In the year 1897
, Northern Police Forces expressed a definite wish to Miss Gurney for an Orphanage for their own children in their own area, and she immediately responded. Catherine Gurney chose the sites of the Homes she founded with acumen and with a keen eye to the future development of the area. Harrogate was a Spa, healthy, with keen moorland air, and in an accessible position.
In 1897 whilst visiting Harrogate, Catherine Gurney negotiated the purchase of St George's College building and grounds of 12 acres (49,000 m2), for the sum of ₤10,000.
How the site was chosen, the story goes ….
In November 1897, walking over the Stray, Miss Gurney met a Constable (P.C.Chappell, who became Supt. Chappell later on).To him she put the query as to whether he knew of any house suitable for an Orphanage for the children of the Police. He told her of a Boys’ School, St. George’s College, that the Headmaster wished to sell. Immediately at first sight Miss Gurney knew that this was the house she wanted. It had possibilities possessed by none of the many other houses she had seen. After obtaining a report on it from the West Riding Surveyor, she made an offer of £9,500. To her intense dismay this was bluntly refused, the purchase price was stated to be £12,000. This was a figure beyond Miss Gurney’s means, especially as much of her own private income had been used for the Southern Orphanage and Home. Yet, she felt, here was the very house she needed. She left Harrogate to stay with Colonel and Mrs. Ainsworth at Smithills Hall, Bolton, and while there the thought of St. George’s College pressed very much on her mind. She herself said later, “I felt that the question must be fully faced and thought out. It was about 3.30 a.m. when I finally decided in prayer to make a bid for this house.” Accordingly from the Post Office at Wigan she sent a pre-paid telegram to the owner in the South of England offering £10,000 and adding “as for an Orphanage hope it may be accepted.” On her return that evening from Police Meetings in Wigan and Blackburn, she found a telegram awaiting her at Smithills Hall. Nor are the contents surprising when the circumstances in which her offer was made are considered. The reply was “As for Orphanage will agree subject to legal advice.” Thus St. George’s College with its accompanying grounds of 12 acres passed into Miss Gurney’s hands to be held in trust by her for the Northern Police Forces of England and Wales.
From January 1898,
when the first child, Minnie Smith from Sunderland was taken in, until closure in 1956 due to the declining numbers of children in need, a total of 644 children had passed through the doors of St George's House.
In January 1898 the first child had been admitted, Minnie Smith from Sunderland. Ten days later two brothers, George and Alexander Nuttall from Burnley Borough were admitted. These first children, however, and others coming at this time, lived in a temporary home in Harrogate, while St. George’s was being altered and repaired.
St George's House was maintained by the voluntary subscriptions of the Northern Police Forces of England and Wales. The subscription amounted to 2d or 3d per officer per week and proved a successful method of assuring the regularity of income for the care of the children and maintenance of the House.