What was life like for destitute girls in the late nineteenth century? How did Louise House inspire a visiting paediatrician from Poland? Could the building find a new community use in the 21st century?
Louise House used to be a Girls’ Industrial Home providing care for destitute girls whilst they learnt skills (there is a laundry block to the rear of the building.) The foundation stone was laid by Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter, in 1890. Built in the domestic revival style, it is highly decorated externally but it has a utilitarian interior retaining the original floor plan.
It also has links with Janusz Korczak, the Polish/German/Jewish paediatrician, children’s author and martyr whose visit to Louise House in 1911 inspired him to devote his life to the enlightened care of children.
He founded an orphanage in Warsaw, implementing many of the ideas he’d seen in practice at Louise House. On the morning of 6 August 1942, German soldiers herded the orphanage staff and 192 children towards the railway station with Korczak at their head. The group was forced onto a train bound for Treblinka extermination camp. That is the last that was heard of them.
The pdf below looks at the history of Louise House and plans for its future. Research by Steve Grindlay; documentation by Tim Walder; design and recent photography by Hilary Satchwell