Hawthorne House was opened as a residential nursery in 1948 as part of a phase of residential nursery development that took place during the Second World War and in its immediate aftermath.
In the mid-19th century, the building was home to Bullock, an ironmaster with a foundry in West Bromwich.
The building was purchased by Birmingham Council in 1946, together with an adjoining building, 2 Hawthorne Park, to use as nurses’ accommodation.
‘Hawthorne House, Hamstead Hall Road, Handsworth: The interests of the Committee are related to the use of the house and an area of land for the purposes of a Residential Nursery for children in substitution for that currently available at Perry Villa, upon the development on that site of the scheme for the erection of a Maternity Home…. The house will provide accommodation for 39 children under the age of two years, six nursing and four domestic staff. The remainder of the nursing staff will live outside the Nursery.’
[Public Health and Maternity and Child Welfare Committee’s report, 4th February 1947]
In 1949, plans were changed to allow for 44 children to be accommodated with an upper age limit of 5 years old.
Maureen Worner (nee Phizacklea) was based at Hawthorne House while training as a Nursery Nurse in 1951. These are her memories of being there: “we were accommodated in a hostel in the same grounds as the Nursery called Hawthorn House. The nursery was for neglected or ill children from babies to five years old. About eight children would be in family groups with two members of staff, usually one staff nurse with one student with each group. We would be on duty from 7:30am until 6pm. One staff nurse and one student worked until 8pm when night staff came on duty. We were doing our two year practical training for the NNEB course and would spend some time attending an educational day centre at Garrison Lane and Bournville Day Continuation College. Parents did not often visit their children but one day an Indian father came to see his daughter. I took him to his child but was later reprimanded for this as I should have taken him to Matron first. We were pleased if we knew the children could be returned to their family or in some cases if the children were adopted."
Hawthorne House was scheduled for closure by Social Services in 1982 as a consequence of the Council’s new policy of not putting young children in residential care.
The building still stands very much as it did so during its time as a residential nursery but it is now in use as a public library. Since becoming a library, Hawthorn is no longer spelt with an ‘e’.
Incidentally, in the 1940s, The Salvation Army ran a Home for Mothers and Babies called the Hawthorns Nursery, Ladywood, Edgbaston. This did accommodate some City Council children but was not otherwise connected with Hawthorne House.
Image: Black and white photograph: Hawthorne House in 1951 (note the prams by the building) taken by Maureen Phizacklea and reproduced here with her kind permission.
Colour photograph: The Hawthorne House main building in 2010 when in use as a public library.
Source: This history was compiled by the Birmingham Children's Homes Project, an initiative to explore Birmingham City Council-run children’s homes between 1949 and 1990.
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