Anita Forth lives in Bromley Cross and worked at Crowthorn School, the former Edgworth Home, for 18 years.

Since the school closed she has been involved in the organisation of reunions and wrote the book Edgworth to Crowthorn - the story of a Lancashire Children's Home.

Today she looks back at a home and a school that thousands of people from around the world remember with affection.

1872 saw the beginning of 130 years of caring for children and the foundation of one of the most successful charity organisations, The National Childrens Home.

The Revd Thomas Bowman Stephenson a Methodist minister in London was contacted by a wealthy Bolton mill owner in reply to an advert placed in the Methodist Recorder.

The Bolton man, James Barlow, a staunch Methodist and temperance advocate, had purchased a run-down inn on the moorland above the village of Edgworth. He donated it, with 80 acres of surrounding land plus £5,000, so that Stephenson could open the first NCH childrens' home outside London.

Barlow saw his gift as two fold; in buying the Wheatsheaf Inn, not only would he be helping the abandoned children who had been living on the streets of London, but he would be ridding Edgworth village of a den of iniquity. The inn had a reputation for Sunday drinking, dog fighting, cock fighting and rat baiting.

Revd Stephenson had made it his mission to rescue these forgotten children and his dream was to provide a home for them, away from the negative influences to be found on the streets of London at that time (think Oliver and Fagin.) He wanted a place where the children could breathe "God's fresh air" and be taught new skills to equip them for a better future.

The first party of 24 children arrived with Alfred Mager, the first governor of Edgworth Home on April 17, 1872.

That was the beginning of a fascinating history of a children's home that later became Crowthorn Special Needs Residential School in the 1940s. It would carry on the ethos set up by Stephenson, of caring for children in small family groups with a head of the house. In the early days this role was filled by a deaconess "sister" as a mother figure, trained at Stephenson's own college in London.

Later at Crowthorn School the house staff would be social care workers, both male and female, providing a caring environment for each child as an individual within a family unit.

The young lads helped to build their homes and to transform the surrounding bog-land into farm land which would help sustain their community throughout the decades. They helped to quarry stone from the top of Crowthorn Hill to build a reservoir to provide fresh water for the home. This can be seen to the right at the top of Crowthorn Hill.

Eventually the home would have its own farm with cattle, a dairy, bakery, laundry, blacksmiths, carpenters and a clog maker's workshop. The stone- built houses where the children lived would span outwards from the Wheatsheaf building down Moorside Road and Broadhead Road. The houses still stand and from the outside are recognisable to returning children.

In 1873, The National Childrens Home under Stephenson's direction, began a scheme of emigration from their homes to Canada where a large body of Methodists could provide work opportunities for boys and girls, mainly in farming and domestic service, for which these children had gained the necessary skills at Edgworth.

They sailed from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then travelled by train to Hamilton, Ontario, where another home was established as a starting point for the new arrivals before they were placed with Methodist families to live and work.

Many children were sent to the homes during the two World Wars because the fathers had been killed and mothers had been left to care for more children than they could afford to look after.

From the late 1940s to closure in 2002, the intake of children became more focussed on special educational needs as opposed to orphaned or abandoned children.

When Edgworth Home/Crowthorn School closed its doors, the very last reunion to be held in the home chapel saw more than 100 former home children, staff and pupils gather, to give thanks in memory of those Methodist pioneers, but it was a very sad occasion which ended the home's long history.

Since closure, thanks to the strength of feeling of the children, which inspired me to write my book, the annual reunion still takes place at The Barlow Memorial Institute, Edgworth.

This was built in memory of James Barlow, the original benefactor, by his children and given to the people of Edgworth village, where it remains the hub of the community.

I have been contacted from as far afield as Canada, Australia, and the USA. Former children of the home return to visit each year on the first Bank Holiday Monday in May, where a Founders' Day service is held at The Edgworth Methodist Church.

This is followed by lunch and meeting at The Barlow Memorial Institute. At this year's reunion on Monday there will be the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to the founder, Revd Thomas Bowman Stephenson.

The plaque will be sited on the corner of Crowthorn Road and Broadhead Road, on a plinth that used to support a cross in the 1800s.