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History

In 1916, a day nursery was founded at 8, De la Warr Road in Fast Grinstead for the children of mothers involved in war work. In 1920 it became a residential children’s home. By 1925 the number of children had increased and larger premises were required. The house in Highfield Road was purchased and Yarburgh was established as an independent children’s home for one to seven year olds “In need of convalescence after illness or where there is difficulty in their being properly cared for in their own homes”.

The home was run by a committee of local women and supported by voluntary contributions from local people and organisations who provided gifts and outings for the children. In the 1960s, children often suffering from neglect or abuse were sent to Yarburgh and supported financially by the London Boroughs. In the 1970s Yarburgh also became a training school for nursery nurses with students living on the premises. The home was now equipped to cater for eighteen children up to the age of eleven. In July 1973, the playgroup was opened in the annexe for the home’s younger children and those of a few local families. The outbuilding had previously been the nurses’ quarters and is believed to have been built in the 1930’s as a temporary structure. By 1975 the playgroup was declared a great success with a constant demand for places from the local community.

From 1980 onwards the playgroup became completely self supporting and financially beneficial to the home. However, fewer children were now being referred to Yarburgh as foster care was considered more appropriate. In addition government legislation made It increasingly more difficult for an independent home without funding to survive. The playgroup however, continued to thrive and became very popular with the local community.

The home closed in the early 1980s and re-opened shortly afterwards as the Yarburgh Children’s Trust (Registered charity number 226538). The staff accommodation which had been built in 1968 was sold for conversion to flats and the funds used to support the three groups that occupied the site. The playgroup became a registered charity and was officially renamed Yarburgh Community Playgroup. The main house was shared by Windmill Day Nursery and the Opportunity Playgroup for children with special needs although sadly Opportunity closed in 2017.

In January 1996, the annexe that the playgroup occupied was reluctantly declared to be beyond economic repair by the Trust and there was a real possibility that the group would have to close. However, the committee of parents that manage the group decided that it was too important to local families to be allowed to close and a rebuilding appeal was launched. Donations and fund-raising events raised over £17,000 and the Yarburgh Trustees pledged £10,000 towards rebuilding. In September 1997, The National Lottery’ Charities Board awarded the playgroup £50,000 towards the project and work was due to be finished in time for the start of the new term in September 1998. The playgroup has cheerfully and efficiently served the local community many years and with the continuing help and support of the local families and organisations of East Grinstead, it will continue to thrive and provide the high quality pre-school activities that have made it popular with local families, past and present.