Missing records of a former church home for unmarried mothers have left a trail of heartache.

It is feared countless crucial notes spanning decades at St Monica's Home in Kendal have been lost forever.

Only information from 1960 onwards has been saved and women desperate to trace their children may never learn the truth.

Carlisle Diocese received files from the C of E home after it closed in the early 1970s, and passed them over to the county's social services department.

It later came to light that the paperwork was far from complete.

Mothers who gave up their babies for adoption have no legal right to find their children, although many try.

Annie Bishop, of the charity After Adoption, contacted The Westmorland Gazette after a Cumbrian woman in her mid-70s pleaded for help.

She gave birth to a son in January 1957 at St Monica's, and is now anxious for information.

"She never married, had no other children and wants to make provision for her only child in her will," said Ms Bishop.

"Adopted people can apply to the Office for National Statistics for their original birth certificates.

This lady is desperate to know if her son has tried to trace her."

Unfortunately, like other unmarried mothers who gave birth at St Monica's, she fears the loss of records up to 1960 means the search for their children will be made all the harder.

"This is very stressful for her as she is keen to put her affairs in order," said Ms Bishop.

"We are talking about a time when pregnancies out of marriage brought shame on families.

Girls gave up their babies because they didn't want to cause parents any further embarrassment.

"They were young and naïve and often did not have anyone to turn to.

There was no contraception advice and abortions were not an option."

St Monica's on Dalton Drive is now a retirement home, Silver Howe.

Its manager Gillian Fletcher said in the last 12 months alone three or four people had arrived at the door saying they had been born there.

Springfield House on Castle Road used to look after the pregnant girls until it was time for them to have their babies and then they transferred to St Monica' s.

After it closed, Springfield continued its role looking after needy women.

Its warden of 30-years Joyce Taylor said a number of the unmarried mothers had made the sad journey back, looking for information.

"Most were single, ostracised by their families and communities and each with a heart-breaking story to tell.

They were desperate to find their sons and daughters."

Mrs Taylor said she believed the old records had been destroyed.

"If only they could have been kept, some of these women might have been able to find their children."

Jenny Hall, principal adoption social worker with Cumbria County Council, confirmed all post-1960 records from St Monica's were held in her department.

Diocesan secretary Colin Hill said after the home was wound up, all available notes were simply passed on.

Archivist in the Kendal Records Office Geoffrey Housego said St Monica's was mentioned in a 1938 directory, but could not say when it opened.

He thought it unlikely the files would resurface after this length of time.

Historian Roger Bingham mentions the home in his social history of Kendal.

"Some inmates were ` worldly', according to one official visitor, "but most were victims of the cruel selfishness of evil men."

If anyone has any information about the missing records, they can contact The Westmorland Gazette on 01539-710154.

People wanting help or advice from After Adoption, which looks after all aspects of adoption, can ring the free action line number: 0800-0568-578.