I have recently published the book that my late father (Patrick E Roast) wrote. It is about his time at the Farningham Home for Little Boys from 1936 – 1945.
The “Homes” at Farningham existed from 1867 to the early 1960’s and was created as an alternative to the large orphanages and institutions then in existence. Unfortunately, when the Homes closed in the early 1960’s Kent County Council turned the site briefly into a Remand home and it is often only remembered for that and not the fantastic work that spanned nearly 100 years before its closure.
Without a welfare state during this period, children whose parent(s) could not care for them due to hardship were offered a chance in life by being given a home, education and an apprenticeship, with 300 boys sharing 10 houses, mostly self sufficient with its own farm, bakery and laundry it provided and enabled them for the future. My fathers book covers some of the history and his recollections but they are a not just his story but an insight for all to understand how important the Homes were for these boys and it makes a very touching and insightful read. For myself as his son it was not until I read the book that I began to understand my father but reading about him being left at the Homes at the age of 6 and crying for many weeks did I have any idea of what he had been through but he was always grateful that had the Homes not taken him in, his life could have been very different indeed.
The site is now the Southdowns Retirement village and there has been a great deal of interest from the current residents and locals asking for the book trying to discover some of the history of the location. There has also been interest from children, grandchildren and relatives of former pupils at the homes trying to get an insight into how their life was there. People who have no connection whatsoever to the Homes have read the book and all found it fascinating and touching but they all thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
There is an old boys society who have a reunion every year to reminisce and remember their lost friends and has been in existence for many years. The Homes also featured in two episodes of “Who do you think you are” with Twiggy and Rupert Everett each finding that one of their ancestors was housed there and went on to have a full life.
This is a story that if my father had not decided to write it may well have been lost and forgotten but it needs exposure so that the wonderful work the three founders did is remembered and appreciated and also for any descendants of former Homes boys or for that matter anybody interested in Social History of the time can read and gain an insight about this amazing piece of history.