Wassell Grove Residential Nursery, Stourbridge

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Date:1940 - 1953 (c.)

Description:Based near Clent, the Wassell Grove building was initially used as a convalescent home - from 1917 – for patients sent there from Dudley Road Hospital, Selly Oak Hospital and the Public Assistance Department. By 1940, it was thought to be underused and needed very little work to adapt it into a residential nursery.

Wassell Grove thus became the first war-time residential nursery in 1940. The need for a nursery was laid out by the Public Health, Maternity and Child Welfare Committee (15th October 1940):

“At their meeting on July 23rd last, the Council adopted a recommendation of your Committee for setting up Day Nurseries in various parts of the City for children up to five years of age, and these are now being brought into operation. It will be remembered that the grounds for providing this service were that, as a result of the war, many married women were working in factories and workshops, in a large number of instances from 7.30am to 7.30pm. … Since that time, changes have taken place in the hours of work in certain factories, in many of which the shifts are now from 6am to 2pm and from 2pm to 10pm, and this has made it impossible for many women to use the Day Nurseries. Representations have been received from welfare organisations as to this growing problem. Your Committee are satisfied that a need does exist for some sort of resident nursery accommodation, and that it is of some urgency. It is proposed, therefore, as an experiment, to utilise Wassell Grove Convalescent Home, near Stourbridge, for the purpose.”

Wassell Grove could accommodate 45 children and was thus the largest of Birmingham's residential nurseries.

In the early 1950s, family grouping was introduced in Wassell Grove prior to its introduction at the other residential nurseries. Instead of separate staff rooms and nursery rooms, the building was changed to allow for eight family rooms and a nursery (for seven babies aged under nine months). Each family room had between four and six children, where possible siblings were put together in the same ‘family’. In keeping with the less formal setting, nurses no longer wore formal, hospital-style uniforms.

The nursery closed in 1955 as part of a reduction in residential nursery facilities which began with the closure of Perry Villa in 1953. This was in response to falling demand. At the time it was felt that the Wassell Grove premises were the least satisfactory of all those available.

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Image: Publicity photograph taken for the Children's Committee, Birmingham City Council 1967. The Birmingham Children's Homes project has no photograph of Wassell Grove Residential Nursery at this stage.
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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.