What was life like for destitute girls in the late nineteenth century? How did Louise House inspire a visiting paediatrician from Poland? Could the building find a new community use in the 21st century?
On Saturday, 18th September, the Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society will be organising tours of Louise House (between the library and the pools) where you can find some answers to these questions and look round a historic building which is normally closed to the public. This is part of Open House – London’s hugely popular architectural showcase. The doors will be open from 10am until 5pm.
Places are limited (for safety reasons) so you will need to BOOK a tour online at www.openhouselondon.org.uk. Tours will be for ten people every half an hour with some time at the end to look at the exhibition.
Louise House used to be a Girls’ Industrial Home providing care for destitute girls whilst they learnt skills (there is a laundry block to the rear of the building.) The foundation stone was laid by Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter, in 1890. Built in the domestic revival style, it is highly decorated externally but it has a utilitarian interior retaining the original floor plan.
It also has links with Janusz Korczak, the Polish/German/Jewish paediatrician, children's author and martyr whose visit to Louise House in 1911 inspired him to devote his life to the enlightened care of children.
He founded an orphanage in Warsaw, implementing many of the ideas he’d seen in practice at Louise House. On the morning of 6 August 1942, German soldiers herded the orphanage staff and 192 children towards the railway station with Korczak at their head. The group was forced onto a train bound for Treblinka extermination camp. That is the last that was heard of them.
View PDF of display boards from Louise House Open Day