According to evidence given to the India Office in 1910 by Mrs S. Dunn, Matron of the Ayahs' Home, the Home had been founded by a committee of women who had resolved there should be a place to house stranded ayahs in England. The Ayahs' Home appears to have been founded in 1825 in Aldgate by a Mrs Rogers (according to an advert in The Times on 3 December 1868, although there are conflicting reports about the exact date and manner of foundation). It provided shelter for ayahs whose employment had been terminated upon arriving in Britain and found employment and passage back to India for them with British families who were travelling there. The employer who brought the ayah to Britain usually provided the ayah's return ticket, which was surrendered to the Home. The matron then 'sold' the ticket to a family requiring the ayah's services and in the meantime, before the travel date, the Home would use the money to pay for the ayah's board and lodging.
Supported by Christian Missionaries, in 1900 the London City Mission (LCM) took over the organization of the Home as it moved from its premises in Jewry Street in Aldgate to King Edward's Road in Hackney. In 1921, it moved from 26 King Edward's Road to more spacious premises at 4 King Edward's Road. This new opening was inaugurated by Lady Chelmsford, the wife of the former Viceroy of India. The Home was not merely a hostel, but a venue for missionaries to try and convert the ayahs to Christianity. The Foreigner's Branch Committee of the LCM often held 'Foreigners' Fetes' where ayahs were prominent members of the diverse company. Mrs Dunn told the India Office in 1910 that the Home dealt with about ninety ayahs a year. The Home was designed not only for Indian ayahs but also for nurse-maids from other countries such as China who were similarly brought over by families and required assistance in returning. The travelling season was March to November and so the Home was practically empty from November to March. During the First World War, women were not allowed to travel by sea and so there were many more stranded ayahs during those years.
Mrs S. Dunn (matron)
Viscountess Chelmsford, Joseph Salter.
London City Mission
London City Mission Magazine, in particular issues from 1877 to 1922
Marshall, A. C. 'Nurses of Ocean Highways', The Quiver: The Magazine for the Home 57 (1922), pp. 924-5
Visram, Rozina, Ayahs, Lascars and Princes (London: Pluto Press, 1986)
Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)
Series L/PJ/6, in particular L/PJ/6/881 and L/PJ/6/936, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras
Report of the Committee on Distressed Colonial and Indian Subjects, with evidence from Mrs S. Dunn of the Ayahs Home, L/PJ/6/925 [alternative reference: Parliamentary Paper Cd.5134], India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras
See also adverts in The Times for ayahs requesting employment
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