A Knight’s Tale (64: Changes In Residential Care)

By 1974, after I began working in Westminster Social Services and had met

Jessica that Michael came to live with me and the three of us took up residence, for three months, in an unoccupied children’s home in Droop Street, NW10 which was opposite the Area Office.  These photographs were produced in the June that we moved in.

This children’s home, now that they were coming out of fashion, had closed and a new use was being sought. Eventually it was to become a residential facility for people with mental health problems, and when, in 1986, I left Local Authority employment to take up freelance work I became a consultant to the manager. One of the then elderly residents had spent her life in a hospital as, being an unwed mother, a moral defective. These hospital wards were being closed down and their residents were to be supported in the community. Four other residents then occupied a flat in Harrow Road. They were mentored by a senior staff member who I supervised.

Rather unfortunately, this building was named St Jude’s, after the saint known to Catholics as the patron saint of lost causes.

Matthew and Becky still enjoy telling how, when they came for the weekends, they experienced the thrill of choosing any one of the numerous available bedrooms.  The children also had access to the kitchen, with varying results.  

Michael, Matthew & Becky 7.74 1
Michael, Matthew & Becky 7.74 2

These two pictures, from that July, demonstrate first the intense industry and excitement generated by cake-making; then the awful moment of truth when Michael’s disappointment, Becky’s visible disgust, and that, as granddaughter Flo later said “Matthew’s world has ended” is displayed.   Four ounces of salt had been used instead of that quantity of sugar.


  1. It must have been fun for the kids to choose bedrooms and cook–even when not very successful.
    That poor woman to be considered defective and locked up because she had a baby–and I imagine the father of the child went on with his life.

  2. I don’t understand why the kids weren’t sampling the sugar before it went into the bowl. All my kids could never resist the taste of sugar on their tongue but then, thy had never had that many rooms to choose from either. LOL

  3. Oh, gosh! HA! 😀 Ew! But what fun memories! 🙂
    PS…The elderly woman you mentioned…so sad. 🙁 When I was in university we visited an old State Mental Hospital that had existed since the 1880’s. While visiting and observing there, we met elderly people who had Down’s Syndrome and had lived there since they were small children. Their parents had put them in there. 🙁

  4. Reading about the elderly woman resident was very sad. I suppose she never got to have contact with her child ever again.

    The photos are beautiful, Derrick. Salt instead of sugar! I can imagine how that tasted. 🙂

  5. I can only imagine the fun of having the run of such a house. Great memories, indeed. The cake story is hilarious. What a devastating blow! I’m afraid I gave my daughter, Lauren, a similar experience. I was baking with a bar of unsweetened chocolate and Lauren wanted a taste. I told her it didn’t taste good. Many times. She still wanted a taste, so I let her take a taste. I have no pictures, but her face was similar to Matthew’s.

  6. It’s hard to keep in mind that even as late as the seventies there were still lives ruined such as that of the unwed mother. We hear of the Magdalen Laundries but it was happening throughout the UK too. Terrible.

    And oh , what a nasty surprise for the children! I’m sure that most of their cooking was very successful though.

    1. Thanks very much, Sandra. You will learn from my later work that one adoption agency I consulted for received pregnant mothers and babies from Ireland well into the ’90s

  7. I am grateful, again, for the work you did for others. It is good to know that someone as earnest and caring as yourself was trying your best to be of service to people in unfortunate circumstances.

    I also had some cooking catastrophes, and one was exactly this: too much salt. It was supposed to be 4 tablespoons of baking powder in the biscuits, and I added 4 tablespoons of salt. We were poor and couldn’t afford to throw out a bad batch, and I was in charge of breakfast for my siblings that morning. So Mom made us eat all those salty biscuits. It was terrible. I promise I never made that mistake again!

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