Home where two worlds met

The front cover of the book, Memories of a Moorland Children's Home
The front cover of the book, Memories of a Moorland Children's Home

A fascinating slice of social history linking Middlesbrough and the Esk Valley is captured in a new book, Memories of a Moorland Children’s Home.

It tells the story of The Davison Children’s Home from the events leading up to it being built in 1915 until its closure in the 1980s.

The book, by Colin and Heather Mather, provides a touching insight into the lives of people from two very different worlds.

There’s the smog-laden streets of back-to-back houses, lacking in sunlight and polluted by the industry of the early 20th Century, and the contrasting wide open spaces of the moors and dales of North Yorkshire with green fields, sunshine and keen invigorating air.

An estimated 16,000 needy children benefited from respite care at the home.

Generally, they came from Middlesbrough. Many had disabilities, ill-health or were experiencing difficult family circumstances.

For most, the move to the home was well-considered and planned, but for some it was the result of a family crisis and these children had to make rapid adjustments.

Coming from the urban areas of Middlesbrough to a small country village in the rural Esk Valley was challenging for young children. For some it was an adventure; for others it was traumatic.

The authors have gathered many first-hand accounts and personal testimonies of people who stayed at the home as children and those who worked there. These human stories and reminiscences are at the heart of this important social history and include many people from Danby and the Esk Valley.

Such memories would almost certainly have been lost over time were it not for the painstaking efforts of the authors in publishing this book in the centenary year of the founding of the home. 

Authors Colin and Heather Mather moved to the The Davison Home in 2000 and soon discovered it had a history all of its own. In 2005, they held an open day for those people from Middlesbrough, who had been at the home as children and the local staff who had cared for them.

“We were amazed when 250 people came that day,” they said, “and after meeting all these people with stories to tell, we decided we should write a book to record their memories.

“We gathered many more memories as far back as 1933 and researched other information back to 1915 when the home was built.

“We estimate that 16,000 needy children benefited from respite care at the home.

“These human stories and reminiscences are at the heart of our book.

“From Teesside Archives and other sources we learned about the history leading up to the home being built.

“A strong group of benefactors saw the problems of ill health and disability and raised funds for the building of the home.

“Children from the streets of back-to-back houses, lacking in sunlight and polluted by the industry of the early twentieth century were brought to the wide open spaces of the moors and dales of North Yorkshire to improve their health.”

It is appropriate that the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to The Davison Trust for Children.