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Report - Hawkhurst Babies Castle - July 2014

Discussion in 'Residential Sites' started by starion, Aug 17, 2015.

  1. starion

    starion 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

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    Hi all, second report on this forum and this one dates back to last year. I've always been local to Hawkhurst (live in Maidstone) so I've driven past this area loads of times and never really took a second glance at all the fencing etc that was up. After noticing a few reports on here I finally realised the site was exactly where I suspected it was!

    Overall it was a good explore, access was really easy and although the building was totally trashed, it was quite large and the whole upstairs was accessible including the loft also. The exterior still had most of its notable features but the inside was properly dark at points, making it quite hard to capture on camera. There was also some rather nice art/graffiti dotted around the place which I feel added to it in a sense. :)

    Unfortunately I think this was one of the last explores of this site as the building was completely flattened/demo'd shortly after! Really gutted as it was once a really pretty building with a great deal of history.

    A bit of history here:

    In 1883, a Mr Theodore Moillet donated a pair of villas and an acre of meadowland on Cranbrook Road, Hawkhurst, for establishng a Barnardo's home for babies. A year later, twenty-six babies were being cared for in the home which local people had named 'Babies' Castle.' With increasing pressure for more places to be provided, an substantial extension to the home was soon erected. The new building, which could house upto 120 babies, contained dormitories, nurseries and playrooms plus a dispensary and a doctor's room, with the original villas now being used to care for infectious cases. On 9th August 1886, the new premises received a grand official opening by a royal party consisting of Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, together with her sons Price Adolphus and Prince George, and her daughter Princess Victoria.

    Originally, admission to Babies' Castle was restricted to the under-threes. In 1908, this was extended to include children under the age of age of eight, particularly focusing on children whose physical condition made them usuitable for boarding out with foster parents. In 1930, the home was state to have 70 places for those aged 1 to 6, while in 1935 it could take 80 children aged 1 to 3.

    In 1937, with the Second World War on the horizon, Home Office officials visited Babies' Castle and children from a few months old upwards participated in gas-mask fitting trials.

    In May 1959, it was reported that a Townswomen's Guild in the area had expressed "considerable surprise" at the large number of "coloured infants" residing at the Babies' Castle. The group warned that unless they could be assured that no white child was being refused admission as a result of this, they would no longer feel able to continue supporting Barnardo's. After the Townswomen were reassured, the matter was dropped.


    By 1964, the home, now designated as a nursery, offered just 48 places.

    Babies' Castle, by now known as Hawkhurst Castle, finally closed in 1965. The premises were subsequently used as an elderly care home. In 2005, the site was sold for redevelopment for residential use but the old buildings have thus far been left to decay.

    A nice antique photo I found of the building, showing how lovely it once looked and the surrounding area:

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    And here's my photos:

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  2. starion

    starion 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

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    Apologies if some images are a little large! I can't seem to downsize them as links.

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