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It is not the misery and destitution of
the lowest class which need challenge all our attention, startling as the
revelations are that come to us from time to time in the reports of inspectors
and medical officers, or in the less technical and more indignant protests of
occasional visitors to the 'worst neighbourhoods of London.' The sufferings of
these people may be greatly ameliorated by legislation, or at all events by the
proper administration of existing laws for the relief of distress, and the due
regard of sanitary regulations. Those sufferings are obvious, and in many cases
are matters of absolutely public concern. In dozens of foul streets and
districts, where the law of the land is constantly disregarded with impunity,
the door of the wretched tenement in which a [-98-] score of destitute
creatures are huddled together opens to the policeman's touch. At the visit of
the inspector, a signal goes up the common stair, and no room is too private for
his official survey. It may be a bare apartment, with the broken ceiling
threatening to come down upon the heaps of shavings and old sacks that represent
beds, whereon human beings seek warmth and rest, almost irrespective of age and
sex. It may be a damp cellar, where four families occupy the remote corners, and
cower like wild animals under their heaps of rags as the bull's-eye shines upon
them, and they blink in the unaccustomed glare. It may be
the neatly- furnished front-parlour, with its gaudy tea-tray on the dwarf
sideboard, and its china tea-set on the mantelpiece; its bit of carpet and round
mahogany table; its cheerful little fire in the grate; and its press bedstead
well fitted with bed and blankets, whereon the harpy of Tiger Bay snores off her
drunken sleep; while the wretched girls she keeps on the look-out for Jack sit
on the door-step outside, and croon music-hall songs as their bold eyes watch
for their prey coming down the street. How they scuttle off the step as the
active and intelligent officer approaches! With what half-subdued enjoyment they
invite him to go in! He needs no invitation, no authority, to turn the lock of
that parlour-door, any more than he needs any special warrant to penetrate to
the cellar just referred to. That great section of London, which should be
represented by a black mark on metropolitan maps, is explored daily; said its
features are becoming so familiar to us, that there is [-99-] some danger of our
losing that first horror, that pity, that indignant shame that promised to lead
to definite and useful action. The time seems to be approaching when we shall be
as thoroughly informed about the dwellers in the poverty - stricken districts of
Westminster, Southwark, Spitalfields, and Whitechapel, as we are in respect of
the natives of those countries to which so much missionary enterprise has been
devoted ever since the establishment of a society for the purpose of converting
the more remote heathen. It is to quite a different class of people we must
look, and mostly in different parts of the metropolis, if we would seek the
poverty that makes no sign, the distress that is borne dumbly, the grinding need
that goes on from day to day, from month to month, often from year to year; the
need that, without becoming absolute want-the distress that, stopping short of
sheer destitution - yet wear out the hearts and embitter the lives of
struggling men and women.
Among the artisans who have seen 'better days' - the operatives who work at superseded industries; struggling, unsuccessful shopkeepers; above all, among that large poorest section of the middle class represented by placemen holding clerkships, small official appointments, and underpaid situations of all kinds,-there is a constant hopeless contest going on against that proverbial wolf, who is so near the door that his grim jowl can he seen as he eyes the children through the window. These are the people for whom legislation can do very little. It may do something in providing better houses [-100-] than the flimsy villas that are so damp and draughty, and black-beetly, and generally insecure, in spite of the Building Acts; it may organise and develop the means of middle -class education, by the application to their original purpose of thousands and thousands of pounds left in charitable trusts for the support of schools; it may insist on certain other charitable bequests, grown to a hundred times their original dimensions through the increased value of property, being carefully and properly administered for the relief of the sick, the aged, and the unfortunate; above all, it may set itself to the reduction of the cost of government - a work which the honest representatives of both parties in the State have striven to effect when they had the power-a work which the mere partisans and place-seekers of all parties have neglected when they have not been able to retard it for their own ends.
Crushed by the weight of rent and taxes, which absorb often more than a fourth part of his entire income, and sometimes a still larger proportion, what is the clerk, the warehouseman, the employee, with a wife and children, to do, when butchers combine against him, and a doctor's bill follows the defective drainage of his house, and bread is up a penny a loaf, and potatoes a halfpenny a pound?
With what wistful looks - looks that are a great deal too much like despair - does he listen as his wife counts up the week's marketing, and hints that the children are nearly barefoot, and admits that she and they have had bread-and-dripping for dinner three days running, to save the remnant of the Sunday's [-101-] joint! How worn and haggard she looks! how different from the bright plump-cheeked girl she was a few years since, when they married in. the foolish youthful hope that what was enough for one would be enough for two! There are five or six now, they think with a yearning sigh as they hear the sound of little slipshod feet upon the stairs. What are they to do? One by one the little household gods disappear: the old family plate, the engaged ring, the gold shirt-pin, the velvet cloak, the bunch of seals that belonged to uncle George - all go the same mysterious journey in the black bag with which the master of the house goes out after dusk. It is doubtful whether they can ever be redeemed; it is hoped they may, and that the best china tea-service may not have to follow them.
Hope! they live on hope, these people; they hope through tears, and sighs, and privation, and sometimes through sore bereavement; till hope itself, so long deferred of fulfilment, turns to the heart-sickness that strikes a man old before his time, makes the threadbare places in his shabby clothes stare out as though they refused any longer to aid a lie, and brings into his face a look which may mean: Why was I not born lower, so that there should have been no heed to hide the poverty that breaks me down?' What is waiting for him all this time? What ready plausible devil is at his elbow when the pang is sharpest or courage the faintest? Not the devil that tempts to crime, not the more specious devil that seduces to drink, perhaps - although he is there too often, and the 'glass [-102-] just to keep you going' ends with the halfpence for the day's poor dinner being taken off the mantelpiece to pay for a dram.
It is neither of these, however, that is the insidious demon luring genteel poverty to ruin. That specious devil is most to be feared who, perhaps, first makes known his presence by a circular, a card given in the street, an advertisement artfully framed to make the sale of oneself seem quite an ordinary business transaction, and not the deep damnation that it really turns out to be. Is it money you want? Just the most delicate inquiry in the world; a bill of sale quite unnecessary; quite another sort of bill, with your name on the back of it, and - well, just another name as a little additional security in the way of business. Things must take a turn; and then as to interest - well, if the worst comes to the worst, there's such a thing as renewing with another name, that's all. Why, anybody can get money so long as they have credit; and for a man who has always paid his way to go moping about for the want of a few pounds - my dear sir, what can you be thinking about?
Wherever he turns, unless he be of a singularly secluded nature, this subtle suggestion is whispered in his ear, and the agents of this diabolical temptation have him by the button before he knows that he has yielded. Witness the reams of circulars, the columns of advertisements, the packs of cards, addressed to persons in difficulties - to genteel poverty in every grade of life. The very government offices swarm with representatives of the money-lender, who has a double hold [-103-] upon his victims, inasmuch as they would lose their bread if he were to make known that they had dealings with him. At the Bank of England, where men wait for years before they gain a comfortable income by slow promotion - at the Custom House, where at one time, though this was long ago, one of the lowest officials in the place had money out at interest, secured by the names of his superiors on stamped paper-in all departments of the public service and of private placemanship, the devil's ready-reckoner is there to prove how easy a thing it will be to pay to-morrow what to-day you have no hope of possessing.
But supposing the various temptations that beset genteel poverty are bravely withstood; that the frugal housewife goes herself for such provisions as she can procure in the cheapest market, and, avoiding the too flattering advantages offered by those little red-covered books which local tradesmen issue to customers who find it convenient to pay once a-week or once a-month, retains all the independence conferred by the ready penny, - there is still no little difficulty in keeping even with the world.
Political and social economists with adequate incomes and a banker's-book, or a few determined people who have escaped from genteel poverty into a more substantial condition, may properly enough expatiate on the duties of putting by for a rainy day, and taking care of the pence, that the pounds may take care, of themselves. Nobody can deny the truth of such admirable propositions, any more than they can [-104-] refute the arguments in favour of life assurance 'in an established office of well-known security;' but with hundreds and thousands of poor families every day brings its own suggestive shower - the pence are wanted before they have a chance of reaching beyond shillings; and to say nothing about recent defalcations in public companies, the payment of premiums necessary for insuring even a year's income in the event of the death of the bread-winner often represents, not the retrenchment of superfluous luxuries, but a smaller slice from the family loaf, or a diminution of such necessary accompaniments as serve to make that loaf go farther in feeding the little hungry brood.
When that dark day comes, however, that the blinds of the upper room are drawn down, and the serious face of the doctor looks into the pale grief-stricken face of the wife, and whispers, 'While there is life there is hope;' when the little ones huddle together and speak in whispers, wondering if father will ever again go to the City in the morning and come back at night; when there is a sound of strange feet on the stair after dark, and 'the room where the coffin is' has thenceforth a place in the household memory; when at last the poor toiler is at rest, and the final effort of genteel poverty is put forth to obtain a respectable funeral, and to go into mourning, - then it is that, as the mother gathers her children about her, and wonders what she is to do for herself and them, the help of a loving hand, the sympathy of a willing heart, is needed most. At first, in the merciful benumbing that follows her great loss, [-105-] she cannot think of the immediate future; but waking from that condition, the sense of her loneliness and weakness comes with half-despairing force: the impossibility of bringing up all those young creatures within the narrow limits of such a poor home as she can maintain; the dread of the evil influences that may reach them while she is absent striving to earn their daily food; the degradation that awaits the boys, left, perhaps, to the temptations of the streets; the certainty that the elder girls must be sent out as drudges before they have learnt the merest rudiments of what they should be taught; and the younger children left amid all the sordid surroundings of a common house, with an open stair, and neighbours who know nothing of the pangs of that sort of poverty that would fain hide itself from the world.
It would be well, perhaps, if any institution existed which could knit up those ravelled ties, and keep mother and little ones together; well, if something could be done for the elder children, and the younger left awhile to the maternal care; but it would be difficult to devise a plan for accomplishing this. Meanwhile, let us see what has been accomplished in an institution intended to modify the plan of some older establishments for the reception of infant orphans.
Clinging to them with a mother's love, and fearing for them more than for herself, what is the poor widow to do who has three or four babes, the eldest of which requires constant care? To maintain them and herself in bare necessaries will require all her [-106-] working hours diligently employed in some calling that must take her from home; and should there be an elder girl to supply her place, the burden is beyond a woman's strength, at the present rate of wages for all ordinary female labour. Day by day, as that strength fails, what are the fears that harass her, lest her children should be left orphans indeed!
In all the aspects of poverty and suffering in the Great City, there are few more touching than that constant necessity for the poor mother to grudge herself the extra portion of food necessary to maintain her strength, that the supply may not fail altogether. For infants who are fatherless, as well as for those who are orphans, however, the great heart of London has been touched to noble charity; the latest, and in some respects the most promising, result of which we may witness in a visit to
Beyond the outskirts of the Great City, where a scattered
border of new streets and terraces has been flung on the waist of Hornsey-rise,
is the neighbourhood of the tiny colony we come to seek. Within a short distance
of the omnibus route from Highbury, and scarcely beyond the sounds of the
high-road, this district is in transition from a steep breezy hill-side to a
large open locality, forming an airy suburb; the roadways yet heavy with country
soil, the pavements breaking abruptly into footpaths, the houses newly finished
and at present tenantless, the few shops waiting the arrival [-107-] of expected
customers; everywhere great plots and areas of unoccupied land, either marked
out for the builder or already occupied with stacks of bricks and stone, and
great balks and piles of timber. A metropolitan transformation scene, leading to
as quaint, not to say as fantastic, an edifice as you could wish to see - a toy
mansion amidst a chaos of building materials, with an indefinite region beyond,
belonging neither to town nor country.
Once within the wide space enclosed with ornamental railings, you begin to wonder whether this pretty brand-new porch, with its bright red-brick and cut-stone facings, has been actually built on the spot, or was brought here, all ready-made, in a neat box with the rest of the building, and put together ready for habitation by the little people we have come to see. I called it a mansion just now; but there are no lofty stories, no high parapets, no suggestions of toilsome stairs by which to get up to bed. The cosy eaves are low enough for tame robins to find shelter beneath them; in the queer little corners of the masonry familiar sparrows could build their nests, and yet be near enough to look out for stray crumbs from the dining-hall on the ground floor: So strangely suggestive of a piquant interest is the whole place, in spite-perhaps partly in consequence of its completeness in the midst of the wilderness around, that even the porter's lodge, unlike most such places, has a nursery look about it; and you half expect an answer to your summons by the appearance of some fairy godmother, who will come out with hood and wand to bid you enter, and in the very act transform you [-108-] to a child again, in accordance with the scene in which you are to bear a part.
Well, in fact there is a fairy godmother, though she is not at this moment on the premises; one who, like the fabled benefactresses in infant lore, is young and graceful with the best of beauty - not the least of her qualifications for a share in such a work being that she has little infants of her own. Not many years ago all the people of the Great City went out to welcome her coming; and it was like her, and like the kindred race from which she sprung, that one of her first public cares should have been for the orphan children of the poor. On the scroll above your head, as you cross the threshold of the pure clean porch at which you stand, you read her name in the title of the institution itself, 'The Alexandra Orphanage for Infants.'
Mingled with the fanciful ideas that seem to be in accordance with Lilliput Village are some grave and touching reflections; for most of us know something of the silent sufferings of that genteel poverty which hides its want, and by a hundred small contrivances conceals from the world the misery of its daily life, - of that respectable wretchedness which pays the poor-rate when the cupboard is empty, and looks with a faint wistful fluttering at the lists of contributions towards charities, in the benefits of which it cannot share. We all know how the poor fathers of families-clerks, porters, mechanics, servants, shopmen - go out day by day, and think sometimes of what the end will be when they have gone out once more - have been carried out - [-109-] never to return! It is a terrible thought to begin a day's work with a thought that nothing but a very living faith in the living God will keep below a frequent agony. That wife, whose very maternity has rendered her less able to bear a part in the rough work of the world; those little children who have just kissed him at the door, and wondered whether he will bring home anything for to-morrow's dinner, or will find the money for the new shoes that have been promised so long,- what will become of them when the last little hoard is taken to pay the doctor and the undertaker, and the mother is left weeping in the bare room, with only them for treasures, and yet in her awful fear almost wishing that she and they could have gone too? The shadow of that fear is realised, and the shillings turn to pence, and her labour, so scanty as it must be with these little lives to tend and cherish, barely finds bread. What then? What if she follows him, and the group of poor stricken lambs are left alone? What if she starves, and strives, and sickens, and yet, starve and strive as she may, the little pinched faces, and wasted limbs, and eager eyes seem to fade day by day? Shall her children become but a part of that pauper community with which the wards of our workhouses sometimes teem? Shall they grow up with that sort of inheritance which seems to be perpetual, and so a generation or two of striving, and of such culture as might have made them a national strength instead of a social weakness, be altogether wasted? If we can begin with children of this generation, there lies our hope for, generations to come. Res-[-110-]cue them, and we redeem the great host of men and women who will form the people of a succeeding age. Begin at the beginning. But how?
Let us sit down for a minute while we write our names in the visitors' book, in this pretty entrance- hall, with its fresh bright fern-case in the window, its spotless hearth and decorated fireplace, its flower-stand, and the other accessories that speak at once of abiding womanly influences.
Already one of the authors of these suggestive influences, - Miss Elizabeth Soul, - is waiting to tell us something of the work that has been, done during the year in the institution, of which, if she will pardon me for giving her the gentlest title I know, she may be said to be the nursing mother; for she is here almost daily, is always employed in promoting the interests of the orphanage, and knows every little one who finds a home within its walls.
Even as we sit here, the silence is broken by a murmur of sound like the first humming of a sea-shell; and presently through the closed door there comes the burden of a tune you know quite well. For my part, I am already 'nid-nid-nodding' into a dream of two years ago; for it was in January 1868 that I first made the acquaintance of this little family. It has grown since then, and Lilliput Village has been founded; but its beginnings were so pleasant, that I should like you to go in fancy back to the original home of these orphans, before they were taken into the cottages that seem to belong to a story-book.
[-111-] You have not far to go even in imagination. It is only to a quiet private house, or rather a pair of private houses, in a pleasant road in the pleasant district of Holloway. The omnibus will put us down almost at the door. A quiet house and a quite neighbourhood - a house, though, with a large allowance of bedrooms, each of which has quite a row of little iron cribs, some of them looking almost like dolls' bedsteads, covered with their clean white counterpanes. Follow the well- known nursery example of the celebrated Goosey-gander, and wander upstairs and downstairs, and you will still see these tiny sleeping-places, until you get by accident into the parlour, where you should have gone at first to write your name in the visitors' book. Even that isn't my lady's chamber;' for 'my lady,' represented by the matron, is like another lady, also of nursery fame (though she is a good deal younger in her experience), and has so many children that, though she thoroughly well knows what to do, she may be said to 'live in a shoe,' so constantly has she to be on foot, assisted by an equally assiduous teacher, to look after her little charges. If you will come into the kitchen, however, where the dinner is just now preparing, you may have ocular as well as olfactory demonstration that the discipline here does not include 'broth without any bread;' for the long tables, with their white napery, their queer little high chairs, and tiny bone spoons and forks, are somehow suggestive of a good deal of nourishing farinaceous food.
The children are at present in 'the gallery;' and if you want to know what that is, you must come and see. [-112-] There they are, nearly half a hundred of them, on that broad flight of steps which in infant-schools is always called the gallery. Forty-five little ones, whose angels do continually stand before the Father, are now standing before you: the eldest not quite eight, the youngest a little tot of perhaps two years old. Fifty future men and women, taken from who knows what of misery, want, and shame, to be sent upon a new and hopeful career, blessing, let us hope, and to be blessed.
The Alexandra Orphanage for Infants. These little creatures have a sweet godmother. Her tender royal face is up there on the wall; and now that she has children of her own, she may well think sometimes of these. For these are children, and there is great comfort in that: I mean, they are not poor little depressed men and women, under the rigid rule which will dwarf a child's soul and crush its heart. See, some of them have got hold of your hand already; and those behind (such little chaps, that you hardly know girls from boys) are eager to clasp each a finger, and cry out 'Me! me!' to secure their share of petting. Will you hear them sing? They can sing, mind you! Off they go to the old tune, and are 'all nodding, nid-nid-nodding,'-gracious, how they put their heads into it!-or are all 'sleeping,' or 'digging,' or 'sawing,' or 'sewing,' or anything and everything you please, till the back rows troop out into the playroom, and half-a-dozen ripe scholars, including a young lady of seven and a philosopher of five and a half, remain. Will you ask them one or two simple questions? A little object-lesson, [-113-] say. Well, I quite agree with you, don't! It is not always easy to appear as though you knew the difference, say, between leather and prunella. Let them write their names, do a little sum in simple addition, repeat one or two of the little poems that they learn voluntarily out of the Infant's Magazine, Chatterbox, or the Children's Friend, and then let them go. Come, Master Charles and Master William Butler - twins out of six little ones entirely dependent, and whose father followed an artistic business - let us hear you; though which is Charles and which William sorely puzzles even the matron sometimes. Come, Master Philip Henry Selby, aged six, you can write your own name better than many a member of parliament. Come, Master Tommy, leave off drawing a caricature of me on your slate, and let us hear you spell. There's no cramming here. I don't mean in regard to space, but with respect to learning; they are none of them infant precocities, thank goodness! But why only fifty? Ah, why indeed! Do you see that great space over yonder, with a new building slowly growing into a ground-plan - O, so slowly? When that building is finished, entirely completed, four hundred infants may find a home there.
And so, waking up again, we find that four hundred - no, at present only two hundred have found a home; for we are sitting in that building still waiting for completion, but yet complete as far as it has gone, and ready, whenever funds shall be given for the purpose, to receive the rest of the toy cottages that are now in the closed box of the future waiting to be set up.
[-114-] It was in 1864 that some of the most earnest supporters of the ORPHAN WORKING SCHOOL at Haverstock-hill determined to make an effort to establish another orphanage for infants of tender years in connection with that admirable charity. The fact of the Orphan School itself being an incorporated institution prevented any amalgamation of the two efforts without a corresponding alteration in the act of parliament; so that they remain distinct, if not entirely separate, the inmates of the Infant Orphanage having no direct claim to be drafted thence to the Working School when they have reached the age at which they are fit candidates for the latter. They must be voted for, and can only be accepted on the same terms as other children; but at the same time the two institutions have a definite connection, inasmuch as they are supported by those who are concerned for the welfare of both ; and Mr. Joseph Soul, who is the experienced secretary of the older charity, at once undertook to render his valuable and energetic aid as honorary secretary for the establishment and support of the other.
In my own opinion, this connection without absolute identity is a happy feature of these linked charities; since, while the candidates from among the infants have no undue preponderance in the elections to the Working School, they are eligible for other similar institutions, after having been received from babyhood, and nursed, clothed, and educated in such a way as to make them fitting recipients of that further care of which they stand in need when they reach the age of eight years.
[-115-] When once the scheme was adopted, the liberality of one of the life-governors of the parent institution enabled the new committee to commence their labour of love.
They plainly stated at the outset that the Infant Orphanage was not intended to be a rival to any other charity, and that it was not likely in any way to interfere with the funds of the older establishment; but rather to help on its progress, by the occasional introduction of a well-trained class of young orphan children upon its foundation, who would not otherwise gain admission.
The constitution of this excellent charity is short, and to the purpose:
1. It is intended to receive orphan children from earliest infancy to the age of five years; and to board, clothe, and educate them until they are eight years of age.
2. The object and design of the founders being that its benefits shall be extended to all necessitous infants, it is to be distinctly regarded as of the very essence of the charity, that at the present time, and in all future times, no religious distinction of any sort shall be introduced, either as a qualification for admission or after admission; and that, while it is fully intended that the children shall have a scriptural education, no denominational catechism whatever shall be adopted.
3. That all the accounts of the Orphanage be open to the inspection of all subscribers.
Under these conditions, then, the work was commenced at the house in the Albert-road, Holloway, [-116-] until a more suitable building could be provided for a family so rapidly increasing, that in 1868 there were ten infants living with their friends, and ten more at Margate, for want of space for a larger number than the forty-six little ones who formed the domestic circle at the institution. But by that time the building we have come to visit was nearly completed, as far as it has at present gone. That is to say, these four out of the eight connected houses which are ultimately to enclose this area at Hornsey-rise were erected; and, as you will presently see, each of these buildings represents two 'cottages,' one on the upper and one on the lower story, with a bright, cheerful, and ample playroom and nursery to each, as well as its well-ordered dormitories for the twenty-five children who form each group or family; the great airy schoolroom, which is also the common dining-hall of Lilliput Village, and the playground, with its covered causeway extending round the half quadrangle, being the places of general assembly.
The advantages of this cottage system are so obvious, and the result of thus dividing the Lilliputian commonwealth into families consisting of babies not yet parted from the bottle, and sturdy fellows who can handle a knife and fork with consummate dexterity, are already so apparent, that, if for this reason alone, the Alexandra Orphanage is an institution claiming particular notice. Contributions for the cottages now completed were forthcoming from various sources; two of them having been erected in memoriam, as their names will indicate, and the rest by public subscription. Upwards of 5,000l. [-117-] was contributed for this purpose, and a sum of 1,000l. was given by one friend to the charity towards the cost of the central building. The same gentleman promised an additional 500l., if 5,000l. could be raised for the Orphanage before March of the present year: a stimulus which it may be hoped will be successful, since there are now one hundred orphan children in the eight cottages, and the building of the eight others that must soon be required stands still for want of funds.
One of the pleasantest suggestions contained in the report of Lilliput Village is the hearty manner in which all sorts of people have come forward in recognition of the children's claims; and have quite entered into the spirit of this infant colony, by setting it up with useful toys as well as other articles necessary for the comfort of such a community. Thus we hear that all those illuminated texts, and the bright-coloured prints which in their neat Oxford frames adorn the dormitories and the playrooms, have been presents from the Religious Tract Society, the Christian Knowledge Society, and from our old friend the Illustrated London News. The British and Foreign Bible Society send a good stock of strong Bibles for the use of the nurses and servants; and the Home and Colonial School Society make a handsome present of materials for teaching the tiny students. Surely the present of five eight-day clocks is a valuable one, and it is refreshing to learn that one of them came from the scholars of a Sunday school, who, as a delicate supplementary attention, also forwarded a baby-jumper. Two nursery-cars, and as rampant a rocking-horse as [-118-] ever needed a new bridle to restrain his mettlesome paces, are among the appropriate gifts; and one which deserves special mention must surely be a real delight to the little people-an aviary stocked with singing and other birds. Then there were packets of seeds, and stocks of ferns and plants for the garden, all sent to give these young horticulturists a fair start; and finally- strangest gift of all, by a gentleman who surely must have had a sudden impulse of giving - a whole house of Brobdingnag furniture; a great part of which, being inapplicable to the requirements of Lilliput Village, was sold, and the money made good use of; while the remainder went to the central building, where it still remains for the use of the establishment in the committee-room, and some other apartments devoted to children of larger growth.
For remember none but children can be admitted here with any hope of receiving benefit; and so, pray drop all your grown-uppishness at the door, give a finger to this tiny little tot who is waiting to be your guide, and let her lead you into school.
Such a large lofty room with such a high roof, that you cease to wonder that when they were 'all nodding' the sleepy hum seemed to lose itself in space, and come back from distant echoes. Ample room for twice as many children, and designed for that number. How the hundred are pegging away, to be sure; reading, writing, and arithmetic, plain sewing, vocal music, spelling, and every now and then marching and counter-marching, in columns of such very literal infantry, that you wonder [-119-] how the little feet can make so sturdy a stamping on the bare clean floor.
Here at a long desk, busy with their copy-books, and very neatly and creditably busy too, are Philip Henry, one of five, whose father was a messenger in the House of Lords; and the twin brothers, who are much less alike than they were on our first acquaintance two years ago; and Agnes, one of seven-daughter of a boat- builder; and others, orphans of clerks, assistants, small tradesmen, artisans, - representatives of that sort of poverty which most needs our sympathy when the struggle to hide it can no longer be maintained, and the widow and orphan are left desolate.
Yonder, on the steps of that raised platform, the same governess presides over the arithmetical tables - addition, subtraction, multiplication, and general intelligence; and here, on our left, is a tiny assembly, one detachment of which is standing before a Lilliputian easel, whereon a big card, like a leaf from a pantomime spelling-book, presents to their wide-open eyes words of one syllable. One of the funniest and yet pleasantest sights in the room is to see at another and similar easel a mere dot of some seven years old performing the office of teacher to a class, some in which (and notably one great girl who has been at Margate for her health, and so has lost her education) are bigger than herself.
Back again to the estrade, where the multiplication- table is just about to be varied by a song and a little gymnastic exercise, performed in concert with surprising regularity.
[-120-] Would you like to examine them? Well, the difficulty is to find questions; but having found a few, and got over your natural shyness as a big baby coming there for the first time, you will find that they are ready enough to answer you, and to answer correctly too.
I cannot help observing here, and the remark will apply to other similar institutions, that the infant-school instruction would be improved if it went still farther in the direction of that plan of teaching known as the Kinder-Garten system; where object-lessons not only formed part of the daily instruction, but were associated with the rest of the work as regular means of tuition. The governess would be competent to introduce it after very little attention, and the pleasure of Lilliput Village during school-hours would be greatly increased by that method. Not that the budding scholars are oppressed with the severe or monotonous course of study; on the contrary, a whole class, averaging two to five years old, leaven off its lesson to laugh at me when I sit down on a low form and try to make its acquaintance; while as regards the attainments in the Lilliputian College, the report of the Rev. Mr. Fleming, Vicar of Crouch End, says truly enough of the first four classes, embracing children from three to eight years of age:
Their general and intelligent knowledge of the Bible is most remarkable. Portions were accurately repeated, texts quoted, and good explanations given - showing that the children are taught God's word morally as well as mentally.
[-121-] The reading is good. The upper children have mastered their difficulties, and the rest are all fairly advanced. The copy-books shown to me were clean and promising. I tested the first class on their slates, and the writing from dictation was excellent, both in execution and spelling. An examination in mental arithmetic was conducted by the teacher at my request, and quick and accurate answers were given as far as the multiplication-table. Needlework for the girls, and lessons on objects and general information, form part of the regular course of education.
The whole tone of the school is most gratifying- the children clean, bright, and happy-under discipline, but without constraint, and manifesting a confidence in their teachers which strikes a visitor at once.
To the last paragraph we will add our hearty concurrence, for here we are, going out of school; and walking round to visit the nurseries, come upon detachments of our young friends racing under the covered causeway, driving hoops across the open space left for a playground, and besieging the passages and doorways with a vigour and zest that is immeasurably delightful. It was a thoughtless act to take up that rather delicate-looking little fellow, and raise him in your arms, for in a moment you are hemmed in by a struggling assembly of candidates for a 'jump.' Fingers, skirts, coat-tails, are likely to suffer, unless you compromise the matter, and amidst shrill laughing cries, treat each one to a definite proportion of romping exercise before you send them trooping off, or select some of their number to [-122-] display the paces of the rocking-horse and the natural history of the Noah's ark.
In the infant dormitories - not long bare wards, with a hundred beds all of the same pattern, but bed- rooms, each with its seven sleepers, under the care of a nurse, who at night occupies a glazed enclosure, from which she can see all that is going on, and hear the first wail of distress from a tiny crib - the babies are most of them staring broad awake. Two or three soft peachy cheeks rest on the white pillows quite quietly, while some lively little creatures are making strenuous but still silent efforts to get up and look about them. It is evident that the morning sleep is nearly over, however; and the busy little feet on the stairs and landings outside, as well as certain preparations at the Lilliputian tables (no higher than ordinary stools, which are reserved in the nurseries for the tiny banqueters who are too young to sit in the common hall), proclaim the approach of dinner-time.
Down in the great kitchen still farther indications reach us in the odour of mutton, and the faint but pleasing smell of rice-pudding. The big range is in full work; the cook is already busy with dishes and spoons; the four-score dolls' knives and three-pronged metal forks are glistening in their tray; the batch of aerated bread in the next store-room has already been prepared, and lies in convenient chunks in the baskets in which it is to be conveyed upstairs. Let us go up and listen to the patter of those little feet, to the scurry and clamour of the hungry trenchermen and trencher-[-123-]women, who file in and take their places at the long tables, that were only just now desks, in the banqueting- hall, that will soon be a schoolroom again, till the evening bread-and-milk is served before bed-time. Hush! how quiet they all are! how their little clear voices ring out that grace before meat! 'Amen, amen!' and so, to a clatter of plates and the sounds of good cheer, let us go our way with thankful hearts, inasmuch as to have done thus by these little ones is to have done it unto Him.
On Wednesdays, between half-past two and half-past four, the children may be visited by their friends on presentation of the visiting-card, with which they are provided ; but it is not expected that children over four years of age will be visited oftener than once a month, unless they are seriously ill, when there is no restriction of this kind, and their friends may come at any reasonable time on showing the matron's letter.
Children under seven years old can only visit their friends in cases of serious illness, and on the production of a medical certificate stating that the disease is not contagious or infectious. It will be obvious that these rules are necessary in such an establishment; and they, as well as the regulations about election and the claims of candidates, ~have evidently been framed after due consideration and long experience.
Such experience could alone have enabled the committee of management to support the institution with an economy which, although it provides liberally for the. little creatures under its care, brings the housekeeping expenditure-including clothing, linen, and furniture [-124-] for the house; coals, gas, salaries of matron, teachers, and servants; rates, taxes, school requisites, &c.- to less than 13l. a-year for each child.
If we would learn where this economy and the experience which renders it effectual has been acquired, we must pay a visit first to the offices at 73 Cheapside and then to the parent institution, where 270 orphan boys and 130 orphan girls, between seven and fourteen years of age, are maintained in
THE HIVE AT HAVERSTOCK-HILL.
To go back to the beginning, then: A hundred and twelve years
ago - But stay for a moment to think what this means. It means the lives of two
generations of men and women; it means the time when not even George III., but
George II., was king; the time when Louis XV. was yet keeping that throne the
steps of which led his successor to a scaffold; the time when the Napoleonic
dynasty was not even thought of, and the terrible vengeance which burst into
fiery revolution was only smouldering, so that its threatening smoke scarcely
disturbed the gay Court which wondered at the warnings of Rousseau and Voltaire.
John Wesley had but just founded the completest Church which existed unconnected
with any establishment; Dr. Johnson had just finished his dictionary, and was
writing Rasselas, in order to obtain money to pay for his mother's
funeral; and Boswell had not yet appeared upon the scene. Hogarth was cogitating
his Analysis of Beauty; the [-125-] treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was about to
be signed; and good old Thomas Coram was busy with the 'Foundling
For a hundred and twelve years ago has become to us a part of those 'good old times' about which some people are perpetually muttering their regrets, as though anybody really believed that those times were better, any more than they were older, than these; the world has made progress in a century and an eighth; and where the Foundling Hospital, small as was its foundation, represented a vast improvement in the charity of London, we have now fifty institutions devoted to the relief of almost every form of distress and suffering. It would be presumptuous to say that we are more tender-hearted or more charitable than our grandfathers were ; it is only common gratitude to acknowledge that we are surrounded by greater conveniences, increased comforts, multiplied luxuries, and that the decade that has passed has changed the face of social life, and raised all classes but the very lowest. Such of the benevolent institutions as were founded when George II. was king have had to extend their influences, to enlarge their borders beyond ancient landmarks, and to seek the wider aid that is seldom asked in vain for any cause which appeals on good grounds to voluntary beneficence. The institutions have adopted modern fashions - even the 'muffin-cap and the badge so garish' of the parochial schoolboy have become objects for museums; and it is only in one or two instances (say Christ's Hospital, for example) that [-126-] the costumes of the past age are deemed essential for preserving the distinctive character of the foundation.
After such a parenthesis it is almost necessary to return to our starting-point, and repeat that a hundred and twelve years ago there was established at Hoxton a school for forty orphan children - that is to say, for twenty boys and twenty girls. Such an event would be of no very great public importance to-day, or rather let us say that, however immeasurable such an event might be in its results, it would not be so uncommon as to excite any peculiar interest. In 1758, however, there were fewer provisions for the poor and destitute; so that when on the 10th of May in that year fourteen gentlemen met at the George Inn, Ironmonger-lane, for the purpose of founding an asylum for poor orphans, it was the first institution of a general character established in England for that purpose.
Bless their fourteen powdered periwigs! how solemnly they must have wagged over their rummers and tankards as they sat in serious conclave in the room at the 'George,' and agreed that there was a sufficient subscription for carrying the scheme into execution'! This is the entry in the earliest minute-book of the charity, which goes on to say that they appointed a treasurer, formed a committee, and desired the committee to assist the treasurer in collecting the money.
It only needs a peep into these old minute-books and records of the earlier days of the charity to impress one with the solemn seriousness of the whole matter. Such penmanship, such grave performances in cali-[-127-]graphy - stiff flourishes, elaborate signatures, and engrossed memoranda! The first secretaries were mostly in the legal profession, and that in days when the opening of a new business-ledger involved a kind of preface of a pious character, and with something of the formula of a last will and testament. These observances have fallen into disuse; but it may be doubted whether we do not go to the opposite extreme. They often gave a real weight and dignity to certain important occasions, marking various epochs in a man's life, or even in the business life of a mercantile firm. However this may be, the books of the 'Orphan Working School,' a century ago, are among the curiosities of bygone scrivening.
The institution was commenced by the occupation of a house in what at that time was the suburban extension of Shoreditch, known as Hogsden or Hoxton; and as the operations of the charity extended, two more adjoining houses were rented. Here the number of orphan children increased year by year until 1775, so that, at the end of the seventeen years, 165 inmates were received.
It was doubtless a very useful, and for the age an orderly and kindly-conducted, asylum; but from what we may gather by references to the history of the place and the regulations in force, the picture of child-life there would ill-represent the more advanced views of our own day. Over all there seems to hang the gloom of threatening, or at all events of repression, which mark the strict and unyielding manner in which the founders regarded the duties to be exacted from their [-128-] little charges. It was in fact, as well as in name, a 'working school;' and work in those days meant real manual labour for a good many hours every day, only relieved by occasional strictly-guarded recreations, by a little instruction in reading, by devotional exercises, or by the hours when plain and not too tempting food was served in a plain and by no means too tempting way.
It may have been from an impression that none but civic dignitaries, capitalists, and those engaged in high commercial pursuits, would avoid discovering in figures a means of undue exaltation; or there may have been a lingering jealousy lest the orphans living on charity should be fitted to take the place of their 'betters;' but from whatever cause it proceeded, there was for a long time such an aversion to teaching arithmetic in the school, that for ten years it was altogether unknown, except by occasional reports that reached the inmates from outside - that there was a science of numbers extending beyond counting on the ten fingers. Some of the children who had heard that 'summing' was taught in other schools, along with reading and writing, actually petitioned to be instructed; and a few of the governors, who had much opposition to encounter, at length succeeded in passing a resolution that a committee be appointed to consider the question.
The committee met, gravely to discuss this difficult subject; and the result of their deliberations was a recommendation that arithmetic should be taught as far as addition.
There was little time in those long weary working [-129-] days to devote to instruction; the object of the school was work; and work they did, at making garden nets, list carpets, list shoes, and such monotonous and humble labour. It must be remembered, however, that in those days 'the three Rs' were above the reach of the labouring classes; and to have taught these little creatures to read, write, and cipher would have been considered a kind of interference with the designs of Providence in the government of the world, and the maintenance of distinctions intended to establish 'reverence for superiors.'
The moral training of the children was to some extent darkened by the same distrust and severity; but, to the honour of the founders, there seems to have been more tenderness, or at least less harshness and positive cruelty, than appears to have belonged to many other institutions. There was little corporal punishment, except in rather extreme cases of disobedience and obstinacy, which, if often repeated, must, like lying and swearing, be punished with public whipping. Under ordinary circumstances, if a child told a lie, he was to stand with his face to the wall at meal-time, have a paper pinned to his back with the word 'lyar' written on it, and when penitent, was to say in the presence of all the children, 'I have sinned in telling a lie. I will take more care. I hope God will forgive me.'
The religious observances were scripture-reading and prayer every night and morning, and secret prayer was to be encouraged. Remembering that these first founders lived in a different period-that a century is in some [-130-] respects a great age in the swift progress of modern thought and enterprise, and that nearly all the public institutions of that day were associated with legal enactments and repressive regulations-we may look back at the Orphan Working School as the pioneer of those admirable institutions for the nurture and training of bereaved children, which are among the foremost of our Labours of Love.
In 1775 it became necessary to obtain more extended house-room; and as funds had been accumulated for this purpose, a new school was erected in the City-road for the reception of seventy inmates.
From that time the progress of the charity to a less restricted method of dealing with the children under its charge was slow, but definite, and in accordance with the improved views that obtained on the question of education. Those who succeeded the original founders were in favour of a more liberal and enlightened effort; still, in the earlier years of the school in the City-road, there was only a limited acceptance of those resolutions which were from time to time proposed by the more advanced friends of the charity; later in its history it came under the influence of modern thought and education, and was none the less certain in its operation because of its having been a progressive institution.
During the seventy-two years (from 1775 to 1847) that it remained in the City-road, it had received, maintained, and educated 1,124 orphans at the most critical period of childhood; and then it had for some time become necessary once more to extend their habi-[-131-]tation. By that time the premises and surrounding property (which belonged to the charity) in the City- road had become more valuable, because of the greater population of the neighbourhood (another reason for removing); and as the leases of part of that property were soon likely to fall in, it was determined to purchase a plot of freehold land in the healthy suburb of Haverstock-hill, then offered on very favourable terms. The present able and judicious secretary was even so long ago connected with the institution, and entered with the utmost spirit into the new undertaking; which made a fresh era in the history not of this establishment alone, but of similar charities, among which it occupies a foremost position.
First, 240, and now that the building is enlarged, above 400 children represent the growth of that benevolent enterprise commenced at the George Inn, Ironmonger-lane. The building itself is palatial in its architectural proportions no less than in its size, and occupies a space of rising ground in one of the most salubrious and convenient of the suburbs of the Great City, amid houses of the better class. Once out of the train that takes you to Chalk Farm, and it is but a hop, step, and jump to that pretty quiet neighbourhood of Maitland-park, on the first slope of Haverstock-hill. There, on your left, at that big mansion with its great entrance and a modest wing, where a more unassuming doorway serves for unofficial visits, the work of the orphans' hive is going on. Not the work of net-making and the manufacture of felt shoes; but nobler, better, higher employment.
[-132-] The old narrow prejudices have given place to the air and light of our more liberal instruction; and though it is not professed to teach what are generally called accomplishments in the school, the very best educational books are employed there, and the attainments of the children arc of a very thorough character. The course of instruction includes a thorough English education, with history, geography, and, for the boys, mathematics as far as they can be taken during their stay in the school; together with some general information in the elements of physical science, and very effectual instruction in drawing. Vocal music is also taught in the school, and a class for French is about to be commenced. Any one who has examined the books and exercises of the children, both boys and girls, will at once perceive how carefully and thoroughly they are taught. The writing is the best I have ever seen in any school ; and as much of it is actually that in the ordinary exercise-books, used for dictation lessons, there is good opportunity for judging. The handwriting of some of the girls is so admirable, that it may help to bring about a better style of calligraphy than that which now disgraces fashionable life ; and in general solid attainments, especially in history, geography, spelling, reading (that is to say, intelligent declamation of a reading-lesson), they are far above the ordinary average, and reflect great credit on the governess, who is assisted by pupil-teachers, one or two of whom have been scholars, and voluntarily remain in the institution in their new capacity, and with very considerable success.
[-133-] To those who wish to know what is done for the children in the way of instruction, it is only necessary to refer to the reports of the examining inspectors of schools, and especially to that of the British and Foreign School Society's inspector issued above a year ago:
'Every subject has received attention; and the papers on history, geography, and English grammar show fair proficiency. It is evident, however, that the teachers have laid more stress on good reading, writing, I spelling, ciphering, and the Holy Scriptures; and their efforts to lay a good foundation in these essential subjects have been most successful. The arithmetic of the first class in the boys' school is really excellent. In the girls' school, as might be expected, it is not so far advanced, but it is thoroughly good as far as it goes. Their papers, however, on Scripture history are models of neatness, accuracy, and fulness, and reflect the utmost credit on their excellent teachers. I must not omit to mention that the needlework is really beautiful, and could scarcely be excelled. On the whole, I am happy to be able to congratulate the committee on the state of the institution. They have secured a staff of earnest I and efficient teachers, under whom the children are receiving an education and moral training which, by God's blessing, will fit them to fill, creditably and happily, whatever station they may hereafter be called to occupy.'
In elementary drawing, too, the boys have carried off the palm in competition with other schools; and have made such progress in twelve months, that they [-134-] have received seventy-one prizes from South Kensington for drawings made in the presence of three members of the committee, and therefore the undoubted work of the lads themselves.
Let it not be supposed, however, that it is not a working school in a very literal sense ; for, intended as they are for fulfilling useful places in the world, the girls are trained in domestic employments, and a number of them in succession are taken into the house to perform the duties of servants. In needlework, too, there is enough to do to employ a large portion of their time; and during the last year above 50,000 makings, markings, and mendings have been effected, including the manufacture of 448 collars, 293 sheets, 159 shirts, 40 counterpanes, 522 handkerchiefs, 9 table-cloths, 18 pudding-cloths, and many other articles in the matron's department; and in the school itself 1,096 articles of clothing were made, 17,012 repaired, 150 frocks made, 130 bonnets trimmed, and 18,712 stockings mended.
In the girls' schoolroom, divided into large classrooms, as well as in the fine room where the boys assemble, the work of this hive is going on with the happiest results, and with a complete harmony among the various teachers and the alert and experienced matron, whose talent for organisation, true womanly kindness, and considerable medical experience, render her especially suitable for such a charge; just as her bright genial temper and - if she will pardon an apparent want of courtesy - 'wide-awake-ativeness' infuse a certain healthy life and spirit into the domestic [-135-] arrangements, that are among the best characteristics of this large family.
And this is indeed the especial feature of the establishment, wherein it happily differs from many institutions, where the large scale on which operations are conducted seems almost to overwhelm any sense of family union, or even of domestic comfort. There is a brightness, a confidence, a frank, but by no means disrespectful, familiarity between pupils and teachers; a general freedom which is too real to be disorderly; a regularity and completeness of cooperation which is maintained not as a task, but because it is a part of the general reputation of the whole establishment, - that cannot fail to strike the observer with a pleasant wonder. This is the more noticeable, inasmuch as the institution avails itself of all the modern appliances that are almost indispensable in such large buildings, and goes even farther in this direction than many others, much to the health and comfort of the inmates.
Attached to each wing-that of the girls as well as that of the boys-is a plunge-bath, also large enough for a swimming-bath, plentifully supplied with warm and tepid water in winter, and surrounded with little dressing-closets, in which, on the girls' side, are the regulation bathing-dresses. This is only part of the careful provision for cleanliness, which is also exhibited in the foot-troughs supplied with warm water running across the lavatories; and the long rows of sunk basins, towels, and brush-bags, which are in use three or four times a-day.
[-135-] In the ample kitchen the great cooking-apparatus is in full work to supply the dinner of meat and vegetables that will be served presently, and to bake the pies and puddings which either follow or accompany them on two or three days a-week. Through this kitchen to the serving-room, and thence to the great dining-hall-with its fine painting let into the ceiling, its long clean tables with healthy-looking rosy faces on either side - the great dishes are carried, there to be carved by the maids, and served by the detachment of boys and girls appointed to wait upon the rest. How 'beefsteaks-in-batter' disappear, and fresh dishes have to be brought up, and second serves are promptly supplied, there is no need to tell; there is something appetising in the sight, as we stand in the little gallery leading to the chapel and look down at this charge of the 400.
The chapel itself, with its chamber-organ presented by a friend to the institution, is not a consecrated part of the building ; but it is none the less sacred for that, perhaps; for in it the teachings from the Word of God are made to aid in that living worship which the religious instruction is intended to inculcate.
In the old institution, beside the morning and evening Scripture and prayer, the practice of personal devotion was encouraged; and here in the great dormitories, one of them 130 feet long and 54 wide, the orphan occupants of those long rows of neat beds kneel down to ask for the protection of their heavenly Father before they sleep. No chapel could have a better consecration than that, I think; and could we see those 400 little [-137-] ones rising from their knees, and each one waiting motionless till all have risen, we ought to feel a swelling of the heart that no solemn cathedral service could serve to make more genuine as a symptom of deep human interest.
We hare seen the kitchen and the schoolrooms; let us cross the wide spacious playground on the girls' side (the boys have their own, with room for football and other glorious games) on our way to the laundry. Here, too, time appliances of modern invention are in full use; but note the homely washing-tubs and troughs of common domestic life, each with its little pupil in the ordinary act of firsting, seconding, rinsing, blueing-down; note also the humble accessories, in the shape of ironing-boards and blankets, adapted to juvenile beginners, and you will begin to see how it is that this institution exhibits such remarkable family features how it is that, with the maintenance of so high a standard of physical health, the comfortable rooms at the top of the building, reserved as infirmary wards, are generally only occupied by one or two patients with slight ailments ;-there is also an absence of that dull listlessness, that want of individuality and cheerful relation to all surrounding things, which are too often apparent in large charitable establishments.
The average continuance of a child in the school is fire years. Children qualified for admission may become candidates for election after their seventh birthday. The boys remain till they are fourteen, or sometimes a little longer if they are well conducted, and are placed [-138-] out in situations or as apprentices, with an outfit of the value of 5l. The girls, all of whom are trained for domestic service, remain till they are fifteen or sixteen; and when a situation is found for one of them, she has an outfit of time value of 3l. Some of them enter situations in shops or warehouses ; and a few, but not many, become pupil-teachers in schools. By one of the rules it is enacted: 'That in providing situations for the girls, a preference be given to families where another female servant is kept; that they be not placed in boarding-houses, in academies for boys, nor in the service of single men ; in case of apprenticeship, the term shall not exceed the completion of their 19th year; and that they be presented, on heaving the institution, with a Bible and the sum of 3l. 3s., unless the Ladies' Committee think an outfit of clothing most suitable.'
In the case of girls, as well as boys, an annual reward is given to each former scholar whose employer shall testify to his or her good conduct during the year; and these annual rewards are continued for seven years, commencing with 5s. for the first year, and ending with 1l 1s. is. in the seventh ; so that the paternal character of the institution is maintained as far as possible. Indeed, many of the former scholars, who have been apprenticed or placed in situations by the charity, have become successful men, and are now governors of the institution.
A creditable distinction - shared alike by the Orphan Working School at Haverstock-hill and another admirable and similar institution, the London Orphan Asylum [-139-] at Clapton - is the simple and perfectly distinct manner in which the accounts are published; showing not only the detailed balance-sheet of receipts, and ordinary as well as extraordinary expenditure, but also a clear and most useful analysis, from which can be seen at a glance, and in two brief tabulated forms, the total annual expenditure for each child for twelve years - the expenditure per head for each item, such as provisions, fuel, and washing, clothing, salaries and wages, sundry charges, and repairs-and the total cost, as well as that per head, in each year, of bread and flour, meat, butter and cheese, vegetables, milk, soap, gas, coals, &c.
With respect to these accounts, which drew forth a eulogium from the Times, the report says:
'The great desire and aim of the committee is to deserve all time kind things said of their economical management, and of the success which has attended their efforts to make the school what it was intended to be - a lasting benefit to the children. In the Times there appeared, a short time ago, a remarkable statement in relation to the receipts and expenditure of the London charities; and there was an especial reference to the accounts of the Orphan Working School, in respect to the simple and admirable manner in which they are annually presented to the governors. It is but fair to state, and the secretary has much pleasure in doing so, that he was indebted to the London Orphan Asylum for this improved statement; he has only imitated what was so admirably set before him in the accounts of that asylum. He mentioned that fact in a [-140-] letter he sent to the Times, which, for some reason, was not inserted. By the statement referred to, it is seen that the cost per child in 1868, including all charges except time repairs of the building, amounted to only 20l. 17s. 11 1/2d., or eight shillings per week.'
It must be recorded of this institution, that it proceeds on the just and liberal plan of spending all the money subscribed or contributed for the object of extending the benefits conferred, and does not recognise the propriety, or even the expediency of forming a fund for endowment, or for acquiring property by means of money intended for the immediate relief of cases that appeal for aid and claim a direct interest in the income derived from appeals to public benevolence. When the old property in the City-road was let on lease, the money derived from it was devoted to carrying on the work of the new institution, and the interest of some legacies that have been so left to the orphanage as to make them resemble endowments is expended in the same way; but these sources represent no more than one-fifth of its present annual income.
With this information, and a parting reminder - in reference to the pure cool air that is blowing in our faces as we turn once more into the surrounding grounds of time orphanage - that only four children died during time year, and two of these of constitutional diseases not to be prevented or cured by medical aid, we will take our leave. The pages of the report, and a careful examination of the long list of names and trades or occupations of those whose orphan children have been re-[-141-]ceived, will show that it is for the help of time fatherless and destitute children of the lower-middle and working classes that this admirable charity is supported.
CLAPTON TO WATFORD.
Orphan Asylum at Clapton, to which I have already referred, offers only a
slight difference in its provisions from those of the Working School; but that
difference is suggestive, since it is partially associated with a slightly
superior grade of genteel poverty.
This valuable charity, which has now reached the fifty-seventh year since its establishment, was founded by the exertions of Dr. Andrew Reed, whose active energy was instrumental in promoting so many works of mercy in the metropolis. His portrait, with those of some other early patrons of the institution, still occupies a place in the board-room; and now that there are 440 children in the great building which is so soon to be abandoned for a still larger establishment, the friends of the asylum may well feel satisfaction at the work that has been performed since the year 1813, when it commenced by receiving six little orphan girls.
During the period of its existence, the London Orphan Asylum has provided for 3,292 children; and now that it has become necessary to extend its provisions beyond the limits afforded by the building at Clapton, it is in need of still farther effort.
As it is, the asylum is scarcely adapted in all its details for the residence of so large a number; and be-[-142-]side the difficulty of separating the elder and younger children, many of the appliances are defective, especially some of those that have an immediate relation to the lavatories and other arrangements essential to so numerous a family.
The great disadvantage of most such institutions is the frequent necessity of massing so many children in one building; and though time asylum at Clapton is divided into two wings, one for boys and the other for girls, with the dining-halls and schoolrooms on the ground-floor, and the dormitories above, this defect was severely felt during a terrible outbreak of scarlet-fever four years ago. To extend the present building would be disadvantageous, since it could only be done at considerable cost, and the neighbourhood is scarcely suitable for so serious an outlay.
As the committee have themselves dwelt on the defective condition of the place, and are about to remove to Watford, where a series of commodious edifices on a connected ground-plan are now being constructed, I may mention that there are here unmistakable indications of the results of the system of including a large number of inmates in one great building.
Undoubtedly some improvements have been neglected, because of time short term during which the asylum will be occupied for its present purpose. There is a general air of seediness about the premises, inseparable perhaps from dwellings where the tenants are about to give up possession. I cannot say, either, that on my visit I was impressed with the generally bright [-143-] and healthy appearance of the children. There has been no sickness of a serious kind in the institution, and only one death occurred during the year for which the last report has been issued, so that I would not be understood to imply that there is any especial defect in this respect; but even dinner, which may safely be regarded as a fair test, scarcely went off with that vigorous display of youthful enjoyment which one likes to see on such occasions. That, however, may have been exceptional. There may be some unreasoning antipathy to roast-mutton days which leads to time neglect of meat for plain boiled rice (I did not notice that vegetables were served on this occasion); and what seemed to be a defect may have been no more than a vagary of appetite.
Even should it belong to the former condition, there is an additional reason for that reconstruction of the asylum in its new home which is shortly to ,be effected. In the pure bracing air of Watford, where the edge of the freehold land purchased for the new asylum is within about 200 yards of the railway and near the station, this defect will doubtless be quickly remedied.
The only permanent separation of the children practicable at Clapton is that of the dormitories for the younger inmates, who are under the charge of two or three elder scholars sleeping in the same room. The vast wards for the boys, one of which contains 157 beds, are each under the charge of two captains and a number of 'prefects,' who are answerable for the maintenance of good order. In the boys' schoolroom, which is divided [-144-] into sections for the different classes by means of curtains stretching from wall to wall, the work of instruction is carried on effectually by time masters, whose sleeping apartments are within the main wards, and so arranged that each master can command a view of his dormitory through a glazed window.
A similar arrangement is made in the girls' dormitories; but they are fewer in number (by about one half) than the boys, and their instruction is carried on in two or three separate rooms.
One of the most amusing of these is the apartment devoted to those pupils whose musical studies demand pianoforte practice. This harmonious detachment is, at the time of my visit, consigned to a kind of magnified store-room, on each side of which are four larders or pantries, fitted with a glazed door a-piece. In place of the shelf and drawer which would properly occupy the interior is a neat cottage-piano; and sitting, enclosed in her own special cupboard, is a nimble-fingered young lady, whose performances arc nearly, if not quite, inaudible to each of her neighbours, as theirs are to her. I am unable to give any account of the proficiency of these active musicians, except on the testimony of sight, since my own proficiency in the resolution of discords is unequal to the effect of six brisk players engaged on different exercises at the same time; so I leave them intent on overcoming the difficulties of Czerny or Beethoven, and direct my attention to the drawing, in which some of the children have attained a considerable reputation with the authorities at South [-145-] Kensington, seventy - two of them having received prizes.
The instruction in the schools includes reading, writing, grammar, dictation lessons, arithmetic, the first books of Euclid, and the elements of algebra and mathematics, geography, history, and the French language. Besides various associations for pastime, a savings-bank forms part of the institution, in which 600l. has been deposited by past and present scholars from their pocket-money. Six boys sent up to the last Oxford Local Examination passed with credit, and two obtained prizes.
That these advantages are attended with good results may well be inferred from the fact, that out of fifty-nine boys who left time institution in time past official year, forty-five were provided with good and suitable situations by the agency of the society. Generally the boys enter houses of business, where board and lodging are provided; so that, excepting the charge for two or three years' clothing (and the outfit given by the institution materially reduces even this outlay), they may be said on quitting the asylum to be in a position to earn their own livelihood.
The girls are, many of them, capable of becoming nursery-governesses and pupil-teachers; while some enter houses of business; and others return to their friends, where they occupy a position in the family.
At the last annual meeting of the old scholars, 303 boys and 148 girls presented testimonials of their good conduct from their employers, and were rewarded on [-146-] the plan already noticed as that adopted at the Working School at Haverstock-hill.
It is a significant and encouraging fact, that the annual subscriptions of old scholars to the institution amount to 3,500l.
Of course the committee are now anxious to raise special contributions for the building-fund; for although this charity has, not entirely gone on the plan (which I believe to be the most desirable) of spending its entire income, or at all events of abstaining from the accumulation of a reserve fund, the property which it has in Bank stocks and other securities will not represent more than two years' expenditure; and much of it may have been left to the institution contingently on its being so retained. However this may be, nearly 3,000l. has been expended in the purchase of the land; and the cost of the buildings will be over 63,000l.
In these - the foundation-stone of which was laid on the 12th of July 1869, in the presence of the Prince of Wales - it is intended to receive 600 orphans (400 boys and 200 girls); the boys occupying eight houses, each containing 50 inmates. The 2,000l. for building one of these houses has already been contributed by time Grocers' Company; and the sum of 5,000l., the entire cost of the chapel, has been given by a lady, once headmistress to the school, and now the widow of one of its most ardent supporters, as a memorial to whom, shine desires to benefit the institution; of which she says, 'I shall ever remember it with affection as the home of my childhood.'
[-147-] I have already mentioned that the published accounts of this charity are admirably clear amid concise, while at the same time they specify not only the total cost, but the expense per head for each article of consumption in the establishment. From these it will be seen that the entire amount necessary to provide for each child averages 27l. 10s., while the outfits to children leaving school, and the rewards to former inmates for good conduct, represent 1l. 14s. 9d. per head in addition.
Probably this cost will not be exceeded, even if it be not ultimately diminished, at the new establishment; where the division of the inmates into families occupying separate houses is a feature likely to prove highly beneficial. There are also to be covered playgrounds, and separate school-buildings for the senior and junior boys, as well as open quadrangles for each, and one for the girls. The dining-hall will be a complete building at the back of the main offices. The chapel will occupy a prominent position in front of the entire group of buildings; and the infirmary, a separate group completely detached, will be at some distance behind the rest.
As regards the class of orphans for which this institution is designed, it is distinctly stated that children of journeymen tradesmen, and of domestic or agricultural servants are ineligible; but an examination of the lists of those admitted will show that the position of the parent has generally been above that which even this restriction might seem to indicate.
[-148-] Like the orphanages already mentioned, and the still larger asylum at Wanstead, to which I shall presently refer, candidates are received from all parts of the country, though the institution itself is so intimately identified with the Great City.
Its object is 'to maintain, clothe, and educate respectable fatherless children, of either sex, without means adequate to their support, and wherever resident. The orphans of professional or mercantile men, farmers, master traders, and clerks - or children whose parents have lost their lives in the army, navy, or marine service - are always esteemed the first claimants on the charity.'
In accordance with this, out of the 3,292 orphans received since its foundation, 1,115 have been the children of master tradesmen, 447 of 'shopmen, skilled mechanics, and others;' 379 of bank, commercial, civil- service, and law clerks; 221 of farmers, agriculturists, land-stewards, and coal-masters; 191 of ship-owners, master mariners, pilots, officers, and men in the mercantile marine; 101 of officers in the army, navy, coast-guard, and marines; 99 of professors, preceptors, tutors, and schoolmasters; 93 of officers in the Customs, and other government services; 93 of warehousemen, dealers, in textile fabrics, and commercial travellers; 78 of physicians and surgeons; 71 of architects, surveyors, contractors, and civil engineers; 46 of barristers and solicitors; 34 of literary and scientific men, and artists; 35 of mill-owners, spinners, and manufacturers; 35 of stock, ship, and colonial brokers; 23 of clergymen and [-149-] missionaries; 46 of railway officials ; the same number of officers and messengers to banks, &c. ; and 56 of parochial and police officers, and asylum and prison officials.
It is indeed encouraging to see how wide a range this charity has exercised in accepting its cases; and although I have already said that it appears to offer some restrictions in respect to those to whom its provisions are extended, it would not be easy to suggest a more inclusive liberality if the intention of its supporters is to be sustained.
In any description of these noble charities for time support of orphan children, it is difficult to avoid repeating details which are scarcely interesting to the general reader; but I must still refer to another orphanage, which may be said socially to represent a still higher degree of the genteel poverty that I have been considering.
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