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Kendall House Review: 'Some of us tried killing ourselves - we didn't see any future'

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A week after a damning review was published into abuse at a Church of England children's home, three former residents speak exclusively about their experiences.

These survivors lived at Kendall House in Gravesend - where young residents were routinely drugged and abused.

Julia Murphy was placed in the home in Pelham Road at the age of 13 and experienced the savagery of the regime that went on during her 18 months there in the early eighties.

Now 49 and a mother of three, she looks back on her time there with horror. “It was a locked up building with bars on the windows. I remember it just being awful.

“Obviously everyone knows that we were drugged and that if we didn’t take them by the mouth we were injected. Staff had a really tight control over you.

The former Church of England children's home in Pelham Road, Gravesend
The former Church of England children's home in Pelham Road, Gravesend

“I do remember going into the staff room and having a go at one member of staff. I told him not to come into my room anymore. They ended up injecting me and apparently I just went crazy, so they used my own clothes on me as a straitjacket.

“Living there was just awful. We were given a pittance of pocket money and had to buy our own sanitary towels and toiletries with it.”

Like campaigner Teresa Cooper, Ms Murphy refused to take part in the review because the terms of reference don’t take into account the lasting impact on the residents’ children.

It’s the latest show of solidarity between the pair, who first met on Ms Murphy’s second day in the home. “The second day I was there I was sitting on a step when Teresa came into the house,” she recalled.

Kendall House Review:

Panel reveals findings of investigation into historic abuse at Church of England children's home

Former residents of the Gravesend children's home describe harrowing conditions

NSPCC respond to findings of report into historic abuse at Church of England children's home

Former resident Teresa Cooper slams review into abuse at Church of England children's home

“I remember just saying to her that something wasn’t right here. Some of us tried killing ourselves. We didn’t see any future.”

She was eventually “saved” from the home by her foster parents, who managed to pull her out despite the county council’s efforts to keep her.

She now lives near Sevenoaks, but Kendall House remains a big part of her life. All three of her children have suffered from ill health, she believes as a result of the drug abuse at the home.

Two of them have obsessive compulsive disorder and learning difficulties, while the other has mastoiditis — a severe ear infection which has spread through his skull and was stopped just 3mm from his brain. He has a cyst in the temporal lobe area of his brain, which — if it was to grow any bigger — could cause paralysis. All three children were bullied at school because of their various conditions.

Taylor started a secret relationship with the child. Stock image
Taylor started a secret relationship with the child. Stock image

Another woman, Barbara, was placed in the children’s home by Kent County Council in 1967, at the age of 13, and stayed there until the following year.

She was regularly given Largactil, which is an anti-psychotic used to treat schizophrenia. The report describes it as very sedating and it was administered to the girls through both tablets and injections.

It was given to Barbara in her hot chocolate on a daily basis. “I was sent to the home because I used to run away from other children’s homes I’d been sent to,” she recalled.

“I was born in Strood and had 12 brothers and sisters. My mum and dad divorced and he kept the house, so we were all put into care.

Former residents of Kendall House described shocking conditions
Former residents of Kendall House described shocking conditions

“I was one of the earliest residents at Kendall House so my experience was quite different to girls who were there in the 1970s and 1980s. I was actually put into a straitjacket and put into the local mental hospital.”

She is seeking compensation for what happened to her at Kendall House.

Pennie stayed at Kendall House from June 1985, when she was 14, to October 1986, by which time she was 16. She has hardly any memory of what went on behind its walls.

She has hazy recollections of three members of staff, one other girl, and what she refers to as “the quiet room”, where girls were locked away in isolation whenever they were perceived to have misbehaved — such as refusing to take medication.

"Some of us tried killing ourselves. We didn't see any future" - Julia Murphy

“It was really hard for me to read it with not remembering what went on, and to see what actually happened written down has had it going round in my head,” said Pennie.

“Now I know that I was drugged and it’s so heartbreaking, even though I have the support of my husband it’s been really hard to explain how I feel.

“I have been wondering all these years why I have got so many illnesses and conditions that don’t run in my family, now I know other girls who were drugged have a lot of the same ones as me.”

Pennie suffers from constant pain due to a dysfunctional immune system.

She struggles to leave the house for long and needs regular rest stops whenever she’s out and about.

She’s keen to see the review panel’s recommendation for a get-together among former residents come to fruition.

“I would love to meet up with other girls because we have all been through so much and some of us didn’t even know until now,” she said.

For more on the Kendall House review, see tomorrow's Gravesend Messenger.

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