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"I mistook sexual love for what I was missing at home, and when I told my father I was expecting, my stepmother gave him an ultimatum and said it was her or me.So he packed my things in a brown paper parcel, gave me a 10-shilling note and told me that he never wanted to see me again."Cousins of mine said to me years later, 'Why didn't you come to us? But in those days it was considered a real sin that you had committed, and you didn't land yourself on someone's doorstep."Her GP referred her instead to a hotel in Brighton that took in pregnant girls as skivvies and housed them in the cockroach-infested basement in dorm beds.She dreaded their reaction, particularly as history was repeating itself: she herself was the illegitimate daughter of an abandoned birth mother.

I knew nothing about the strictness of the regime there, until, in the course of researching my family history following my mother's death, I made contact with a woman called Gwen Bishop.

There must have been 20 of us girls and we slept in dormitories."And they weren't even able to hide their 'shame' entirely, since twice every Sunday the women were marched to church in crocodiles, like children – which led to a cruel local nickname for Birdhurst as "the home for naughty girls".

Without family support, the teenaged Gwen had no alternative but to give up her daughter for adoption.

But it wasn't until I looked up my full birth certificate after my mother's death in 2001 that I discovered I'd been born in a hostel for unmarried mothers.

The address given for my start in life was Birdhurst Lodge in south London.

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