Way House - Wheelers Lane, Brockham

Reproduced with the kind permission of Tony Hines

The Brockham Home and Training School for Workhouse Girls was opened in Wheelers Lane on the 1st February 1859 by the Honourable Mrs Emmeline Way of Wonham Manor, Betchworth.  The home offered training to orphaned girls living in Workhouses from all over England.

Mrs Way also pioneered the Pauper Education Act, passed in 1863, which made it possible for Local Authorities to pay from the Rates for children to live in homes, including  the Brockham Home, but at a rate not more than the Authority would pay to the Workhouse.

The girls were trained for domestic service.  On leaving the Home and entering service, every girl was provided with a "good outfit".  To pay for their outfit and training, each girls mistress had to pay to the Matron, one half of each quarters wages.

If a girl stayed in her first job for a year she received a bonus of £1.

As a birthday present for their daughter in 1872, Mr and Mrs Way opened a Nursery Home.  Eventually both Homes were amalgamated under one Matron.

The Annual Report for the Home in 1914 tells us that the rate was 6/6 per week.  Girls were admitted from 4-13 years and remained until they were 16 years. On admittance to the Home every girl must have:

3 pairs drawers 2 skirts 4 brown holland pinafores
2 night-gowns 4 pairs stockings 1 jacket
3 shifts 4 handkerchiefs 1 hat
2 pairs stays 2 pairs boots brush and comb
2 flannel petticoats 3 frocks


The frocks, jacket and hat were provided by the Matron and charged to the Union at a cost of 18/-.


  • A family bible was presented to the Home by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This was given to Brockham Church when the Home closed in 1970


  • Albert Way, Esq., MA FSA of Wonham Manor, Betchworth, in the county of Surrey, formerly director of the Society of Antiquaries, and founder of the Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland died in Cannes, France. From theIllustrated London News4th April 1874


  • From serious and continued illness, the Hon. Mrs Way, the founder and manager of the Brockham Home, has obliged to relinquish for the present its superintendence to her daughter, Mrs Lewis Way.


  • The Honourable Mrs Way died, 31 August


  • Miss Vickery was appointed Matron.
  • From the Dorking Advertiser, 1911 we learn:  An interesting ceremony took place at Brockham when the Brockham Training Home for Girls was reopened after extensive alterations and additions carried out at a cost of £1000. There are at present 38 girls at the Home, two thirds of whom are paid for by the Board of Guardians. Sir Trevor Lawrence Bart testified to the importance of training girls for domestic work. Those he said "who had the good fortune to have a good servant, would know the enormous difference there was between a good servant and an indifferent one".


  • Gas installed. 
  • Third year of holidays at Box Hill Fort


  • 42 girls attended the Home, 11 of them were motherless girls whose fathers were soldiers.


  • The whole month of August was spent at Box Hill Fort.


  • An "American" sale, held at The Old House by General and Mrs Cuthbert raised £55.18.8.
  • The ten day Whitsun holiday was spent at the Box Hill Fort.
  • Half an acre of land was purchased and the drainage system modernised.


  • Miss Couchman and Miss Taylor joined the staff. Both stayed until 1947.


  • Mr Beazley donated 36 bibles and Mrs Thorne 36 prayer / hymn books.


  • Mrs Lloyd of Broome Park gave the girls tea when they went to Betchworth Flower Show.


  • Mrs Lewis Albert Way, daughter of the founder died
  • One third of an acre of land was purchased as a playing field for the girls.


  • Mr Lassam cut all the girls hair, free of charge - "no small matter now all are bobbed".


  • Mr Poland was paying for all the milk, three gallons a day, and potatoes for all 45 girls.
  • The travel costs and holiday, held in Margate, and the Christmas dinner were paid for by   Mr Poland.


  • Dr Thorne died.  The electric lights in the church commemorate his 22 years as G.P.


  • By kind invitation of Miss Poland, the girls used the boating lake in Kiln Lane once a week.


  • Miss Brodie gave the Home an engraving of Queen Victoria and her family. This had been given to her great grandfather by Queen Victoria.


  • Miss Hayward and Miss Sherlock were appointed to the staff


  • Dr Arthur died.


  • Miss Poland died. Sidney Poland died on 27th April 1936.


  • Way House closed and was converted to residential property.

During the time Miss Hayward was Matron, the name of the Home was changed to Way House, in honour of its founder.

When Way House closed in 1970, it was the intention of the Charity Commissioners to demolish the Home and develop the site.  However, Sir John Betjeman considered the house to be worth saving.  New modern houses were built inside the shell of the old Home, an excellent example of wise conservation.

From material kindly supplied by Katie Dodson and Mrs Gifford-Mead, Two Way House, Wheelers Lane, Brockham.

From the Surrey History Service:

Kelly's County Directory

According to the directory of 1867, the "Brockham Home and Industrial School for poor orphan girls was established by the Hon. Mrs Way in 1859; the object that benevolent lady had in view was to test the principle of taking orphan girls between the ages of 12 and 16 years out of the workhouses and training them in all kinds of household work to fit them for domestic servants and to provide a home for them when out of a situation: at the present time there are 20 girls, with a resident matron and schoolmistriss."

Mrs Way also set up the Brockham Infants Home in 1872.  This amalgamated with the girls home in 1882.

1910 - A Victorian History of Surrey (1910)

In 1840, Wonham Manor was bought by Mr Albert Way who married Emmeline, daughter of Lord Stanley of Alderley.  Their only daughter Alithea, (Lewis?) married her cousin, Mr Albert Way, who died in 1844, leaving a son of the same name.  The Honourable Mrs Way who survived until 1906 was lady of the manor.  It is still (1910) in the hands of her trustees for sale.  The manor house is old, but much modernised.

From:  The Birth of a Parish,

Katie Dodson, 1987

In 1859 Mrs Way started the Brockham Home and Industrial School for Orphan girls aged between eleven and sixteen.  They were trained in all kinds of household work to fit them for domestic service and were provided with a home when out of a situation. 

There was a resident matron and a school mistress. The girls did not attend the village school until 1871.  Later in 1872, Mrs Way established a home for fourteen infants with a resident matron.  The two Homes amalgamated under one matron and from that time management was by a committee of eleven ladies.  The Revd. Alan Cheales was Chaplain to the Homes.

During the worst of the winter in 1860, from January 18th to February 22nd, a soup kitchen was opened in the Home, supported by subscriptions.  £3 13s 6d was spent on meat, £1 9s 5d on vegetables and 5s on firing.  573 quarts of soup were sold at 1d per quart, the number of families taking advantage of the service being seventy.  In other years Soup Kitchens were opened in Old School House and Elmgrove Farm.

Census Returns

Beryl Higgins, 1981

Brockham Green, from the Tythe Awards 1843 notes Skeltons Workshops inWheelwrights Laneon the site of the Brockham Home.

The 1871 Brockham green Census returns notes the occupier of the Brockham Home for Orphans as Rachel Pitson.  The occupier of Home Cottage as Mary Ann Dear.

Outside the Mainstream - A History of Special Education

J.S Hurt

"An early pioneer of taking girls from workhouses, training them for domestic service and giving them somewhere to return, should the position fail was the Hon. Mrs Emmeline Way, who started a home at Brockham near Reigate, Surrey, in which she trained ex-workhouse girls for domestic service.  Others followed her example at Bristol in 1860 and Southall in 1863."

It was obviously a very tough life.. "with many ex-workhouse girls facing economic and sexual exploitation, physical ill-treatment or sheer neglect.  Guardians were encouraged to ensure that girls who found employment received a shilling a week, a wage that some were still earning as late as the 1890s.  At the worst, girls found their money docked for months ostensibly to pay for their clothes and uniforms.  If they went to large households as 'between maids' or 'tweenies', at the beck and call of both the cook and the housemaid, the normal misery of such a post could be compounded by the added incubus of the workhouse taint. 

If girls had known little love in their lives became pregnant, perhaps as a result of yielding to the blandishments of a member of the household, they faced instant dismissal without references.  Whether they left a post from choice or were dismissed friendless and penniless, they had few means of support apart from temporary prostitution or returning to the Workhouse, especially if they were pregnant."

The function therefore of Mrs Way's home at Brockham and a few other small agencies was to train ex-workhouse and orphaned girls to work in middle-class households, positions usually debarred to ex-workhouse girls, they usually satisfied the demand for domestic servants at the bottom end of the market; those families unable to afford or not prepared to pay girls from a more respectable background.

JS Hurt dismisses the argument that middle class philanthropists were recruiting their own supply of cheap servants, arguing that the only benefit was an indirect one!

Well done to Mrs Way!


It is apparent that the ages of the children attending Way House changed during the 111 years it operated.  The parents viewing of the nativity play is also interesting.  It had been assumed by some that all of the children were orphans.  It is also unclear when boys were first admitted to the Home.  Were they trained for domestic service also?

Way House Census 1881 

Way House Memoir by Marjorie Eileen Grieve (maiden name Brown)