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Prisons

London Diocese is involved in a couple of prisons in outer London.

 
Holloway Prison (1992 to June 2016) A brief history by Irene Money.
 
When Florrie Curtis came up with the idea of delivering “Home and Family” (the predecessor to “Families First”) to Holloway Prison no one would have thought it possible that from 1992 until very recently MU in London Diocese would be running a “Babes in Prison” project in Holloway.  This connected with the work of Beatrice Burgess, a former inspector of Schools and the Prison Chaplain’s wife who had a charity Babes in Prison that is still active today in prisons up and down the country.
 
Our Social Concern Committee thought Mothers’ Union had something to offer the mothers and babies who were aged between 0-9 months old. The word somehow reached Melbourne Diocese via a visiting Australian to London who took the idea back to Australia. And very soon we got a message back that they were praying for us; that was the strength we needed as this sort of task, to our knowledge, had not been done anywhere before!!   
We were often asked why we wanted to do this pastoral work in a Prison and the answer was easy “because the babies are innocent”
 
After many talks around the Diocese it wasn't long before we had MU members knitting multi-coloured baby jackets and floor mats as we had identified a need for these on the unit where the mothers and babies were as they lacked the stimulation they needed of colour.  The knitting went beyond London and we were soon sewing in a label "With love from the Mother's Union".
 
Then two things happened quite beyond our hope –
 
Baby walkers were requested to take out the babies as these babies had no experience of the outside world; the buses, the people rushing by their buggies, rain or wind.  It was a special type of person who was needed for this as they had to gently encourage the mum to give her most precious baby over to a stranger who would take her baby outside. On returning the baby walker would tell the mum all that had happened while they were out.  This time without her child did allow the prisoner to do any vital business that she couldn't do with her child.  These special MU members came forward willingly and once vetted by the prison an eager team wouldn't miss their place on the rota. Many of those original Baby Walkers are no longer with us but in God's nearer Presence but any gaps were always filled. One early baby walker was eventually asked to be 'Grandma' when she could no longer take the babies out due to her advancing years, but she was so good with the mothers and babies she stayed in with those who couldn't go out that day, her name Lydia Bradshaw – Jane Davidson’s Mum.
          . 
The 2nd amazing thing that happened was the prisoners who met in the Prison Chapel wanted to belong to the Mother's Union ‘Wow’.  The Bishop of Stepney (now the Bishop of London) led the first enrolment service and I will never forget when he called each new member “dearly beloved”:  the hairs still tingle on the back of my neck.
 
 Lastly, I was asked by Mollie Nichols if I would make a Banner for the MU Branch using the design of the wall hanging behind the Altar in the Chapel;  this banner has been paraded ever since at our Festival Service in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
 
This work grew to cover MU members helping at visitor centres and other places of work in over 70 prisons and I believe my memory is correct in saying worldwide. Our work is done at Holloway, which has now closed, we were greatly Blessed and it is unknown the lives we touched.
 

 

 
 
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