Beddington Royal Female Orphanage

Carew Manor, Wikipedia

Through my recent volunteer work for Honeywood Museum I’ve had the chance to do some research into the history of the Sutton area during the nineteenth century. This has thrown up many interesting stories related to the industry of the area (being based of the river Wandle, there were many mills), and also the many institutions created to assist the unfortunate. One of these institutions was the Royal Female Orphanage in Beddington.

The Royal Female Orphanage was established in 1762 in the historic Carew Manor, in the beautiful setting of Beddington Park. Carew Manor was built in the 1500’s for the Carew family, a well-connected family who reportedly often had visits from Tudor royalty; however by the second half of the 18th century the family had moved out of the manor and the house was put to a different purpose. This purpose was to house, school and train girls with no parents or, more frequently, without a father or with parents who were unable to look them. They were schooled and trained to work in domestic service and once at a suitable age (normally about between 14 and 16 years old) they were sent out to work.

The Sutton Archives has many of the records related to the orphanage, and I’ve had the joy of looking through the log of girls who had reached that suitable age. This holds a wealth of information in terms of social history and demonstrates the relationship these children must have developed with the orphanage. To encourage the girls to stay in domestic service and as a reward for their efforts, they were given a prize of £2 2s after two years of successful service. This was a continuation of many prize giving events that took place turning their time at Carew Manor, where prizes were given for good behaviour as well as merit in their schooling.

The Great Hall at the Royal Female Orphanage, The Carew Manor Project

The location and size of house the girls were sent to work in could vary greatly; some stayed locally to Carlshalton and Sutton however I found one girl, Florence Louisa Crago, who was sent to work for Lady Walpole at Hampton Court Palace. Domestic service wasn’t the only option for the girls, it is evident that some girls were ‘not strong enough for service’. Annie Elliot Bowe was sent into an apprenticeship as a dressmaker, and though this meant she was not eligible for the reward money, from orphanage’s records, she went on to have a successful career as a dressmaker.

I was amazed at the length of time the orphanage kept in contact with the girls after they had left, sending out regular letters, they attempted to maintain this almost paternal relationship with the girls. This is demonstrated in Annie Elliot Bowe’s records; it notes that having taken up the position of Assistant Dressmaker in Devonshire in April 1893, in June 1896 she was ‘still at same place and doing well’. The writer of this note almost comes over as proud of Annie’s achievement. For many the contact ended once they got married or after a move, but it is clear that for others a strong relationship had been developed with the institution that brought them up. Alice Maria Robinson was born in 1874 and at the age of 16 went into service with Lady Margaret Lashington in Lyndhurst. Two years later she received her £2 2s reward and went into service for Lady Rothschild. In July 1898 Alice came back to the Beddington Orphanage to attend the Prize Distribution event for the girls at the orphanage, and had married Mr Charles Pratt. The fact that this is recorded shows the perceived importance of this by the orphanage, obviously Alice would have given the resident girls something to aspire to, but also embodied the orphanage’s pride and achievement. The final entry for Alice is for sometime later and of a sadder note, it reads ‘July 1920, Died of heart failure’, ending her long relationship with the Beddington Royal Female Orphanage.


For more information on Carew Manor see the Carew Manor Project:

For more information on Sutton’s local history and archives, see the council’s website:

For Honeywood Museum also look on the council’s website: and the Honeywoode Friends website:

13 Responses to Beddington Royal Female Orphanage

  1. Hi. I really enjoyed this article and I was wondering if you might be interested on making a contribution to the British Society for History of Science (BSHS) Travel Guide ( We are always looking for articles on places of historical interest, especially history of science and medicine and your article perfectly fits the bill!

    • kathleenmcil says:

      Hi there,
      Thanks for the comment and glad you liked the piece. I’ve seen you’re website, it’s great, and I’d love to contribute, thanks for the suggestion!
      I’ll have a think and get something to you soon!
      Thanks again,

  2. Michael Tyler says:

    Hello Kathleen
    I was fascinated to read about the Royal Ladies Orphanage.My paternal grandmother was educated there from around 1905 to 1915.Her name was Eliza Grant and when she was alive she told me these were very happy times.She died in 2001 aged 101.She also told me that she remembered presenting The Duchess of Albany with a bouquet of flowers on behalf of the orphanage.It occurred to me that photographs of this event may have been taken and I wondered if you may have come across anything in your research that may be relevant?
    Many Thanks
    Michael Tyler

    • kathleenmcil says:

      Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your comment and your interest. There are actually quite a few photographs in Sutton archives on the Ladies Orphanage.
      I’ve only had a quick look through them but there are photographs of the prize giving events and I think there may be a few of a royal visitor.
      The best thing to do is contact the Sutton Archives and someone with a greater knowledge of the archive will be able to help you. The staff are extremly helpful.
      You can contact them on: 020 8770 4745 or email: More info here:

      I hope this helps and you find something conected to your grandmother, (living to 101 years is very impressive).
      The library also hold some oral history accounts, and so you can gain a better insight to what life was like there at the beginning of the 20th century. I’ve read a lovely one about Christmas there.

      Good luck and best wishes,

  3. Susan Pahad says:

    Hello Kathleen

    My grandfather’s sister was at the orphanage at the age of 14 in 1911 (census record) – both parents had died at that stage and the youngest siblings were placed in homes, as best as I can determine.

    My question is – where is the best place to look for information on her – I have no clue what ever happened to her – would it be the National Archives? Or elsewhere?

    Thank you so much for what you have here. It gives some detail that I would not have known.

    Susan, Toronto

    • kathleenmcil says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks for you comment.
      If your ancestor went to the Beddington orphanage there should be a record of her in their archives which is held by Sutton library. The orphanage kept a record of all the girls who left and also tried to keep track of what happened to them next, especially as if they stayed in domestic service for a certain amount of time they received a financial reward.
      So I’d recommend contact Sutton Archives to see what they hold on your grandfather’s sister. You can contact them on: +44 (0)20 8770 4745 or email: More info here:

      If your ancestor was at a different orphanage, I’d start by trying to find out where that orphanage was based, and work out from there the local government and those local archives. Speak to them and they should know more about where the records would be held.

      I hope that helps!
      Thanks again and good luck,

      • Susan says:

        Wow. I just got back to this page 3 plus years later. I so appreciate your response and will send a message as you suggested. Thank you!

      • Michael Tyler says:

        My grandmother was at Beddington from 1905-1915,she always told me they were happy times,she sang in the choir and once presented a bouquet of flowers to the Duchess of Albany.I visited Sutton library and found her name,Eliza Grant on the register.I also left a brief summary of her life in the folder.
        Michael Tyler

  4. Terence Steele says:

    I was a pupil at Carew manor School, and left there at age 14 to go to glastonbury and then greenshaw. I later contacted the school asking for my carew manor school project book which sadly they discarded, however I still remember an old lady by the name of Mrs Fielding who lived in Crispin Crescent aged 82 back in 1986. and although im now 40 I still remember the questions she was asked about the orphanage and how christmas was so special to them as they were given the best meal of the year with all the trimmings and were given an orange and a penny. also they had a dog which was buried under the orangery wall. and how they used to knit and learn to make dresses. and their bedtime would be at 7pm.

    I hope this little piece of information would be useful to anyone.

    Terence Steele

  5. John Routledge says:

    My Mother was at Beddington from around 1907 and has told me how, during the first world war, they ate stinging nettles as a vegetable. There was a story that Queen Elizabeth l actually used to meet Walter Raleigh there and that a poem was engraved by him on one of the windows. I don’t know if this was ever authenticated. She also told me of some old cellars in the grounds where the coal was kept and one of the duties of the girls was to go down in pairs and fetch up the buckets of coal. One day she was down collecting the coal with a girl called Winifred when they saw a ghostlike figure with a cloak and a feathered hat lurking in the shadows and ran for their lives. The gardener inspected the cellar and found nothing. In June this year, it is 100 years since my Mother won the prize for writing (hand writing) and the prize was a Chambers Dictionary, which I now have and her handwriting was always absolutely perfect right up to her last letter. I think Mother was placed there because my Grandmother was widowed at an early age and as there were 5 children in the family and she was the youngest, this would be the reason she was at Beddington. She formed a lifelong friendship with a girl called Dorothy who was a constant visitor to our home.
    I know that my Mother did go into service but she never relayed any stories of this other than the most awful thing was watching the cloth on a jug moving from the maggots in the jugged hare.

    My Mother’s name was Edith Catherine Palmer and I would like to find out more about her time at Beddington if possible.

    Hope this is of interest

    John Routledge

    • Michael Tyler says:

      Hello John
      It seems likely that your Mother would have known my Grandmother as she was at Beddington
      from 1905 til 1915 after her father was killed in an accident and her mother died in child birth.She always said these were happy times,she sang in the choir and once presented a bouquet of flowers to The Duchess of Albany.When she left Beddington they arranged in-service employment for her close to her family home. I have visited Sutton library and found her name,Eliza Grant,on the register and left a short history of her life in the folder.
      Michael Tyler

  6. Karen says:

    My grandmother was at Beddington from around 1914. I would be interested to know more about what life was like. Her name was Hannah Jarvis.

    • Wendy X says:

      My Grandmother would have been there at that time as well! Her name was Florence Cowley – she married a Canadian soldier in 1917 and eventually moved to Canada. She was born in 1900. Her Mother was a cook, but her father died when she was around 6 months old.

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