Historic site of the Norwood Orphanage awarded a Blue Plaque

14 September 2016

Local dignitaries and Norwood Old Scholars and their families gathered at the West Norwood Health and Leisure Centre on Sunday for the unveiling of a Blue Plaque, marking the site of the original Norwood Orphanage.

Built in 1866 the Norwood Orphanage educated and cared for hundreds of Jewish children, both those born in the UK and refugees from Europe. Its aim was to prepare the children for life in the community, offering education and apprenticeships. In the sixties, the charity began to place children in smaller, family type homes, and the orphanage was demolished in 1961. It is estimated over 8,000 Jewish children passed through its doors. An exhibition of archive materials from the orphanage including old letters and photographs is being held at the West Norwood Health and Leisure Centre.

The plaque was officially unveiled by Rev Alan Greenblatt OBE, Norwood Orphanage’s former deputy head and Chair of the Norwood Old Scholars Association. He was joined on stage by Jack Mathews, President of the Norwood Old Scholars Association, Kitty Freund, former ‘Norwood Scholar’, Martin Rayment, Norwood’s Compliance Manager and archivist, Mayor of Lambeth Saleha Jaffer, and former Radio One DJ and Chair of the Blue Plaque Trust, Mike Read.

Jack Mathews said: "When it opened its doors in 1866, over 200 children were able to call this large purpose-built Victorian building home. These children soon settled in and were quick to appreciate the improvement: a large outdoor playground and underground playground, a dining hall able to accommodate all the children and staff, school rooms with individual desks, a library, large dormitories and a synagogue.

Martin Rayment said: "It was wonderful to see such an incredible turnout for the unveiling of the plaque. Through the hundreds of years of Norwood’s existence, thousands upon thousands of people have benefited from the charity’s services. However, this is the place that I always think of as Norwood’s spiritual home, the place that gave us our name. And, although the orphanage itself is no longer here, this blue plaque will serve as a reminder, that it is because of the founders of that building we at Norwood are able to carry on the work they started."

Local ward councillor and Lambeth’s cabinet member for families and young people, Cllr Jane Pickard, said: "The Jewish Orphanage helped young people from all over the country whose families had fallen on hard times. They came for shelter, food, care and education – and they were well looked after.

"It is important to ensure that the building will never be forgotten and pay tribute to the great work of the Norwood Old Scholars group and the Norwood charity, who not only keep the memory of the building alive, but continue to support many vulnerable people to this day."