25 June, 2009


Alexandra House

A Brief History

•  The Home was founded on the 24th May 1839, given Royal Patronage in the October and became known as the 'Royal British Female Orphan Asylum'. It's aim was "to care for the female children of Servicemen killed in action and to train them for domestic duties".

•  The Orphanage started in St Michael Road, Stoke, Plymouth and due to it’s success a new building was built in Albert Road, Stoke. The increasing need for it’s services alongside it’s good reputation meant that the House was extended in 1874 with the building of 2 new wings to accommodate 200 girls.

•  The house was renamed in 1906 becoming the ‘Royal United Service Orphan Home for Girls’ and in 1917 nursing, cookery and typewriting were added to the training curriculum.

•  In 1931 a holiday home was bought in Newquay, known as the Army and Navy Villa.

•  In 1939 the girls were evacuated to Knappe Cross near Exmouth, Devon and following the requisition of the Albert Road building by the Admiralty in 1941 the girls moved to 'Abbotsfield' near Tavistock. However, this was an expensive house to maintain and so the Newquay Villa became the permanent home in 1942 until it was successfully sold in 1972.

•  By 1948 only 48 girls were resident which meant a drop in income, alongside a fall in fundraising events, subscriptions and donations.

•  In the early Fifties the name saw 2 new versions - the 'Royal United Service Home for Children (girls)' and the 'Royal United Service Home for Girls'. The objects of the Charity were extended to include 'the daughters of men, on regular engagements, who were in difficult circumstances and needed temporary provision of care for their children'.

•  In 1962 the Patron, Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra, agreed to the use of the title ‘Alexandra House’ for the Home.- another title ‘Alexandra House (Royal United Home for Girls)’.

•  Following a drop in numbers, with only 15 girls in residence, the objects were again amended to include boys for the first time- and yet another name change- ‘Alexandra House (Royal United Service Home for Children).

•  In August 1972, with only 5 girls, the House relocated to a building on the married quarters estate in Bull Point, St Budeaux, Plymouth. The service developed by offering more short term care arrangements for children when parents were in need of respite support.
•  On the 1st February 1974 the Home was formally re-opened as 'Alexandra House' (Royal United Service Short Stay Residence for Service Children).

•  Between 1974 and 1999 the numbers of families needing respite care fluctuated and the need for overnight stays decreased with children mainly attending for Day Care. The service offered was for short term respite for children under the age of 12 years of age.

•  Following the sale of the married quarters in Bull Point an application was made to the Nuffield Trust for the Forces of the Crown and a major grant enabled a purpose built facility to be sited at Crownhill, Plymouth. The new Alexandra House opened in October 2000.

•  Alexandra House has seen quite significant changes over the past 6 years. The Trustees entered into a Partnership with another Charity, KIDS, for a period of three years in order to develop the Management systems and increase the residential occupancy. This partnership ceased in July 2005. The house is now run by the Children’s Services Manager and a team of 12 care staff. It is registered as a Respite Children’s Home with the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and as a Day Care provision with Ofsted.

•  In 2005 the Objects were again amended to reflect the changing needs of Service Families and today it reads ‘to relieve and assist children of Service personnel who are temporarily unable to care for them due, for example, to sudden illness, matrimonial problems or other domestic emergency. The trust shall primarily provide both residential and day care facilities for the children of service families’.

•  In 2007 Alexandra House is as active as ever! It runs a busy Day Nursery for children under 3years and regular respite ‘fun days’ for the Anchor group children- a support group for Service families with disabled children. An emergency respite service is available throughout the week although there is very little call for this.

•  The Charity is supported generously by Seafarers UK, The HMS Dorsetshires Association, the Army Benevolent fund and other smaller donations. This enables serving personnel to benefit from reduced rates for Day Care.

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