Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - About London, by J. Ewing Ritchie, 1860 - Chapter 7 - London Charities

[back to menu for this book]




WHEN Guizot visited London the principal thing that struck him was the nature and the extent of London Charities. Undoubtedly the English are a more charitable people than the French. When the ruinously low prices of the Funds forbade a loan, the loyalty-loan brought forth the name of a Lancashire cotton-spinner, the father of the lamented statesman, Sir Robert Peel, who subscribed £60,000; and when George the Third sent the Minister Pitt to compliment him on this truly loyal and patriotic subscription, he simply replied that another. £60,000 would be forthcoming if it was wanted for the defence of the country. Did Napoleon, or any French monarch, ever possess such a patriotic subject? The spirit is still the same. What sums the nation subscribed for the relief of the wives and widows and orphans of the Crimean heroes. What an amount was raised at once for the victims of the Indian mutiny. An Englishman likes to make money, and makes many a sacrifice to do it; but then how lavishly and with what [-77-] a princely hand he gives it. And in this respect the Londoner is a thorough Englishman - his charity covers a multitude of sins. I am aware some of this charity is of a doubtful character. A draper, for instance, may subscribe to the funds - of such an institution as that for early closing - a very handsome sum, merely as a good business advertisement; other tradesmen may and undoubtedly do the same. There is also a spirit of rivalry in these matters - if Smith saw Jones' name down for £50, he, thinking he was as good as Smith any day, and perhaps a good deal setter, puts his name down for £100. Somehow or other we can scarce do good things without introducing a little of the alloy of poor human nature; but London charities undoubtedly cover a multitude of sins.
    Associations for the voluntary relief of distress, the reclamation of the criminal, and diffusion of Christian truth, are a noble characteristic of the English people. There is no city in the world possessing an equal number of charitable institutions to those of the British capital. Taking the whole of London, and not exempting, from their distance, such as may be correctly classed as metropolitan institutions, as Greenwich Hospital, &c., we find there are no less than 526 charitable institutions, exclusive of mere local endowments and trusts, parochial and local schools, &c.
    According to Mr. Low, the charities comprise-
        12 General medical hospitals.
        50 Medical charities for special purposes.
        [-78-] 35 General dispensaries.
        12 Societies and institutions for the preservation of life and public morals.
        18 Societies for reclaiming the fallen, and staying the progress of crime.
        14 Societies for the relief of general destitution and distress.
        35 Societies in connection with the Committee of the Reformatory and Refuge Unions.
        12 Societies for relief of specific description.
        14 Societies for aiding the resources of the industrious (exclusive of loan funds and savings' banks).
        11 Societies for the deaf and dumb, and the blind.
        103 Colleges, hospitals, and institutions of almhouses for the aged.
        16 Charitable pension societies.
        74 Charitable and provident societies, chiefly for specified classes.
        31 Asylums for orphan and other necessitous children.
        10 Educational foundations.
        4 Charitable modern ditto.
        40 School societies, religious books, Church aiding and Christian visiting societies.
        35 Bible and missionary societies.
    526 (This includes parent societies only, and is quite exclusive of the numerous "auxiliaries," &c.)
    These charities annually disburse in aid of their respective objects the extraordinary amount of £1,764,733, of which upwards of £1,000,000 is raised annually by voluntary contributions; the remainder from funded property, sale of publications, &c.
    The facility with which money can be raised in Lon-[-79-]don for charitable purposes is very astonishing. A short time back it was announced that the London Hospital had lost about £1,500 a year by the falling in of annuities. It was, therefore, necessary, if the Hospital was to continue its charities to the same extent as heretofore, that additional funds should be raised. In an incredibly short; space of time £24,000 were collected. The Times makes an appeal about Christmas time for the refuges of the destitute in the metropolis, and generally it raises somewhere about £10,000 - a nice addition to the regular income of the societies. The Bishop of London, since he has been connected with his diocese, has consecrated 29 new churches, accommodating 90,000 persons, erected by voluntary subscriptions. We may depend upon it the various sects of dissenters are equally active in their way. During last year the Field Lane Refuge supplied 30,302 lodgings to 6,785 men and boys, who received 101,193 either six or eight ounce loaves of bread. At the same time 840 women were admitted during the year, to whom were supplied 10,028 lodgings, averaging 11 nights shelter to each person, by whom 14,755 loaves were consumed. On the whole it appears that 10,000 persons annually participate in the advantages of this institution, and 1,222 of the most forlorn and wretched creatures in London were taken from the streets and placed in a position where they might earn their own bread, and all this at the cost of 3s. 6d. each per annum. In 1851 the original Shoeblack Society sent five boys into the street to get an honest [-80-] living by cleaning boots rather than by picking and stealing, and now their number is about 350. Mr. Mayhew calculates the London charities at three millions and a half per annum. In estimating London charities we must not be unmindful of those required by law. According to a return published a couple of years since, I find, in the districts of the metropolis, the average amount expended for the relief of the poor was 1s. 6 3/4d. in the pound. The total number of casual destitute paupers admitted into the workhouses of the metropolitan districts during the year amounted to 53,221 males, 62,622 females, and 25,716 children. The quantity of food supplied to these paupers varies much in the several districts, as also the nature of the work required. In some cases no work at all is exacted from the casual poor, but where it is, the demand appears to be chiefly for picking oakum and breaking stones. In some cases the dietary includes bread and cheese, with gruel, and sometimes even the luxury of butter is added. In other cases bread and water (very meagre fare, and insufficient to support life for any length of time), are all that is allowed. Women suckling infants are supplied tea, broth, or gruel in lieu of water; we can scarce wonder the poor prefer going to jail. I have seen in jails, and convict establishments, dinners better served than are earned even by many of the industrious poor. I find during the last year the 339 agents of the London City Mission had paid 1,528,162 visits during the year; 117,443 of these visits being [-81-] to the sick and dying. By their means a large number of Bibles and Tracts had been distributed, 11,200 children had been sent to school, and 580 fallen females restored to virtue. At the annual meeting of the Ragged School Union it was stated that in 170 Ragged School institutions, there were 199 Sunday Schools, with 24,860 scholars; 146 day schools with 15,380 scholars, and 215 evening schools, with 9,050 scholars: of teachers 400 were paid, and 9,690 were voluntary. There were fifteen refuges in which 600 inmates were fed, lodged, clothed, and educated. The midnight meeting movement, of which we have heard so much, and respecting which opinions so much differ, according to its report, has been very successful; through the instrumentality of the committee seven meetings had been called; 1700 women had been addressed; 7500 scriptural cards and books had been circulated; and 107 had been reclaimed and placed in homes, through the agency of which, they would, it was hoped, be restored to society. In addition to these five had been restored to their friends, one to her husband, two placed in situations, and one had been married. In the general charities of England London has its share. It not merely takes the initiative but it subscribes by far the larger part. When the Crimean war broke out a fund was raised for the wives and families of the soldiers engaged in it, amounting to £121,139; £260,000 were subscribed for the relief of the victims of the Indian mutiny. Well it was in [-82-] London that the most liberal donations were made. Again, look at the Religious Societies. In last year the income of the Church Missionary Society was £163,629. 1s. 4d.; of the Bible Society £162,020. 13s. 5d. Of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, £141,000. 5s. 11d. Of the London Missionary Society, £93,000. Thus gigantic and all-persuading are the charities of London. The almshouses erected by private individuals or public subscriptions are too numerous to be described, except we refer to the London Almshouses erected at Brixton to commemorate the passing of the Reform Bill; nor would I forget the Charter House with its jovial and grateful chorus:-
        "Then blessed be the memory
        Of good old Thomas Sutton,
        Who gave us lodging, learning,
        And he gave us beef and mutton."
Nor Christ's Hospital, with its annual income of £50,000; nor the Foundling Hospital, with its 500 children; nor Alleyn's magnificent gift of Dulwich; nor the Bethlehem Hospital, with its income of nearly £30,000 a year; nor the Magdalene. But we must say a few words about the Hospitals; of the more than 500 Charitable Institutions of the metropolis, one quarter consists of general medical hospitals, medical charities for special purposes, dispensaries, &c. In 1859, in Bartholemew's, I find there were patients admitted, cured, and discharged, 5,865 in, 86,480 out; [-83-]  in St. Thomas's 4,114 in, 44,744 out; the Charing Cross Hospital has, I believe, on an average 1,000 in-patients, 17,000 out. Guy's, with its annual income of £30,000, has an entire average of in and outpatients of 50,000. But we stop, the list is not exhausted, but we fear the patience of the reader is.




source: J. Ewing Ritchie, Aboutf London, 1860