Temple Lodge

How Temple Lodge started

In January 1889, The Western Times reported that an anonymous donor had “sent £180 towards the rent and taxes of a new Home for Inebriate Women about to be established by the Women’s Union of the Church of England Temperance Society”. At a well-attended conference in Exeter later that year, Mrs Gwendoline Erskine proposed (seconded by her sister-in-law Miss Caroline Erskine) that a “shelter home for inebriate women” be established in the Diocese. Although the plan was not implemented immediately, due to more pressing matters, Mrs Erskine ensured that the proposed inebriate home did not slip of the agenda, and it opened in 1891 in a house called Belrise in Cleveland Road, Torquay.

Image courtesy of the Lucerna Magic Lantern Web Resource, lucerna.exeter.ac.uk

The establishment was named Temple Lodge after Bishop Frederick Temple, later the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose wife Beatrice was one of its founders. Temple Lodge was the third inebriate home opened by Church of England Temperance Society (CETS), the first was 99 Southam Street in Kensington, London, and the second was Ellison Lodge, also London. Later, two more homes for women were opened: Corngreaves Lodge (Erdington, on the outskirts of Birmingham) and Hamond Lodge (Terrington St Clement, Norfolk), and a home was set up for male inebriates at the Hancox Home for Inebriates (Battle, Sussex) which later expanded and became Abbotswood House (Cinderford, Gloucestershire).

Legislation promoted quiet, healthy settings for providing optimum curative treatment. The CETS inebriate homes were all in spacious, comfortable properties set in attractive surroundings. Probably many patients would never have entered such a property except perhaps as a servant. CETS realised that larger premises would enable them to take in fee-paying patients which would subsidise those less able to pay, and in 1893 Temple Lodge moved to new premises in Castle Road. In 1901 there were 3 staff to 20 patients and in 1911 there were 4 staff to 17 patients. The 1911 census reveals that Temple Lodge had 19 rooms; this would have included the kitchen but not the lobby, office (if there was one) or a bathroom. One room would undoubtedly have been a communal area, and another room was used as a chapel, so inevitably patients (and probably staff) would have shared bedrooms if not beds.

Other Church of England Temperance Society (CETS) Homes

All CETS homes were run similarly, and it is evident from the Minute Books that there was regular communication between Temple Lodge and CETS (Women’s Union?) London headquarters. Patients over 50 years of age were not accepted, but this rule does not appear to have been rigidly applied; of the 64 patients I’ve identified, 13 were in their 50s, and one patient was 77!

Click here to read an article (written in 1913) in The British Journal of Inebriety about the various CETS inebriate homes.

CETS homes did not accept anyone who was in feeble health, epileptic, weak-minded, suffering from pulmonary complaints, advanced heart disease or “any disorder of an infection or contagious character”. Also excluded were women “whose record shows immorality in other directions” because of the importance of the restoration of self-respect, and that association with persons of bad character would jeopardise the recovery of others (Thompson, 1913).

In the two CETS homes operating in 1891, those receiving treatment were referred to either as patients or inmates. In Temple Lodge in 1901, they were referred to as boarders, and by 1911 the terminology had changed to patients.
1891 Southam Street – inmates, Ellison Lodge – boarders
1901 Temple Lodge – boarders, Corngreaves – patients, Hancox (male) – patients
1911 Temple Lodge & Ellison Lodge – patients

There were three categories of patients (Temple, 1898):

Type of patients Weekly fee Places available
Drawing room patients £1 1s 3
Work-room patients 10s 6d 11
Kitchen patients 7s 6d 7

The Women’s Union set up and ran homes for female drunkards, which were organised on a strict basis; the richer ‘drawing room’ patients were given the same care as they’d have had in any similar private nursing home (Shiman, 1988).  The poorer kitchen and laundry patients were kept separate from their wealthier inebriate sisters. They would pay as much as they could afford and worked in the home to subsidise the shortfall, or to pay for all the fees if they could not afford to pay anything (Women’s Union Annual Report 1889).

Interestingly, the CETS’ inebriate home for men had only two categories of patient! While the 3-tier system seems divisive, it is reflective of the Victorian era. These homes faced an ongoing struggle to raise funds and were reliant on higher-paying boarders (who would want to ensure that their place in society was preserved) to subsidise those who could not afford to pay. The classes were separated, the drawing room patients being excused household duties. Similar structures were found in other homes. In one home which had a more egalitarian structure, upper class patients were aggrieved that they were ‘compelled to herd with the outcast women of the town…there is only one sitting room common to them all’ and were especially angry that at meal times, all patients were expected to fulfil what they felt were servant’s roles. (St James’s visitors’ report, 1881 in Soares, 2015). Temple Lodge had one ‘free place’ for women who could not afford the fees.

CETS homes for female inebriates were run by women, for women; from the staff in the home to the fundraisers and the management committee in London, all were female. Staff in CETS homes were referred to as ‘Sister’ + their name e.g. Sister Mary.

Life was more lenient in CETS homes than in reformatories. There are instances of cruelty to patients in some inebriate homes (Soares, 2015), but I have found no evidence of ill-treatment in any of the CETS homes, and in lectures given at CETS conferences, letters to newspapers appealing for funds, and occasional references to patients in the Temple Lodge Minute Books, the language used is that of staff who genuinely seemed to have the women’s best interests at heart. It is difficult to know how successful such institutions were. Newspapers published letters appealing for funding to continue their good work, in which success rates were claimed to be anything between 30 – 70%, but these figures may have been exaggerated for the purposes of fundraising.

Why the fluctuation in numbers? It may be relevant to look at the sources of the figures. Some of the figures came from newspaper reports of Temple Lodge’s annual report. The lower figures tend to be found in the Report of the Inspector of Government Retreats, whereas the spikes tend to be the numbers in newspapers, censuses and minute books.