Insight into The Crescent Homes

Published on: 31 Oct 2014

Chas Ashley outlines a new book from Downend Local History Society

 THE latest publication by Downend Local History Society documents the history of The Crescent Homes at Downend. For nearly 80 years the homes provided a secure home for orphaned children and latterly as an approved school for senior girls. Nothing now remains of the Crescent Homes. They were demolished in 1983 and the site sold to developers for residential building. The previous use of the site is now remembered only in the name of one of the new roads built there (Crescent Road) and in the memories of ex-staff and residents, older local people and a few old photographs.

The author, Tony Brown, wrote this history in 1990/92 based upon researched information from official sources (principally Bristol Children’s Committee minutes – earlier records had been destroyed in the blitz in 1941) and his own personal experiences working in the Crescent (Approved) School. After his death his widow gave his original work to the Downend Local History Society so that the information could be published and made available to a wider audience.

The book gives a rare and candid insight into the operation and daily life in the usually closed and private world of institutional child-care and the approved school system in the latter half of the 20th century. Much of the information presented screams out for further embellishment but uncovering the ‘back-story’ behind official minutes without reliable alternative primary sources invites interpretation beyond the given ‘facts’. Tony steadfastly avoided being dragged down this route and presented the information in a frank, objective and non-judgemental way.

This style has been preserved in the editing of this book which describes in considerable detail the organisation and day-to-day operation of an evolving facility dedicated to the care of institutionalised young people based upon the accepted thinking and prevailing social conditions of the time. Tony’s original text has been augmented with some photographs from the society’s photo-archive to enhance the presentation.

This new 200-page book is available only directly from Downend Local History Society for just £6. To buy a copy please ring 0117 9563140 or email chas.ashley@btinternet.com to arrange a mutually convenient time for collection.

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