Quarrier's Village Bridge of Weir
Quarrier's Village, also referred to as Quarrier's Homes, was a childrens' village set up by shoe retailer William Quarrier (1829 - 1903) in the 19th century. It operated on the cottage principle whereby Cottage Parents brought up their family of children. Girls were usually trained for domestic work by the Cottage Mother, while the Cottage Father was responsible for teaching his trade to the boys.
Also known as the Orphan Homes of Scotland until 1958, the village opened in 1878 and developed as a self contained community containing some 40 childrens' cottages, Mount Zion Church, a large school, fire station, workshops, farms and other facilities. Each house was funded by donations, often received from Quarrier's own friends and acquaintances. During the 1920s and 1930s, over 1,500 children lived in the village at any one time. Between 1878 and the mid 1980s, over 30,000 children were cared for in Quarrier's Village, with at least 7,000 being sent to Canada in the period to 1938, in the hope of a better life.
Quarrier's inspiration dated back to 1864, when he helped a distraught youngster selling matches in the street to make a few coppers. The child's stock had been stolen, and Quarrier was moved to help him, and wonder how he could help others. He was to form the Shoe-Black Brigade, providing boys with shoe-shine materials and uniforms which they had to repay the cost of, and attend evening classes for reading and writing, together with weekly Sunday School. He later went on to open homes for destitute children, in Renfrew Lane in 1871, then Cessnock and Dovehill in 1872.
The village's war memorial, which also serves as a memorial to its founder, was constructed from the former stone entrance arch to his birthplace in Crosshore Street, Greenock, demolished in 1929.
When Quarrier decided that training boys for the sea would be a good idea he organised the delivery of a ship to the village, manoeuvred up the River Gryffe and installed on land next to the river. A former ship's captain and his wife were recruited to run the land based vessel. Nothing remains of this particular cottage, and its removal does not seem to be recorded. The site was reused for a corrugated iron sports hall in the 1960s, which was replaced by a more substantial brick and concrete sports hall in the 1970s. The presence of the ship lived on for many years (and may still do) in the naming of a flight of steps down to the area known as Ship's Steps.
Quarrier was also responsible for other good works, and opened the first TB Sanitarium, next to the village, in 1896. He also pioneered the first care centre for epilepsy sufferers, Hunter House, opened in 1906 (three years after his death), which remains the only residential epilepsy assessment centre in Scotland.
Changes in working practices and legislation meant that the the original village began to become less relevant, and through the 1970s and 1980s its occupancy declined, but William Quarrier's work has continued, with Quarriers providing support and care to overcome physical, mental or emotional problems, particularly for those in poverty.
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