“A Century of Shelter”

In 1896 the Sisters of St. John the Divine acquired a plot of land in Clark Road.  It was paid for by Miss Lucas, the sister of Mother Margaret, and Canon Johnson, the Vicar of Durban, it being understood that part of the land would be used to erect a small wood and iron church and part a house for the Sisters to use.

The church was a daughter church of St. Cyprian’s, and was dedicated to St. John the Divine; the Sisters’ house, also of wood and iron, was at first called St. John’s Orphanage and Training School and used for the girls who left St. Cross Home in Pietermaritzburg after completing Grade 6.

These girls and others, who joined them, were taught domestic work, and from 1906 babies were taken in as well so that the girls might be trained as nursemaids.  The project was not a success:  apparently the ladies of Durban preferred to train their own nursemaids.

In 1910 the Sisters changed the home into an Orphanage for boys, as since 1900 St. Cross had admitted only girls. The Clark Road house became St. Martin’s Home for Boys, and an advisory committee of ladies was formed.  A second committee – also formed of ladies only – organized an on-going programme of entertainments to raise money for building. Chief among these was a fancy dress ball – one was held in 1913 to which the Governor General, Lord Gladstone and Lady Gladstone came. By March 1911, there were more applications for places than the Home could accept, and by November 1912 there were already 42 boys in the Home.

In about 1914 a Financial Committee of businessmen was formed – including such well-known Durban names as A G Butcher, B J Browne, Lewis Byron, Thomas Burman and G W Palmer.  The Home continued to flourish.  Small boys were taught in the church until 1929, and older ones went to local schools.  The priest at St. John’s Church had the pastoral care of the boys and acted as the Sisters’ Chaplain; the boys sang in the church choir and were trained as servers.  Boys were accepted from the age of three, and normally left when reaching the age of fourteen, when they went on to training schools or colleges or were apprenticed.

By 1922 there were eighty boys, forty of whom attended the infant school in the church.  Holidays were spent in the early years at a cottage at Isipingo, but in 1921 a property was purchased for a holiday home at Northdene, which was used for some time to grow fruit and vegetables for the home all year round.  Water shortages put an end to this in the 1930’s and it was kept as just a holiday home until 1955. For a while the Round Table and others found homes with families for the boys in the school holidays, and then in 1959 the Sisters built a house on the property in Sweetwater’s where the St. Cross girls had their holiday home, which meant that families separated between the two homes could at least be together for the holidays.  This proved a short lived solution because in 1960 the Sisters had to reluctantly give up the running of St. Martin’s Home, and it was handed over to the Diocese of Natal.  The Sisters withdrew in July, committing the care of the Home to the new Lady Warden, Miss Margaret Cadmore, and a Board of Management. St. Martin’s is now 120 years old and we are proud to say that we have had many success stories of children who have been with us and have successful professions.  Children do not just think of St. Martin’s as an “institution” but as a home away from home.

St. Martin’s Diocesan Home for Children is registered with the Department of Social Welfare to care for 75 children (boys and girls) between the ages 4-18 years. Such children shall be destitute or in need of protection and shelter and must be committed to the Home in terms of the Childrens Act of 2005 and as amended from time to time.

The Home is also registered in terms of the Non-Profit Organization Act, 1997 with the NPO number 002-111.  PBO 18A

The Managing Board meets regularly to receive and discuss the financial and management reports and to formulate policy for the Home. The Principal/Director, together with the Social Worker, Child Care Workers, Administration and General Staff are responsible for the daily running of the Home.