BRISTOL HOME CHILDREN

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MOST OF THE BRISTOL CHILDREN WENT TO NEW BRUNSWICK AND NOVA SCOTIA, SOME TO OTHER PARTS OF CANADA AND ALSO TO NORTH AMERICA

Most children landed at Quebec and were taken by train to Montreal and on to St John, New Brunswick.  Others landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia travelled on by train and some sailed directly into the harbour at St John.  Waiting for them was the Canadian Immigration Officer for the port, also the agent for the Bristol Emigration Society, a man called Samuel Gardiner.  He had already prepared lists of farmers who wanted children to work on their farms or in the farmhouses, the children were either put back onto another train or taken by cart to the place where they were to live and work.  Bristol Emigration Society did not have their own receiving home as did many of the other groups.
This was a difficult time for the child, brothers and sisters were separated, often not to meet again.  They were taken away from friends they had made on the journey most not fully understanding what was happening.  The children were expected to take on many of the tasks that needed to be done when running a farm.  These were city children and most found the work hard.  Some children were rejected because they were too small or not strong enough.  A number changed placements two or three times in as many years because the farmer wasn't happy with their work or because they had requested a change.   
It was expected that children would attend school in the winter time along with Canadian children, but many were kept at the farm working.  They would attend a one-room school similar to the photograph.

The children were given food and lodging in exchange for their labour, wages were to be given to the older children but often these were withheld subject to breakages or other misdemeanours.  The children were free to move on when they were 16 years of age.

For many children life was very hard, they lost their childhood very early in their lives.  Some were treated more kindly than others but they came with a label attached to them.  An invisible label that said they were from the streets of the cities of England, "Street Arabs" who were different from the Canadian children.  Prejudice that took a while to change and made life very difficult for Bristol children.

It is also important to say that many prospered and fulfilled the hopes of those who sent them.

Supporters in Bristol felt that the chance for a stable family life far away from the streets and  the poverty suffered by their families offered the best hope for their future.  The question of whether the farmers who took on these children should be thought of as employers or foster parents caused some debate at the time.  Visitors to Canada commented that hard work was part of the Canadian way of life and if the children were expected to work hard, well it was what everybody else was doing. 

Link to Bristol & Avon Family History Society Website

  Shirley Hodgson 2006