Thomas W Aldwinckle
- Original design
- Thomas W Aldwinckle, 1891
Louise House is a handsome red brick building in the Domestic Revival style. It is to be found between Forest Hill Pools and Forest Hill Library on Dartmouth Road, Forest Hill, Lewisham, London SE23.
Its original use (from 1890 until 1933) was as a Girls' Industrial Home. Run by a local charity, the home was intended to house orphan or destitute girls, many coming from families in the East End of London. The idea was that the home would provide a safe and comfortable environment in a (then) country setting. The girls lived in the home and went to local schools. Part of the work of the home was to train the girls in a suitable trade to ensure their economic survival in adult life. To this end, the building has a detached block to the rear which housed laundry equipment.
The girls learned, among other things, the trade of laundering and domestic service. The laundry activity also provided funds for the home and created a service for local people. The foundation stone for the building was laid in 1890 by Queen Victoria’s daughter, Louise, the Marchioness of Lorne (hence the name). The home, with its twin Boys' Home (in Perry Rise and demolished around 2001), was perceived as a model of good practice in the late Victorian and Edwardian period.
It was famously visited by the leading Polish pediatrician, teacher and children's rights exponent Janusz Korczak in 1911. He later said that it was the impact of this visit which made him decide not to have children of his own, but to devote his life to the rights of the child. On his return to his native Poland, Korczak started a number of children's homes in Warsaw and elsewhere, where he developed his own unique views of the rights of the child. Korczak subsequently perished under the Nazis in Treblinka concentration camp, staying with his children to the end, despite opportunities to escape. Little known in this country, he is revered in Poland and Israel. As well as many books on education and children's welfare, he wrote plays and children's stories and is regarded as one of the inspirations for the Universal Declaration on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations in the postwar period.
At some point in the early twentieth century, the "Industrial" part of the name was dropped (and partially removed from the cut brick frieze on the facade). The home closed in 1933. Its use between 1933 and 1939 is unknown, but the building was used as the local Air Raid Protection headquarters during the Second World War years. In the postwar period it took on a variety of public and health uses such as family planning and offices for health visitors. Its was used as Lewisham Social Services offices up until 2005 and was then disused.
V22 have created self-contained artists’ studios over two floors, front and back gardens, and a separate community and exhibition space at the rear of the building. All studios have high ceilings, windows and natural light.
Louise House is our first truly long term building in London with a lease term of 125 years. At a time when artists find they have to move on quite regularly due to regeneration, it is very exciting to be able to develop roots in a neighbourhood and know that we can truly become part of the community.
At the rear of Louise House is the old laundry building which contains a newly refurbished large gallery space and Community Studio. We are also in the process of renovating the basement of the laundry as another events space. Alongside the building is a large community garden. Our vision is for an art and community centre which can become part of Forest Hill long into the future.