Springbok House Children’s Home

We received a message in August 2014 from an ex-resident of Great Baddow who asked for information about the Springbok House children’s home in the village.

Here is the letter / email:

Dear Sir.

I have just come across your site about Great Baddow.

Many years ago,1955, I and my 2 brothers were “guests” in Springbok House, which was a children s home. I know that the beautiful house no longer exists and a modern building stands in its place, the whole area given over to modern living.

When I was there, at the age of eight, the area was countryside, unspoilt. I remember very well walking to and from Danbury school,and on Sundays attending St. Johns church, which always smelt of damp and seemed very cold even though it was April/May time.

I would be very grateful if you could tell me the history of the house,and if possible, supply me with any photos of the place.

Sincerely,

Frederick Leach

The current flats are called Springbok House and stand on Heycroft Way. We can assume that this is the site of the original house. Some searches with the Essex records office might bring up details of planning and construction of these flats and the demolishing of the existing property. But what was Springbok House?

I asked my parents and also good friend Dave Emery if they knew anything. This is the information that we so far have discovered.

My mum worked in children’s services at Chelmsford council in 1960 and was sure that there was no council managed home at that time, so first assumption was that it closed between 1955 and 1960.

However, my dad did then recall that the home was run by SSAFA (Soldiers’ Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association) for their families. Its position to the south of the military camp would suggest that this was indeed what it was used for (see map below).

Dave Emery suggested that the house was the one that was originally called Luxfield and was built in around 1900. This house was built on a 7 acre field which was originally called “Lucks Field” according to the 1838 Tythe map.

There is one photograph of Luxfield online, title “Gt Baddow: Luxfields (1905)” and posted on Flickr.

Gt Baddow: Luxfields (1905). Source: Sarah / Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29520195@N08/6831749045/in/photostream/

Gt Baddow: Luxfields (1905). Source: Sarah / Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29520195@N08/6831749045/in/photostream/

This map from 1923 shows Luxfield to the south of Almshouses and a Military Camp. A map from 1881 has only one small building in this area which matches the shape and position of the Almshouses.

End of the Military Camp

In “Defending Essex, The Military Landscape from Prehistory to the Present” by Mike Osborne there is an appendix titled “Appendix Four: Camps and Barracks” with subsection “Great Baddow, military camp, 1900-1950s”. My guess is that when the barracks was decommissioned all the land was cleared and converted for new housing and the Springbok home closed and children relocated sometime after 1955.

I looked into a possibly Springbok / South Africa connection, and found nothing really. The Essex Regiment served during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) so there is a very lose connection with local military in South Africa. This could have given rise to a change of name at the house, but this is total guesswork. Maybe military records somewhere will hold more clues?

Unfortunately, we do not know for sure what happened to this large house. There is no mention of Springbok (or Spring Bok) anywhere online or any record of Luxfields other than the one photo that is published on Flickr. It is likely that somewhere in newspaper archives or the records office there is something … if anybody has any information please share. I will send an enquiry to SSAFA to see if they have any records.

Map from 1923 OS

  27 comments for “Springbok House Children’s Home

  1. Jon
    August 19, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Hello Frederick,

    Thank you for your message and question. I have done some searches online but have been unable to dig up anything about this. Fortunately friends and family have some memories of this house and we have a little information.

    Others have asked on the Internet over the years. A couple of years ago somebody called Amy was asking on Yahoo! Answers, but little information was forthcoming. Somebody called Ellen did recently reply to say that they lived there with their brother and attended the local school.

    Many thanks

    Jon.

  2. Karen Mortley
    July 6, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    I have a suspicion that Luxfield House itself was demolished in the late 1950s and SSAFA relocated to a house opposite the almshouses. Those marked on the map are definitely the Victorian version as I remember them being cleared (hoarding was evident then!) in the early 1960s and being replaced. The map is devoid of any residential properties on the north of Vicarage Lane, but building of houses was under way by 1949 when Cedar Cottage (no. 104) was built. Old photos donated some time ago to the then owner show open views down to St Mary’s Church. i remember my parents saying the house next door, presumably no. 106, was the SSAFA home, though as a young child I was unaware of the implications, merely that there seemed to be lots of children coming and going.
    The footpath marked past Luxfield was only blocked in the late 1960s or early 70s, much to my father’s displeasure! Of course the military camp eventually became the Maltings Estate with mostly prefabricated bungalows.
    Hope this sheds a little light and is a correct memory!

    • Malcolm Stabler
      March 6, 2017 at 10:01 am

      Springbok House after the SAAFA moved out was converted into flats for a short period before being completely demolished. I did a survey on the house with a building surveyor…….he drove an open top bug eye Austin Healy Sprite. The house was in poor condition and needed a lot of work done to make the flats. After the HEYCROFT estate was built the house was demolished for more modern flats. All this between 1960 and 1965

  3. Karen Mortley
    July 7, 2015 at 12:27 am

    Just looked at the 1958 map and compared it with this one. You can see Cedar Cottage with its neighbour, together with all the development along the north side of Vicarage Lane. Possibly Luxfield house opposite but no Heycroft Estate. Maltings Estate is now evident. The large buiding to the east was the Marconi Research Labs.

  4. Rosemary Birch
    August 28, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    I worked at Springbok House from 1950 when I left school until 1957 when I started my nurse training and at that time it was run by SSAFA. It was a children’s home and children came (mainly from London) for a short stay, usually when mum was having another baby, the children who came were age 2 – 10 and they went to Gt. Baddow school and on Sunday the older chidren were taken were taken to the morning service at the local church. Looking at the map Springbok House stood on the site of Luxfield House. When I was there Vicarage Lane was built up and Springbok House was the last building. A year or so after I left the home was transfered to a smaller house in Baddow Road and I think it eventually closed. We used the footpath running to the side of the house when we came in after a night out. Hope this is some help.

    • marie walsh
      November 14, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      Hi Rosemary
      You would have been at the ‘home’ when my Brother and I were placed there around 1955ish. we were only very little then around maybe 6-7 yrs old. Our names Marie and Robert Turbefield. Our Parents were divorcing at that time. Wish I could remember you. I have very little memory of it at all though seem to recall being able to watch ‘Dixon of dock green’ and I think Tenderfoot on tv. I have memory of a sand pit in the garden, and fields with cows next to us. I so would love to hear if you remember anything about those times in my young life. Thank you for whatever you did for us during those very dark days of our young lives. Love Marie. x

  5. Sally-Anne Taswell
    September 21, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    What a surprise! My sister Karen and I were also”guests” at Springbok Children’s Home in 1955 when our mother was hospitalised, but we had no idea where it was. We were chatting about it yesterday, and just now I “googled” it, not expecting to find anything, and here you have provided a mine of information!
    We do not know how long we stayed but remember being very happy there. Anyone remember the Wendy House? My sister does and was very envious of those left to play in it when we returned home !
    Thanks so much for the information, I can’t quite believe it.

    • Jon
      September 21, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      So glad this page helped you Sally-Anne. Maybe one day there will be a Springbok House reunion?

      • Rosemary Birch
        September 22, 2015 at 10:19 am

        Hi Sally, I was working at Springbok House when you and your sister were there and Frederick Leach and his brothers were there but am unable to remember the names but so many children passed through the Home when I was there, I wonder if you remember me, I was Nurse Rosemary. I must admit I have forgotten about the Wendy House. I have just seen an advert for a one bedroom apartment to be let and according to the map it is on the site of Springbok House.
        Jon. were you ever at Springbok House?

        • Jon
          September 23, 2015 at 10:00 am

          No Rosemary, I am a youngster, born on the 70s!

        • Bill Curd
          March 18, 2016 at 3:14 pm

          I remember you, Nurse Rosemary! All the little boys had a crush on you, as I recall. I’m almost over it now!

        • keith merren
          March 24, 2016 at 2:03 pm

          Hi i was at springbok house with my younger sister beverley ,must have been 1953/54dont remmber very much about it really ,apart from there being a large staicase

  6. Ed Curd
    September 23, 2015 at 9:40 am

    hi Sally, I was resident in Springbok house in1955/57 along with my brothers Billy and Bobby. I remember my stay with much affection. Although I Cannot recall many of the children there, I do recall a pair of twins called Olwen and Gwenny along with a lad who was constantly vomiting. I attended the school alongside the church and attended the church each Sunday. Each school day we prepared ourselves in a changing room and were given 2 sweets. I cannot pass a honeysuckle tree without the smell transporting me back to a very special place and time. I recall that Matron had her own private staircase which was strictly out of bounds to children. The older children were given supper once the little ones were in bed. I have to say that the first time saw a black person was Nurse Beatrice, a lovely woman who I loved dearly. As I am writing this many memories are flooding back, none of which are bad. Wonderful days.

    • Bill Curd
      March 18, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      I was there at the same time as my brothers Ed and Bobby Curd, 1956/57. Our ages were 7 (me), 5 (Ed) and 2 (Bobby). We stayed there for about 14 months while our mother was undergoing some kind of nervous breakdown. It was definitely SSAFA-run, and we were there because our Dad was an ex-soldier who couldn’t cope with us on his own. I can’t remember the exact dates of our stay, but we definitely had two Christmases there and enjoyed annual visits from the local American servicemen. I remember them introducing us to Pepsi Cola and I wondered why they called it “Coke”. (If it had been Coca Cola, there wouldn’t have been any confusion about that!). I remember the Wendy House very well, and the big (to us) red pedal car with half-flat tyres that used to sit in the main hall, beside the piano. There was a boy called Colin (I think) who amazed us all by being able to pick out tunes on the piano with one finger. The Matron was called Mrs Frazer, a fairly distant Scottish woman who once told off one of the nurses, in my hearing, for taking two days off, because “we always count the week as beginning on a Sunday, which means that Saturday is the week end, so a weekend off means that you don’t need to come to work on Saturday. But on Sunday, you’re supposed to be here!” Even at the age of seven, I thought this was a bit mean. Fortunately, Mrs Frazer didn’t really interact with the children very much.
      At the front of the house was a sweeping, semi-circular gravel path, and where it met the road (Vicarage Lane) there was a small cottage for the groundsman, who we called “Pop”. He kept the garden at the back of the house in pretty good order, except for an area at the very back which was allowed to run wild as nature intended. We referred to that bit of the garden as “The Wilderness”. To the right of the house, as you looked at it from the front, there was a field where cows were often put to graze. One of the most amusing things for us children was to watch the cows giving each other piggy backs.
      I remember we used to have a bath every night except Sunday, when we would make do with a wash. And supper for us older children… it was only a beaker of water and a slice of bread and butter, but it was a real treat, knowing that the younger kids didn’t get it!
      The church visits every Sunday were made more interesting by the vicar’s ability to do magic tricks with little black spoons that mysteriously gained (and lost) white dots. A little further up the hill from the church was a toyshop/sweetshop that always had amazing treasures in the window, and where you could get a real sugar rush just from breathing the air!
      Even though I was horribly homesick all through my stay there, I have to admit that I have never in my entire life been so well looked after.

  7. Sarah Ing
    December 14, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    Re Springbok House, my brother mister and myself lived in The Westerings just down from Lucksfield way, as young children in the 70’s we and lots of other children played in the derelict house years before it was demolished. We use to play hide and seek in the house, running up and down stairs, through corridors, such fun (I guess we really shouldn’t have been there) my sister and I were in a top room playing when she lifted an old wooden floor board and found an old tin, when she opened it it was full of glass animals, I assume now they were hidden by a child that resided at the childrens home before. We also use to play in the Old wooden Wendy House in the overgrown grounds, it still had curtains, shelves and we spent hours playing in it, it was of Tudor style. We also found old grave stones with names of pets which we use to leave flowers from the woods on them. Such happy memories!!

  8. Grace Kirner
    March 10, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Hi, I just wondered if anyone has any memories of Paul and Peter Kirner, aged 4 and 2.5 years respectively. They were there in 1951/52. They run away from the home one night and were found hidden in/near the cricket pavilion under some sacks. Their mother was in hospital. Their father worked for the government but just vanished one day in 1949.

  9. Rosemary Birch
    May 5, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Springbok House, Great Baddow, near Chelmsford, Essex

    During the Second World War, the Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association (SSAFA), founded in 1885 to support British servicemen and ex-servicemen, opened a number of short-stay children’s homes. The first of these, at Heswall, was set up in the wake of the heavy bombing of Liverpool in 1941.

    The work continued after the war, and in 1950 the Association opened a new home at Springbok House, Heycroft Way, Vicarage Lane, Great Baddow, near Chelmsford. The property, formerly a private residence in spacious grounds, had been a hostel for Wrens during the Second World War. In 1948, the residence and grounds were bought by the people of South Africa and presented by them to SSAFA, ‘as a slight token of our admiration for Great Britain’s glorious war effort for freedom and liberty.’ The home was officially opened on November 4th, 1950, by the Marchioness of Carisbrooke. Up to thirty children could be accommodated, most staying just while their mothers were in hospital.

    Springbok House, Great Baddow, c.1950.
    Springbok House, Great Baddow, c.1950. © SSAFA

    Modern flats now occupy the site.

    Records
    I’ve just found this on the website and thought someone might be interested, I think why it was named Springbok House was because the Springbok was a South African animal.

  10. Rosemary Birch
    May 14, 2016 at 10:10 am

    It has been so interesting reading peoples memories of the time they spent at Springbok House and it does seem as if everyone was happy there but maybe homesick at times. Someone mentioned that the smell of honeysuckle reminds them of the time they spent at Springbok, I was brought up in Essex and left in 1957 but the smell of honeysuckle always reminds me of my time in Essex so I have honeysuckle growing in my garden in York. I had completely forgotten about the cottage for Pop, he was a lovely old man. I had also forgotten about Matron Fraser who we all stood in awe of (she came from Inverness). She wasn’t known for her tact but I don’t think we should be too hard on her as she had a heart of gold and her job must have been quite hard as the majority of the nurses had just left school and it was their first time away from home and they lived in so it must have been difficult keeping them in order as well as coping with an endless stream of children who in the majority of cases were only there for a few weeks, I will add that all the nurses lived in. One of the nurses got married and Matron made her wedding dress as a wedding present for her. She continued to take a great interest in me when I left to do my nurse training, came to my prizegiving and gave me 3 lovely duck ornaments which I still treasure. Every year we had a turkey chick who was fattened up for Christmas and one year we called him Oscar until we discovered he was female so the name was changed to Oscarina, the turkey used to wander to the front of the house where the kitchen was and stick his head in the window for food. If you go to http://www.childrenshomes.org.uk and click on Springbok House you will find the article I posted but I wasn’t able to copy and paste the photo of some of the lads on the climbing frame.

    • William R. Hames
      May 23, 2016 at 1:55 am

      Thank you so much for the additional information, Rosemary. And once again, thank you for looking after me all those years ago. xxx

      • Bill Curd
        May 23, 2016 at 1:57 am

        William R Hames, current name of Bill Curd, for reasons that probably aren’t very interesting. xxx

  11. Ann
    November 25, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Hi,
    I am looking for a Mother@ Baby home in Great Chelmsford. I have no memory of being there in 60’s as a baby all l know is the court ordered mum to take me there before l went into Care.

    Any help would be apprecaited, thanks.

  12. Rosemary Birch
    December 10, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Hi Ann.

    I remember a Home for unmarried mothers in Baddow Road, Chelmsford in the late 50’s- early 60’s but don’t know if the mothers kept their babies there after giving birth. Hope this is a boit of help to you.

  13. Ellen
    December 15, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    I have commented on here before but was unable to remember the dates I was there with my younger brother. I would have been 9 and my brother 4. I did have happy times there but did not like my teacher at the village school. I remember we wore red jumpers and grey tunics..I used to love it when we went on country walks, where I saw cowslips growing for the first time. I must have arrived there in the spring as I remember seeing so many daffodils. After we were dropped of at the door, we were taken to a room at the back where a lady was playing piano and children singing along. I was told to join in and remember having to sing along to “I’m h-appy, I’m h-appy I know I am I’m sure I am, I”m h-appy……and I was sobbing…whenever I hear that song now it brings back those memories…..and I heard it a lot working at the infants school.We were well looked after. I remember a boy being there whose dad was in Africa and used to send him big metal biscuit tins full of peanuts that we used to shell, I had never seen them . So I would have been there. around the spring of 1948/49. Be great to hear from others there around that time.

  14. Malcolm Stabler
    March 6, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Our family lived in Vicarage Lane, about 300 metre down from the SAAFA home. We often watched the children walking to and from the village. The home was for orphans from WW2 soldiers,sailors and airmen. I helped survey the building and the field for the Heycroft Estate…Hey & Croft were the builders. This was in the summer of 1960 when I was working for the Witham architects. The house was derelict then. The field has fond memories as it and the Marconi field was used by all the children on Maltings Estate as their play field. Cricket,football,den making, Guy Fawkes bonfires, you name it and it happened there. In the corner was a dump/tip used by SAAFA for their old furniture etc. We used old bed frames to make ‘houses’ in the summer holidays. The orchard belonging to SAAFA was also nearby so scrumping of fruit followed by sore stomachs was an annual event. We were always dodging the gardener …..whose name alludes me. At the front of the SAAFA home was the best horse chestnut tree and it was pelted and shaken each year to yield it’s nuts which were used in playground contests at St Mary’s Primary School. It is likely that any large house was used for children after the war. Also St Mary’s School used any hall in Gt Baddow for classes in the early baby boom. I can remember the Vicarage hall, library,Parish hall, scouts hall, British canteen probably others.. We used to walk all over the village to classes. We also lived in one of the prefabs, one of the Airey houses before moving to Vicarage Lane. Great memories.

  15. ann Catherine willmore
    March 7, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Anne Boss
    My brother Arthur and me were at Springbok House in the early fifties.. My Mum was in hospital and my Dad was teaching in London my youngest sister went into nursery an was able to stay with Dad, somehow. My Mum is still alive and eventually stopped at eight children, thank goodness.
    I had been sorting out photographs found in an old sports bag of Mums when I picked out an old postcard of Springbok House Great Baddow alongside three photographs showing side views of the house an garden the images show three children that I dont remember. Three girls with blond hair and a little chap with a mop of dark hair and forefinger up his nose .
    I dont know what year we stayed at Springbok House but there were Barage Baloons in the sky if anyone knows when they were discontinued it could help to date our stay. Ann
    I goodled and found this site. while reading through the messages

  16. Judith Cavanagh
    April 14, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    My two brothers ( Jim & John ) and I were at the Ssaffa
    home in Great Baddow around Summer 1947. Our mother had a break down. I think l was too shy or traumatised to remember much about the home except that it had lovely grounds and the weather was sunny. Our surnames were different. Jim and l were Judith and James Palmer, John was John Hoyes. Some children were there from Peabody buildings, London, whereas my brothers and I came from. Norfolk. We’re in our 70’s now. Are we remembered at all?

  17. G Askew
    August 13, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    Hi I think I stayed in springbok children s home in GT baddow in 1949 is there any records i can search .my name is Peter Gordon askew born in 1949 in st johns Chelmsford. regards Peter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *