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Archive of the month

Archive of the month

Records of the Lane End Child Welfare Centre

Reference D 235

The Lane End Child Welfare Centre, or Baby Welcome as it was known for many years, was the first children's health clinic to be started in Buckinghamshire and only the fourth of its kind in the country. It was started in 1914 by Angela James and Miss Elizabeth Johnson.

The Welcome met fortnightly with a break in the winter months and in its early years was funded jointly by a County Council grant and local subscriptions.

Initially they met in the Girls Club room next to the butchers shop and borrowed his scales to weigh the babies. Six mothers attended the first meeting on April 9th 1914. A total of twenty seven children came that first year of which six required small operations, one required his legs breaking and resetting because of rickets, and three were suffering from malnutrition owing to "wrong feeding". The district nurse/health visitor was at every clinic and a female doctor attended regularly.

Numbers grew and the Committee employed other incentives to encourage mothers to attend: families where a new baby had been born received an invitation to the clinic and each child who attended received a birthday card (reference: D235/21/1, see image one in the gallery) and small gift until they were five.

A programme of cookery classes, dressmaking and lectures on child related subjects were also a regular feature (several programmes are in Log Book D235/1, see image two in the gallery). These were aimed at educating the mothers in matters of hygiene and nutrition and in this way reduce infant mortality and provide help for inexperienced and hard-pressed mothers. The talks ranged from topics such as ‘Why children are naughty’ and ‘The moral training of children’ to ‘The care of teeth’ and ‘How to cook vegetables’.

In 1921 the Welcome moved to the newly built village hall which provided better facilities for their work. It changed its name to Infant Welfare Centre when "Baby Welcome" no longer seemed appropriate. They introduced a day nursery (D235/21/2, see image three in the gallery) once a week to give mothers in the village a break; they arranged car transport to bring in mothers from outlying hamlets and farms and fathers were encouraged to play their part. Occasional "fathers only" talks were given (free tobacco and cigarettes and light refreshments being offered as an incentive!) and each year fathers were invited to submit a written piece on a subject related to child rearing as part of the annual mothercraft competition.
Each year a garden party or tea party was held, in the early days in Mrs. James' garden at Fingest Grove, and at which the prizes for their Mothercraft Competitions were presented (D235/29).

Hon. Mrs. Bernard James

Angela James (the Hon. Mrs. Bernard James) had moved into Fingest Grove with her husband and four children in 1912. She observed that although most babies survived early infancy, there was much ignorance and bad practice with regard to childcare. With this in mind Angela James and Miss Johnson suggested a Centre where mothers could bring their babies to be regularly checked. Angela James was the first Honorary Secretary and Treasurer and remained so until her death in 1967 at the age of ninety-five.

Angela James was a pioneer for infant welfare. She wrote a many number of articles in both magazines and newspapers and regularly gave talks. In 1920 she became concerned with how much children suffered when travelling, due to the inexperience of parents. She wrote a booklet, Hints to mothers travelling with young children (D235/26/5/1). It was a great success and Mrs. James was asked to revise it, with the latest edition compiled when she was 85.

Perhaps her greatest innovation came in 1932 when she actively campaigned for the vaccination against diphtheria. Copies of Mrs. James talks and articles (D235/14/13, see image four in the gallery) show her to have been a passionate advocate of immunisation beyond the locality. This was at a time when there was a great deal of debate and real scepticism about childhood vaccinations and whether they worked. Diphtheria was a very common condition and one of the leading causes of death in children, at this period. The log book (D235/6) shows that children were being immunised from November 7th 1932 in Lane End almost ten years before it was routinely introduced by the government in 1940.

Angela James' energy and devotion to childcare issues and the community is reflected in a printed message of appreciation from the King’s wife Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) to Mrs. Angela James for her services to the country in 1939 (D235/30, see image five in the gallery).