St George's House,
Northern Police Orphanage. 1898-1956  Harrogate, Yorkshire, England.

 

 



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Miss Evelyn Mainwaring Knocker. 
                                    
2nd Lady Superintendent, 1926 - 1949
 

 

Miss Evelyn Mainwaring Knocker. Born 19.10.1890, Putney, London. 

Miss Knocker was a lady of extremely strong religious principles. In 1926, after working at the Southern Provincial Police Orphanage at Redhill, Surrey, her plans to be a Missionary in Africa were altered overnight by her friendship with Miss Catherine Gurney and the resignation of Miss Emma Chapman. After much praying, she accepted the position of Lady Superintendent of the Northern Police Orphanage in Harrogate, Yorkshire, and devoted the rest of her life to the care and spiritual education of around 300 St.George’s children.
 

She was well built, almost 6 feet tall, wore size 12 shoes and to small children appeared to be a forbidding figure. Being a strict disciplinarian her religious beliefs were foremost. She demanded adherence to her set  rules of conduct and a summons to her study could be a formidable experience for a vulnerable gentle-minded child. However, she was not a bully and mainly left the physical punishments to the House Masters and Matrons, preferring to mete out 100 lines, the learning by heart, of long passages from the Bible, the names of all the books in the Old and New Testaments and long classical poems. 

Her main aim in life was to care for the spiritual, physical and educational welfare of her charges, in that order. This ambition was achieved through her management and organisational skills, which were remarkable, considering the fact that there were normally about 70 children of both sexes, from nursery age to 17, in her care at any one time. She was fair-minded, but tended to treat the boys more leniently than the girls, who were always being advised about the “sins of the flesh”. The responsibility must have been enormous.  

By the late 1940s, after undergoing surgery for breast cancer, she had mellowed  and became a more approachable and tactile mother figure. She instilled into each child her St. George’s code of ethics and moral values, which have been passed on, through the generations, to the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of her St. George’s Boys and Girls. For that alone, she deserves our respect, admiration and gratitude. 

               
             Miss Evelyn Mainwaring Knocker.                                                      Miss Knocker meeting the Duke & Duchess
          Photo taken 1944 at St George's                                                      of York, c 1930's.                                             

Miss Knocker retired from St. George’s in 1949. She and Miss Marjorie Adams *, who had been her Secretary at St. George’s for a number of years, then shared a house at 52 St. George’s Road, Harrogate, employing Betty Rider, a St. George’s Old Girl, as their housekeeper.  Miss Knocker died there (of a Cerebral Haemorrhage)  on 27th May,1952, aged 62.

*Miss Adams spent her later years in a Nursing Home (for genteel ladies) in Putney, London. She died in February 1989. Her death was registered in Merton, Surrey. Having been born 30 September, 1890, Miss Adams died a few months before her 100th birthday.

Research contributed by Elsie Gale, formerly Pickering, nee Bradley.  

Miss Knocker was cremated at Harrogate Crematorium on the 29th May, 1952 and her remains scattered in the
Garden of Remembrance, Stonefall Cemetery, Wetherby Road, Harrogate. HG3 1DE.

                        
                    Stonefall Chapel, Wetherby Road, Harrogate.
                The original Garden of Remembrance was opened in 1937 and provides a tranquil area landscaped
                with trees and shrubs.
 

                                  
                                                                                                                                                              

Tribute paid to Miss E.M. Knocker by Major Le G. G. W. Horton-Fawkes, on her retirement.

For twenty three years it has been the privilege and the pride of Miss Knocker to write the Annual Report of St George's. So much has to remain untold; so many intimate details of the happy family life have to be left to the imagination of thousands of Police of all ranks; so many generous thoughts and acts by the Police Forces can only be summed up in a paragraph; so little is said of the Lady Superintendent and her trusted staff. Yet each report stands in the annals of St George's as the account of her faithful stewardship. This is to be her last.

How often it is said in Committee, " Leave it to the Chairman and Miss Knocker"  On those occasions the Chairman knew how wisely he would be guided. The privilege of writing this was left to the Chairman.

I feel that you must be the Chairman or the child at St George's before you can really know Miss Knocker and give her life's work its true value, realising that she is always 'on her beat'. I shall always keep impressions that will be shared by many others of an admirable hostess, of a stickler for the highest standards, of one gifted with an acute but ever kindly appreciation of each one of us, from Constable to Chief, from child to Chairman - as the cornerstone of our Committees, as unswerving in her belief in sound discipline as she was uncompromising in all Christian principles, of one who practised what she preached.

Miss Knocker was born to command; but, like all the best commanders, she has been a first rate subordinate. This combination made it so satisfactory and such fun to work with her as Chairman. I remember one or other of us saying " We simply must get the Committee to agree to this or that": then in a flash came the unspoken reminder that we were both the servants of the Police Forces and of their Committees.

How many have been made to feel at home at once by her ready welcome and her genius for knowing who we were, why we were there and often what our trouble was. How many have been warmed and inspired by those prompt words and letter of thanks.
Who has served on any Committee without valuing her efficiency, without enjoying her sense of humour and that glint in her eye if unwittingly some principle seemed in danger or some well intentioned criticism flashed out unexpectedly ?

Miss Knocker has always given what she demanded of us all - the best of our personal services. She has looked for no other reward than that her own " Story of St George's" may stand as her tribute to the human kindness and unstinted generosity of the Northern Police Forces.

We can feel assured in all reverence that " a still small voice" says on our behalf " Well done, thou good and faithful servant".
We can only say "Thank you" many more times than twenty three and in our real sympathy with her in her illness wish her peace of mind and of body in her new home quite near to St George's, where selflessly she always " put the children first".

                                                                                                       Major Le G. G. W. Horton-Fawkes

                                                                                                                                                 

Footnote: Miss Knocker's father was born in India,1853 and, on the 1901 Census recorded at Upper Richmond Rd, Putney aged 48, he was described as 'Export Manager'. Her mother was Minnie Townend nee Wilkinson, born Tulse Hill,Surrey,1864,died December Quarter 1950, Worthing. W.Sussex.

                            

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