John Wycliffe Wilson

The Scattered Homes system was devised in1893 by John Wycliffe Wilson who was the Chairman of the Sheffield Board of Guardians. Wycliffe Wilson criticised the existing system of cottage homes as he felt it isolated children from the real world in which they would have to eventually make their way.

Isolated or Scattered homes placed small groups of children in ordinary houses scattered around the suburbs of Sheffield. The children attended ordinary local Board schools and there were never more than 30 scattered homes children attending any one school.

Initially Sheffield had nine homes each containing between fifteen and twenty eight beds. Seven were allocated to Protestant children and two to Roman Catholics. Each house was presided over by a foster mother, assisted in the household work by the elder children and occasionally, a charwoman.

Similar schemes were adopted by many other unions, beginning with Whitechapel and Bath. In some cases a union would take over or even erect a small row of ordinary houses in a normal residential area.

By 1914 over 90 unions all over the country were making use of scattered homes system.

John Wycliffe Wilson 1836 – 1921 DD 136 nonco

Wilson was the son of William Wilson of Sherwood Hall, Mansfield and Eliza Read of Wincobank Hall, Sheffield. He was born in 1836 and educated at University College London. He joined the family firm of gold and silver smelting. He worked in partnership with his brother, Henry for many years. Henry was also active in politics and MP for Holmfirth for nearly 30 years.

John Wycliffe Wilson was extremely active in civic affairs. He was a Justice of the Peace, a member of the City Council, and Alderman, a Poor Law Guardian and Chairman of the Sheffield Board of Guardians. He was a life long abstainer and a strong non-conformist.

His obituary states that ‘His gifts were at all times employed to augment the sum of human happiness and while the whole of his work was characterised by meticulous regard for principle and a refuse to condone wrong, no matter how it was disguised, he never divorced practice from precept, nor set for others a standard which he himself was not prepared to maintain’