The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History

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Updated:  30 December 2012 

The oldest of Plymouth's facilities for housing orphans was the Hospital of Orphans' Aid.  One of its objectives was to look after and educate orphans from within the Borough.  The entrance to the building in Catherine Street carried the date 1615 but the deed poll of its foundation was dated 1617.

It was to be two centuries before another orphanage was opened.  The Devon and Cornwall Female Orphan Asylum was established in February 1834 for the maintenance and education of orphan girls.  In 1840 Sir Ralph Lopes, Bart, laid the foundation stone of their own building at the top of Lockyer Street, near the Hoe.  It was destroyed during the Second World War.

The Royal British Orphan Asylum for the Female Orphans of Sailors, Soldiers and Marines was founded on Queen Victoria's birthday, May 24th, in the year 1839.  Its objective, as its glorious title implied, was the support and education of female orphans of seamen, soldiers and Royal Marines, especially those who had lost their lives in the public service.  The girls were supported until they were old enough to go into service.  By the 1920s this was known as the Royal United Services Home for Orphan Girls.  Their building, at the top of what was then Navy Row, now Albert Road, Stoke, was opened in 1846 and is still in existence as private apartments.

What later became the Royal Dockyard Orphanage was founded in 1849 as the Dockyard Female Orphanage.  Originally housed in Morice Square, Devonport, it was to maintain, clothe and educate orphan children of Dockyard workers who had contributed to its funds.  However, only girls were admitted until 1900, when a boys branch was opened.  This necessitated a move to larger premises and a new building in Milehouse Road was opened in 1903.  This fine building is still in existence but has been converted into apartments.

Around 1871 or 1872 the Saint Teresa Roman Catholic Orphanage for Girls was built at Beaumont Road, Plymouth.  It was an immense site on the corner of Beaumont Road and Gasking Street, and eventually, in 1908, took over premises at the rear, number 9 Higher Street.  It was closed in 1931, when the girls were transferred to Nazareth House, at the end of Durnford Street, East Stonehouse.


  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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