BALHAM LONDON ENGLAND
The Church of England Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays (now the Children’s Society) told my Father he was born on Larch Road,sometime in September 1909. Robin’s research concluded that his Mother left his Grandfather to have him at the home of a relative. In 1996, Robin found that from 1907-1914, a Herbert Gifford lived at 2 Larch Road, Balham, London. She may have stayed with another of her family when she had my William Alfred Snow in Tooting in 1912. It was less than a mile from Balham.
The home had long been demolished and replaced by an apartment block. I took this picture of the back of a block of houses just as a sample of the type of homes adjacent to where my father might have been born. The intersection of Larch Close and Bedford Hill. It would have been terrific to see the home where my Father was born, but I was satisfied just to find the neighbourhood and street. He may have lived here the first 3 years of his life with his Mother and Father. His Brother William Alfred Snow was born on 29 August 1912, in Tooting, when he was about to turn three years old. In May 1913, he was 3¾ years old, his Brother Bill was 9 months old, and his Mother (35) was a month pregnant with his Sister Violet.
His Mother took him to his Grandfather John George Snow (55), Jack (8), and Amy (6) in Croydon. The Waifs and Strays told him he was “abandoned by his parents.” His parents may have split up or his Mother took him there because he may have had German Measles (Rubella) in early 1913. She may have feared exposure during the first trimester of her pregnancy with his Sister Violet. In any event, the trigger for his being taken was that his step-brother and step-sister were taking him to school with them. In 1913, London had 25,000 underage children being taken to school by their older siblings.
The Vicar at St. Peter’s Church described Great Grandfather as having “very uncertain employment, often being out of work. At best, he has about 30 shillings (£1.50) per week for 8 months out of the 12 months.” John Allen and Amy Alice had to go to the Church’s back door “Soup Kitchen” for food. The Vicar wrote, “This man was very good to the child, although it was not his, and he had been so wronged, but having the two children of his own to work for & feed & clothe, and having very little work to do, they were almost at starvation’s door.”
I felt more uncomfortable walking around the churchyard than I expected I would. The Church had screened mesh over its windows. It was heavily locked and covered in graffiti. Although it was cold outside in the yard, I imagined how cold it was inside. It did not appear to be a placed warmed by human kindness. I thought of all the years my family had written to this place, trying to obtain information. My Father was baptized here after the Police apprehended him in 1913. He did not get a copy of his Baptism Certificate until he was 48 years old. His age was scratched out. It appeared to read as 4 years old, but underneath was a “½.” Could he have been only 3½ years old when he was apprehended? Was this legal? I wondered how many children were taken from their homes, placed in care, shipped to Canada at the first opportunity, never to see their families again. It was probably uncharitable of me, but I swore, kicked the ground, and quickly walked away.
Robin suggested that we might have time to stop by the Children’s Society. He thought we might have a chat with the Archivist who tried so hard to keep information from me. I told him I didn’t think I was up to that and wondered if I ever would be. After all the lies that have been revealed, I’m not sure what we would have to talk about. I doubt they would have any answer to the question of, “Why did you lie to us?”