Thank God for those who did care in Barnardo’s By Keith Skelly Elkins. Now Tovell Born 5th May 1945 at The Limes U.D.
to Mrs Elizabeth Amy Elkins formerly Sleat of 40 Orford Street, Porthill Newcastle under Lyme U.D.

Caldecott House, Abingdon:
My first childhood memories were when I was at Caldecott House in Abingdon Dr Barnardo’s
Home for children. Any memories prior to this home and reason for being placed in to a children
home are a complete blank to me. What I do remember is that we would be taken out for little
walks in crocodile fashion, lines of two holding hands with the person next to you, boy, girl or
guardian and other guardians at the front and rear of the line keeping us all safe.
I remember being scared of police cars and fire engines clanging their bells while we were out
walking it used to frighten me as a youngster.
I was also so afraid of meeting Father Christmas, so I hid behind the long curtains in the playroom,
only to be greeted by him knocking on the window and waving at me, least said I ran a mile across
the room and hid in a cupboard until someone found me. I remember playing with other children
by the old conservatory where the babies were lined up in there prams asleep and we were told to
be quiet and play somewhere else, we use to play in some disused empty pig sties and shed in the
field next to the home it was great fun at the time.
I do not recall when I actually left Caldecott House, but do remember someone taking me on a steam train somewhere and when we were due to
change trains, my game of Chinese Checkers fell all over the station platform, some kind rail worker picked them all up for me before putting us
on another train. It was getting dark and I was tired as we pulled into what I now know to the Maidstone railway station and then across town to
the bus depot where my guardian handed me over to another lady called Mrs Dodd, then said to me this is your new Mother you are going to live
with this Lady and her family.

My Foster Home Nr Maidstone:
After our good byes we headed for the village of Sutton Valence south of Maidstone and then onto 1 Boyton Court Cottage which was out in the
countryside and on a farm, I do not remember how we traveled from Sutton Valence but we did eventually arrive at Mrs Dodd home quite late in the
evening. It had been a long long day, I was very tired so after washing my hands and face I was given a hot Ovaltine or Horlicks and taken to a
bedroom got changed and into bed one of those Z beds next to my new mums. When she went downstairs and left me in that room with a flickering
candle and those loud clock ticking on the mantle piece, I felt scared, cold and alone but being so tired eventually fell sleep.
The next day I was awoken, taken downstairs for breakfast and then introduced to Pops, Grandma and two of Mum sons Reg 20+ and Fred poss: 17+
the eldest son Jim was married with two children and live away. Nan lived in the adjoining house with Pops who had a down stairs room as he was
quite poorly on his feet, Reg middle son also live with Nan since her husband passed away sometime ago.
I was shown around the garden by Fred, first was the wood shed just a couple of steps from the back door, where all the wood and coal was kept for
the oven stove and the front room open fire also all the garden tools any vegetables ready for cooking. Then the first of two dogs had his kennel he
was on a long chain that would stretch to the back door and half way down to the outside toilet not very nice wooden seat over a bucket and torn up
Radio Times for toilet paper apparently Pops or one of the boys use to dig a hole once a week at the bottom of the garden to bury the waste, no
running water or main drainage. Next was the second dog in kennel again with a long chain so it would stretch both ways up and down the large
vegetable garden, I don’t remember either of the dogs ever coming in to the house. Then there was a large orchard where Ducks and Hens were all
running around, also there were quite a few hutches with Rabbits in them, once or twice I remember Pops skinning them and then having rabbit stew.
The view from the bottom of the orchard was lovely, you could see way over and across the Weald of Kent.
From the orchard we went though into Nan’s garden, which was the same as Mums garden including the outside toilet, the only difference was Nan
had the Well where all the fresh water we needed had to be hauled up in a bucket, after Fred had shown me the well he took me up all over the main
farm and showed me The barns with all the Tractors, all the cows were in there pens I’m sure one of the cows took a instant dislike to me it kept
making it’s way over, Fred realizing I was scared put me up on his shoulders.
After lunch Fred took me down the bottom fields where all the sheep were grazing, and the cornfields, then back up to the top fields where the Apple
and Plum orchard’s were. Back home once tea was out of the way they lit the paraffin lamps first no running water and now no electric Fred came in
with a Toy Farm Yard with lots of farm toys for me to play with. They really were very kind; it had been a lovely day. I really began to feel at ease
with them all especially Fred. I also remember he used to take me out for rides on the back of his motor bike, and he would always be getting told of
by Mum, but it never stopped him taking me again.
It was while I was at my foster mothers that I became aware that I suffered from wetting the bed, Mum use to get me up least twice a night to try and
help me control myself, one night I took her literally when she said don’t go back to sleep until you’ve been, she found me the next morning asleep
and shivering on the floor, I had fallen where she had left me. I had to stay in bed for the next few days while the rest of the family bar one who
looked after me went off to Sutton Valence village where they were holding outside parties to celebrate the coronation.
I was also now aware that I had quite severe eczema which sometimes would cover most parts of my body and would seem to appear overnight.
Apart from all the creams Mum put on me she would also put either, mustard on my fingernails to stop me biting them or mittens to stop me
scratching my poor little hands where never free Still she did what she thought was best for me at the time and she was very aware of my needs.
Mum was very strict but at the same time fair and very caring but what she said was law in the home, when at home she always wore one of those
aprons like a sleeveless coat, one side pulled over the other and tide at the back, she also wore old thick hairnet.
Friday nights was bath night out would come the tin bath that I could just about sit in with my knees touching my chin, kettle and pot were filled,
put on the stove to heat up, while a blanket was strung across the room to make it a bit more private, then a block of green hard soap and back brush
wow did she know how to scrub you, I did know if it was the hot water or the brush that made me red when I got out. God help you if anyone opened
the back door while you were in the bath you just froze.
Saturdays Mum and I walk to the bus stop in the village to catch the bus to Maidstone, at Woollies in the high street I would be left just inside the door,
all dressed up with little white ankle socks and white plimsolls. Mum would say now stand there and don’t move a mussel until I get back and
remember don’t talk to anyone I remember one time when I was just standing there, someone pushed a pram or something over my little white
plimsolls, when she came back she really went to town with the assistant, how could someone be so careless. Most Saturday we would go to Maidstone
except if I was ill or the weather was too bad. Then I would have to sit in the cold old wood shed with Pop whilst he was doing the vegetables for
Sunday roast, sharpening his garden tools or chopping wood for the stove. I would be left learning my sums, spelling, colouring in my books, tracing
in my magic book when you drew across the page a picture would appear. Pops never use to say a lot and I think I was a little scared of him but it
wasn’t too bad and I was always glad when Mum got back and I could go back in the warm house and play.
Saturday afternoons would be spent watching Mum clean the old black metal stove whitening the hearth then finally cleaning the paraffin lamps, or
going down the orchard to see the animals. Then it would be teatime follow by playing games and listening to the wireless Radio Newsreel or the
Archers or helping Mum make rugs out of old strips of material about 4in x 1in pulling it through Hessian and knotting it. You could use any old
material and make any design; they were very thick and warm and were in all the rooms.
Sundays I was never allowed to play noises games or run about in the orchards, Nan, Mum & I would walk to Church in Sutton Valence most Sunday
mornings, and in the summer if it was nice we would go back in the evening. Her eldest son Jim was married and lived away but used to be in the choir
and carry the cross, I think she had her site set on me to follow in his footsteps even at my young age. After lunch on Sundays we were all aloud to go
in the front best room where the open fire would be lit in the winter, we would just chat, look at photos and have afternoon tea, this was also the room
Mum took visitors into and these were the only times the room was ever used or even opened. The front door of the house that led into the front room
was never ever used it was permanently locked and covered by a big heavy curtain to keep the draft out. Her favourite sayings when we had company
were Little Children should be seen and not heard and F.H.B. Family hold back
The day had come for me to go to school; I don’t remember if I had ever been to school prior to coming to Sutton Valence. Mum walked me to the
village school Sutton Valence Primary and then collected me at end of day, after a while a girl we use to meet halfway to school started taking me so
Mum stayed at home but after a while the girl really didn’t want to take me and was a bit of a bully too. I ended up going on my own which Mum
didn’t like once she found out. Often Mum would have a go at me for being late home due to an old castle and a couple of farms I would stop at on t
he way home. Many a time I would be found sitting up by the Castle looking out over the Wealds of Kent. I was fascinated by the scenery around me.
Sutton Valence School
As for School I remember using sand trays and slate boards to write on also the teacher throwing the black board rubber at me when I was day
dreaming. I was quite happy there apart from often feeling the odd one out probably because I was new boy to the area as well as the school. My first
trip to the seaside was when as a family we caught a bus in Sutton Valence and rode all the way down to Hastings for the day, it seem to take ages,
when we got there out came the bucket and spade to build sand castle, rides on the Donkeys or on the amusements, Ice creams etc:
My New Foster Brother:
One day Mum said to me someone is coming to take us to see another boy to keep you company, I am not sure where about this Children’s Home was
but it was south of Sutton Valence and I remember going and meeting the other boy John Peddar no relation to me at all. Any way some time later he
came and around this time Fred left home so John and I had his old room which was at the top of the house with a good view overlooking the farm.
John and I got on quite well he was a bit younger than me and a lot more bolder and mischievous, but I liked him; I was certainly more timid, quiet
and very scared to be as adventurous as him.
Often we would be told to go and play outside or go for a walk, we would be out for ages roaming the lanes or wooded areas around the farm, then
get told off when we got back for being away too long, once I think we were bird nesting or something like that and Mum got to hear about it from the
local bobby, we both ended up with a good thrashing with twigs from the bushes even now I don’t know what we did so wrong One day we were
walking to school on the top road, which took us by a field of gooseberry bushes, and I’m afraid we were rather piggish and ended up being really ill
on the way to school, where we were taken back home and the teacher stating that we must have eaten something which was off, thank goodness we
both kept quiet and Mum believed the teacher. Most of the time we had a good time.
I am not sure how long we both stayed together with Mum, but our stay ended quite dramatically one day. I will always remember that fine bright
summer’s afternoon during the school break, when both John and I were playing in the bottom hay fields while Mum and the others farm workers were
combining and lifting the hay. When a car came to a standstill on the edge of the field where we were, there was a conversation and then John and
myself were dragged to the car, bundled in and taken away both crying our little hearts out. We were taken to what I now know to be The Village

Dr Barnardo’s Memorial

The Village, Barkingside

Both of us totally scared and unaware of why, how and when this had all been planned. We were given a Hot drink and biscuits, bathed and taken to
our bedroom, I cried all the way to the home and all though that first night, begging and pleading to go back to where I belonged with my Foster Mum,
it is something I have never forgotten and never will do, even now I hate leaving or saying long term good byes to anyone Family, Friends and even
work mates it can be quite embarrassing at times.
The Village was just like most villages it had it own School, Hospital, Clothing & Food Stores, Library, Swimming Pool and even it’s own Church.
The only difference it was for Children only, so sorry no Pubs!
Sweet shop was just outside the main gate, you had to be accompanied.
There were three main areas of green lawns with about 20 Cottages sited around each of them.
The Reception Green for all new comers, short term stay or those shortly moving to other homes.
The Nursery Green for babies and very young children.
The Main Green, Permanent, for long term stay.
Each cottage could hold about 12 children, there were two cottages that held 24, cottage had house parent_s either a married couple or a single person
plus an assistant the two bigger cottages had a couple more assistants; all had a daily part time cleaners /cooks. Staff were normally called Uncle &
Auntie on rare occasions Mr, Mrs or Miss.
John and I were put into Lilly Cottage on the reception green which was run by a Miss Thompson and an assistant who were very kind and caring
apart from when they served up Fogs born, Tapioca, and dried Figs for pudding or custard with dry skin on it. We both attended The Mossford School
in the Village and attended our village church on Sundays all children walking in lines of two from their respective cottages. After a short while we
both moved to Furze Court a Barnardo’s home in Hove Nr Brighton. John moved first as I was ill at the time then moved shortly after once I was well
enough to travel.
Two songs I soon learnt and used repeat night after night otherwise I would end up counting sheep to get to sleep.

Mummy Daddy take me home
From this Dr Barnardos Home
I’ve been here a week, month, year or two
Now I want to stay with you.

Furze Court, Brighton:
Furze Court was again quite a nice place, medium size mansion with some grounds and run
by mainly nice staff, but it was built with a central courtyard where there were some old baths
with cold running water. Each morning any boys who had wet their bed had to bring their wet
sheets down and put them in one of the baths to soak most of the time it was bearable, except
for this one lady, probably from Colditz, who use to make us who had wet the beds get in and
out of the other bath which was full of freezing cold water, regardless of the time of year or
weather. It was hell and not very pleasant at all. In all my time in Barnardo’s she was the only
member of staff I can really say I hated I never understood how or why she was the only
one who treated us like it.
Whilst at Furzse Court we had camping holidays in Winchelsea and the Isle of White once we
were watching a show in the main marquee when this chap pulled out a wooden doll which
started talking and rolling its eyes about, that was enough for me I ran out of that marquee
like a bat out of hell, around the back of some other tents and right over a guy rope which cut
my stomach, all because I was scared of a Ventriloquist doll.
Each breakfast time due to being quite a frail child I used to have a spoonful of Malt, Two spoonful of some sort of Brand sprinkled on my cereal, and
a half bottle of that old concentrated orange juice we use to have in those days. I attended the Middle Street School in Brighton which I don’t think I
attended much due to ill health. We use to save our bus money so we could by sweets, and then walk all the way to school which was near Brighton
sea front, via railway station as we use to love watching the old turn table turning the engines around.
While I was at Furze Court I was admitted to The Princess Alexandra Hospital in Hove for Eczema which again I had from top to bottom and used
creamed and bandaged up twice a day, it was quite embarrassing.
As I wasn’t ill I used to go around helping other patients with tea etc. Also a gentleman who used to visit Furze Court Home with his Accordion also
used to come and play in the wards at the hospital and use to g et me to sing a solo whilst he accompanied me The Lords Prayer When I was discharge
from the Hospital I ran away twice from the home straight back to the hospital. I just didn’t want those cold baths or to see that one lady ever again,
other than her everyone else were really nice.
Shortly afterwards I was moved back to The Village Homes, not sure if it was anything to do with me running away, but John stayed at Furze Court
and I’ve only ever seen him twice since, he wanting to live his own life, which Barnardo_s seem to encourage at the time Strange when they did not
want to separate us on the dreadful day when we were taken from our foster Mum where we were happy.
Second time at the Village:
Back at the Village Homes I was placed into one of the two double cottages in the corner of
reception area named Trefoil Cottage with 24 boys. I do not know why but I never settled there
in fact once I actually ran away from Trefoil Cottage without anyone knowing, Out of the main
gates I walked down Horns Road to the end of the village boundary around the bottom corner
and back in the next gate I could find “a bit scary out there on your own” Eventually I was
moved into Larchfield Cottage on the main green, although still very quiet and shy boy I got on
well with the other boys.
As I was too old to go back to Mossford School I was sent to the outside school Grearies
Secondary Modern Newbury Park Near Ilford.
I don’t remember too much about this school as I do not think I was here much more than 18
month. I do remember once in a music class we were practicing for a music concert, one of the
pieces was When he who would valiant be when we got to let fancies flee away, the music
teachers arms went up in the air, his song book shot across the class room and out of the open window, of course there was a lot of giggling, but the
master said he was only trying to get us to sing with a bit more expression and gusto, I think he just got carried away. Another time the school had a
visiting violin orchestra and they played to a packed school, what a lot of noise I much prefer the sound of the accompanying pianist, now that sounded
great and to this day I still enjoy listening to a piano or organ being played plus brass band music.
I also remember the sweet shop up by the side of the school, 2 black jacks for a Farthing and 4 for a Half penny, Sherbet tubes 2 pennies old coins
Whilst in Larchfield Cottage they tried to sort out my bed wetting again, we use to have beds made with rubber covered mattress with a chicken wire
laid across the bed, a bottom half sheet, another piece of chicken wire followed by another sheet “luckily I only experienced this in this Cottage” The
wire was rigged up to a bell, and the idea was, that i f you so much as dribbled in your sleep the wire would activate the bell. I had been known to wet
the bed four or five times in a night and still I would not wake up of my own accord. I even used to have other boys throwing shoes across the room at
me, couldn’t blame them they just wanted a good nights kip. I have recently found out we were the first few boy to try this out as it was a trial
I also had to go and see a shrink weekly for a while to see if he could get to the bottom of it all, we would have long chat, ask lots of questions like,
was I happy? How did I get on with the other children or staff? Then do some sorts of tests like what shape fits into what hole, what would I do if this
or that happened, all of it to no avail. I didn’t really like going to see him; I think subconsciously I just wanted to be part of a normal family.
At the time I was about eleven years of age and used to pray every night that I would stop wetting the bed, get rid of my eczema and that one day I
would belong to a family. Six month before I actually left Barnardos I stopped wetting the bed for good. My Eczema has mainly cleared up although I
have to keep it in check and my Asthma is reasonable and controllable. Self determination, contentment and lots of prayers.
We all had different task to do in the homes, on a daily rota, two boys might peel the
potatoes, two clean all the shoes, clean the fire half out, two to help with the washing up,
two sweep the yard and tidy around the house also on a Tuesday we had to collect the weekly
supply of eggs, Thursday collect the Ice Cream for tea that day, both came from the main
stores, as you can imagine you had to get back to the cottage pretty quick otherwise no ice
cream for tea.
We did have playtime where we could go to the village open air Swimming pool, play cricket,
rounders or football on the main green, or just play amongst ourselves and other friends in the
village. In the winter time you were only allowed to play in the playroom, so out came the
board or card games. Any school day home work always had to be done before playtime. On
the whole all the boys got on very well with one and other just like a family unit.
One of our house parents at Larchfield was Mr & Mrs Dennis Vine with their three children;
they were my last house parent at the Village.
Mr & Mrs Vine were a very popular couple, very well respected in the Village by both other
staff and all us kids liked them very much, “except when we were being told off” but really
anything they could do to help anyone of us boys they would do and we were all treated the same. One of our favourite treats was when we were taken
to Epping Forest for picnics in his old Austin A40? with a back luggage bar where the picnic basket went on “a big old laundry basket” it used to have
every thing in it. How some of us got to Epping or Hainault Forest when the car was full I do not remember there must have been other vehicles. We
also had holidays Eastbourne and West Runton between Sheringham and Cromer.
One evening when we were at West Runton in Norfolk I ran away and was brought back by the police after they had found me walking alone on the
beach, once they had gone this one master punched me hard in the stomach and said now get to bed and don’ t cause any more bother, the next days I
had to stay in bed supposedly ill, he got away with it. But on the whole we had some brilliant holidays and Christmas outings to Shows, Parties on
Navel Boats, Circus trips you name it we either did.
Saturday night each house would be on rota to go to either the Library to watch a TV or see a Film show in an old hall near the library, this would
normally be every couple of weeks. I don’t think any cottages had a TV at that time, so other than the TV or Films it was left to you to make up your
own entertainment.
We attended the Village Church every Sunday Morning I used to be fascinated by the bell ringers
but we were not allowed to touch the bell ropes.
During the service I would stare at those gorgeous stained glass windows they really were lovely
and are still there to this day. What a church and what memories it must hold. I even tried to join
the choir but was told by the choirmaster that I was tone deaf and I may as well go out and play,
I told him that I use to sing solos in the hospital, to which he said you may have, but you’re not
singing in my choir. I was gutted.
Sunday school used to be held in a large hall between the Reception Green and The Main Green
“ think it was called the school room” t used to have a very large picture of Jesus with loads of
children from all different countries standing and sitting around him, with the title
“suffer little Children to come unto Me”
I do not know why but some time later boys from our cottage were taken to the Ashurst Drive
Baptist Church. It was here where I first met Mr & Mrs Bird in Sunday School. After awhile the four or five of us that attended were given permission
to go to their house for Tea once a month, it wasn’t long after Mr & Mrs Bird befriended me because they said I was so timid and shy, eventually as
king Mr Vine if they could become my Auntie and Uncle, after some debating at Barnardos HQ it was agreed that they could. Even though they only
lived in Craven Gardens five minute walk from the homes, I used to go there for holidays and later when I was at Goldings I was allowed to go for
week-end and holidays and they became like a real family to me. Their daughter Margaret and her boyfriend use to take me out on day outings all over
the place London Zoo, Seaside, Shows, Circus etc: I was a lucky boy. One of the hardest job poor Margaret had to do was take me back from my
weekend stays at Barkingside to Liverpool Street Station in London and wave good bye to me on my onward journey to Goldings, I use to go all
solemn from teatime with tears in my eyes until I was on that train and away, then praying for the next break to come.
Later on in life when I was courting my wife “Val” she used to come and stay with Aunty and Uncle Bird and also they retired to Clacton.
Once when we were visiting in Clacton they told Val that they were going to adopt me when I was at Barkingside but changed their minds right at the
last moment when there was talk of me moving to “The William Baker Technical School” also known as Goldings in Hertford. as they didn’t want to
stop any chance of me getting on in the world and thought that this would be a good opportunity for me. I am only glad I didn’t known at the time and
that the decision wasn’t mine to make as I had always wanted to be part of a real family and probably would not have gone to Goldings. Own Home
or Goldings? Thank you Mr & Mrs Vine it must have been a hard decision for you as well to have made and the best kept secret. Mind you there was
a time I thought I was going to be shipped off to Australia but luckily for me I did not enjoy good health so it was not an option, I am so glad my life
has been spent in England.

Typical Cottage at The Village

My Mummy lies over the ocean
My Mummy lies over the sea
My Mummy lies over the ocean
O bring back my Mummy to me
then repeat twice
Bring back, bring back,
O bring back my Mummy to me to me
Some children used different words here and there,
As you got more settled you repeated them less and less.

All images and text copyright © to Goldings Old Boys reunion members

Page Compiled July 2011

Part Two

© Keith Tovell (Elkins)

The Village Church

The Village Homes, Barkingside

Furze Court, Brighton:

Caldecott House, Abingdon: