Homes for Business Girls in London, earlier Homes for Working Girls in London (HWGL)

Scope and Content

This collection contains: finance committee minutes, 1903-1952; various accounting records, 1922-1959; printed reports, 1878-1959; records concerning superannuation, 1832-1947; property records, 1924-1961.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Homes for Working Girls in London was established in 1878 by John Shrimpton, following a letter in the press calling the public's attention to the great need for some provision to be made for "the almost numberless girl-workers of London, nothing having been done to help these daily "bread winners" to a better condition of living". A conference held 13 November 1877 resulted in the formation of a committee of ladies and gentlemen who decided to "help those who help themselves" by trying to gain an honest living; they would provide Homes for them together with "healthful recreation" and "surround them with Christian influences and friendly guidance at the most critical period of their lives". The first Home named Alexandra House was opened at 88, St. John St., West Smithfield, on 9 July 1878, followed by Victoria House in Bayswater in April 1879. The first report for 1878-1879 stated that since its opening 110 women had resided in Alexandra House, (which could comfortably take 35 at a time), and that full board was provided to each resident for 4s. 6d. per week, with rents of 2s. 6d. and 3s. a week, including the use of reading rooms with magazines and newspapers. Even so many of the girls, despite very long hours at work, had failed to earn more than 4s. 6d. a week, and so could not afford to eat any more than breakfast and tea.

The similarity of aims with those of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) is obvious, and whilst the founder and secretary was John Shrimpton (died 15 Apr 1923), the first treasurer was the Hon. A. F. Kinnaird whose wife sat on the committee of a third house, Morley House, and whose family was also very much involved with the YWCA at this time. By 1905 there were eight homes, with accommodation for 550; and some 39,000 had then lived in the Homes since April 1878. In 1952 there was a change of name to Homes for Business Girls in London. The report for 1959, the last year for which the records have been deposited, records that a total of 79,265 women had been helped since 1878, and that the four homes (which had 246 beds between them) had been full for practically the whole year. The Homes were in as great demand as ever, and their object was then stated to be the provision of help to girls and young women under 30 years of age, who were employed in workrooms, shops, offices, etc., and who needed homes in London at such moderate charges as they could pay out of their wages, preference being given to those earning lower wages. In 1961 Homes for Business Girls in London, Incorporated went into voluntary liquidation and its office and hostels were handed over to the YWCA.

Access Information

This collection is available to researchers by appointment at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. See

Other Finding Aids

Custodial History

These records were deposited with those of the Young Women's Christian Association in 1982.

Related Material

Records of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA)