Gordon Boys' Orphanage


Band and Pipers of the Gordon Boys' Orphanage
From an old postcard

When my grandfather was killed at Ypres in December 1917, some members of the family suggested that my father, who was the only boy in a family of girls, should be sent here to the Gordon Boys' Orphanage on the south side of St James's Street.  Fortunately, my grandmother would not hear of such a thing and he was brought up in a loving, though fairly poor, family.


"The block of buildings at the eastward end (of Caroline Place) was used as an Artillery Volunteers' Institute before the East Cliff Drill Shed was built; it was here that Mr. Thomas Blackman started one of his earliest philanthropic works, in the formation of the Dover Youths' Institute; and at a later date, in a tentative way, he opened a Seaside Rest for London Orphan Homes, which he continued on a more extensive scale in other parts of the town, from which noble effort developed his Gordon Boys' Orphanage in St James's Street." (J.B.J. 1907)

"The most important establishment (In St James's Street) is the Gordon Boys' Orphanage, founded by Mr. Thomas Blackman.  This, and the house above it, although having good frontages to St James's Street, were evidently built to command sea views, which they have interruptedly through Guilford Lawn, and the large addition that has been made to the Orphanage, skywards, gives it still greater advantage in that respect.  This Orphanage was established by Mr. Thomas Blackman, as part of his Dover philanthropic work, in memory of General Gordon, soon after his death in the Soudan; and the usual number of boys trained here is about 117.  Opposite this Orphanage are the workshops and offices of the Dover Gas Company, built on land where, prior to 1855, stood the residence of Mr. Peter Fector.  The kitchen part of the house still flanks the street." (J.B.J. 1907)


Picture Courtesy of George Butler

The picture above shows the Pipe Band in 1938.  Below is the 1939 band.


Picture Courtesy of George Butler

Picture Courtesy of George Butler

The picture above shows the Scout Troup, formed in 1938.  Some of the staff and governors are identified, but I would be pleased to hear from anyone who can identify other faces in the pictures.

Identified on the photograph are (L-R, front row): Mr. Woods (?), Assistant Scout Master; Mr. Blunt (?), Scout Master; Rev. L. Chadwick, (Vicar of St James), Committee Member; Mr. Dellar, Master; Mrs. Dellar, Matron; Lt. Col. F. Godfrey, Committee Member; Mr. J. W. Bish, Committee Member; and (?), District Commissioner of Scouts.


Memories of the Gordon Boys


The following memories were sent by George Butler, who kindly loaned the pictures of the band and the scout troop.

When I arrived at the Gordon Boys Home in 1936, I found the master and matron (Mr & Mrs Bridges?) believed  in strict discipline, so I found life very hard until I got used to the regime.  Everyone was given a daily task to carry out; mine was to sweep the large parade ground at the rear of the building before breakfast (which consisted of unsweetened porridge on a tin plate, a mug of cocoa and a large crust of bread covered in dripping).  We slept in two dormitories on the second and third floors; bedtime was 6.30 in winter and 7.30 in summer.

The highlights of the week were the two evenings we had band practice; every one was involved.  Retired Army bandsmen were the instructors; I was told to learn the drums, other boys the bagpipes, hand bells and sword dancing.  When you were picked to play in the band life changed for the better: we travelled round East Kent playing and marching in local fetes and carnivals.  Every Sunday we marched (band playing) to St. James's Church for morning service.

In 1938 the then master and matron (Mr & Mrs Dellar), with the help of several local people, started a Scout Troop.  All the boys welcomed this because it gave us more interesting things to do and learn about; also we spent a week at a scouting camp every year.



If you have memories of being a Gordon Boy, or any other pictures or information  to add, I would be very pleased to include them here.