The Southampton Women’s Lodging House, otherwise known as Battenberg House, was opened 18 August 1904 by Princess Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg. It stood on St George’s Place, Houndwell, on the site of the old Ragged Schools and Palk Memorial Home. The building had been almost completely re-built inside, at a cost of £4,000.
There were two entrances to the building, one on the side in St George’s Street for “ordinary lodgers” who would be occupying the 50 cubicles and shared bedrooms in the main building, and one on Houndwell for “the better class of lodgers,” who would occupy rooms in the matron’s house. Residents ate in a large dining and work room on the ground floor, cooking their own meals in their own kitchen. There were reading rooms and sitting rooms, a laundry and an ironing room. Upstairs there were baths, with constant hot and cold water, and toilets. The cubicles each contained “a small iron spring bedstead and, with the necessary furniture for one person.” (Southern Daily Echo 18 August 1904.) There was room for 54 women, and the matron had her own sitting room, bedroom and kitchen. The first Matron was a Miss Harkom.
Alderman H L Sanders told the Princess: “The buildings you see before you were built in memory of two men, who in their day and generation, had been unselfish workers on behalf of the poor…”One of them was a Ragged School, and it is a striking fact…that there is no further use for ragged schools. The tendency is to get rid of the rags, and endeavour to lift the children into higher lives and interests. .. The buildings … were offered for sale, and might have been turned into warehouses or stores,” but some people had thought that buildings built in memory of good men should continue “their public and memorial character,” and bought the buildings for a much-needed women’s lodging house. The two men who were being remembered were Rev James Crabb and Alderman Edward Palk.
The Palk Memorial Home and Cookery School had closed in 1900 for lack of funding, and the only reminder of the Institution on the 1901 census was the Soup Kitchen. Once again, the search was on to find a new use for the buildings.
Miss Anna Katharine Bullar, founder and honorary secretary of the Southampton Branch of the Home Arts and Industries Association, whereby workshops were set up in School Board schools to teach boys carpentry and woodworking skills, called for donations towards “a week-day refreshment room and a place for Sunday rest and mental refreshment for the working classes.” (Hampshire Advertiser 3 August 1901)
On 23 March 1903, Perkins and Sons auctioned the “important block of Valuable Freehold Property for immediate development for business purposes, large warehouses, or otherwise.” It was bought by the Women’s Lodginghouse Company, using a donation of £1,000 by Andrew Barlow, and the sale of shares. The Lodging House would be for respectable women, and be teetotal. There was a sense that the old philanthropic ideals of the Ragged School and the Palk Memorial Home had been replaced by something more commercial: as Alderman Sanders was to say, “the tendency is to get rid of the rags.”
The foundation stone for the new development was laid in pouring rain by the mayor, Alderman E T Wise in February 1904. He named Mr Barlow and Miss Bullar as the principal donors, and added that “those who had invested their money in the concern would get a fair return.” It was a further sign of the ambitions of the company that they invited Princess Henry of Battenberg to open the building to great fanfare, with bunting, and expectant crowds enjoying a glimpse of Royalty.
The rules and regulations for the residents were strict in order “to make the place desirable for women whose character is beyond reproach.” This was in line with the other places available to young women in Southampton: the Girls’ Friendly Society, and the YWCA. It cost 3s 6d a week, or 6d a night to stay at the hostel. Donations were still needed, and fundraising entertainments held at the Polygon Hotel. Messrs Hodges & Co lent a piano.
However, on 17 March 1906, a letter appeared in the Hampshire Advertiser, from “Onlooker,” referring to rumours that the Women’s Hostel was going to close. “There are those who think that too much money was lavished upon it before it found its way … Now that the working plant is there, would it not be better to give the home another trial under other management?” A comparison with St Michael’s House would probably not have pleased the Directors and the ladies’ committee, but the writer seems to be making a plea for less respectability and more welcome.
A week later, Mr H J Holt had the Hostel, “either furnished or otherwise, to be disposed of.” The Hostel had not proved a success, and the Advertiser was echoing “Onlooker”: “cannot something be done before it is too late?” (Hampshire Advertiser 24 March 1906.) Mr Holt offered the premises to the Fire Brigade committee for a new Central Fire Station (7 April 1906), but on 28 April Perkins and Sons were about to auction the property again “unless otherwise disposed of,” at a limited price for a quick sale. It was bought by the Salvation Army as a social centre for women and was open as Battenberg House in 1907.
The Army had been looking for a base for their social work in Southampton: up to now they had only had “Field and Slum Corps and a Divisional Headquarters.” (Hampshire Advertiser 9 March 1907) The House was exactly what they wanted, and they would be providing “cheap and safe lodging” with “good and simple food.” Here was the competent new management the Advertiser had been looking for, after commercial philanthropy had failed.
The Salvation Army at Battenberg House provided more than lodgings: they provided emergency accommodation when mothers were in hospital and took in abandoned children. Food given by incoming Royal Mail Steamships was distributed through the House. Women could stay for long periods, and keep their children with them until they were of working age. The 1911 census shows the Salvation Army Officers: Adjutant Mary Ann Clark, Adjutant Julia Louisa Groome, Sarah Aldred, Catherine Lewis, Sarah Belcher (a Slum Officer), five women employed as servants, and 29 residents. Among those residents was Louisa Cation, Charwoman, aged 40, and her four children: Frank (10), Rowley (8), Louisa (6), and Molly (4). The oldest lodger was Ann Meacher, Charwoman, aged 60, and the youngest Rose Charmer, Ironer, aged 24. Most of the women were in their forties and fifties, and working from the Hostel. Others did needlework as a source of income for the Hostel. Adjutant Groome was also a probation officer.
Battenberg House was still providing women with a home and support in September 1939, when Matron Ann Leverton, assistant matrons Lydia King and Ivy Lewis, and servant Georgina Hewitt cared for 30 women and three children. Eleven of the women were “incapacitated.” The oldest resident was Kezia Lowe, aged 90, and several others were in their 80s.
Battenberg House appears in the Street Directories for the final time in 1940.

The Salvation Army Officers at Battenberg House 1914

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from "The Deliverer" July 1914

St George's Street, 1935

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Part of Battenberg House can be seen on the right.
The "ordinary lodgers" would have come and gone from this side street, 1904-1906.


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