This film is part of Free

Shirley Schools

The care and education of Bermondsey's orphans and abandoned children - before the introduction of the welfare state.

Documentary 1929 24 mins Silent


This film was produced to show the work of the Bermondsey Guardians in providing for the south London district's orphans and abandoned children. Before the post-war welfare state these children were cared for under the old Poor Laws, evoking an image of Dickensian horrors; the film is keen to show the schools as progressive, clean, caring and practical.

The children are well-fed and accommodated in brand-new houses in leafy streets. They are educated to high standards, while elaborate displays of dancing and drilling show off the school’s proficiency. No doubt this proved of enormous value a decade later when these boys, now young men, were called to war and the girls left to serve on the home front.