St Margaret's, Crossway - a child's view

Miss Hazel Inglefield's reminiscences, written in the 1980s

St Margarets Crossway
LHS archives - copy of cutting from The Herts Advertiser 20 November 1931

Hazel Inglefield was sent to St Margaret’s Orphanage in 1919 – she does not say why.  At the age of 73 she reflected on her childhood there under the severe regime of the founder, Miss Croft – “a very religious woman … I think she must have been a bit old to start a home for children, though I suppose she meant well … It was truly a Jane Eyre type of place”.

She describes the work in the laundry, “washing all manner of things unknown to us”, including linen from the Nursing Home and St George’s School.  Of food, she says “I suppose our meals were alright” – but “I missed so many”, since food deprivation seems to have been the main punishment, for example for being slow or inept at mending.  The St George’s kitchens gave “baskets of uneaten food” and the girls had a scheme to “partake of some as we were very hungry… usually only one dish … and it was well known between us which hedge the dish would be found in”, when laundry was returned to the school – “They must have wondered why there was always one unwashed dish”.

Any pocket money the girls were sent went into Miss Croft’s purse and once a month (“purse Sunday”) the money came out “to pay for any breakages even if nothing to do with us”.

A full transcript of Miss Inglefield’s account is attached.



Comments about this page

  • In her book, The Valley of the Nightingale published in 1996, Molly Andrews refers (on p.71) to living near St Margaret’s in the 1920s. After describing Miss Croft’s voice ringing out “like a fog horn”, she recalls: “Children from this home attended the very same school as myself. Each child was made to work before starting out for school and in the winter their poor little hands were swollen with chillblains. The girls wore black skirts and harsh woollen jumpers, red in colour, guaranteed to irritate their young skin. All the hair styles were exactly the same; Miss Croft must have been the hairdresser. … In the school holidays, the matron became very noisy indeed – she yelled her commands like a sergeant major. I felt very sorry for the girls as they were all such nice children. Mother many times said that she would like to thrash that awful woman! This would have proved difficult, I am quite sure, for Miss Croft was a huge, powerful woman and mother was only five feet two inches tall!”

    By Rosemary Ross (15/08/2014)

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