In the words of one man who had been put into a home after being abandoned by his family: "Some people say to me, 'Well, that's what it was like everywhere then', but it wasn't.I went to a strict local school and the belt was used frequently, but nothing like on the same scale that the nuns used to beat us. "Looking back, I think one of the reasons was that the nuns weren't happy and decided we damn well weren't going to be either. I've never found it easy forming relationships and had periods when I've had to go to hospital and had all sorts of problems." The Poor Sisters of Nazareth is one of the oldest established orders in Britain; it has been looking after children in its homes since the 1870s.Yet another was scarred after being scalded by a nun who accused her of not using enough hot water when washing.To hide injuries from visitors, children were shut into a "black hole" without bedding, ventilation or light.Not a day went by without someone getting a battering. "Looking back, I think they really despised the children.
Orphans, abandoned babies and children deemed uncontrollable or accused of petty crimes were all put in the hands of the nuns who, to the outside world, epitomised kindness and compassion."There were two slices of bread and dripping for breakfast, a ladle of soup at dinner and two more slices of bread and dripping in the evening. The nuns were terrible." Jean Guerrier, like her sister, Vera Willshire, recalls the regime at the Nazareth House in Middlesbrough as unrelentingly brutal and frightening.Mrs Guerrier, who is now 73 and lives in Tottenham, north London, said: "The nuns were extremely harsh."It could happen for any thing, any time of the night or day. It is also a powerful order across the world, and its published accounts show it is worth pounds 154m.They would use canes, sticks, the leather belts around their waists. Allegations of abuse by its nuns first surfaced in Scotland last year.