1960S: Headingley Orphan Home

To continue our birthday celebrations for #LeedsArchives80 this week we are looking at the 1960s, the decade that saw the Vietnam War, the first man landing on the moon and the first episode of Dr Who airing on the BBC. The 1960s were a big decade for us because in 1965 we moved offices from the Leeds Central Library to Sheepscar Branch Library. This was mostly because we running out of space for our collections and we needed to move somewhere bigger.


The old Leeds Archives search room at Sheepscar Branch Library.  Image courtesy of http://leodis.net

1965 was also the year Leeds archive received a deposit from Headingley Orphan Homes, an organisation set up in the 1860s to look after orphans and children whose parents couldn’t look after them. The home originally only took in girls, but thanks to expansion in 1878 they began to accept boys as well.

The collection holds a wealth of material that enables us to build up a picture of individual children who lived in the homes, for example this photo of siblings Margaret and Willie Mitchell led me to search through other records about them in the collection. I found an admittance form for each of them which showed me Margaret was admitted in August 1918, three days before her second birthday. However, according to Willie’s form, he was admitted in January 1919, five months later.


Margaret and Willie Mitchell, taken circa 1918.  Both children were admitted to Headingley Orphan Home (reference WYL320).

According to the forms, their parents; Ethel and John (also known as Jack) were alive but separated and Ethel paid 8 shillings for each child to be looked after by the home. It is not clear from the records why Margaret was admitted before Willie.

Records from this collection suggest that the home kept an interest in the children after they left. A volume called ‘Boys and Girls left from 1900, over 13 years of age’ (WYL320/13) includes later entries about many of the individuals such as Arthur Bond who left the home in 1901 and ended up joining the army, he became a Lieutenant, got married and eventually went to Cambridge where he got a degree in Geography.

The Headingley Orphan Homes report of 1916 showed how they were affected by the First World War, with 26 of their children having fathers at the Front. During the Second World War children from the home were evacuated to the countryside to get away from the bombs being dropped in Leeds during the ‘Battle of Britain’.

The orphanage was closed in 1959 due to a decline in numbers. The Headingley Orphanage Foundation was then set up to control the income generated from investments. These were then donated through charitable grants to other institutions that cared for children.

The Headinlgey Orphan Homes collection is under the reference number WYL320, if you are interested in viewing this collection please contact the Leeds office, our contact details can be found here. Here is a link to our online catalogue. Please note some of these records are restricted for up to 100 years.