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Beechholme Closing - 1974

October 1974

BEECHHOLME children's community is closing its doors at the end of this year after nearly a century in Banstead.

The old-fashioned buildings in Fir Tree-road will be pulled down and the land redeveloped as a private housing estate. Some youngsters have already, moved into 10 modern 20-place children's homes being built in Wandsworth to take the place of Beechholme.

In 1880 the Banstead residential schools were opened by the Guardians of the Chelsea and Kensington district. This cottage group home was near revolutionary for its time in the field of child care.

Many children in need were still being cared for in workhouses and barrack-like institutions of Dicken's day.

At Beechholme, as the schools became known, workshops for carpentry, shoe-making, tailoring, smithing. glazing. plumbing and painting were built.

There was also a bakery. All repairs were carried out by the instructors and boys in training.

Beechholme covered a much larger area then than it does today. Farming was carried out on the land. It was a self-contained and mostly self-supporting community. numbering about 720 children. Now there are only about 120. and all of these should have moved out by January.

Beechholme became the responsibility of London County Council in 1930 in 1965, the borough of Wandsworth took over control, following London government reorganisation.

"Wandsworth Council did a deal with Rush and Tompkins Developments", explained superintendent Mr Donald Dicker. The land will be developed into a private housing estate in return for constructing purpose-built homes for the children in Wandsworth.

"Beechholme is too old and large. All the children come from London mostly from Wandsworth, so these new homes will be far easier to get to".

The houses. once single-sexed, became mixed despite terrible warnings of the consequences. Nowadays the training aspect takes a back seat and Beechholme is a place where children live in exactly the same way as children in an ordinary house.

On Sunday, October 20, there will be a service, at St Paul's, Nork Park commemorating the history of Beechholme. Local dignatories have been invited and Wandsworth and Battersea church choir have promised to attend.

"Old scholars. former residents and all local people are invited to this open service", said Mr Dicker.