The Middlemore Homes were founded in 1872 by John Throgmorton Middlemore as the ‘Children’s Emigration Homes’. The first home, for boys, opened on Beatrice Crescent, St. Luke’s Road in September 1872. In December 1872, a similar home for girls opened at 36 Spring Street, Birmingham.
In 19th Century Birmingham, John Middlemore saw poor children living in overcrowded slums, in unhealthy conditions. Some children were suffering from neglect and at risk of falling into crime through a need to survive. His original mission in establishing the Middlemore Homes was to offer children a healthy upbringing, the chance to receive training and what he perceived as a better life through emigration to Canada. Children were often placed into the care of the homes by the local magistrates or were transferred to the homes from the cottage homes of the local poor law unions.
The surviving records of the homes reveal the mixed fortunes of these children once in Canada. Many child migrants, as John Middlemore had hoped, were better off in Canada than if they had remained in England. Others experienced ill-treatment from their employers.
The 25th annual report of the emigration homes dated 1897 summarises the aims of the organisation: ‘The Children’s Emigration Homes were established in 1872 to save boys and girls from lives of crime and pauperism. The principle adopted for this end is that of permanently removing them from criminal and pauper surroundings and transferring them by means of emigration to entirely different and hopeful associations.’
John Middlemore remained actively involved in the work of the homes until his death on 17th October 1924. In 1925, the name of the homes changed from the Children’s Emigration Homes to the ‘Middlemore Emigration Homes’.