In 1920, 7 year old Cyril Mahon from Hammersmith was playing in the countryside at Valley End. He liked it; a postcard was sent to his mother reassuring her that he was well and happy.
Cyril was a guest of Princess Louise. He was one of the many visitors who stayed at the Princess Louise’s Holiday Home for Poor Children.
Princess Louise was the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria.
She led a full life, and there has been speculation that it was fuller and more scandalous than we are told. This may be because although many of her family were artistic, drawing sketches and painting watercolours, Louise was an artist, with a Bohemian temperament to match.
She took classes at Kensington School of Art – the first princess to attend a school open to the public – and became a proficient and skilled sculptor.
Princess Louise’s statue of Queen Victoria at Kensington Palace.
In 1875 Louise and her husband, John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne, moved into Kensington Palace. It became their London home, and Louise died there in 1939 at the age of 91.
It was not until 1911 that they found their country place at Ribsden. Louise must have found it peaceful and refreshing; she decided to share it.
The Princess was widely involved with a huge number of charities – she was president of 25 hospitals, and supported causes ranging from The National Trust to Princess Louise’s Own Kensington Regiment. She had held meetings for the Children’s Country Holidays Fund, which may have inspired her.
While she was resident at Kensington Palace she attended the local church, St. Mary Abbotts, a few minutes walk away. An impressive building, it has a Royal Pew and a Royal Door for the parishioners from the Palace, but Louise would have known that many in the parish were struggling.
Angel carved by Princess Louise, in St. Mary Abbotts, Kensington.
So in 1918 the charity Princess Louise’s Holiday Home for Poor Children was founded. It was primarily – but not exclusively – for children from the parish of St Mary Abbotts, and gave them a holiday in the countryside.
The countryside was at Ribsden, and the Home itself was the cottages at Weyside, which still stand next to the Brickmaker’s Arms.
The Brickmaker’s Arms. Weyside can be seen beyond the hedge. (Image courtesy Ann Wolfe.)
Some cheerful postcards from the guests remain; “Cyril sends love and kisses & says he is very happy and likes the country.” Another visitor announced that the Matron had taken them out to a talk, leaving the recipient to comment “Clever matron is all I can say..!”
Postcard from the Home. (Image courtesy Ann Wolfe.)
The use of the Home may have changed. In the 1930s it is described on the Ordnance Survey map as a convalescent home, but the buildings remained the same.
The Home and its contents were sold in 1948. The funds were used to establish a new charity, which is still run by the Campden Charities.
The Princess Louise Holiday Fund continues to operate, and is used to provide holidays for struggling families with children. The charity founded by Queen Victoria’s daughter still meets its original purpose in the 21st century.
With many thanks to Ann Wolfe.
With thanks to Father Gillean Craig, St. Mary Abbotts, Kensington.
With thanks to Chris Stannard , Campden Charities.
Elizabeth Longford. “Darling Loosy; letters to Princess Louise 1856 –1939.” 1991.
The First Hundred Years of the Children’s Country Holidays Fund 1884 – 1984.