Lingfield House is the given name of two houses in England which operated as homes for child survivors of the Holocaust. The children were part of a programme allowing up to 1000 children liberated from Nazi camps, who had no surviving family, to be brought to Britain at the end of the Second World War.

The first Lingfield House, also known as Weir Courtney, is a stately home in Lingfield, Surrey on the outskirts of London, England. The children temporarily stayed at the first house from 1945 until they were moved to a house at Isleworth, London. The second house was affectionately named Lingfield House by the children after their time in Lingfield. Lingfield House, Isleworth, ceased to operate as a children’s home in 1957. The children who had lived in these houses went on to live varied and independent lives, settling in many different countries around the world.

Child Survivors of the Holocaust

At the end of the Second World War, thousands of people found themselves living in displaced persons camps across Europe. For children who had survived the Holocaust having been liberated in Nazi Concentration Camps, thousands found themselves without a home or relatives to return to. In the face of this situation, a scheme to allow up to 1000 of these children to move to England for recuperation was set up. The scheme was proposed to the Home Office by the Jewish Refugee Committee, and Jewish organisations including the Central British Fund for Jewish Relief and Rehabilitation promised to cover all costs. Initially reluctant to allow more refugees into the UK, favour for the idea was gained by emphasising that the children would ideally stay temporarily before migrating on to a third country. It was also felt that after the events of the Holocaust, Britain should be seen to be taking action to help, both domestically and internationally. In the end, 732 children came over to Britain as part of the scheme.

Children who were eligible began to be transported to England by plane in autumn 1945, and landed in the Lake District. On arrival the children were suffering physical health problems and traumatised after their experiences during the Holocaust. To begin their rehabilitation physically, and mentally, the children were initially taken to temporary accommodation designed for their initial rehabilitation near Lake Windermere. They travelled by bus to the ‘lost’ village of Calgarth Estate at Troutbeck Bridge. From there the children were then moved to foster families or group homes across the UK. Multiple hostels were opened as part of the programme, including both Lingfield Houses.

The Origins of Lingfield House

Prior to its role as a home for children, Weir Courtney; the first Lingfield House, was owned by Sir Benjamin Drage, a prominent furniture store owner. Sir Benjamin was a prominent member of the West London Synagogue and was a Warden of the Synagogue in 1933. In 1945 the Drage family offered use of the house as part of the programme allowing child survivors of the Holocaust into Britain after their liberation from Nazi camps. This meant a number of the children now recuperating in the Lake District were able to move from there to Surrey, and begin the next phase of their lives. This house was a sanctuary for the children after their previous experiences, and many speak fondly of the time they spent there.

In December 1948, the children and staff moved to a home in Isleworth, London. As a fond dedication to the time they had spent in Surrey, the children and staff decided to name their new home Lingfield House.

Life at Lingfield

Knowing the horrific and traumatic events the children had lived through prior to their arrival, the aim was to bring a sense of security for the children and for them to lead normal lives. The children were taught English, having arrived speaking a mix of European languages learnt in the Camps within which they had spent their formative years. A school education was also considered important, with several children attending the local primary school in Surrey.

The daily routine included caring for animals including chickens and rabbits, which were given to the children as pets to look after. Each child was responsible for their animal’s feeding and daily care. The children also planted vegetables and picked fruit from the orchard in the grounds.

Creativity and art were encouraged as a past-time, and the children created scrapbooks of their drawings and thoughts. The pictures cover all kinds of thoughts, feelings, and aspirations of the children. They also created a scrapbook by cutting photos and sticking them, sewing, and drawing pictures of their time together. The pictures preserve the memories and experiences of these children, and illustrate the warmth they felt towards the adults who ran the homes.

Alice Goldberger led a dedicated team working to run Lingfield House. The team worked together to create a homely and nurturing environment for the children, who speak fondly of the adults, including Gertrude Dann, ‘Manna’ Freidmann, and Sophie Wutsch.

Alice was Jewish, and as such came to England following Hitler’s rise to power to escape Nazi persecution. When in England she helped run Hampstead War Nursery with Anna Freud, its aim being to help evacuated children. However, at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 Alice’s German nationality meant she was interned by the British as an ‘enemy alien’, and was taken to Rushen Internment Camp on the Isle of Man. This camp would be where Alice remained until 1942. Whilst in Rushen Internment Camp, Alice also ran the Kindergarten for children held there. Alice provided a mother figure within the house, and remained in touch with many of the children she had cared for.

Religious education was also a part of life in Lingfield, and the children grew up in a Jewish environment which celebrated Jewish festivals. The staff filed regular reports which encompassed all aspects of life at Lingfield. As well as accounting for financial and administrative aspects of running Lingfield House, the reports also record the children’s progress over time. Children who had left or been adopted were noted, as was the progress of children particularly struggling to move forward after the trauma of their past. As the children grew older, preparation for adult life included pre-work training and consideration of their futures as independent adults.

Life After Lingfield

The last children left the home in Isleworth in late 1957. Some kept in touch with Alice, who moved into a flat in Hampstead and continued to welcome the grown children into her home throughout her life. The former children of Lingfield House led very different lives, migrating to countries around the world including Australia, and Israel. Some of the children have become prolific speakers on the Holocaust, telling their story for future generations to learn from.