Evelyn Whitaker, with her sisters Katherine and Emily Jane, founded The Buttercups in
1881 and it operated under their management through the end of the century.
"Whoso shall receive one such little one in My name, receiveth me."
an illuminated text which hung in the matron's bedroom1
British Listed Buildings: Buttercups, St. Nicholas, Hurst
In an 1884 edition of The Monthly
Packet,2Evelyn Whitaker offers these "particulars"
about the "cottage convalescent home for little children" located at Whistley Green, Hurst, Berkshire:
THE BUTTERCUPS. In all the misery of ' Outcast London,' there is none so heartrending as the
sorrow and suffering of the little children, and many people must feel, as we did, a sort of selfishness in breathing the
sweet, pure country air, and rejoicing in the unshrouded sunshine and the bounteous blessings of green fields and spring flowers
and singing birds, while so many little ones were fading, and suffering, and dying amid the dirt and poverty and smoke and
sin of the greatest, richest city in the world. We used to quiet our conscience a little, by having two or three children down in the course of the summer each year,
and placing them in cottages in the village, but when the opportunity occurred of starting a cottage convalescent home for
little children, we seized it gladly, though with many misgivings and with grim forebodings that this humble little beginning,
might grow into an unmanageable monster and overwhelm us with committees, stern officials, cast iron rules and regulations,
and all the (no doubt necessary) machinery of large institutions.
The opportunity that offered was the house of an old servant who had lived many years in our family. She was now
a widow with two step-children, and owned a cheerful cottage where room could be found for six children, and a heart with
room in it for hundreds, even though they might be dirty and ugly and sickly, and cross, and unattractive in every way. Added
to this she had a cottage garden and a meadow with a cow in it, so we took our courage in both hands and bought some cots
and high chairs, and made some pinafores and began operations.
Our next panic was, that the cots and high chairs would stand empty, and the pinafores neatly folded in the drawer;
for we could not afford to take the children, as we should have liked, for nothing, and 5s. a week was the very least, out
of which to provide plenty of milk and slice upon slice of bread and butter, and wholesome meat and potatoes; and yet even
that payment seemed beyond the reach of those little pale-faced children we wanted to snatch out of the smoky streets! and
over-crowded, stuffy rooms, and set down among the daisies under the blue sky. But the 5s. payment has not been an insuperable
difficulty. Friends came forward to help; one kind heart keeps a cot always free for a Haggerston child, others send children
for a month or two, and Westminster Hospital keeps up a constant supply of small patients recovering
from operations, or severe illness. There is no lack of children even in the winter, and in the summer there are so many applications
that, though room has been found for eight instead of six, we had to refuse some, and to find quarters for some in the cottages
Buttercups is a long, white cottage with a tiled roof ; there is a plot of grass in front, on which on summer mornings, the
babies sun themselves; and behind, there is a large barn, which, with a swing and a rocking-horse, makes a fine play-room
for the elder children.
We have very few rules, only that the children are to come as clean as possible; and if
you could see the difference a really good bath makes in the appearance of most of them, you would know how little cleanliness
is possible among the London poor. They are also to bring sufficient change of clothes, and if you could see what they bring,
you would know what an elastic term 'sufficient' is. They must bring a doctor's certificate that they are not
infectious, and that, I think, is all.
We have three points on which we plume ourselves, as being superior to many far grander institutions—first,
we take quite young babies; and what piteously good little things London babies are! submitting with the patient look of wise
old men or monkeys to terrors, which would make country children roar themselves into fits; such "terrors" I mean
as strange faces, parting from mother, and thorough washing. Second, we take surgical cases that require simple dressing;
and third, we do not keep to the regulation three weeks or a month, but let them stop as long as they can, drinking in life
and strength, and buckling on a little armour for the battle of life, that must needs be hard enough conflict for these poor
little ones, without the additional foe of ill health.
Dear reader, I am telling you of this little effort of ours for two reasons, first to ask those who live in the country
near London or any large town, if they could not do something as we have done, only no doubt a great deal better. We have
been at work now for two years and a half, and so far our experience is that it is not difficult, that it does not cost much
money (we could not manage it if it did, not being rich); any trouble, or thought, or anxiety it costs a repaid more than
a hundredfold by the first little child who goes Home with rosy cheeks and bright eyes, and a memory of green fields, kind,
country faces. There are, I know, many large institutions of the kind, doing great and noble work, but there is room for many
more. And my second reason
is, as perhaps you may have guessed, to ask for money. We want to build two new rooms, so as to take twelve instead of eight
children. We think our family might increase to twelve and yet be a family of children and not 'cases,'
and the Buttercups continue to be a home and not an 'institution,' and we are bold enough to hope that some of the
readers of the Monthly Packet may be moved to help us.
We have had such a lovely summer, and now hope
that autumn still has great things in store for us, especially in the shape of much sun and sweet fresh air, to make brown
and rosy the small pale creatures who, we hear through various sources, are only waiting 'a vacancy' to come and try
whether God's country blessings have not good things for them as well as for His richer little ones to whom they are open
at any time or season. Will you help us to make room for more at the Buttercups? Contributions will be gladly received and
further particulars given, by Miss Whitaker, Hinton, Twyford, Berks.
In Chapter 8 (page 72) of Letters to Our Working Party, Evelyn Whitaker describes a train trip from from Paddington to Twyford bringing two children
from Haggerston and Westminster Hospital to The Buttercups. She tells a bit
more of the story of its founding and its day-to-day operations. The "matron" of The Buttercups
is named Mrs. Green. Also mentioned is a London child named "Emmie."
1881 Census lists Mary
R. Green, a widow aged 50 years, and her "step-daughter" Emily M. Green, aged 12,
as resident at "Arbor Vila Hog More Lane, Hurst." Which should probably read: Arbor Vitae, Hogmoor
Lane. Also in residence is Emma Simmond, aged 6 years, a visitor from London, Middlesex and a male
to Our Working Party. by the author of "Miss Toosey's Mission." New York: E. B. &
G. Young Company, n.d. p. 81
2The Monthly Packet of Evening Reading for Members
of the English Church. Charlotte M. Yonge, editor. Third Series. Vol. VIII Parts xliii to xlviii, July - December
1884. London: Walter Smith (late Mozely), 1884. p. 192 Google link.
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