22nd June 1867

Haut de la Garenne accepts its first boys

In later years, the children’s home at Haut de la Garenne (French for ‘top of the warren’) attracted unwelcome attention and notoriety as the site of serious and sustained child abuse activities.

Established as an industrial school for the “lower classes”, it opened its doors to 45 pupils – all boys – on 22 June 1867. Although initially independent, the States took it over in the early 1920s and, by the 1960s, it was accepting girls as well as boys until its closure in 1986.

A starring role

For the next 20 years, authorities discussed what to do with the site and it went through a series of short- and medium-term uses, including being a regular location in Bergerac, which used it as the headquarters of the fictional Bureau des Etrangers from the fourth series. However, in 2008, it became the focus of a long-running child abuse investigation.

Early reports suggested that children’s remains had been found at the site and, said the BBC in 2008, “police believe more bodies may be found” as a result of excavations “involving a sniffer dog and ground radar”. These reports later proved to be inaccurate after forensic investigations identified the fragment on which they were based to have been part of a coconut. Nonetheless, well in excess of 100 potential victims and witnesses had contacted the force to help with its investigation, and 65 human teeth had been dug up within the grounds, although these were likely lost through the natural process of replacement.

Trials and in inquiry

Several trials took place in 2008 and 2009, resulting in prison terms and suspended sentences for both carers and one former resident of the home, but not everyone was convinced that the inquiry into what had happened at Haut de la Garenne had been properly conducted, and an application was made for a review by the British Government. This was turned down.

Subsequently, a major inquiry, instigated in 2013, recommended in its 2017 report that the building should be demolished.


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