Hill Court

The second and final site of St Pelagia's Home is now Hill Court, an apartment block (above and below).

Hill Court  Hill Court

West Hill Park
West Hill Park, a gated development, was built on the site of the Maternity Home. (Photograph obtained in March 2012).

West Hill Park
Old out-buildings along Merton Lane on the northwest of the site may have once belonged to the Homes.
St Pelagia was a famous dancer and courtesan who was suddenly converted after hearing the bishop St Nonnus preaching in front of a church while she was passing by with her attendants and admirers.  She was baptised and repaired to a grotto on the Mount of Olives, dressed as a male penitent.  She died there after three years of strict penance.

St Pelagia's Homes

Several Homes were established in London for the benefit and reformation of girls who had 'lost their character'.

The ones at 1-2 Church Row, Limehouse, and at 654 Rotherhithe Street were for girls who had been leading an irregular life or who had turned to drink.

The Bickerton Road (later  Highgate) branch was for girls and their illegitimate babies.

The Tottenham branch at 684 High Road was used to house and educate the children from the age of 2 to 10 years (if they had not been given away for adoption).

Girls could enter the Homes free of charge on condition they contributed by working in the various laundries.  A small charge was levied for care of the the children in the Tottenham branch on the basis they themselves could not work.

Higley F 1920 St Pelagia's Home.  The Tablet, 21st February, 22.

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