The collection comprises records of three Liverpool Orphan Asylums; the Female Orphan Asylum, the Boys Asylum and the Infants Orphan Asylum which merged to become the Liverpool Orphanage and, ultimately, Salisbury House School. The various asylums have a long history involving many changes in administration.
The Female Orphan Asylum was established by Mrs. James Aikin, the wife of a Liverpool merchant, in response to the need for a facility for vulnerable orphan females in Liverpool. It was the first of the three asylums to be opened in a rented house in Upper Stanhope Street. The first orphan was admitted in 1840 and by 1842 forty girls were resident. In 1843 the girls were transferred to more permanent accommodation in Myrtle Street and by 1865 the number of girls in residence had risen to one hundred and fifty six.
By 1851 there was a need for similar provision for boys and in 1852 premises in Myrtle Street were built to accommodate one hundred and fifty boys. In 1854 the Church of the Holy Innocents was built in a central block connecting the female and the boys' asylums.
The asylums initially only admitted children from age eight with no provision for younger children. This need was met by the opening of the Infant Orphan Asylum in 1858 in Windsor Terrace, Upper Parliament Street. It transferred to Melville Place in 1860 within a closer proximity to the other asylums.
The rules of admittance to the asylums were strict. The children had to be full orphans, they also had to be of legitimate birth, live within seven miles of the Liverpool Exchange, be healthy, baptized in the Church of England and have no other means of support other than the workhouses. Certificates had to be produced as proof of these conditions and many of these can be found in the collection. There were, however, no restrictions placed on the number of children from any one family that could be admitted.
The specific aims of the asylums were to bring the children up according to the principles of the Church of England, they were to receive an education in reading, writing, arithmetic and vocational skills. Depending on the state of their health the infants transferred to the girls or boys' asylums at the appropriate age and the older children were set up with employment by the age of fifteen. Many of the girls were accepted for domestic service while the boys were often apprenticed to local firms.
In 1913 it was decided that the asylums should be united and the three asylums collectively became the Liverpool Orphan Asylum and later, in 1925, the Liverpool Orphanage. From this point on only one governing body controlled the asylum. The site, however, was not ideal and the Committee raised funds to remove the children from the congested site in Myrtle Street to healthier surroundings in Woolton Road. The Great Fair in 1930 was held to provide the necessary funds which enabled the purchase of the new premises.
In 1940 the children were evacuated to the Lake District. The girls to Wanlass How, Ambleside and the boys to Hawse End, Keswick, Cumberland. They remained in this accommodation until 1952 when the Orphanage was eventually de-requisitioned and the children returned to the Woolton Road premises. A new primary school was built on the premises of the orphanage named the Childwall Church of England School. Five years later in 1958 the name of the Liverpool Orphanage was changed to Salisbury House. The old name was still in common usage after this time but it was eventually phased out to modernise the reputation and outlook of the orphanage.
The next stage in the development of Salisbury House came in 1962 with the provision of boarding facilities for pupils of Childwall Church of England School. At this time Salisbury House catered for 33 children but could accommodate 250. Since this time there has been a move away from institutionalised child care which, added to a decline in public money available, decreasing subscription lists and legacies has seen the role of Salisbury House move towards day school provision only.