In the early 1890s there was a very active social and political group based around The Clarion newspaper. Many groups were founded to promote it’s aims and they include groups to help underprivileged children. Bradford was the first city to form such a group without the political trappings. Indeed Politics and religion were strictly excluded from the club’s business and thus, with the Bradford Cinderella Club, the true Cinderella movement was born.
In just a few years from its beginnings in 1980 the Bradford Cinderella Club grew rapidly from a handful of like-minded people to become a well-established and respected institution within the town. This was especially true during and after the Manningham Mills strike of 1891 when the new club helped those in need regardless of political affiliation.
The Clarion and other National organisations such as the ‘Labour Church’ acknowledged this, as is seen in an early annual report of 1893 which states
“The Cinderella work is so well developed and organised that it covers the whole area of the town, it would only be productive of mischief for the Labour Church to interfere in it.”
As well as teas and treats the provision of a free meal for Bradford’s underprivileged schoolchildren in winter months became a regular feature, rising to nearly 40,000 meals p.a. and it became such a successful activity that the Bradford Schools Board and the Corporation passed the Provisions of Meals Act in 1905 – and then asked the club to help in its administration. National Free school meals as we know them today soon followed and are the direct result of the pioneering work of the Bradford Cinderella Club.
By the outbreak of the 1914-18 war the Bradford Cinderella Club was not only providing special treats and day trips. They were also providing clothing and footwear (usually clogs) as well as powdered milk for babies.
They had also purchased land at Hest Bank just outside Morecambe and built a holiday home on the sea-front. This operated from April until October and could cater for up to 40 children at a time. The children went for a fortnight each and all food, accommodation and activities were funded by the Club. The cost for the year of 1914 was just over £1000 or about £25 per available bed per year. That’s about a quarter of what it would cost for a single day in a similar places today.
In the mid-1920’s the Great depression was sweeping the industrialised world; in England the General Strike was about to start; and yet the Bradford the Cinderella Club was going from strength to strength – because it had to. The city council were hard pressed to find the resources (and experience) to cope with the welfare problems of the day. So they called on the help of the Cinderella Club’s committee and helpers and it was willingly given.
In 1926-27, the year the General Strike took place, Bradford Cinderella Club were kept busy helping families with assistance in the form of food, clothing and footwear. Children were given Christmas treats and toys, and trips to the countryside.
All this and the continuing trips of up to 40 children every two weeks to the Club’s Holiday Home at Hest Bank made such a call on the Club’s resources that, like many others, they went into debt but fortunately successful fund raising by the committee and friends of the club quickly overcame this problem and it was business as usual the following year; the club’s 38th.
By 1940 Europe was embroiled in another great war. Bradford provided many resources in manpower for the forces as well as maintaining the vital industries such as food and clothing. One notable action by the club was the conversion of its Hest Bank Holiday Home into a centre for evacuees, children who had to be moved away from Bradford because of the threat of enemy bombing. For the first time it was kept open during the winter months and some children spent more than a year at the Home.
Meanwhile the Cinderella Club was coping with the additional pressure of families whose bread winner was away in the forces leaving them in reduced circumstances – it did what it could.
The decade after the war saw the Diamond Jubilee of the Cinderella Club and also the silver anniversary of the opening of the purpose built Hest Bank Holiday Home which had replaced the earlier wooden structure thanks to the generosity of the Amblers. Although the demand’s on the club for clothing and footwear were slightly less than in the war years assistance was still provided to almost a thousand families a year
Special treats were still being organised including Cinema as well as Theatre trips and Day Trips to the countryside. However the fortnights at Hest Bank were still the highlight of the year for many Bradford children.
In the early 1960’s the Bradford Cinderella Club was spending £3 per person to send children on holiday to the seaside or even less for a day out in the countryside.
Although all deserving school children of school age received an allowance for clothing and footwear from the government it was still found necessary to purchase over 170 pairs of shoes p.a. for children under school age who were in desperate need .
In the 1970’s the Cinderella Club, with the help of students from the Bradford and Ilkley College and Mr Wally Keay their tutor, began providing a series of camping holidays at Pately Bridge and later at Skyrethornes in the Yorkshire Dales in addition to its other activities in Bradford and at the Holiday Home at Hest Bank.
These “adventure” camps for 40 children at a time were “staffed” by volunteers, mainly drawn from the students at the college. The first few were held on a working farm near Pately Bridge. The children lived under canvas in groups of a dozen in “scout tents” and ate in a large marquee tent. The cooking was mostly done by the children under the supervision of the students.
Depending on the time of year the children were able to see rural activities such as lambing and harvesting at first hand. A great novelty for the majority who had rarely been more than a mile from their inner city homes before. Extra activities such as canoeing, swimming and other sports were provided by staff at the nearby Bewerley Park Outdoor Centre.
Sadly severe storms and gales in 1977 caused great damage to the Cinderella Club’s Holiday Home at Hest Bank. The storms had been so severe and caused such extremely high tides that they lifted the indoor swimming pool the club had built in the grounds of the home. In all nearly £50,000 (at 1977 prices) worth of damages were done to the home but fortunately no-one was injured.
Since not all the damages caused by the storm could be recouped from the insurance companies the Cinderella Club were unable to effect full repairs and although they did open the home again in 1978 it soon became clear that we would be unable to fully restore or repair the premises and the Home had to close after nearly 70 years of service and having provided holiday accommodation for close to 50,000 underprivileged children from Bradford.
The money raised, augmented by generous public donations, has enabled the Cinderella Club to continue its work providing essential items for some of Bradford’s most underprivileged youngster When it comes to trips instead of providing our own holiday facilities we help financially so those disadvantaged children can take part in specialist activities or in the same trips and activities as their more fortunate friends.