British Home Children

In April I wrote about the first children sent to Canada by the Board of Guardians of Guildford Union Workhouse

Since then I have been researching another small group of emigrants sent from Guildford to Canada.

On June 18th 1887 a group of 115 children arrived in Quebec aboard the SS Lake Ontario bound for the Guthrie Receiving Home in London, Ontario.  They had been sent from the Children’s Emigration Home in Birmingham by John T Middlemore, boarding the ship in Liverpool, but the children had originally lived in several different parts of England.
Mr Middlemore's Book in Birmingham
Seven of the girls came from Guildford Union Workhouse sponsored by Miss Ada Spottiswoode, the only woman on the Guildford Board of Guardians.  The youngest child was 5 year old Ada Walker, whose brother and sister had been sent to Canada two years previously despite the fact that their Uncle Frederick Walker and Aunt Jane Mercer had shown willingness to look after them.  The other girls were two groups of sisters, Margaret Cheeter aged 12, Edith Cheeter aged 11, Louisa Cheeter aged 7 and Eliza Hebburn aged 11, Ellen Hebburn aged 12 and Rose Hebburn aged 18.

The Hebburn family had their name spelt Hebborn or Hebbourne on different documents.  In 1871 William Hebburn, Labourer, was living with his wife Emma (Becks) and his daughter Rose Alma in Woodbridge Hill, Stoke, Guildford but by 1881 Rose, her 8 year old brother George and her younger sisters Ellen and Eliza were inmates at Guildford Union Workhouse after the death of their mother in Bellefields in 1877.  George remained in England and can be found as a farm labourer in Littlefield Common, Worplesdon in 1891.

It was difficult to find the Cheeter girls in England until I realised their surname was Chewter.  Margaret Ellen, Edith Mary and Louisa were born in Pirbright, Surrey the daughters of James Chewter and his wife Sarah.  James was a farm labourer but he and his wife appear to be missing from the records after 1880.
St Mary the Virgin, Worplesdon
In fact all three families were originally from the neighbouring villages of Worplesdon and Pirbright just to the north of Guildford and as agricultural labouring opportunities declined they moved closer into Guildford so that the fathers could find casual labouring jobs.  They managed to eke out a living until one parent died and then it was impossible to provide for the family and look after the children.

Thanks to Jim Littlewood, a descendent, we know that Rose was contracted to a Mr A N C Black of PO Dutton, Elgin County. The contract is signed on behalf of Middlemore by H. Gibbons.  As she was 18, Rose was only committed to working under this contract for 3 years so it is perhaps not surprising that in 1890 she married James Collins in Tonawanda, New York.  By 1892 the New York census shows the couple with 1 year old daughter, Frances, living in Wheatfield, Niagara County NY.

By 1905 Rose’s life had changed dramatically.  She had 5 children, James, Rose, Frances, Lilly and Veronica but they are listed in the New York census of Inmates in Alms-houses and Poorhouses. The reason given was "father’s desertion".  They were transferred the same day as they arrived to "homes for the friendless".

Thankfully life improved for the family.  James Collins must have died, as in the 1910 census Rose is listed married to a Mr. John A. Clarkson.  Living with them are the 5 Collins children and 3 year old Edna Clarkson, daughter of Rose and her new husband.  Rose Hebburn Collins Clarkson died on 14th October 1944 at Buffalo, Erie NY.

Meanwhile, 12 year old Ellen Hebburn had been assigned to John H Elliott of Wilton Grove at Concession 6 of Westminster on 28th June 1887 and later moved to E Adams of Chatham Kent Co. on 22nd August 1888.  In an incident report dated February 3rd 1892 it is stated, “Ellen writes to say she has left Mrs Ritchie because the wages were not high enough.  She is now earning $5.00 per month. She did not receive the letter and papers at Christmas so Mrs Ritchie kept them.  She is anxious to have her sister’s address."

The last mention of Ellen is from another Visitor’s Report on September 5th 1893:- "Ellen went to a Mrs Osborn from Mrs Brill then to Mrs Griffiths and finally left for her sister in Buffalo. She suffered a good deal from sore feet and was not able to do much for some time before she left."

It was arranged for 10 year old Eliza Hebburn to go to a merchant, Mr S E Hooper of Clandeboye, on 23th June 1887, on 7th May 1888 to George Dodge of Aardoc Strathroy, then to Robert McGregor of Huntley, Lanark County (Almonte) on 5th December 1888 and finally to Harry H Cowan of Wellington Street, Richmond Road, Ottawa on 7th June 1889.

After five different employers in two years it is perhaps not surprising that tragically Eliza shows up on the 1891 Canada census in St. George’s Ward of Toronto.  She is listed as an inmate at Mercer Reformatory and Industrial Refuge at the tender age of 14 years.

These were just a few girls from over a hundred thousand children sent to Canada as indentured workers from all over Great Britain between the 1860s and the 1940s.

With thanks to Jim Littlewood for sharing his family research
And to Judy Neville of Ontario for her expertise and research advice
Other sources
Census & birth records from


Thanks to Marion Crawford of the Middlemore Atlantic society in Canada I now have more information about the other girls.

In 1887 when she arrived in Canada five year old Ada Walker was placed with a family in Parry Sound.  She was described as, “a bright little girl, doing well.”

The Chewter/ Cheeter girls were now given the surname Chuter.  Edith was placed in three different locations, the final one being at Belmont, Ontario, Louisa, age 7, was placed with Francis Davis at Adelaide Street, London, Ontario and Margaret, age 12 went to David Phillips of Durham, Oxford Co. Ontario.

Another family split by emigration and misfortune can be found here


Thanks to the research of Pirbright historian, Shirley Foster, we now have more evidence of the Chuter family.  According to the death records registered in Guildford, Sarah Chuter, mother of the three girls sent to Canada, died at the Royal Surrey Hospital in 1884 aged 38, so it must have been very difficult for their father James to look after them on his own while continuing to work.


  1. Hello,

    We are researching in the same bit of Surrey, me being a Guildford girl!

    You said "......Cheeter girls in England until I realised their surname was Chewter" You might also look for Chuter this is often found in this part of Surrey - Guildford, Woking, Worplesdon, Normandy and Wanborough.

  2. Yes, they did like to spell it in so many different ways- definitely a local family.

  3. This was so interesting! I've been researching the Workhouse system for current book - many of the orphans were sent out to the 'colonies'...even though some weren't technically orphans....! It's incredible to think children had no rights whatsoever and were just chattels to be shunted around.

  4. Reading the Guardians Minutes, they had a problem deciding what to do with the children as they grew older. Some were sent to Industrial schools or Sail Training Ships. One boy was sent from Surrey to be an apprentice on a whaling ship in Grimsby and some London children were sent to work in mills in Lancashire.

  5. As A Pirbright Historian I have traced Edith Mary CHEWTER/CHUTER through the Canadian Census. She married twice, her second marriage to Charles James Jarvis produced 4 children. Also traced Margaret Ellen CHEWTER/CHUTER, she married a Frank Simons and had a son Roy Gordon Simons. Interestingly they are both living in Hamilton, Wentworth, Ontario. Any help regarding Louisa would be appreciated.

    1. Shirley, would you like to contact me at I am a volunteer researcher at The Spike in Guildford.