In the middle and late 1800s there were large numbers of poor and no social security system as we know it today. The only official system of support was the workhouse. These harsh, overcrowded and badly run institutions were really hated by the poor many of whom would rather die than enter one. Charity childrens homes did exist but most required payment to cover board and lodgings.
It was against this background that Edward de Montjoie Rudolf (1852-1933), a young civil servant and the Sunday school Superintendant at St. Anne's Church, South Lambeth Road, noticed that two of his regular pupils were no longer coming to his class. He discovered them begging for food at the nearby gasworks and learned that the boys father had died leaving a destitute wife with seven children. The mother did not want her family to suffer the indignity of going into the workhouse and have her family split up.
Edward felt that character depended on good religious teaching and he was anxious to find a church home for the boys. At this time the Church of England had no homes that did not charge admission and though he found the boys a free place in a non denominational home, Edward was determined to change the situation. Believing that small family groups were important Edward wanted to found a central home where the destitute children were able to find refuge until a new, Anglican family could be found for them. So Edward with his younger brother, Robert, began setting up the Waifs and Strays.
On 31 March 1881 they formed a committee of clergy and laymen to start fund raising and publicizing the new organisation. By late August the committee had met Dr Archibald Tait, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who admired Edward's plan and the organisation was registered as "The Church of England Central Home for Waifs and Strays".
On 14th February 1882, in less than a year, the first children were the new charities care. Demand was high and within ten years of the first meeting there were about 1600 children in the charities care, these numbers more than doubled in the following decade. Since it first started back in the 1880s there have been a number of name changes but today it is known as the "Children's Society". These days it does not run childrens homes, but helps young people in the community and the youth justice field.