Metropolitan & City Police Orphans Fund

Formerly the metropolitan & City Police Orphanage

by Mrs Hilda ROSE

(Nee WILLETT as known in orphanage).

It was on the 24th March 1930- a week after my 11th birthday – that I entered the Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage, my mother and I being met by the then matron, Matron Carter, in her office in the Administration Building.

I was quite amazed, as was my mother, by the size of the place. Large buildings and spacious grounds with lovely laid out lawns and gardens. I was even more overawed when I was taken down to the Locker Room to join a large crowd of girls there. I was given locker No.79 and that became my number – on clothes, in the punishment book and for everything else.

None of us were really naughty but we did talk a lot when we shouldn’t, (like after lights out), and our punishment was to fold twenty of the heavy white Marcella quilts that covered our beds during the day or mend holes in stockings – jobs normally done by the maids. It was a long learning process for all of us.

The girls, 10 – 12 yrs were in a large dormitory which slept about thirty children, plus four other dormitories housing the 13 – 15 yr olds. In addition the younger girls 7 – 9 yrs were in a separate area and looked after by the maids. We each had a basket under our beds in which our folded clothes were put when we undressed at night. The dormitories were above the wash basins, baths and toilet area (next to the locker room) and were reached by a metal spiral staircase and heated by a large funnel shape heater.

The Discipline mistress also had her bedroom in one corner of the ‘big dorm’, which I guess was in case of any emergency during the night.

The Dining Room was very large with three long tables at one end for the girls and five tables at the other end for the boys. A Discipline Mistress and Master, seated at the respective ends of the room, a large serving hot plate bench between. In addition there was a Harmonium, played by one of the girls, which accompanied our singing of grace – both before and after meals. When the noise from our talking became too intrusive the Discipline Master would bellow out “less noise” and if it was still in ascension we would be required to stand and sit several times. It doesn’t seem to have affected my digestion!

Breakfast consisted of three rounds of bread and butter, porridge, and a cup of tea. Lunch was a hot meal with dessert and tea, three rounds of bread and butter with jam, honey or fruit with a ‘special’ of fruit cake on a Sunday. For supper we had fruit buns or bread and cheese with hot or cold milk according to the season.

A Monitor was seated at the head and bottom end of each table in an endeavour to keep us all in order. Monitors were also one to each dormitory and these were chosen by the Discipline Mistress and Master. For this task we were paid 3d per week and also for cleaning the baths. I couldn’t have been too bad a child for I had attained quite a tidy bank balance by the end of my schooldays.

The Gymnasium led out from the Dining Room at the boys end and the kitchens at the girls end. It was a very large area with a stage at the further end. It was here that the boys and girls practised their gymnastics, Indian club drill, drill and dancing for the girls.

Apart from the dancing the other activities were taught by Mr Shepherd, an ex marine sergeant, who was also one of the boy’s Discipline Masters – a hard nut to crack but a very likeable character under the hard shell.

The area was also used for our end of year prize giving when a ‘Dignity’ would come down from London. We had the Duke and Duchess of York on one occasion, also Lord and Lady Trenchard on another. We would, both boys and girls, entertain with a bracket of songs. In addition the stage was used when we had a wonderful entertainment from the Police Minstrels and Police Bands, who would come every so often and of course our own little stage shows.

A group of Police would also visit, occasionally, to teach us to dive and swim in our indoor heated swimming pool. The pool was frequently used both summer and winter. We used it for inter-house sports and trained for inter-house championships.

Sport was a big part of the school curriculum. The girls played netball and hockey. The boys played soccer, hockey, cricket and tennis in addition to the athletics and swimming. We did have an extra sport, not in the curriculum, which we enjoyed in the winter. The boys would pour buckets of water, at night, on the incline next to the netball court, which would freeze and both boys and girls would enjoy great slides the next morning. Not in the rules but the staff seemed to turn a blind eye to such activity.

Of course there were always the ‘crocodile walks’ with a Discipline Mistress in charge which took us to various places – Hampton Court, Bushy Park, Radnor Gardens and Teddington Lock. In retrospect I wonder how we ever walked that far, but we certainly did and back again.

Our school was a bungalow consisting of the Headmaster’s Office, Staff Room, six classrooms, an Art Room and Science Room. There were three female teachers and four male. In some instances three grades of pupils in the one classroom but despite this the standard of education was high. In addition to the usual school subjects we could learn shorthand, typing and book-keeping in the senior classes, also pianoforte, in the evenings, leather work, pewter work and other crafts.


About Mrs Hilda Rose

Hilda was born on 13th March 1919 in Canning Town, London. Her father James Willett was a Policeman, who had previously served in the Coldstream Guards during the 1914-18 war. In January 1924 he died suddenly of a brain tumour. The family went to live with her grandparents and Lillian, Hilda’s mother was in receipt of a police pension although this was not sufficient to support the family. On 21st March 1930 Hilda started at Wellesley House School (The Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage).

It was at the Orphanage that she met Grace and Len Rose fellow pupils. Len (who she subsequently married) and Hilda became good friends getting into trouble with the Discipline Master who watched as they kissed goodnight!

On leaving in March 1934 she had attained the position of Head Girl, House Captain and Guide Leader.

She had several employments one being Clotilde’s, a West End Florist. During her time there a regular visitor was the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) who accompanied Mrs Simpson on most Saturday afternoons to buy flowers. It was on one of these visits that she met him when he joined staff for afternoon tea.Since leaving the Orphanage Len, who had emigrated to Australia, kept in touch with Hilda. He had

// Violet Rose 13 March 1919 - 17 July 2011 Hilda Violet Rose 13 March 1919 - 17 July 2011

Our evenings were busy for we had crafts on Monday, Guides on Tuesday, shorthand and typing on Wednesday, some form of entertainment on Friday, shorthand again on Saturday and on Sunday we wrote home to our parents.

Our Senior Mistress - Miss Clover – was also our Guide Mistress, a very wonderful person. We enjoyed many outings with her and also Guide Camps at Devon and St Margaret’s Bay. The boys, too, enjoyed Cubs and Scouts with one of their teachers, the opportunity to pull apart an old Ford motor car and put it together again, sharing an allotment at the back of the swimming pool and learning a musical instrument.

Some very weird noises came out of the Band Room, which was situated next to the Gym. It sounded, at times, like a herd of elephants trumpeting, but they did get their act together eventually, which resulted in a really good band. A few of them played together with a girl pianist for hymns at our Sunday morning service. In the afternoon we would march to church at Twickenham. We also took Confirmation Classes. We were allowed, after our Confirmation, to attend Communion in groups without supervision. Catholic children went to their own church and observed their Saints days. They also had fish for their meal on Friday. I must admit that at that stage some of the Church of England children would willingly have changed their religion.

The various Police Divisions held Fetes during the year and we attended these with the children whose fathers had been in that Division, competing in athletic events, being rewarded with a watch or some other lovely prize. The boys, of the school, did an acrobatic display and gymnastics and the girls their club drill and country dancing – we felt very proud. We looked forward, greatly, to these outings as we did to attending, in January each year, the circus at Olympia and later the Military Tattoo. Imagine the excitement when we arrived at Hammersmith Section House for lunch and then marched across Hammersmith Broadway to the rousing music of our band playing ‘Blaze Away’ or one of the  Sousa Marches.

Another day in the calendar that was looked forward to was Whit Monday, which was ‘Old Scholars Day’, when we got to meet past pupils. There was the Police Band playing music on the lawns, a sports programme for us and a high tea for visitors and children alike – what a happy day that was. I was fortunate enough to attend as an ex pupil in 1936. It was a great experience to meet staff and friends again.

The mode of dress for the girls was navy and brown tunics with long sleeved coloured blouses, brown shoes and stockings, a navy overcoat, fur felt hat in navy with the Police emblem on the hatband. The boys wore short trousers, shirt and jumper, long socks and boots. I think they had blazers for best wear.

Supervision of our health was very good with a dentist and a doctor both making visits. The Hospital, (opened in 1923 by the then Prince of Wales), was again a lovely building segregated by Sisters quarters to house girls and boys. Three wards at each end, a treatment room, a large playroom and a dining room for those well enough to sit at table. To make sure that our bowels worked regularly we were given a container of mixed up liquorice powder and water - about the size of an egg cup – at the end of each month. Woe betide those who were at the back of the queue for the mixture got thicker as the liquid quantity in the pail diminished and oh what a restless night that was with so much activity.

On one day a month there was a much happier occasion as our surviving parent was allowed to visit us. As you can imagine that was a day of great anticipation but for those who had no visitors it would have been very lonely had they not been gathered in by other visitors. We also went home for Christmas and the summer vacation as the vast majority of us still had one parent. If there was no grandma or aunt to help out in looking after then children, for that period, provision was made for the unfortunates.

On our leaving school every assistance was given to finding us a suitable job and we were given a full outfit of clothes, a bible and a prayer book.

After writing, at length, of this beautiful school, which is still dear to my heart for the opportunity it gave me in life and for the truly wonderful friendships formed you can surely understand why it should never have been called an orphanage. It seems such a demeaning word for a school, which compared so favourably to the private schools of England. Nevertheless, as Shakespeare wrote “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. So by whatever name they called it I am truly grateful to those who founded it, for the Police who helped finance it and to you for your interest in writing of its history.

Mrs Hilda ROSE (nee Willett),




joined the Australian Army during the Second World War and in 1940 Hilda received a telegram from Len as he was staying at an Army Camp in the UK. They met after last seeing each other 6 years previously when they left the orphanage. They met as often as possible and often had to take shelter during the blitz on London. They had got engaged and planned to marry but Len was posted overseas.

Hilda undertook extensive nursing training in 1943 having been unable to secure passage to Australia. She worked at different hospitals and eventually volunteered for service on the Hospital Trains.

Finally in September 1946 (another 6 years since they last met) she sailed to Australia with the English Test Team who were to contest the first Ashes contest since the war (They lost 3 and drew 2 – something’s don’t change). Much planning had gone into her emigration and reunion with the Rose family. She married Len just 1 week after her arrival.

Although times were hard initially the community grew and they took an active role in many aspects. They went on to raise their own family and lead a full and active life in Australia.

A remarkable women who wrote a few memories of her time in the Orphanage (ATTACHED) and also wrote about her life in a book entitled ‘I was a war bride’.

Sadly Hilda passed away on 17th July 2011



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