Grandfather claims he used to get dragged from his bed to be raped at Surrey children’s home – Get Surrey
Grandfather claims he used to get dragged from his bed to be raped at Surrey children’s home
Beechholme children’s home is under investigation by Surrey Police, and former resident James Reeves claims he suffered appalling abuse during his time there
An anguished pensioner who says he was repeatedly raped, beaten and humiliated at a children’s home now being investigated by the police is still tortured by the horrific memories six decades later.
James Reeves has been scarred by the abuse he says he endured during his time at Beechholme, the former Banstead “children’s village”, when he was just six years old.
He claims that he and other children were randomly dragged from their beds at night to be raped and forced into sex acts by groups of adults.
The grandfather says he would lie awake in terror waiting for his turn to come, and cry with guilty relief when another child was chosen to suffer instead of him.
Now 71 years old he is still reduced to tears by the memories of Beechholme which have haunted him for more than six decades and cast a shadow over both of his broken marriages.
“I’m still not over it, it’s still there,” a tearful James told the Surrey Mirror.
“I’m 71 years old and it’s still there.
“I still have them today – nightmares. Flashbacks hit me without warning.”
The pained pensioner is taking comfort from the current investigation by Surrey Police into alleged historic child abuse at Beechholme, where he claims there was “humiliation and violence all the time”.
Beechholme was known as a “children’s village” and the idyllic series of “cottages” at the site housed hundreds of vulnerable youngsters from tough and impoverished backgrounds.
It was run by London County Council from 1930 to 1965, when the council dissolved. It was then overseen by Wandsworth Council from then until its closure in 1974. The home was demolished the following year.
James was brought to the vast Surrey site from London in 1952. He was abandoned by his parents and had been fostered and re-homed several times before arriving at the Banstead site now under investigation.
The six-year-old James was, he says, immediately subjected to violence and sexual depravity.
He was assigned one of 23 named houses which would become his home and, he claims, the site where his horrific memories were made.
“I still find myself sitting in a room alone and crying, to this day still crying,” said an emotional James.
“It happened to me and I can’t do anything to change that.”
After being beaten on arrival at Beechholme, James says he was plucked out of bed and blindfolded before being taken downstairs from his dormitory. He heard men’s voices around him discussing “what they were going to do”.
“They tried to bugger me and I screamed out,” said the 71-year-old.
“Then they put what I believe now was a penis in my mouth.
“I got a slap because they said my teeth were biting. This happened a few times.
“There could have been three, four or five people in the room.
“I was taken back to bed and told that if I opened my mouth about what happened I would get it. I was frightened, terrified.”
James says that there were around seven young boys in his dormitory who were abused. He claims that at random the children would be taken from their beds and led downstairs to be raped and abused at the hands of groups of men.
He claims he never knew which night it would be his turn to face the torture, and would lie awake paralysed by fear.
“I used to stay awake for hours wondering if I was to be taken again,” said James. “When it was another boy I was relieved – I hate myself for that
“I cried under the blankets with relief it wasn’t me this time but, knowing they were being sexually abused, tears flowed.”
While this alleged abuse carried on at night, during the day James claims humiliation and violence at Beechholme were rife.
He says that beatings were common at the children’s home and that he was bathed naked with boys and girls in ice-cold water.
On one occasion when ill, claims James, he was forced to eat his own vomit after struggling to keep down a meal.
He said: “Humiliation and violence all the time – it was a very strict regime there.”
“The abuse continued and continued.”
This alleged abuse at the home is now being investigated by Surrey Police who are looking into claims of historic sexual abuse between 1957 and 1974. A spokeswoman for the force confirmed that “enquiries are ongoing” into “non-recent allegations” at Beechholme.
The “children’s village”, so-called for its vast size, once had for a swimming instructor the paedophile William Hook, who was convicted of 26 charges of sexual abuse in 2001. Hook also worked at Shirley Oaks Children’s Home, which is alleged to have been the site of systematic abuse.
The superintendent of Shirley Oaks between 1952 and 1964, when abuse was alleged to have taken place, was Clifford Heap. He had previously founded a boy Scouts group at Becchholme in 1952.
Beechholme was also included in a 2014 Department for Education list of institutions believed to have been visited by Jimmy Savile.
Former residents of the vast children’s home are now coming forward and speaking out about abuse they allege took place at Beecholme. Speaking out, according to 71-year-old James, was not possible when he was a boy.
He attempted to tell a member of staff about what happened, but was promptly told that those who “tell tales” would be sent to “bad places”. Within weeks James was shipped out of Beechholme, but the memories would remain.
As a result further exploitation and abuse would, he claims, follow him as he grew older.
He said: “All your life you are vulnerable, they can read that you are an easy target.”
Desperate to escape the care system which he feared so much, James began life on the streets at the age of 14.
To survive the teenager was forced to engage in sex work across London, preyed upon, he says, by exploitative older men.
His life eking out an existence with a band of fellow “rent boys” eventually came to an end.
“We weren’t sex workers as I see it, we were survivors,” said James, who is not homosexual. “Although they called us rent boys, we wouldn’t have survived otherwise and I don’t apologise for it.”
James believes the alleged abuse he suffered at Beechholme sent him down the path to a life of exploitation and desperation on the streets.
He eventually managed to work jobs driving mini-cabs and taxis, and took steps toward a normal life with his first marriage in 1973.
But the demons of Beechholme still haunted him.
He said: “It’s affected my life. It affected my marriage because I couldn’t touch a woman.
“I thought sex was bad, that it was wrong.
“I was first married in 1973, but it was difficult. We stayed great friends but I couldn’t touch her.
“I married again in 1982. It was the same. It affected my life.”
Although James is still haunted by his past, he is encouraged by other former residents of Beechholme coming forward to tell their stories. He hopes that speaking of his own harrowing experiences will persuade others to step forward.
He said: “It happened I can’t change that. But I can help others come forward.”
A group has been set up to support former residents at Beechholme who may have suffered abuse, and can be contacted by emailing email@example.com
*Did you live at Beechholme as a child? Contact Craig Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org your story will be treated with the utmost sensitivity.