Tag Archives: charity

At School No.13: Charity

Two Boys in Sutton Park with Collection Boxes c.1898. BAH: WK/B11/441.

The distress of poverty for the children at Floodgate Street School needed a constant response from charities and institutions. There were several clothing schemes, including a Birmingham Daily Mail sponsorship. Christmas time often encouraged charity as well. The Noel Society distributed presents to the children as well organising “games and singing” in the place of normal lessons. [S68/1/1 18.12.03]

With children often arriving at school unfed something also needed to be done about breakfast. One Birmingham Daily Mail journalist conducted a surprise visit in 1909 to one breakfast mealtime at Floodgate Street School, and reported in vivid detail what they saw:

“As each child hands the ticket to the teacher it is given two thick slices of bread, between which is a layer of jam and margarine. Then when the cup of cocoa, drawn in a bucket from a churn and placed into tin mugs – much worn by constant use – is distributed the recipients consume this food in whatever manner seems best to them. The Smaller toddlers seat themselves upon the form by the wall, and munch contentedly between sips. The more robust and

School Dinners at Floodgate Street. SB 1/11 p.26

active swallow the liquid at a gulp and rush out, refreshed and yelling, into the playground to rejoin others who have shared in the repast. I was struck by the air of cleanliness and order which pervaded the room where the breakfasts were doled out…

every crumb is preserved with great care. Many of the children have to make the food they receive in the morning last them through the day, and to that end they put one of the slices by to make a show of having something to eat at lunch-time.” [B’ham Daily mail 20.1.09]

Floodgate Street school logbook records that a donation of food from G. Hookham fed 165 children for breakfast [S68/2/1 22.1.1901]. This is presumably the electric company businessman of Chamberlain & Hookham, an early 20th Century Birmingham business.

The Davos Courier reports on the home for sick children. BAH: HC/BCH/6/3/2 p.1.

Birmingham’s lesser-known chocolate maker Christian Kunzle (1879-1954) was born in Switzerland, and used to send children recovering from TB to his home for sick people in Davos to recuperate in the clean air. The factory used to be situated on Fiveways at the end of Broad Street. Floodgate Street logbook also recorded the generosity of a Mr Kunzle who sent the school “a huge parcel of chocolate” in 1933. [S68/3/1 1.6.1933] The children were each given a bag of chocolate when they left for the summer holidays.

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Birmingham Children’s Hospital

BA&H: HC-BCH-1-13-1

2012 will see Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital celebrate its 150th birthday. 

On June 25th 1861 Thomas Pretious Heslop (1823-85), a physician who had joined Birmingham’s Queen’s Hospital in 1853, held a private meeting of hand-picked individuals to propose a new Children’s Hospital. At a later public meeting the governors of the Queen’s Hospital denied the need for such an institution, but the resolution was passed and founded on the principles in the image above, opening the next year. Originally situated on Steelhouse Lane, in 1867 the Birmingham and Midland Free Hospital for Sick Children opened a building on Broad Street, taking over the building of the Lying-In Hospital and Dispensary for the Diseases of Women and Children. Free admission was qualified by means testing, so that those who could not afford to pay were looked after.

Funding for the hospital proved difficult, with an 1886 appeal needed to keep one of its wards open. In the appeals leaflet the hospital claimed to have relieved 14,000 patients in the last year alone. The initial plans for a move were agreed in 1908 as space became an issue, although the move to a new children’s hospital building was not even started until 1917. In 1913 a Children’s Hospital Brick League was set up to help fund the new building. Any child who gave one guinea could have their initials cut into a brick, and attended a brick laying ceremony for it at the hospital. The onset of World War I slowed the movement of the project, and the first patients arrived with little fanfare to an unfinished building in 1917. The finished building was visited in 1919 by King George V and Queen Mary. In 1998 the hospital returned to Steel House lane and occupied the former General Hospital, renamed the Diana, Princess of Wales Children’s Hospital.

Birmingham Archives & Heritage holds the archive for the Children’s Hospital. Appointments to view material can be made via email at: archives.appointments@birmingham.gov.uk or by telephone on 0121 303 2468. 

You can read more about the Children’s Hospital on their blog and you can donate to the hospital here

Patrick Haines

Mr. Kunzle and the Alpine Home for Sick Children

On the corner of Broad Street, now Five Ways Shopping Centre, used to stand the factory of Kunzle Cakes Ltd, founded by Christian Kunzle (1879-1954). Mr. Kunzle was also President of the Children’s Hospital during the 1930s. The Swiss born chef and chocolatier sent sick children, particularly those suffering from tuberculosis, to his house in Davos, Switzerland, to recover in the clean mountain air.

BA&H: HC-BCH-6-3-2

The first party of thirty children arrived in 1932. The Davos Courier reported that two of the children had been so ill that they had hardly left the hospital before. When the Second World War broke out in 1939 the children recovering at the Alpine School could not get back to England from neutral Switzerland, finally returning when the war was over. A blue plaque above the Santander bank now marks where the factory once stood.

Patrick Haines


In 1881 Thomas Agnew, a Liverpool banker, witnessed the work of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and in 1883 formed his own Society in Liverpool. This spread to form similar branches in other cities, such as London in 1884 and Birmingham in 1888, although it was not collectively known as the NSPCC until 1889.
Having previously used temporary housing around the city, the Birmingham branch had its first permanent offices at 29 Broad Street by 1892. This now demolished building contained a “shelter” room with two beds for children in need. This accommodation was used for children whose parents were awaiting court dates or for children waiting to be removed to new homes.

BA&H: L41.3106

The Annual Reports [L41.3106] are full of child abuse cases and figures for those children helped by the society. In the first 5 years the Birmingham society saw 1,171 cases, 977 of which were true cases of child cruelty and which affected 2,807 children.

The lease on the Broad Street property expired by Christmas 1894 and new premises were found on New Street, albeit without a “shelter” room. By this time the Birmingham branches’ subscriptions had risen to some £543 from £101 in its inaugural year. The inside cover of the 1894 Annual Report recorded:

It has been calculated that if all the children whose sufferings have been alleviated by the NSPCC, during the 9 years of its existence, were to join hands, they would form a complete circle round London; and a procession of them in single file would take twenty-three hours to pass a given point.

More information on the history of the NSPCC nationally is available here

Patrick Haines

Nick Hedges

This week’s post is written by Alison Hall, PhD student at the University of Birmingham, who is currently researching a series of photographs taken by Nick Hedges for the charity SHELTER .

BA&H: MS 2399, 'Two Girls', Notting Hill, London, 1971 ©Nick Hedges

These photographs were taken between 1969 and 1971 by Nick Hedges (MS 2399). They were commissioned by the housing charity SHELTER and were used in their reports and advertising campaigns. In his role as the charity’s in-house photographer, Hedges attempted to record the terrible housing conditions that existed across the UK in the late 1960s. Many of his photographs were taken in cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, Glasgow and London. SHELTER succeeded in redefining homelessness to include people living in inadequate housing: homelessness was no longer limited to those living on the streets. The photographs reveal the hidden domestic lives of children and their families and were instrumental in changing people’s perception and understanding of homelessness.

Hedges tried to show the positive, as well as the negative, side of homelessness. In the photo above, the girls have been photographed in their one room flat. They are smiling and the room is homely and inviting. However, it is clearly overcrowded (it is possible to see the bed behind the girl on the left).

Appointments to view material held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage can be made via email at: archives.appointments@birmingham.gov.uk or by telephone on 0121 303 2468.