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IT was remarked some few years since, concerning London,
thy a writer in the Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion
of Useful Knowledge, "We have, perhaps, no very satisfactory works upon this vast metropolis in any department;
and the reason for this may be sought for in the almost
limitless variety of aspects which London presents. . . . We
are not about to add one more to the many literary failures
that have had London for their theme, by attempting too much."
The present volume will not, at all events, be subject to the complaint referred to by this writer. The object of its Author has been to sketch in its pages the mere outlines of the condition, physical, moral, and religious, of a few of the numerous classes into which the immense population of London may be divided. He has endeavoured to portray the features of five only of these classes, finding that [-iv-] reference to these, in any way complete or satisfactory to his own mind, could not be compressed in a shorter space than a volume of the present size.
If he meet with encouragement from an indulgent public, with reference to this mere fragment, he would desire to follow it up by illustrations of other classes of London's masses. Probably sketches of about twenty classes would comprise the leading and prominent portions of the poorer orders. At least, these would furnish to the general reader fair specimens of the condition of that half of London, with which the other half is so generally unacquainted. The pauper - the lodging-house class - the foreigner-the Jew - the police - the river and maritime classes - the Spitalfields weaver - the skilled artizan - the railway class - the costermonger - the laundress - the domestic servant - the needle-woman - and some half-dozen other classes, would together, in addition to the five classes sketched in the present volume, constitute a very large proportion, at least, of the lower masses of "the million-peopled city." A few other classes might be considered in connexion with the larger subjects with which they are identified, as the publicans of London, in connexion with the important subject of metropolitan drunkenness; the printer, in connexion with the present state of the London press; such trades as the shoemaker, in connexion with the Infidelity [-v-] of London, with which it is almost invariably associated; and the baking and the milk trades, as representing to a very large extent the Scotch and the Welsh of London, in connexion with the very frequent loss of religious habits on the part of country people on their location in England's metropolis.
To the author it appears a matter of that importance that information should be presented to the Christian public on the condition of these classes, that, if he only meet with adequate encouragement in the sale of the present volume, he will consider it as a part of that duty to which be desires to consecrate his days, to pursue somewhat further the subject, if the Lord grant him life and health, in spite of the numerous and onerous claims which already so largely occupy his time.
His especial object in this volume is to illustrate the condition of the working classes of the metropolis (to which his attention has been anxiously directed for very many years), with the design of calling into exercise larger efforts for their benefit. It is only necessary to look attentively St the condition of any class of the working orders, to be convinced how very much yet remains to be done for its welfare, and with what great facility further efforts may immediately be made. There is in the present volume what, he trusts, may interest, but he more especially desires [-vi-] that there may be found in it what may also excite to sympathy and aid. The popular mind has shown itself of late to be ready to welcome further information on the condition of the masses, especially of the metropolis. His solicitude is that this should be turned to a good account.
No pretensions are made to literary merit in the present volume. It is a plain tale. The facts themselves are its only eloquence. These have been penned in the midst of incessant interruptions, and at hasty snatches of time.
The author has considered it important to illustrate what may, by the Divine blessing, be effected for the moral and religious benefit of each class of the population referred to, by relating what has been already effected, especially by the lay agency, of late years so extensively and so happily called into exercise-an agency by which, he believes, our working classes in the metropolis are chiefly to be influenced in the present day. He had not intended, on sitting down to write the book, to give any prominence to the operations of the London City Mission among these classes, but to have referred with equal frequency to the operations of' the various kindred Societies. But he found as he proceeded that this was impracticable, and that with every desire to follow out his first intentions, his chief information must be derived from that Society. This arose partly from its records being more accessible to him, [-vii-] and his being more familiar with them; partly from a very great deal more having been published as to its operations, by this Society singly, than probably by all the others together; partly from these operations being much the most extensive in themselves, so far as the metropolis is concerned; and partly through this being literally to a great extent, the only lay agency extensively operating on particular classes of the population, in a separate manner. While, therefore, other valuable efforts are occasionally alluded to, the author has more largely referred to those of this most valuable Society. He trusts that the friends of other· societies will not consider that there has been any desire on his part to pass over or depreciate their efforts.
On the other hand, while the following pages make frequent honourable mention of the Ion don City Mission, the author begs it may be distinctly understood that that Society is in no manner responsible for what he has written, he trusts the book may, by the Divine blessing, be made the means of furthering its interests; but he has written it entirely on his own authority.
While the volume will probably interest more especially the religious portion of the community, it has been the author's endeavour to render it interesting to the general reader. He has also most cautiously excluded everything which would render the work unsuitable for family reading.
[-viii-] The influence of London for good or evil is incalculably great. "London is a world in itself, and its records embrace a world's history. It has been the chief seat of English power, and knowledge, and wealth, for nearly a thousand years; it is now the great centre of the civilization of all mankind. It contains 2,500,000 inhabitants; the number of strangers who resort to it daily is equal to the population of many capital cities; the people who are tributary to this metropolis, as the heart of the British empire, amount to a-sixth of the whole human race. There is scarcely a commercial transaction upon the face of the globe which is not more or less connected with, or represented by London; the knowledge. of its daily transactions goes forth to the uttermost ends of the earth. It contains within itself all that is gorgeous in wealth, and all that is squalid in poverty; all that is illustrious in knowledge, and all that is debased in ignorance; all that is beautiful in virtue, and all that is revolting in crime."* (*Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, No. 310.)
Not but that there must necessarily always be the upper and the lower classes of society. The reverse of this is not to be expected. "If all of us were to start on a level, in point of worldly goods, to-day, the distinction between rich and poor would have arisen to-morrow. Some would straightway go [-ix-] to work; others to play. Some would use their means temperately; others would enjoy them immoderately. Some would improve what they got, mending and making and devising how to turn all to the best account; others would waste, and break, and spoil, and destroy. Some would deny themselves and begin to lay by, abstaining for the present out of regard to the future; others, not caring to look beyond the pleasure of the passing hour, would gratify their immediate inclinations at all risk of consequences to come. . . . And if we could see-the same parties after an interval, not of a day, but of a week, or month, or year, the change would be more marked, the difference much greater, and the contrast and its causes far more obvious." * (* The Rev. C. Girdlestone.)
That which is endeavoured to be enforced in this volume is simply that the one class is not to live separate from, unmindful of and without effort for the benefit of the other. And if this is the case, as it undoubtedly is, with reference to the possession of wealth, which is, after all, often possessed by mere descent, or by purely accidental circumstances, and, in all instances, is dependant on the blessing of God, it is much more the case with reference to the possession of knowledge and true religion, - those sacred deposits which cannot, without positive criminality, be retained only for our own benefit, and thus "laid up in a napkin." "The [-x-] social condition of our working classes has, of late years, been very closely analyzed. . . And now we seem to have at last awakened, as from a dream, to the real condition of these, the great majority of our fellow-creatures. . . . By degrees the full truth has burst" (or, rather, as the author would say, is gradually, but steadily, forcing itself) "upon us. . . The energy of individuals has called into life many most valuable Societies, has forced on the Legislature many wholesome enactments, in aid of moral and sanitary improvement. Much has been done of real and substantial good; but the revelation of existing evils calls for more and more active exercise of the spirit which seeks its removal." * (* Viscount Ingestre's "Meliora.")
In the humble hope that the middle and higher classes may be incited to contemplate and to seek to elevate and bless the other classes of London's population, this volume is committed to the press. May the Divine blessing attend its publication.
CRIMINAL AND DESTITUTE LONDON JUVENILES, OR THE RAGGED SCHOOL CLASS
A distinct class from adult thieves- Their extreme youth, and sometimes childhood- Great severity of British, as compared with French, law on juvenile offenders- Their especial claim, when resident in London- Their supposed number- The classes from which they are drawn- The training for crime which they receive - Their gradations in proficiency- Importance of missionary operations among this class, from the "Times "- The Ragged School movement- The connexion of this movement with the operations of the London City Mission- These schools are in an especial manner free from the difficulties of difference of creed and interference with the duties of parents- Early approaches to the Ragged School system- The first Ragged School in London, as established in "the old stable" at Westminster- The Report of the school, as printed by order of the House of Commons- Description of the plot of ground on which the school stood, called "the Devil's Acre, by Mr. Chas. Dickens- Letter of the children of the school to the missionary, inclosing contributions to the London City Mission- Mr. Chas. Dickens's narrative of emigrants from this school- The Field- lane Ragged School described, as a second illustration of these Institutions- Description of the adjacent notorious thieves' houses- Formation of the school- Mr. Charles Dickens's narrative of different visits to this school, and of the improvements effected in the interims- Narrative of a visit to this school in "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal "- This school first interested Lord Shaftesbury in the "movement "- Erection of a new and spacious school- room, with a large dormitory- Review of the progress of London Ragged Schools to the present time- Industrial [-2-] schools- Refuges- Emigration- Mr. Sergeant Adams's eulogy of the efforts of Ragged School teachers- Three cases of usefulness from the "Ragged School Union Magazine "- A further case, from a clergyman- Two other cases, from the "London City Mission Magazine "- The shoe- blacks, a most remarkable illustration of the success of the efforts made to elevate this class- iBroomers, and how they might be made to cleanse London- Messengers- Steppers, and ragged nursery- Comparison of the expense of schools and prisons, by Mr. Andrew Thomson, of Aberdeen- The especial claims of girls- Voluntary effort, and that by the masses, rather than Government aid, to be especially rested on- Appointment of a missionary by the London City Mission for this class, supported by Lord Shaftesbury- Importance of increased exertions, in order to bring the whole of this class under Ragged School instruction- Concluding appeal.
A distinct class from Adult Thieves.
This chapter treats of juvenile, in opposition to adult thieves. Both classes unhappily exist, and both are very numerous, so as to require to be separately alluded to. Both classes, also, are "our neighbours," living in the great metropolis in close proximity to the respectable portions of the community. Immediately at the back of stately houses and noble streets are the courts and the alleys in which they congregate. Nor are they "our neighbours" only in proximity of location, in fellow-citizenship, and as fellow-parishioners, but also in their possession of the same immortal nature. Few questions are more suitable for those who are living in the enjoyment of the Christian and social privileges of the metropolis, than that which one of old, who desired "to justify himself," put to our Lord, "And who is my neighbour?" The reply taught the lesson that distress and danger of a special character in themselves generally pleaded for a neighbour's sympathy. "He that sheweth mercy to the outcast is alone entitled to a neighbour's [-3-] name. Nor is there any class of society towards whom mercy, kindness, sympathy, and love are more demanded on the part of all whose aim is to love their neighbour as themselves, and to do to others as they would that they should do to them.
Their extreme Youth, and sometimes childhood.
The age of this "dangerous class" in itself is enough to
move even a hard heart to tender pity on its behalf. In
entering prisons, the benevolent mind is oppressed with
concern; but no circumstance, on such visits, has so filled
the mind of the writer with concern as the vast proportion
of almost children who are immured within their walls.
This, with him, has always predominated over every other
feeling, and he imagines it must have been the same with
others. On a first visit to a gaol, he apprehends every one
must have been startled at the youth of the great mass of the
inmates. The collecting of the prisoners for Divine service
almost resembles the collecting of children to their school.
This is undoubtedly the most affecting sight which a prison
reveals. The writer has visited the prisoner awaiting execution, under sentence of death for murder, and he has visited
the female wards of a prison. Both these are very pitiable
eights to behold, but the swarms of juvenile prisoners are a
still more pitiable sight; for the murderer is a rare character; there is seldom more than a single prisoner of that
description, not very often even that. And the female wards of a prison are a mere fraction of the wards in general;
so that, sad as it is to behold females there, some relief is
given, and even thankfulness felt, ordinarily, in discovering how exceedingly small is the number of female, as
compared With male prisoners. But it is surely equally pitiable
to behold a mere child as to behold a woman wearing a prison-dress, while the discovery that such juvenile offenders
are the rule rather than the exception, literally overwhelms
the thoughtful mind with concern. Captain William John
Williams, Inspector of prisons for the Home Department,
very truly remarked, in evidence given by him before a
select Committee of the House of Commons, "I do not
know any fact that can strike any person more sadly than
seeing a child under 9 or 10 years of age in a prison. In
conversing with this class, the feeling of pity increases; for,"
as the Captain adds, "these boys are singularly acute.
They have a degree of precociousness about them which is
quite surprising. Therefore they are older, when young,
than any other class."
Yet the number of sentences to imprisonment in England and Wales, under 17 years of age, in 1849, was 10,460; and in 1850, 9,187 The number of sentences to transportation, of the same class, was in 1849, 214; and in 1850, 167.
It appears, from a return of Sir John Pakington, that of 10,600 offenders under 16 years of age, two-sevenths were children under 13.
1,987 boys, under 17 years of age, were committed to Westminster House of Correction in the year ending Michaelmas, 1851 ; 198 to Giltspur-street Prison ; 130 to the City Bridewell ; and 538 to the Brixton House of Correction.
To illustrate the mere infancy at which children are trained to thieve by their parents, a ease may be mentioned which occurred to a City Missionary this year. He observed a child under 7 years of age being led away by a policeman, for picking the Pocket of a lady. As he was, happily, just too young to be sent to prison (although had he been but a few months older he would not thus have escaped), the missionary got possession of him. He traced out his mother, who lived in Westminster, and found that this child [-5-] and his brother, aged 14, were both sent out by her to obtain money how they could, to support her in vice. The elder boy had been often in prison. And the younger boy stated that he could always take home eighteen-pence a-day. He, therefore, earned half-a-guinea a week, although not 7 years old. Child as he was, he had become so habituated to theft, that the missionary had the utmost difficulty to restrain him from his old habits. After a few days he made his escape with a new pair of boots; and on the day following the missionary, after some search, found him at a two-penny lodging-house for boys and girls, in Seven Dials, where he had been taken in as a lodger, and the pair of new boots purchased of him by the landlady for the small sum of fourpence. Since this rescue, he is proceeding more favourably, and will probably, by God's blessing, be reclaimed from ruin.
Is it not worthy of consideration, how far Infant Ragged Schools may not be important? They appear not yet to have been tried. Children of this class are extremely precocious, and an immense amount of misery and crime might be prevented by early instruction.
Great Severity of British, as compared with French, Law on Juvenile Offenders.
Mr. Sergeant Adams, in recent evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons, made the following
important statements viz., that he had had occasion to try
A VAST NUMBER of juvenile offenders, until the recent Act
for giving summary jurisdiction in cases of larceny, upon children under 14 ; that he was perfectly confident that,
from the publicity of these trials, the feeling of disgust was
becoming so strong, as to the state of our criminal jurisprudence with respect to children, that if the cases had not
been removed from public view, the whole system must have [-6-]
been changed before this time; that the juries were indignant
at the scenes daily taking place; that from 30 to 40 children,
of ages from 10 to 13, were often brought before him to be
tried and sentenced at the Sessions; and that he had tried a
child as young as 7 years of age, and a vast number of
8 and 9: sometimes for offences as small as stealing a penny
The following are two cases which the Learned Sergeant adduced in his charge to the Grand Jury, in 1849, as illustrative of the fearfully juvenile age at which lads become prisoners : -
"Thomas Miller, AGED 8 YEARS, was tried at Clerkenwell, at the August Sessions, 1845, for stealing boxes, and sentenced to be imprisoned for one calendar month, and once whipped. At the January Sessions, 1846, he was again tried at the Clerkenwell Sessions, for robbing a till, and inquiries being then made, it appeared that, in addition to the above-mentioned trial, he had also been twice summarily convicted, and once tried at the Central Criminal Court, during the year 1846. He was in consequence sentenced to 7 years' transportation, but his sentence was commuted to 3 months' imprisonment. On March 14, 1846, he was again convicted of larceny, before the Common Sergeant; and in the printed sessions cases it is stated that the prisoner had been in custody 8 or 10 times. He was again sentenced to transportation, but his sentence was on this occasion commuted to imprisonment for 2 years. He was discharged on May 13, 1848. In July, 1848, he was summarily convicted, and sentenced to 14 days' imprisonment. From that period he has been lost sight of in the Middlesex prisons, until the 4th day of this month (June, 1852), when he was sentenced, under the Larceny Act, to be whipped and imprisoned 2 days. He is now only 12 years of age, and not more than 4 feet 2 inches in height."
[-7-] "Edward Joghill, AGED 10 YEARS, has not yet been tried by a jury, but he has, within the last 2 years, been 8 times summarily convicted, viz.:-
" Feb. 13. For possession of 7 scarfs, &c. 2 months' impris.
May 10. Rogue and vagabond 1 months' impris.
July 10. Possession of a half~sovereign. 1 months' impris.
Sept. 13. Simple larceny 1 day's impris., and whipped.
Sept. 27. Rogue and vagabond 2 months' impris.
Dec. 31. Simple larceny 1 month's impris., and whipped."
May 23. Ditto 1 month's impris., and whipped.
April 15. Ditto 3 month's impris., and whipped."
"This return relates to the committals of this boy to one prison only."
The Learned Sergeant, in another part of his evidence, stated
" Some years ago, I went over the Maidstone Gaol. I saw a little urchin about 10 years of age, and I said, 'Who is that boy?' 'Oh,' said the Gaoler, 'he has been Committed by the County Magistrates for stealing damsons.' He had got over a garden-wall, and got a hatful of damsons and had been sent to prison for a month."
Captain Wm. John Williams also stated, that in April, 1852, on visiting the House of Correction, at Wandsworth, he saw 2 boys of 8 years of age under summary conviction, placed with the other prisoners.
Let any respectable parent think for a moment of such a punishment as imprisonment being inflicted on a son of their tender an age, for "stealing a penny tart or a hatful of damsons," with all the pollution and hardening consequences of association with the worst of humankind, [-8-] and the subsequent brand of culprits on their brows. It may almost be asked, where is the respectable family in which such offences have not been committed, by those who are mere children? How different the parents' chastisement for such a fault in those of tender years, and the hard rigour of the law!
In only the past generation, there were 223 offences visited by British law with the punishment of death. Some of these were of the most trivial character. The late Sir Powell Buxton and Sir James Mackintosh laboured hard to obtain a mitigation of a code so utterly opposed to the mildness and love of Christianity. "Life," pleaded Sir Fowell, "is sacred, and may not be invaded, without the express permission of Him who gave it; and to send an imperishable soul unprepared and unrepentant to a state, perhaps, of endless misery (for some little offence), is, I confess, monstrous in my eyes." Now, happily, murder alone is punishable with death.
But the severity of our laws against children is scarcely less extreme, or more opposed to the genius of our holy and merciful religion, than its previous imitations of Draco rather than Christ, in the punishment of adults. Is it to our honour to be less merciful than France? And yet by the Code Napoleon, no child in France is considered responsible for his acts in the same way as an adult, till the age of 16. Before he has attained that age, he is described as acting without discernment, sans discernement, or, as the common law of England expresses it, doli incapax.
In Great Britain, the age of 7 is substituted for the French limit of 16 - two periods of existence widely different, to our discredit. There is, however, every reason to hope that the Committee of the House of Commons on Criminal and Destitute Juveniles, now sitting, will recommend an abolishment of imprisonment at so early a period of life.
Their especial Claim, when resident in London.
But if this class demands sympathy, when it is considered
as existing throughout the United Kingdom at large, if
we consider it as existing in London, it should still more
call forth such feelings. The number of juvenile criminals
supplied from the metropolis bears a very large proportion
indeed to the whole number from the country at large, and
while it continues steadily to decrease throughout the country, it as steadily continues to increase in London.
The reasons of this are probably truly stated by the Recorder
of Birmingham, Matthew D. Hill, Esq., in the following
"I think it will not require any long train of reflection to shew that in small towns there must be a sort of natural police, of a very wholesome kind, operating upon the conduct of each individual, who lives, as it were, under the public eye; but in, a large town he lives, if he choose, in absolute obscurity, and we know that large towns are sought by way of refuge, because of that obscurity, which, to a certain extent, gives impunity. Again, there is another cause, which I have never seen much noticed, but which, having observed its operation for many years, I am disposed to consider very important, and that is, the gradual separation of classes which takes place in towns by a custom which has gradually grown up, that every person who can afford it lives out of town, and at a spot distant from his place of business. Now this was not so formerly; it is a habit, Which has, practically speaking, grown up within the last half-century. The result of the old habit was, that rich and Poor lived in proximity, and the superior classes exercised that species of silent but very efficient control over their neighbours to which I have already referred. They are now gone, and the consequence is, that large masses of [-10-] population are gathered together without those wholesome influences which operated upon them when their congregation was more mixed; when they were divided, so to speak, by having persons of a different class of life, better educated, among them. These two causes, namely, the magnitude of towns and the separation of classes, have acted concurrently, and the effect has been, that we find in many large towns which I am acquainted with, that in certain quarters there is a public opinion and a public standard of morals very different to what we are accustomed to, and very different to what we should desire to see. Then the children who are born amongst those masses, grow up under that opinion, and make that standard of morals their own, and with them the best lad or the best man is he who can obtain subsistence, or satisfy the wants of life, with the least labour, by begging or by stealing, and who shows the greatest dexterity in accomplishing his object, and the greatest wariness in escaping the penalties of the law, and, lastly, the greatest power of endurance and defiance when he comes under the lash of the law."
Their supposed Numbers.
This class of persons in London was estimated some time since, by Lord Shaftesbury, as 30,000. It certainly numbers 20,000, and probably exceeds that large multitude. Each lad of this number will soon be the head of a family. How fearful the contemplation! how wide-spread the evil! how important the application of the remedy!
The Classes from which they are drawn.
Contemplate again the classes from which these juvenile
thieves are obtained, and the claim which they present on
our compassion is still further increased. The enumeration
given on this subject, with reference to the very excellent [-11-]
Reformatory Juvenile Institution at Mettray, in France, is
equally applicable to England and to London. Juvenile
thieves are said, in the Mettray Report, to be made up of:-
1. The children of criminals. These are hereditary criminals.
They are often trained to crime, and are practically taught
to think lightly of it, even when they are not expressly taught
to consider it a merit, as is too often the case. This forms a
class, the numbers of which are in proportion to the number
of the whole class. 2. Illegitimate children. The testimony
of inspectors of prisons, of gaolers, and of chaplains to
gaols, is uniform to the fact that these constitute a very large
class of juvenile criminals. 3. Orphans. 4. Foundlings and
step-children. 5. The children of the very poor.
Now let the reader consider what he would be, or what his child would be, if included in any of these classes. Surely, then, he ought not to say, with wicked Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
The Training for Crime which they receive.
But some may ask, Have these youth never been taught?
They have. But what? They have gone to school to learn - to thieve. This has been their education.
Regular schools for the training of boys in thieving have long existed in London. The discovery of such a school, in 1585, by Fleetwood, the Recorder, is thus related
"Among the rest they found out one Wotton, a gentleman born, and some time a merchant of good credit, but fallen by time into decay. This man kept an alehouse at Smart's Key, near Billingsgate, and after for some misdemeanor put down, he reared up a new trade of life; and in the same house he procured all the cut-purses about the city to repair to his house. There was a school-house set up to learn young boys to cut purses. Two devices were hung up: one was a pocket, and another was a purse. The pocket had in it [-12-] certain counters, and was hung up with hawk's-bells, and over the top did hang a little scaring-bell; the purse had silver in it; and he that could take out a counter without any noise, was allowed to be a public foyster; and he that could take a piece of silver out of the purse, without noise of any of the bells, was adjudged a judicial nypper, according to their terms of art. A foyster was a pick-pocket; a nypper was a pick-purse or cut-purse." *(* Maitland's "London," i., 269, from Stow's "Survey.")
Nearly 200 years afterwards, the "Annual Register" for 1756, under date of March 25, thus describes a similar school
"At an examination of four boys detected at picking pockets, before the Lord Mayor, one of them, admitted as evidence, gave the following account:- A man who kept a public-house near Fleet-market, had a club of boys, whom he instructed in picking pockets and other iniquitous practices. He began by teaching them to pick a handkerchief out of his own pocket, and next his watch, by which means the evidence at last became so great an adept that he got the publican's watch four times in one evening, when the master swore that his scholar was as perfect as one of 20 years' practice. The pilfering out of shops was the next art. In this his instructions to his pupils were, that at such chandler's or other shop as had hatches, one boy should knock for admittance for some trifle whilst another was lying on his belly close to the hatch, who, when the first boy came out, the hatch remaining on jar and the owner being withdrawn, was to crawl in on all-fours, and take the tills or anything else he could meet with, and to retire in the same manner. Breaking into shops by night was the third article; which was to be effected thus. As brick walls under shop windows are generally very thin, two of them were to lie under a shop-window as destitute beggars [-13-] asleep in appearance to passers by; but, when alone, were with pickers to pick the mortar out of the bricks, and so on, till they had opened a hole big enough to go in, when one was to lie, as if asleep, before the breach, till the other accomplished his purpose."
It is remarked in Knight's "London" :
"Dexterous and accomplished as are the followers of the several varieties of illegal industry in London, perhaps above those of any other community in the world, their genius has not, at least in modern times, shone with any remarkable lustre in the inventive line. Their favourite modes of entrapping their prey seem to be nearly the same in the present day as they were two or three hundred years ago.. pocket-picking in all its forms was practised as cleverly, and taught as elaborately, in the London of the times of Elizabeth and James as by the . . . hidden real life of our own day. But probably the reason of this is really the excellence of these old tricks and wiles -their perfect serviceableness for their purpose, and nice accordance with the principles of human nature, as proved by the wonderful success with which they continue to be employed, after having been in use for so long a series of years ; innovation is not to be heedlessly ventured upon in pocket-picking any more than in politics." * (* Vol. iv., pp. 225-6.)
In illustration of the truth of these observations, one of the missionaries of the London City Mission states:-
"I found on my appointment to this district, a room opened on it, in which children of both sexes were instructed On the doll, the image of a lady or gentleman was dressed up, and suspended from the roof. A purse was placed in the pocket, containing sixpence. A bell hung inside. The youths who could extract the purse, without causing the bell to ring, got the sixpence. This instruction I have seen given."
[-14-] "Another mode of training for theft is still practised by a man who keeps several boys, and lives by their plunder. He trains them on his own pockets, or on the pocket of the female with whom he lives.
"But the more common mode of training is in lodging-houses kept for this class. They practise on each other, the most expert always acting as teacher. This is the mode in which most of those who have been passed through my hands have been trained."
Nor is the disposal of stolen property very materially different now to what it was. A second missionary of the London City Mission states:-
"I could at this day undertake, without difficulty, to dispose of 1,000l. of stolen property of any description, whether in money or in goods, in five minutes time, at one place on the district, for which I should get one-third of the real value. A second third is taken off the price of sale, so that stolen goods are to be bought at two-thirds their price, and the remaining third is considered an equivalent for the risk which is run in dealing in stolen property. There are, probably, thirty more parties known to me in the district, to whom I could dispose of almost anything which was moveable, in cart or by hand, at the same rate. Boys dispose of stolen goods to these dealers, as easily as men or women."
The following truly remarkable case, related by one of the missionaries of the London City Mission, as having recently occurred to him, illustrates the fearful amount of iniquity which may arise from a single individual in the corrupting of youth. While walking down one of the new streets in the East of London, he was followed by two youths. Proceeding onwards, he came up to six men, standing at the end of a narrow street. He saw at once to what class they belonged, and addressed them. The two [-15-] youths halted, and joined in with the party. They were evidently acquainted with each other. The men gave just such an answer as might be expected to the inquiry, whether they had no employment, viz., that they were out of work. The missionary gave them to understand that he was perfectly aware of their calling, and told them at once who he was, and that his object in addressing them was to benefit them. He then appealed to them, whether they were really happy? on which one of them replied, "Well, Sir, as you have been so plain with me, I will tell you that I am not happy; and that if I had the chance of getting an honest livelihood, I should be very glad." As he said this, he pulled from his pocket a religious tract much soiled. It was a tract which had been given him by another missionary of that Society. "That," said he, "is among the things that make me unhappy!" The missionary gave him his card, and told him that if he would call on him at Westminster, he would see whether he could not do something for him. He came. The missionary promised to get him into a Reformatory Institution, which he had established for repentant thieves. He accepted the offer with great thankfulness. During four months which he continued there, he gave satisfactory proof of his sincerity, and of the change produced in his mind. He has since emigrated for America. This man had for 20 years been leading a criminal life, and had been in prison more than 20 times. He had resided in a low lodging-house, where he had lived by taking in boys, and training them to pick pockets. The best hands among them were sent into the streets, and brought home the Plunder for their common support. "But," said he, " I never could keep the young 'uns long. As soon as they became clever at their profession, if they were not taken by the police, they would leave me, and start for themselves, [-16-] which obliged me to look out for new hands." The missionary asked him why he did not go out himself, instead of exposing these young lads to danger? He said, the reason was, because he was himself too well known to the police, and they would follow him whenever they saw him. The missionary then asked him how many boys he had trained? The perfectly fearful answer which he gave was, that he could not exactly tell, but he should think he had not had fewer than five hundred!
What an amount of evil among the juvenile population had this one man effected And what an amount of good has the small sum expended on his reclamation, by God's blessing, effected! Who can fail to see how much better it is, financially as well as morally, to seek rather to reform than to punish, especially where there is a willingness to reform ?
And yet to how small an extent has this more economical, more merciful, and more Christian plan been pursued! In one street only, in the south of London, there now exist 1,500 destitute and criminal juveniles, for whom there is not even a school provided; and in another single street, in the east of London, 1,000 children of a similar class were found last year without any other school than one conducted by Papists in a private dwelling-house. Is it to be wondered at that juvenile crime exists, and even increases, in the metropolis, when the class from which it springs is so often neglected? What else, under such circumstances, can be expected, but that it should be perpetuated and multiplied?
It ought also distinctly to be understood, that there are very many indeed of this class who are willing to be reformed, and brought under Christian instruction and training, and that the means only are requisite to enable [-17-] them to carry out their desires. One of the missionaries of the London City Mission met with fifty such cases recently in one night.
Their Gradations in Proficiency.
In accordance with their training, the pupils differ much from each other. There are numerous grades and subdivisions in the juvenile thieving department of crime. A certain class of boys do nothing but steal provisions from shop-doors, and sell the provisions they get to lodging-house keepers. There is another class of boys who pick men's pockets, but never touch a woman's. Another class pursue the more difficult employment of picking women's pockets, and give themselves entirely up to what, in a sad insensibility to crime, they call " that branch of business." Others addict themselves entirely to stealing tills, or, as it is ordinarily called, "drawing the damper."
Importance of Missionary Operations among this Class.
(From the "Times. )
In what way are they to be taught what is right? How
are they most effectually to be rescued from ruin ?
The following is the suggestion of an able leading article which appeared in the "Times" newspaper some years since. After adverting to the fearful present condition of many parts of London, in which juvenile thieves are nurtured and matured, the writer proceeds:-
"It is in these wretched districts that herds of men, but little removed from the savage state, are grouped. It is from these regions that the population of our gaols is supplied; and in these eddies of civilized society is gathered all the filth, the crime, the savage recklessness, which is subsequently carried to the Antipodes, and causes the sad and melancholy statement from New Zealand, that the white [-18-] settlers have more to fear from the white man, their countryman, a member once of a refined state of society, than they have to dread from the savage and the cannibal ! But whence came this white savage ? From this vast metropolis, the seat of wealth, splendour, and refinement! It is in the purlieus of crime that the zealous should labour to disseminate the holy precepts of our religion, and man there dwelling should be taught the relative duties of society. This is the fountain-head of that dark stream of pollution, and it is at the source that the evil should be grappled. This is the plainest and most common-sense preventive. Home missionaries and well-directed philanthropy would do more real service to the cause of humanity than at first might strike the imagination. It would be a check to crime, and it would be in these districts that the zealous missionary would meet the offender fresh from prison, before he has time to relapse into evil courses, and the observations made by him on the subsequent habits of offenders, would afford to the Legislature a greater insight into the workings of any system than any commissioners' reports. The greater difficulty in working out this plan would be the selection of persons of talent, who, while they ought to possess a thorough knowledge of mankind, should be careful not to allow their religious exhortations to dwindle into drawling cant; for the thief is no fool-if he was, he would not be fit for a thief. The object would fail in its effect if it became a laughing-stock in the eyes of these strangely-organized or rather disorganized, members of society; who, though they might abhor the cannibal for eating a human being, yet have no objection themselves to prey upon their fellow-creatures The home missionary would have great opportunity of observing the Sincerity of men who, having undergone imprisonment, might wish to reform. His opportunities would be far greater, and likely [-19-] to be far more correct, than of any chaplain in a prison, who sees his man caged and cooped in a cell.
"The reports of these persons would enable the philanthropist to recommend some honest course to a man disposed to avoid his former evil associations: he might be enabled to assist him in free emigration. In short, the benefits would be so clear, and the want of these benefits is so glaring, that it is much to be hoped the high Prelates of the land may peruse, approve, and ultimately urge the Ministry to adopt these simple, but efficient, plans to prevent juvenile and adult crime, and save this country the disgrace of sending out. a population more brutal than a savage, and more savage than a brute."
The Ragged School Movement.
The establishment of the London City Mission, for the
home missionary purposes referred to in the foregoing
extract from the "Times," has led the way to the establishment of Ragged Schools and the Ragged School Union.
This is a most important feature of modern times, so far as
this class of population is concerned. Such schools exist
flow in most large towns, but in none of them to anything
approaching the extent that they do in the metropolis. The
noble President of the Ragged School Union, Lord Shaftesbury, whose attention has been especially drawn to this
class, and to whom the movement on their behalf is so
much, and indeed so mainly, indebted, has observed:-
"It is needless to discuss what was the origin of Ragged Schools; the fact is, that they have now acquired so much favour, that people and places contend for their origin, just as the seven cities disputed the birth-place of Homer. We cannot tell where they were born; by God's blessing they exist - by that blessing they will still go forward; but whenever you enter a Ragged School, remember this - we [-20-] are indebted for nine-tenths of them to the humble, the pious, the earnest city missionary.
The Connexion of the Ragged School Movement with the Operations of the London City Mission.
The intimate connexion of the one effort with the other
will appear from the following extract of the Annual Report
of the London City Mission for 1852:-
"The number of children sent by the missionaries to schools during the past year is 5,986, being an increase of 327. A large proportion of these have been sent to Ragged Schools. In the Ragged School movement this Committee has always taken, and still takes, the deepest interest. . . . To the Union they also feel they owe a debt of gratitude, for the grants which its Committee have made to the numerous Ragged Schools called into existence by the efforts of' the missionaries, and still replenished with scholars to a considerable extent by their exertions, How intimately the Ragged School movement has been connected with the working of the Mission appears from a return made by the missionaries, at the desire of the Committee, of the number of Ragged Schools in their respective districts. They amount to 93; a number which leaves but a mere fractional remainder of the total number of Ragged Schools for that half of the metropolis which is yet not under the visitation of the Mission, although in that half are comprised districts of especial poverty and destitution. The total number of Ragged Schools reported by the Ragged School Union, as existing in connexion with themselves, in their last Report, was 102, to which must be added now any addition made during the present year, as well as those schools, very few in number, which are not connected with the Union."
A further illustration of the dependance of the one movement on the other is given in the following extract, taken [-21-] from the evidence of Mr. William Locke, the honorary but active Secretary of the Ragged School Union, before the Committee of the House of Commons, on Criminal and Destitute Juveniles:-
"How are the children [of Ragged Schools] admitted? - The children are admitted in many cases by personal application; they are admitted in many other cases by the teachers going round and seeking for them, and by the assistance of the city missionaries (agents of the London City Mission), who have been exceedingly useful to us from the very first, not only in finding scholars, but in helping to establish schools, and in getting the goodwill of parents towards us and our operations.
"Be good enough to describe shortly the duties and character of the Institution to which you have just referred; that term has occurred in the course of the evidence several times? - It is a Society, consisting of 275 missionaries, who visit from house to house daily for six hours a-day. Their business is to read the Scriptures to the poor, to engage in prayer with them, and to have stated meetings on certain days in the week for the purpose of expounding the Scriptures to all whom they can get to assemble-to visit the poor, especially in sickness; and it has occurred, that thousands who have died in London in the low neighbourhoods have had no one to visit them or attend them on their death beds except the City missionary.
"Are they members of the Church of England exclusively? - No, not exclusively; they consist of members of both Church of England and Dissenting congregations; the Committee, likewise, I may as well observe, is, like our owfl Committee, on quite an unsectarian basis, - Dissenters and Churchmen working together harmoniously in carrying the Gospel into the lowest parts of London.
"Can you inform the Committee how long that Society [-22-] has existed? - About 17 years, during which time it has done more for the poor of London than any other Society I know."
Ragged Schools in an especial manner free from the Difficulties of Difference of Creed and Interference with the Duties of Parents.
There are two main difficulties in the way of schools in
general, from which Ragged Schools are particularly free.
One arises from the differences of religious sects, and which
has so continually presented itself', that it has stood in the
way, perhaps more than any other cause, of educational
progress among the lower classes. But this really has no
existence in the matter of Ragged Schools. When, therefore, the Recorder of Birmingham was asked, in his recent
examination before a Committee of the house of Commons,
with reference to the extension of Ragged Schools, "Do you
think that the differences which have existed upon religious
matters in various classes of the community would create
additional difficulty ?" he gave the pertinent reply:-
"The only difficulty I apprehend exists among those who, like yourself and your class of society, are discussing it. With regard to these poor creatures themselves, they have scarcely any religious differences; and I rather think, that if inquiry were made among the governors and chaplains of gaols, the Committee would find the provision for calling in the aid of other denominations than that of the Church of England very rarely indeed put in action. The truth is, that the class from which criminals are drawn have no religion at all. They are not divisible into Roman Catholics and Protestants. They are for the most part practically heathens."
Efforts have been made occasionally to establish Church of' England Ragged Schools, and, as is generally the case in [-23-] such exclusive movements, with High Church patronage; but as might be expected, the efforts have been almost invariably miserable failures. It is only to be regretted that they should ever have been made. Certainly the credit of the Church of England has not been promoted thereby.
A second objection, sometimes made against schools, is, that the training of the children is taken out of the parents' hands, on whom it devolves by the law of nature. Even to the present day this is strongly felt, so far as the conducting them to public worship is concerned, by the Scotch, than whom no part of our population are more sensible of the value of education. But in the case of Ragged Schools, at all events, this objection has little force. For the children almost invariably either cannot tell who are their parents, or their parents are utterly unfitted to teach them what is good, being themselves the victims of' vice and iniquity.
Early Approaches to the Ragged School System.
Something approaching to the system of Ragged Schools
had occasionally been tried long since in different parts of
the country. These preliminary trials are thus enumerated
by John Macgregor, Esq., M.A., one of the most active
members of the Ragged School Union Committee:-
"Isolated efforts there were, no doubt, both numerous and effective, from the time when men first cared for the ignorant, and bestirred themselves to teach the truth; but most of these will be found, on examination, to want one or other of those essential features which constitute a Ragged School - [i.e.] a school in which the most squalid, filthy, ignorant, and degraded criminal receives free instruction in the Scriptures from a body of unpaid, voluntary teachers, of all evangelical denominations. The exertions of Joseph Alleine in this field date two centuries ago ; and after him, in Gloucester, Robert Raikes founded a Ragged School in [-24-] 1781. Congregational efforts of this description were numerous, and among them stood conspicuous that of Mr. Rowland Hill. There was another similar institution founded in Chelsea, while the first schools of' Lancaster were conducted precisely after the model. Next we hear of one in Dublin, flourishing still, and fruitful; and the shoemaker of Portsmouth, John Edwards by name, died about 12 years ago, having commenced and conducted alone, until the advanced age of 72, a school which is the true type of the species."
The first Ragged School in London, as established in "the Old Stable" at Westminster.
"The first [Ragged School, in the strict sense of the
term] in London was in the old stable where Walker
taught, according to Mr. Macgregor's statement. This
"Walker" is one of the missionaries of the London City
Mission, and the "old stable" was at Westminster. The
following most touching account of its formation was written
in 1840, four years before the London Ragged School Union
was formed, by Mr. George Wilson, of Westminster, and
was published in the same year. It was two years previous
to this date that the school was first formed in a smaller
room, which could only be had on Sundays.
A lamentable destitution of the Scriptures prevailed in all the Westminster districts previous to the late supply afforded to the London City Mission by the British and Foreign Bible Society. On visiting one house in Duck-lane, the missionary now on this district was met by the man who kept it, who told him he had better pass on, for no one there or in the next house wanted his assistance. The missionary, however, got into conversation with this man and drew him out, and learned that all the inhabitants were thieves or coiners; that several who had formerly belonged to the gang had been executed, and many of them up stairs were returned [-25-] convicts, He expressed his earnest wish to see them, and the man, who gave his card, 'The Chelsea Snob, Professor of Pugilism,' said, 'Well, I will accompany you, and protect you from insolence.' The missionary went up and saw them all. He was received respectfully and subsequently supplied them with the Testament and Psalter. It appeared a most unpromising soil, but extraordinary results followed some months afterwards. At another little hut in a back court, when he opened the door be found a travelling tinker, preparing his barrow to go out to mend tin ware and grind knives. In reply to the question, 'Have you a Bible?' he swore vehemently, and replied, 'Yes.' The missionary said, 'What sort of a religion do you learn from it that lets you swear so?' He said, 'Religion ! Oh, you shall see my religion if you are not off!' and, opening a cupboard, he whistled to two great dogs which were used for fighting at Duck-lane Theatre. 'There,' he said, 'that's my religion.' The missionary talked with him, and subsequently gave him a Testament, and invited him to his room. To the surprise of the missionary he came, brought his Testament with him, followed the missionary in his readings, was most attentive, and brought other men of the same trade as himself. The missionary called at his residence frequently, but could not find him at home for two or three months. He learned from the wife, however, that the dogs were sold, and he had told her, that sport was all over with him now. When the missionary got an opportunity to see him, be found him a broken-hearted penitent.
"After some time it was proposed to get the children together out of the streets to the room on the Lord's-day, to instruct them, and the missionary, in giving this notice at his room, asked any person who could, to come and help to teach them. The poor tinker kept back until the last, and then said that he was not much of a scholar, but if he [-26-] could do anything, such as go round and persuade the children to come, or be useful in any other way, he should be glad to help. His services were accepted, and, although that took place nearly two years back, the tinker has never been absent but one Sunday, and that was through illness. He is the first in the school and the last out. While he is endeavouning to teach others his own mind has opened, and his walk and conversation have been becoming the Gospel.* [* Since the above was written he has been appointed, by the club of tinkers like himself, a sort of steward or visitor of their sick and infirm members; he has, in consequence, been obliged to leave the school, but carries with him to the bed-sides of those he visits the glad news of salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ.] We had a pleasing testimony as to his private habits in the following way:- A poor wretched girl was found living in sin, who appeared penitent; but a difficulty arose, for we could not meet any poor virtuous person at the moment who would take her in and shelter her until an asylum could be obtained: and we find it necessary to do this while the good impression is upon such characters, or else, if they return to their former mode of subsistence, we fear the opportunity for reclaiming them is lost. Well, in this difficulty the poor tinker said, 'Let her go to my wife, and I will sleep in the shed for a few nights.' She did so. Since then she has been got into a situation, where she is going on well. When the missionary called, after a time, to see how she got on, the mistress said, 'Oh, she wants a Bible; for the tinker used to read the Bible and pray with them morning and night, and charged her to do so; but she has not got one, and she wishes to do what the tinker told her-he was such a good man, and so anxious for her welfare.' 'Instead of the thorn shall come lip the fir-tree.' Truly the most humble, when blessed with the grace of God themselves, become blessings to others. [-27-] "The school was formed; 44 children were gotten together on the first Sunday. Very few of them had shoes, not many had shirts; some little fellows made a ludicrous appearance, having their fathers' coats on, which just came above their heads, while the tail reached to the ground. This buttoned up served to cover the want of shirt and other under-clothing. Thirty-eight of them could not tell their letters, never having been to school before: for such the missionary sought in his visits, and I believe all of them were fetched on the day by him, and brought in his hand. He worked very hard; they were remarkably attentive and anxious to learn: and when, after two or three Sundays, we had a reward-viz., a little piece of pasteboard with' the prayer printed on it, 'Create in me a clean heart,' with a long piece of red tape to suspend it round the neck, and to be given in each class to the child who could repeat most perfectly a verse or two of Scripture which they had been taught on the former Sunday - there was as much' anxiety to obtain it as though it had been a medal of gold ; and the successful competitor, in dirt and rags, appeared to think himself highly honoured for once.
"It was soon found that these children lost in the week all the good they had gained on the Lord's-day. They spent their time playing in the streets, and were idle, vicious, and dissolute: their extreme poverty (owing frequently to the vice of the parents, many of whom were thieves or prostitutes) prevented them either from paying even a penny per week, or from attending those schools, open gratuitously to the poor, but who were expected to come clean and decent. We therefore resolved to open a large room for the reception of such children only, and try the experiment for three months. A stable in Pie-street was obtained and fitted up, and here we have an average attendance of about 120 children, all of this wretchedly poor class. Some of them [-28-] have scarcely sufficient clothes to cover them decently, very few shoes or stockings, but all who come are, without exception, received and attended to. Any children of this kind met with by the missionaries in their visitations are brought to this school. Their names are arranged in districts, and the list of absentees in each district is given to the missionary thereof every Monday morning, who, in the course of the week, visits their abodes and reports the cause of absence; and this attention to the poor, outcast, and hitherto-neglected children of these very poor and wretched persons, has amazingly won upon the parents and delighted them, while the missionaries, by this, amongst other means, gain a growing esteem in the hearts of the people.
"The expense of fitting up this school and paying the master has been great; but it has been borne entirely by private subscription, and has in no way entrenched on the funds of the Mission. The present superintendent of the district is the treasurer, who receives subscriptions. A lady of title, whose name I cannot mention without feelings of respect and gratitude, has taken a great interest in this school, wretched as is the neighbourhood and the school. room, and the class of children who meet there; yet she has attended the school, assisted in its working, brought others to see it, and obtained those subscriptions which have met its expenses, but without which it could not have been carried on. It has now been open about ten months. Other kind ladies have also lent assistance, and Mr. Dunn, of the British and Foreign School Society, has kindly given his advice and obtained books, &c.; and, if such help be continued, there is every reason to hope the school will continue to prosper and be a blessing to these poor outcasts.
"In this school-room the meetings are held for prayer and reading the Scriptures; and since the lodging-houses have been well visited, and the school established, the inmates of [-29-] those places and the parents of the school children have attended in such numbers as to fill the place. Latterly the singing has been led by a beggar-man, who sings in the streets, whom the missionary met with at one of the lodging-houses, and who had never attended a place of worship before.
"An incident, which much affected my mind, occurred at this room when first the public-houses were closed on the Lord's-day morning. Two women, with children in their arms, came one evening and requested the missionary to thank God for having put it into the heart of the Legislature to close the gin-shops, &c. on the Sunday. They said their husbands were coal-porters, and, until then, had not for years been sober on a Sunday; but now they dined comfortably at home, with their families and wives and children and fathers were all so happy together. They entreated him to pray that God would be pleased to incline our rulers to perfect the work, and have them closed all the Sabbath-day.
"One of the poor boys in the New Pie-street School has lately died, and the following is a verbatim statement, taken down from the missionary's lips, of what he has known and learned of the boy during his illness:- The day or two before he died, he called his sister, a girl about nine years of age, to his bed-side, and told her what a bad girl site was to her parents, and where she would go if she did not seek a new heart from God. He entreated her to obey her parents and to keep the Sabbath. He said that he was about to go to heaven, but there she could never come except she sought mercy through Jesus Christ. He then called his mother - told her what a bad woman she was, never to go to God's house, or pray, or read the Bible, or care for the Saviour; and if she died so, she would go to hell. Those were his very words. 'Oh!' he said, 'pray for a new heart!' He then called his father, and told him, 'I am going to my heavenly Father, where,' he said, 'you can never come, [-30-] unless your sins be pardoned and your heart changed.' He blessed his teachers, and the missionary, who, he said, had told him of Jesus Christ dying for sinners such as he was. He requested his mother, with great solemnity, to tell his grandmother to pray to God for pardon, or she would go to hell. Those were his words. The boy died, and the grandmother fell sick the same week with inflammation of the stomach; and the words of the boy deeply affected her mind. The missionary never visited her (and he did so daily) without her mentioning these words. She was directed to the Saviour - she sought for mercy: she has recovered from her sickness, and attends constantly the Wesleyan chapel. The missionary met, at this poor old woman's bed-side, during her illness, one of her daughters from the East-end of London, who had been a great sinner. He pressed on her the necessity of seeking the salvation of her soul. She was deeply impressed, but lamented that her husband was a Socialist. The missionary lent her Mr. Ainslie's lecture, 'Is there a God?' and Mr. Garwood's, 'Is the Bible of Divine Authority?' for her husband to read. He did so. When she was going again to see her mother, she told her husband she must take the books back. He said, 'Ask him to lend them me another week or two - I must read them again.' He has done so, and he has thanked the missionary for them, saying, 'They are very convincing;' and he has given up the Socialist meeting, and allows his wife to attend the house of God."
The Report of this School, as printed by Order of the House of Commons.
"New Pie-street, Westminster. - This school for the
destitute was opened in January, 1840. It is designed for
the children of persons inhabiting the most wretched parts
of Westminster, many of whom are professionally beggars
others get their bread by selling various articles about the
streets, and it may be stated, that three-fourths of them are
probably deeply engaged in crime.* (* printed prospectus of the school). It was opened originally as a Sunday-school, but it was found
'that the good
effects of the Sunday's teaching were done away by the
mischievous influence of domestic habits and example during
the week. With a view to remedy this, a day-school was
formed in addition to the Sunday-school. A few persons
hired a stable, by way of experiment, for three months; this
was rudely fitted up as a school-room, when, to their
surprise, no less than to their gratification, they had in
a few weeks 120 children. For some time past there have
been 170 in constant attendance, and at the present time the
names of 200 and upwards are upon the books.' The
accommodation afforded in this building is of the humblest
kind. The tiled roof remains without a ceiling ; the floor is
only partially boarded; no ventilation could carry off the
exhalations inseparable from such a spot. Nevertheless, it
has satisfactorily served the purpose of the experiment that
has been tried in it, and the attendance being steady and
increasing, the influential persons who have interested themselves about the formation of this school, and contributed to
its support, now contemplate an attempt to provide funds for
a proper building.
"The appearance of the children sufficiently denoted the class to which they belonged. Many were without shoes or stockings; almost all were of English parents; some were so ill-clad, that their naked skin appeared through many parts of their tattered clothing; all were equally dirty, the effect of extreme poverty or domestic depravity, and therefore its correction was very properly left to time. They were ranged on forms for want of desks, of which the confined space does not admit of a sufficient number. The master stated, that [-32-] 'by talking kindly to the new-comers, they became after a little time willing to learn.' Eighteen out of seventy boys present could read fairly; thirty could write a word on their slates; six wrote on paper. They were classed in three divisions, by which the master was able to give his personal attention to each for nearly an hour during every school time, in addition to the scriptural lesson addressed to them all. They expressed pleasure when they found themselves learning something, and in some instances, when they were able to read, they were glad to be allowed to take home a book to read to their parents. Some good results are said to have been traced to occasions of this kind. It caused evident and very natural satisfaction to them to perceive that the darkness and confusion of ignorance was giving place in their minds to new ideas, and that instead of the neglect, perhaps aversion, to which their poverty had made them familiar elsewhere in the school, they met with nothing but kind treatment, and consideration for their deficiencies. No prizes or rewards, no gifts of clothing, or bribes in any shape for attendance, were allowed, neither were punishments, except of the slightest kind, and those seldom found necessary. The apparatus is scanty, consisting only of twelve Bibles, six copy-books, a few lesson-boards, and three slates. They had learnt to sing by ear a few songs and hymns. The school is dismissed daily with a short, impressive, and appropriate prayer. On passing out of the school ninny seemed pleased to exchange salutations with the master, and some advanced to him for a friendly shake of the hand. 'Christian instruction and Christian benevolence' had awakened their sympathies, and led them to feel that 'the world and the world's law' was not altogether against them. Some were the children of known thieves; some had themselves been habituated to thieving; others were orphans; and all belong to the poorest and most destitute [-33-] grade of life. The instruction was of course gratuitous, and care was said to be taken not to abstract any from schools where payment was enforced, and also not to admit those whose parents could afford to send them elsewhere. It was found, indeed, that very few of the latter would, under any circumstances, allow their children to mix with the class of which this school is composed. It is stated, that before it was opened, no fewer than eighteen children had been transported from families now sending children to it, but that since it has been in operation there has not been one. 'The same benevolent persons* (* "Missionaries of the London City Mission") who have induced the children to attend the school, endeavour to secure that they do so regularly; they use every argument to persuade the parents to send them, and they call almost daily to satisfy themselves that the children are present; they also go to the residences of the absentees to ascertain the reason of their non-attendance.' A part of the stable was fitted up as an infant-school, and contains 100. They are taught in the method of the Infant-school Society, by a mistress who has received instruction at that establishment, and who had succeeded in making some progress with the different materials with which she had to deal. Twenty-four had learnt to read the lesson-boards; 8 could read in the Testament, and could repeat texts with accuracy and intelligence; 16 could work with the needle; a few were taught to scour and clean the school-room. They were furnished only with a few slates, on which some had learnt to write, and also a little ciphering. While the eldest class is at needlework, one of the number reads a story to the rest from a book. They were able to repeat hymns and other simple pieces of poetry, and took an interest in the scriptural and other subjects to which their attention was directed.
"I made a subsequent visit to this school, with the view [-34-] of endeavouring to satisfy myself by personal inquiries to what class of society the children attending it belonged; and whether it was probable that they were withdrawn to any extent from other schools, where payments were required and regularity of attendance enforced, and attracted to this by the circumstance of its being gratuitous, and by the absence of any attempt to make neatness and cleanliness of dress and person a rule and a characteristic. Sixty boys were present; and of these, taken seriatim, I obtained from the master the following particulars:-
" Seven had been at other schools, 4 of them at National, 3 at British; 2 of the former had been dismissed for irregularity of attendance: the parents of the remaining 5 were said to be too poor to dress them decently, and to provide the weekly payments.
"Twenty-five were the children of parents in various grades, of very humble employment, having from 2 to 5 young children each, and subject to be frequently without work altogether. A few of these had 1 child at a school where payments are made, but were unable to afford to pay for more, or to procure proper and decent clothing for them.
"Eleven had lost their fathers, and were supported by their mothers, having also from 2 to 4 children each to provide for: the mothers of three sold fruit in the streets; 2 more sold herrings and fire-wood; 3 were women. It was stated that the mother of one was often obliged to earn a trifling sum by her morning's occupation before she could provide a breakfast for her child, which she brought to him to the school; the child of another remained frequently at the school all day without food, the mother bringing some when she was able.
"Five had been deserted by their parents, and were dependent on the sympathy of neighbours.
"Five were the children of men of notoriously bad [-35-] characters, one of them a known thief: one of the former had come to the school to hear his child read, which me was unable to do himself, and expressed much surprise.
"One was an orphan, supported by relatives.
"One the son of a blind beggar.
"Four were engaged in employments that kept them up a great part of the night, or occupied them from an early hour in the morning; they consequently came to school only in the afternoon: one of these was employed to sell bread and cold meat to the waggoners, drovers, &c., coming into London to the markets, or in some similar occupation another sold ginger-beer in the streets to a late hour; a third sold lucifer-matches; a fourth, water-cresses, &c., early in the morning.
"Six only were the children of parents whose general condition might enable them to pay for the instruction of their children, and 2 of these were at the time out of work.
"There can, I apprehend, be little doubt that this school is a source of usefulness: there can, I should think, be as little, that in this and other parishes in which the poorer parts of the population are congregated, there must be many children still in want of places of refuge and instruction such as this, to which they can have recourse without payment, where the sorriest garb and exterior will not find itself in a position of painful contrast; where the treatment will be kind and considerate, and the instruction, though humble, yet sensibly conducted, in a manner to draw forth the faculties hitherto lying dormant through neglect, and to call into action right feelings and affections which mismanagement or harshness may have repressed. The success of the experiment, in this instance, has shown itself in the improved habits of some of these children; in the pleasure signified by others at finding total ignorance superseded by some gleams of knowledge ; in gratitude to their benefactors; [-36-] in growing self-respect, which manifests itself in attention to the precepts and suggestions of the master, on behalf of cleanliness and propriety even of the poorest dress. The school was formed, not without much personal exertion, by a paid agent and others representing to parents, too ignorant, perhaps, or too regardless to make a voluntary effort, the duty and the benefit of giving their children the opportunity of obtaining some religious and useful instruction. Having so far secured their confidence, and formed, as it were, this nucleus, the influential persons who commenced the work on behalf of their poorer fellow-parishioners, are now desirous of extending it by providing a proper building; and as at the period of my visit they made known to me their intention of applying to the Committee of Council for aid, I have given these details as material for their Lordships' consideration."
Mr. Charles Dickens's Account of the Plot of Ground on which this School stood, called "The Devil's Acre."
The plot of ground in Westminster on which
stood was known by the name of "The Devil's Acre," and it
is thus described by Mr. Charles Dickens, in his " Household Words:"-
"There are multitudes who believe that Westminster is a city of palaces, of magnificent squares, and regal terraces; that it is the chosen seat of opulence, grandeur, and refinement; and that filth, squalor, arid misery, are the denizens of other and less favoured sections of the metropolis. The error is not in associating with Westminster much of the grandeur and splendour of the capital, but in entirely dissociating it in idea from the darker phases of metropolitan life. As the brightest lights cast the deepest shadows, so are the splendours and luxuries of the West-end found in juxta-position with the most deplorable manifestations of [-37-] human wretchedness and depravity. There is no part of the metropolis which presents a more chequered aspect, both physical and moral, than Westminster. The most lordly streets are frequently but a mask for the squalid districts which lie behind them, whilst spots consecrated to the most hallowed of purposes are begirt by scenes of indescribable infamy and pollution; the blackest tide of moral turpitude that flows in the capital rolls its filthy wavelets up to the very walls of Westminster Abbey; and the law-makers for one-seventh of the human race sit, night after night, in deliberation, in the immediate vicinity of the most notorious haunt of law-breakers in the Empire. There is no district in London more filthy and disgusting, more steeped in villany and guilt, than that on which every morning's sun casts the sombre shadows of the Abbey, mingled, as they soon will be, with those of the gorgeous towers of the new Palace at Westminster.
"The 'Devil's Acre,' as it is familiarly known in the neighbourhood, is the square block comprised between Dean, Peter, and Tothill-streets, and Strutton-ground. It is permeated by Orchard-street, St. Anne's-street, Old and New Pye-streets, Pear-street, Perkins'-rents, and Duck-lane. From some of these, narrow covered passage-ways lead into small quadrangular courts, containing but a few crazy, tumble-down-looking houses, and inhabited by characters of the most equivocal description. The district, which is small in area, is one of the most populous in London, almost every house being crowded with numerous families and multitudes of lodgers. There are other parts of the town as filthy, dingy, and forbidding in appearance as this, but these are generally the haunts more of poverty than crime. But there are none in which guilt of all kinds mind degrees converges in such volume as on this, the moral plague-spot, not only of the metropolis, but also of the kingdom. And yet [-38-] from almost every point of it you can observe the towers of the Abbey peering down upon you, as if they were curious to observe that to which they seem to be indifferent.
"Such is the spot which true Christian benevolence has, for some time, marked as a chosen field for its most unostentatious operations. It was first taken possession of, with a view to its improvement, by the London City Mission, a body represented in the district by a single missionary, who has now been for about 12 years labouring - and not without success - in the arduous work of its purification; and who, by his energy, tact, and perseverance, has acquired such an influence over its turbulent and lawless population, as makes him a safer escort to the stranger desirous of visiting it, than a whole posse of police.* (* The number of missionaries of that Society now located in Westminster is 10.) By the aid of several opulent philanthropists whom he has interested in his labours, he has reared up within the district 2 schools, which are numerously attended by the squalid children of the neighbourhood, - one of these schools having an Industrial Department connected with it. An exclusively Industrial School for boys of more advanced age has also been established, which has recently been attached to the Ragged School Union.* (*This school has lately been closed for want of funds.) In addition to these, another Institution has been called into existence, to which and to whose objects the reader's attention will be afterwards drawn.
"The Pye-street schools being designed only for children - many of whom, on admission, manifest an almost incredible precocity in crime - those of a more advanced age seeking instruction amid reformation were not eligible to admission."
To meet such applicants the missionary took them under his own care, provided them with board and lodgings, and [-39-] at the same time had them placed under daily instruction. After such cases had given evidence of a moral change, to remove them entirely from the influence of old companions, at their own request, they were assisted to emigrate. Of this class the missionary has for a number of years been the means of benefiting, on an average, about 30 annually.
Letter of the Children of this School to the city Missionary.
In the Annual Report of the London City Mission for
1843, it was stated of this school:-
"The children of Pye-street School, a school founded by the missionary, the conditions of entering into which were ignorance, rags, and wretchedness - these children, many of them the offspring of the most degraded and profligate persons in Westminster, are now not only instructed and clothed, but they are making their little efforts for the benefit of others. Six of them, representing the whole school, lately waited upon the missionary, and put into his hands a letter, of which the following is a copy. It should be stated, on the authority of the schoolmistress, that the letter and the contribution originated with themnselves, and the 6 children who waited on the missionary all took a part in the writing of the letter. It is dated,-
" New Pye-street Girls' School,
April 10, 1843.
" Dear Sir,-We know that we need not tell you that
among us, the poor children of New Pye-street School, there
is a little Missionary Society. We have subscribed and sent
our farthings to buy Bibles for the black people, that they
may know about God, but we learn that there are white
Heathens as well as black, and therefore we wish to help
them. Will you be pleased to accept of 14s. as our contribution to the London City Mission for this purpose, and as
[-40-] an expression of our gratitude to Almighty God for sending
us Bibles and teachers to explain them. Some of us, whose
names you will know, beg that you will pardon us for having
grieved you lately; we have resolved, with God's help, to
forsake our evil ways, and we ask both your forgiveness and
" We remain, dear Sir, "
With grateful respect,
" The children of New Pye-street School,
M. A. HOGAN.
ANN SARAH RAWLINS.
" To ' Mr. Walker.'" &c. &c.
"Such a letter from children rescued from the streets, some of whom, ere this, had it not been for the school and the missionary, would have been the inmates of our prisons, is deeply interesting, and would teach a statesman that the improvement of a population and the prevention of crime, are not to be effected by the erection of model prisons, but, among other means, by the erection of school-houses, in which the great principles of the Bible shall be faithfully taught, and children made to feel, that there are nobler enjoyments than those, which either ignorance or vice can afford."
Dickens's Narrative of Emigrants from this School.
Mr. Dickens thus narrates two interesting cases of emigrants from this school:-
"It is encouraging to know that the most favourable accounts have been received from emigrants who left the Pear-street School. It is now some time since a lad, who, although only 14, was taken into the latter, was sent to [-41-] Australia. He had been badly brought up; his mother, during his boyhood, having frequently sent him out, either to beg or to steal. About a year after her son's departure, she called, in a state of deep distress, upon the missionary of the district, and informed him that her scanty furniture was about to be seized for rent, asking him at the same time for advice. He told her that he had none to give liner, but to go and pay the rent, at the same time handing liner a sovereign. She received it hesitatingly, doubting, for a moment, the evidence of her senses. She went and paid the rent, which was 18s., and afterwards returned with the change, which she tendered to the missionary with her heartfelt thanks.
He told her to keep the balance, as the sovereign was her own - informing her, at the same time, that it had been sent her by her son, and had that very morning so opportunely come to hand together with a letter, which he afterwards read to her. The poor woman for a moment or two looked stupefied and incredulous, after which she sank upon a chair, and wept long and bitterly. The contrast between her son's behaviour and her own conduct towards him, filled her with shame and remorse. She is now preparing to follow him to Australia.
"Another case was that of a young man, over 20 years of age, who had likewise been admitted, under special circumstances, to the same Institution. He had been abandoned by his parents in his early youth, and had taken to the streets to avert the miseries of destitution. He soon became expert in the art of picking pockets, on one occasion depriving a person in Cornhill of no less than 150l. in bank notes. With this, the largest booty he had ever made, he repaired to a house in the neighbourhood, where stolen property was received. Into the room into which he was shown, a gloved hand was projected, through an aperture in the wall, from an adjoining room, into which he placed the notes. The [-42-] hand was then withdrawn, and immediately afterwards projected again with 20 sovereigns, which was the amount he received for the notes. He immediately repaired to Westminster, and invested 10l. of this sum in counterfeit money, at a house not a stone's-throw from the Institution.
"For the 10l. he received, in bad money, what represented 50l. With this he sallied forth into the country with the design of passing it off - a process known amongst the craft as 'shuffle-pitching.' The first place he went to was Northampton, and the means he generally adopted for passing off the base coin was this:- Having first buried in the neighbourhood of the town all the good and bad money in his possession, with the exception of a sovereign of each, so that, if detected in passing a bad one, no more bad money would be found upon his person, he would enter a retail shop, say a draper's, at a late hour of the evening, and say that his master had sent him for some article of small value, such as a handkerchief. On its being shown him, he would demand the price of it, and make up his mind to take it; whereupon he would lay down a good sovereign, which the shopman would take up, but, as he was about to give him change, a doubt would suddenly arise in his mind as to whether his master would give the price asked for the article. He would then demand the sovereign back, with a view to going and consulting his master, promising, at the same time, to be back again in a few minutes. Back again he would come, and say that his master was willing to give the price, or that he wished the article at a lower figure. He took care, however, that a bargain was concluded between him and the shopkeeper; whereupon he would again lay down the sovereign, which, however, on this occasion, was the bad and not the good one. The unsuspecting shopkeeper would give him the change, and he would leave with the property and the good money. Such is the process of 'shuffle-pitching.' [-43-] In the majority of instances he sueceeded, but was sometimes detected. In this way he took the circuit twice of Great Britain and Ireland; stealing as he went along, and passing off the bad money, which he received, for good. There arc few gaols in the United Kingdom of which he has not been a denizen. His 2 circuits took him 9 years to perform, his progress being frequently arrested by the interposition of justice. It was at the end of his second journey that he applied for admission to the Pear-street School. He had been too often in gaol not to be able to read; but he could neither write nor cipher when he was taken in. He soon learnt, however, to do both; and, after about 7 months' probation, emigrated to America from his own choice. The missionary of the district accompanied him on board as he was about to sail. The poor lad wept like a child when he took leave of his benefactor, assuring him that he never knew the comforts of a home until he entered the Pear-street School. Several letters have been received from him since his landing, and he is now busily employed, and - doing well!
Instances of this kind might be multiplied, if necessary, of what is thus being done daily and unostentatiously for the reclamation of the penitent offender, not only after conviction, but also before he undergoes the terrible ordeal of correction and a gaol.
The youth last referred to has been for the last 5 years foreman in a saw-mill. The missionary has sent out to him several young men, all of whom he has provided with employment, and has looked after not only their temporal but also their spiritual welfare. He is a communicant at a Baptist chapel. In a letter received from him lately, he states that he has married a young woman, who is also a communicant at the same chapel; and they are, to use his own expression, as happy "as poor sinners can be out of [-44-] heaven." And yet this youth was brought up in a training-school for young thieves, kept by a most notorious fellow, who was proprietor of a lodging-house in Spitalfields, and who was tried some years since at the Old Bailey for murder. In a quarrel with his wife, as she was called, he took their child to an upstairs room, with a knife cut off the child's head, laid the head on a table, came down and told his wife, if she would go up, she would find something belonging to her lying on the table. She went up, and found the child's head.
A second pupil of this wretched man's is now undergoing the missionary's reformatory training.
In the magazine of the London City Mission, for September, 1843, it was added
"Perhaps the most striking testimony to the value of this Institution was borne a few days since, by 3 thieves, to the missionary who was honoured in the establishment of the school. One thief said to him, 'Why, Sir, you take all our boys away.' The second said, 'A very good thing too.' And the third added, that the school was the greatest blessing in the neighbourhood for the children, and that, if he had any children, he would send them there too."
The present number of children in these schools is large.
The Field-lane Bagged School described, as a second Illustration of these Institutions.
One other illustration of the early Ragged Schools founded in London shah be given. The Field-lane School was among the earliest of those established, and is now among the largest. This was first held in a contiguous room in West-street, West Smithfield. It was chose to, and several of the children resided in, houses in the same street, since pulled down, and thus described by the London City Missionary of the district, who formed the school:-
Description of the adjacent notorious "Thieves' houses."
"Great excitement has lately prevailed on my district, in
consequence of the houses, Nos. 2 and 3, West-street, being
open for the inspection of the curious, previous to their
demolition to make way for the new street about to be made
in continuation of Farringdon-street. Many thousands of
individuals visited and inspected these houses during the
month of August, among whom were his [late] Royal
highness the Duke of Cambridge, and several other persons
of high rank and station in society. A general surprise
was expressed that such places could so long have existed
in the very centre of the metropolis, and within so short
a distance of one of its leading public thoroughfares, and
been notoriously used for the worst of purposes.
They are said to have been built in the years 1683-84, by a man named McWaullen or McWelland, chief of a tribe of Gipsies, under pretence of being a tavern called the Red Lion, but for the more direct purpose of concealing stolen property, and harbouring thieves. The dilapidated buildings behind were used as stables, where the fleetest horses were kept in constant readiness for pursuit or speedy flight. From all accounts it appears that these houses have ever been the resort of the most notorious and abandoned individuals of the metropolis. The names of their inhabitants stand conspicuous in the annals of crime, for among others are Jonathan Wild, Jack Sheppard, Jerry Abershaw, and Dick Turpin.
Many are the strange incidents said to have taken place within these walls, and though there are many exaggerated statements made, there is no doubt, from their situation, - being by the side of the Fleet Ditch, the rapid current of which could at once sweep into the Thames what might be thrown in - their dark closets, trap-doors, sliding panels, and means of escape, they were among the most secure erections [-46-] for robbery and murder. In the shop No. 3, there were 2 traps in the floor, one for the concealment of property, the other for a means of escape in case the felon should be pursued. His method of escape was by lifting a covering of wood about 3 feet square, when he immediately was in the cellar beneath; and by putting a plank kept in constant readiness, across the Fleet Ditch, and drawing it over after him, he was at once in Black Boy-alley, cut off from pursuit.
The cellar was a most filthy dismal place. Its light emanated from a small window or hole immediately above the Fleet Ditch. In one corner was a cell or den, made by parting off a portion of the cellar with brickwork, well besmeared with soot and dirt to prevent detection. It measured about 4 feet by 8. Here a chimney-sweep, who escaped from the prison of Newgate a few years since, was concealed for a considerable period, and fed through an aperture made by removing a brick near the rafters. Although repeatedly searched for he remained safe till informed of by one of his associates.
"In a corner on the opposite side were the brickwork remains of a small blast furnace, which was used some years since by a gang of coiners. A private still was long worked successfully in this dismal place, till at length it was discovered.
" The most extraordinary and ingenious part of the premises I consider to be the means of escape. If a prisoner once got within their walls, it was almost an impossibility for his pursuers to take him, in consequence of the various outlets and communications. There was scarcely a chance for the most active officer to take a thief, if he only got a few yards in advance of him. He had 4 ways of escape. The staircase was very peculiar, scarcely to be described, for though the pursuer and the pursued might only be a few feet distant, the one would escape to the roof of the house, [-47-] while the other would be descending steps, and in a moment or two would find himself in the room he had just left, by another door. This was managed by a pivoted panel being turned between the two. A large room on the first-floor back is said to be the place where the abandoned inmates held their nightly orgies, and planned their future robberies. From the upper room there were means of escape by an aperture being made in the wall leading to the house No. 2, containing no less than 24 rooms, with 4 distinct staircases. There, also, level with the floor, was a shoot, or spout which remained covered, except when required, about 2 feet in breadth, and 3 feet in length, by which goods could be conveyed to the cellar in an instant.
"In short, a more suitable place for theft and murder could scarcely be made, as the premises from bottom to top evidently showed.
"Immediately behind the premises just described stood a dilapidated building, lately used as 'penny lodgings,' where men and women slept promiscuously. Scenes commonly occurred here, and in the court adjoining, far too gross and revolting to be described. What has been actually seen by one of the general superintendents of the Mission in the middle of the day in the public street, before this house, is so bad as actually not to be credited, except it were thus confirmed.
"In these lodgings your missionary found the associate of Good, who was executed for the murder of Jane Jones, about 2 years since. Indeed they were a receptacle for the most abandoned, so that every session some of their inhabitants were before the justice.
"During the last 3 years I perceive, by reference to my journal, that I have visited this dismal place upwards of 150 times, and though its inhabitants were the most abandoned, yet they generally treated me with civility, and listened with [-48-] attention while I addressed them on the importance of their sins being blotted out through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Numbers of them attended my prayer-meeting during the winter months. I have frequently addressed them, standing unconsciously on one of the trap-doors before referred to; and though I can reckon up about 60 who have heft this part of the district as exiles from their native land, after having received the sentence of transportation, I indulge the hope that some Scripture text, spoken by the City Missionary, may, in a distant region, on some future day, come to their recollection, and that God will bless to them his own Word."
Formation of the School.
The missionary who founded this school thus reports the
"The district of Field-lane, in the year 1841, presented one of the most deplorable and wretched spots in the metropolis. It consisted of numerous courts and alleys, inhabited entirely by the most abandoned and dangerous classes. Being determined to get to the root of the evil, I procured the use of a small back room, in a court in Saffron-hill, on a first floor, occupied by a Roman Catholic, for the sum of 2s. each time we met. The court led into another court, densely populated. Having intimated to those who sat on the ground playing cards, that there would be a school opened on Sunday, and having invited their attendance, they laughed, and said I should get killed, and that then the first would be the last day of it. Nothing daunted, however, I proceeded to the place alone, on the first Sunday in November, 1841. As soon as I entered the court, the shouts and yells began, amidst cries of, 'Here he comes - here he comes - curse the Protestant crew!' &c. When I reached the door, it was completely besieged, so many [-49-] were seeking admittance; and on the room being opened, it was filled. Having no seats, we had to sit on the floor, and the windows opened on the uncovered Fleet Ditch and the knacker's-yard. Silence being procured, we attempted to sing part of the Hundredth Psalm, but so discordant a choir could scarcely be found. When addressed on the love of Christ to fallen man, they listened as if it was to them entirely a new tale. The group consisted of 45, varying in age from 6 to 18 years; and on being questioned, I found 41 of them prayed to the Virgin Mary, and 1 was a Jewess.
"The second day the room was again soon filled, while numbers sought admittance in vain. On this occasion I was much annoyed by a young man who had been liberated from Newgate the day before, where he had been sent for theft. When we attempted to sing, he jumped and danced 'Jim Crow.' Though told to desist, or leave the room, he would not, and challenged me to touch him. Being unable to proceed, I put him outside; but scarcely had I returned, when I beheld him rushing towards me with a large table-knife in his hand. I grasped him by the arms, and held him till a female pulled the deadly weapon from his hands, as he cried, 'I'll stick you, you Protestant,' &c.; and others answered, 'Oh, the teacher!' 'The teacher will be murdered!' At the close of the school, he was standing at the door armed with stones, when he was spoken to in an affectionate manner, but before I had gone many steps, a stone was thrown, which passed within a few inches of my head.
"The next Sunday he returned, and conducted himself orderly; and to my great surprise, on the following Sunday he was accompanied by his father, a Roman Catholic, who could not tell a letter. This youth continued to conduct himself well, which gained him friends; and after being in [-50-] a gentleman's service several years, he was taken out to Africa.
"Desiring to extend my labours, a meeting for adults was opened one night in the week, which was continued amidst great annoyance from without; for so very dreadful was the place, I could not prevail on any one to help me. One evening, coming down the court, accompanied by a female, who carried some articles of clothing for the most destitute, a stone was thrown, which struck her on the head, rendering her insensible for some moments, and heaving a protuberance which was frequently accompanied with pain, until her death, several years after.
"The landlady, taking advantage of the annoyance, doubled the rent, so I was obliged to seek another place, which was procured in White's-yard, Saffron-hill, on the ground floor; but, after some weeks, we were compelled to adjourn to the second floor, so great was the annoyance.
"Now for the first time friends presented themselves willing to help in the great work; and in order to procure funds, cards were issued, to be produced monthly, each card being valued at one shilling, and supposed to be collected from twelve persons.
"Having procured more eligible premises in West-street, the teachers resolved to advertise in the Times' newspaper for assistance; and, in order to attract attention, it was agreed to head the advertisement, 'Ragged School,' and copies were attached to letters, and sent to many of the nobility and gentry. The first answer was from Lord Ashley. We believe this is the first time the words, 'Ragged School,' appeared in print, though there were several schools of the same description at the time. This brought the school before the public, and many persons of importance called to see for themselves.
Dickens's Narrative of different Visits to this School, and of the Improvements effected in the interim.
Mr. Charles Dickens thus describes different visits which
he paid to this school, contrasting the condition in which he
found the school on his latter visits, with its previous state. The extract is taken from his "Household Words":-
"I find it perplexing to reckon how many years have passed since I traversed these byways one night before they were laid bare, to find out the first Ragged School.
"I found my first Ragged School, in an obscure place called West-street, Saffron-hill, pitifully struggling for life, under every disadvantage. It had no means - it had no suitable rooms - it derived no power or protection from being recognised by any authority; it attracted within its wretched walls a fluctuating swarm of faces - young in years but youthful in nothing else - that scowled Hope out of countenance. It was held in a low-roofed den, in a sickening atmosphere, in the midst of taint, and dirt, and pestilence; with all the deadly sins let loose, howling and shrieking at the doors. Zeal did not supply the place of method and training; the teachers knew little of their office; the pupils, with an evil sharpness, found them out, got the better of them, derided them, made blasphemous answers to scriptural questions, sang, fought, danced, robbed each other - seemed possessed by legions of devils. The place was stormed and carried, over and over again; the lights were blown out, the books strewn in the gutters, and the female scholars carried off triumphantly to their old wickedness. With no strength in it but its purpose, the school stood it all out, and made its way.
"Some two years since, I found it, one of many such, in a large convenient loft in this transition part of Farringdon-[-52-]street - quiet and orderly, full, lighted with gas, well whitewashed, numerously attended, and thoroughly established.
"I found the school in the same place, still advancing. It was now an Industrial School, too; and besides the men and boys who were learning - some, aptly enough ; some, with painful difficulty; some, sluggishly and wearily; some, not at all - to read and write and cipher ; there were 2 groups, one of shoemakers, and one (in a gallery) of tailors, working with great industry and satisfaction. Each was taught and superintended by a regular workman engaged for the purpose, who delivered out the necessary means and implements. All were employed in mending, either their own dilapidated clothes or shoes, or the dilapidated clothes or shoes of some of the other pupils. They were of all ages, from young boys to old men. They were quiet, and intent upon their work. Some of them were almost as unused to it, as I should have shown myself to be if I had tried my hand, but all were deeply interested and profoundly anxious to do it somehow or other. They presented a very remarkable instance of the general desire there is, after all, even in the vagabond breast, to know something useful. One man, when he had mended his own scrap of a coat, drew it on with such an air of satisfaction, and put himself to so much inconvenience to look at the elbow he had darned, that I thought a new coat (and the mind could not imagine a period when that coat of his was new!) would not have pleased him better. In the other part of the school, where each class was partitioned off by screens adjusted like the boxes in a coffee-room, was some very good writing, and some singing of the multiplication table - the latter on a principle much too juvenile and innocent for some of the singers. There was also a ciphering-class, where a young pupil-teacher had written a legible sum in compound addition, on a broken slate, and was walking [-53-] backward and forward before it, as he worked it for the instruction of his class. * * *
"The best and most spirited teacher was a young man, himself reclaimed through the agency of this school from the lowest depths of misery and debasement, whom the Committee were about to send out to Australia. He appeared quite to deserve the interest they took in him, and his appearance and manner were a strong testimony to the merits of the establishment. . . . . . .
"I had scarcely made the round, when a moving of feet overhead announced that the school was breaking up for the night. It was succeeded by a profound silence, and then by a hymn, sung in a subdued tone, and in very good time and tune, by the learners we had lately seen. Separated from their miserable bodies, the effect of their voices, united in this strain, was infinitely solemn. It was as if their souls were singing - as if the outward differences that parted us had fallen away, and the time was come when all the perverted good that was in them, or that ever might have been in them, arose imploringly to heaven. . . . . .
I do not hesitate to say - why should I, for I know it to be true ? - that an annual sum of money, contemptible in amount as compared with any charges upon any list, freely granted in behalf of these schools, and shackled with no preposterous red-tape conditions, would relieve the prisons, diminish county rates, clear loads of shame and guilt out of the streets, recruit the army and navy, waft to new countries fleets full of useful labour, for which their inhabitants would be thankful and beholden to us. It is no depreciation of the devoted people whom I found presiding here, to add, that with such assistance as a trained knowledge of the business of instruction, and a sound system adjusted to the peculiar difficulties and conditions of this sphere of action, their usefulness could be increased fifty-fold in a few months."
Narrative of a Visit to this School, from "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal."
About the same time the following narrative of a visit to
this school appeared in "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal,"
drawn up by a gentleman connected with the journal, who
was led to explore the place:-
"'A Ragged School,' quoth the reader, 'pray, what kind of school is that?' A few words will suffice to answer this inquiry. 'A Ragged School' is a Sunday-school established by private benevolence in a City district of the meanest kind, where every house is worn-out and crazy, and almost every tenant a beggar, or, perhaps, something worse. A school, moreover, in which no children are to be found who would be admitted into any other school; for, ragged, diseased, and crime-worn, their very appearance would scare away the children of well-conducted parents; and hence, if they were not educated there, they would receive no education at all.
"In London there exist several 'Ragged Schools:' one situated in the very heart of St. Giles's, another - the one we propose to sketch - established nigh that worse than St. Giles's, Field-lane, Smithfield - the head-quarters of thieves, coiners, burglars, and the other outcasts of society. This Sunday-school was founded in 1841, and originated in the benevolent efforts of Mr. Provan, a hero in humble life.* (* Mr. Provan was the missionary of the London City Mission in Field-lane.) After much exertion, especially in overcoming the objections of the parents, who considered the reformation of their offspring as the loss of so much capital, 45 young persons, varying in age from 6 to 18, were induced to attend the school. At present the average attendance on Sundays exceeds 100. The school is also opened 3 times a week, when instruction of an ordinary kind is imparted gratuitously [-55-] by a lady. Most - we might say all - of the fathers of the scholars belong to what may be called the predacious class, and the mothers fallen characters, who bear deep traces of guilt and disease in their countenances. Many of the children have been incarcerated for felony - educated thereto by their parents, as the trade whereby they are to live; and the destiny of all, unless better principles shall be implanted at school than can be acquired at home, is the hulks or Norfolk Island. All honour, then, to the brave men and women who have consecrated the day of rest to the godlike task of rescuing their fellow-creatures from a life of shame and misery - to change the ruffian into an honest man!
The Smithfield 'Ragged School' is situate at 65, West-street, a locality where vice and fever hold fearful sway. To open it in any other neighbourhood, would be to defeat the object of the projectors. The very habiliments of the boys, so patched, that the character of the original texture could scarcely be gleaned, would almost be sufficient to preclude their ingress to a more respectable neighbourhood, and make them slink back abashed into their loathsome dens. It follows, that the object of the promoters of the 'Ragged School' - the in-gathering of the outcasts - requires that it should be held amidst the homes of these outcasts. The house has that battered, worn aspect, which speaks of dissolute idleness, the windows are dark and dingy, and the street too narrow to admit a current of fresh air; and it needed, on the rainy day in March in which it was visited, but a slightly active imagination to call up visions of the robberies and murders which have been planned in it, and of which it has been the scene.
"The entrance to the school was dark; and there being no windows to illuminate the rickety staircase, we stumbled into the school-room on the first-floor before we were aware. On entering, the eye was greeted by a spectacle to which, [-56-] from its mingled humour and pathos, the pencil of Hogarth could have alone done justice. We found a group of from 40 to 50 girls in one room, and about 60 boys in another; the girls, although the offspring of thieves, quiet, winning, and maidenly; but the boys full of grimace and antics, and, by jest and cunning glances, evincing that they thought the idea of attending school fine fun. Foremost amongst them was a boy apparently aged 17, but as self-collected as a man of forty, of enormous head, and with a physiognomy in which cunning and wit were equally blended, whose mastery over the other boys was attested by their all addressing him as 'captain.' The boys had their wan, vice-worn faces as clean as could be expected, and their rags seemed furbished up for the occasion; whilst their ready repartee, and striking original remarks, and the electric light of the eye, when some peculiar practical joke was perpetrated, evinced that intellect was there, however uncultivated or misused. Unless we are greatly self-deceived, we beheld in this unpromising assemblage as good a show of heads as we have ever seen in any other Sunday-school, and the remark is justified by what we learned with respect to the shrewdness generally evinced by these children. The predominant temperament was the sanguine, a constitution which usually indicates great love for animal exercise; and, during the time we were present, they appeared as if they could not sit quiet one moment - hands, feet, head, nay, the very trunk itself, seemed perpetually struggling to do something, and that something generally being found in sheer mischief.
"Hymns were occasionally sung to lively measures, the girls singing with a sweetness and pathos that sunk deep into the heart; but the boys were continually grimacing and joking, yet all the time attempting to look grave and sober, as if they were paying the most respectful attention. When the superintendent told the boys that he was about to pitch [-57-] the tune, and that they must follow him, the boy before mentioned as the captain cried out in a stage-whisper, 'Mr. ---- says we are to follow him; I wonder where he's going to?' a jest hailed with a general laugh by his confederates. During teaching, questions of an unanswerable character were submitted by the boys to their master; for example, 'If you were starving and hungry, wouldn't you steal?' 'What is the use of hanging Tapping ; will that convert him?'* (* On the day of the visit Tapping was to be executed on the morrow.) Various other attempts were made by the captain to puzzle the teacher, and failing, he was heard to say, 'That's no go - he is too deep for us.'
"Amongst these boys, however, were some to whom the word of kindness was evidently a 'word in season,' and who drank in the tender accents within which they were addressed - perchance for the first time - as if it were music to their souls. Then, again, was to be seen some poor puny lad, as gentle in mind as in body, who was obviously dying from unfitness to cope with the requirements of his circumstances - poor tender saplings, growing in an atmosphere which was too bleak for any but the forest oak to brave. Untrained, except to crime, as most of the children are, much good has already been effected. Most of the scholars can read, and books have been supplied suited to their circumstances; and that the books are read within the understanding, is proved by the questions submitted to their teachers. Due honour to their parents has been taught. Many have thus become a comfort to homes to which they had hitherto been an additional curse; and many a mother, herself regenerated through the prattle of her child, has declared, with streaming eyes, 'I thank God my girl ever went to school!' Some of the scholars have been partially clad by the Dorcas Society connected with the school; and the stress which has been laid [-58-] upon personal cleanliness has served to educe proper feelings of self-esteem; no slight ingredient in civilization. Notwithstanding their many eccentricities, the children are really attached to their teachers; the girls coming forward from natural impulse, and with true politeness giving an affectionate 'Good-bye, Teacher,' even to the visitor; and the boys, ever striving to please, in spite of their prevailing love of fun. One outré, but characteristic instance, of this affection for their teachers may be noticed. A teacher, in passing through Field-lane, was attracted by a pugilistic contest; when, on remonstrating with them on their folly, one of the most brutal came up to him in a fighting attitude. Suddenly a boy rushed through the crowd, and cried, in stentorian tones, 'You leave him alone, Bill, or I'll knock you down; don't you know that's my teacher?' If, then, to win the affections be the best prelude to the reformation of the debased, again we say, honour to those brave men and women who, despite the contempt and the slander of the Pharisee and the worldling, have not shrunk from trying to rescue from ruin the neglected youthful soul!
"Our sketch ends here; but the 'Ragged School' was not visited for the mere gratification of curiosity, nor is that the motive which has induced us to describe the scene. A question entered our minds as we pondered over this visit, and a practical answer to which by our readers is the chief aim of the writer- 'Why is there not a "Ragged School" in every large town in Great Britain?"* (* "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, of June 17, 1845.)
This School first interested Lord Shaftesbury in the "Movement".
Among others whose attention was directed to the Ragged class movement, by the public notices which appeared of this school, was Lord Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley, to [-59-] whom the great success of the subsequent efforts made to raise the class so depraved is, under God, so exceedingly indebted. It was the first Ragged School he visited.
Erection of a New School-room, with a large Dormitory.
The great numbers of wretched children who applied for
admission into the School beyond what it could contain, led
to the erection of new and spacious rooms, capable of
accommodating 500 children, which were opened in 1848,
six years after the previous school had been established.
The present average attendance is on Sunday, in the morning 110, in the afternoon 200, and in
the evening, 400 with
a staff of 58 voluntary teachers. In the week, the daily
attendance averages 200, and the evening attendance 170.
A dormitory has been of late added to this school, as to several others, which is thus described in the "Ragged School Union Magazine," for December, 1852:-
"In the year 1849, Mr. Tomkins [a missionary of the London City Mission,] within two friends, visited in the nighttime the arches near the school, and found 17 wretched, homeless, and friendless creatures huddled together, having crawled thither, being unable to procure any other lodging- place. They were invited, and came to the School the next morning, when bread was given them, and subsequent instruction. Lord Ashley hearing of it, within his accustomed promptness and philanthropy, visited this scene of wretchedness at midnight, and found a large number of these poor creatures, some of whom were sent and received into the Westminster Juvenile Refuge, and similar institutions, until an attic in a neighbouring court was taken, into which eight were admitted, who were exceedingly grateful, though they had naught but the bare boards to rest their wearied limbs upon. Friends who were made acquainted with these facts contributed bread, left-off clothes, mattresses, &c. A small [-60-] house of four rooms in Fox and Knot-court was shortly afterwards taken, and fitted up as a dormitory. Concerning 50 of these poor creatures, it was ascertained that 33 mad lost both parents, 14 had only one parent, and 3 only had both parents living ; 23 had no shirt, 16 no shoes, and most of them had their clothes in a most tattered and filthy condition. Some of them had not slept in a bed for five weeks, others for five months, and a few, seldom for years. At length, by the munificence of a benevolent lady, through the Earl of Shaftesbury, the present Refuge was fitted up underneath the school-room. It was opened in May, 1851, and accommodated 98 persons. Had the accommodation been for twice that number, it could have been filled every night. It has, therefore, been enlarged so as to sleep upwards of 160 persons nightly."
No persons are admitted into this dormitory, but such as attend the Ragged School.
The same article from which we have just quoted, adds:-
"Since the days of the notorious Jack Sheppard, who made this locality his hiding-place, this neighbourhood has never been without his successor. That one of the fraternity who has attained the unenviable notoriety of being the greatest adept in crime, assumed the name, which is acknowledged by his companions. The present Jack Sheppard has, however, found his way into this school of instruction, where he has sat quietly enough beneath the sound of the everlasting Gospel for nearly three years. A change for the better is visible in him."
It is an interesting circumstance that a sermon on behalf of this School, begun so very humbly, was preached in February, 1853, at the Parish Church of St. Sepulchre, Snow-hill, by the Archbishop of Canterbury. How little did the founders of this school dream that they should live to behold patronage so exalted given to their unpretending efforts!
Review of the subsequent Progress of London Ragged Schools to the present Time.
The progress of Ragged Schools has since been very
great. It is thus described by Mr. Macgregor, in his recent
Lecture on "The Rise, Progress, and Results of Ragged
Schools," which the "Ragged School Union Magazine" very
truly describes as "the most complete summary of the Ragged School movement that has yet been printed."
"This is rightly termed a 'movement.' Ignorance, and its attendant, crime, had marched far, with a fearful start, before us. We move to overtake it with knowledge and religion ; limping, it may be, in the pursuit, but continually onward. To halt would be shame and danger; it is a movement which we dare not arrest.
"In estimating the progress of this movement, we must consider its numerical increase as well as its growing efficiency. . . .
"At first* (*i.e. When the Ragged School Union was formed, in 1844.) there were only 20 schools thus linked together in London ; and successively, for each year, their number has become 26, 44, 62, 82, 95, 102 ; and at present there are 110.
"So of teachers, 200 laboured voluntarily in these schools to begin with ; and they have increased animally to 250, 450, 822, 929, 1,392, 1,400, and 1,657 at the present time. There are also 203 paid masters.
"The children attending these schools have increased from 2,000 in the first year, to 12,423 in 1852. . . .
In fifty of our Ragged Schools of London there are
Industrial Classes. The number of children employed in
these is about 2,000; but then example and influence are
[-62-] extended through five times that number of scholars, and
generally they impart a healthy tone to the institutions themselves,- not seldom to the neighbourhood around.
"Boys are instructed by masters in tailoring and shoemaking, making and mending the clothes of their school, or the articles made are sometimes sold at low prices. Wood-chopping is another employment in which many are engaged, and the faggots thus prepared for firewood are bought by those interested in the school. Horse-hair picking, strange to say, is a remunerative employment, probably from the simplicity of the work, and the facility with which it is directed. Others are engaged in carpentry, which is expensive and not advisable. Mat-making is better, and the fabrication of fishermen's nets. . . . There is, in London, a small amount of' ornamental work in leather pocket-books, paper cases, and other articles, and the promotion of this employment deserves further encouragement. For the girls, sewing and knitting of all kinds form, as may be supposed, their chief occupation in these classes.
"What a hive is here, busy, cheerful, and orderly! Surely we may hope much from our industrial classes."
"But we must mark another step in this progress, for
another want is felt and is supplied. Warmth and companionship are often the first attractions which bring the
lonely vagrant to our Ragged Schools. There is kindness,
instruction, and employment for him, but as yet no home,
and oh, how hard it seems to turn him out into the streets!
"Refuges then constitute the next feature, and money is the great necessity for these. Our rate-payers grudgingly disburse in our poor-houses ten times the sum which would, if cheerfully and wisely expended, provide asylums of Christian kindness for all our homeless little ones. The [-63-] country lavishes upon prisons enough to lodge and teach and feed our whole criminal population, and to send them moreover to a land of plenty, calling for their labour. . . In most of these refuges deserving children are rescued wholly from their bad companions, and the dens of their usual habitation, the arches, doorways, and carts in which they sleep. Books might be written of the histories of these inmates of our refuges, and they disclose to the man of thought a whole world of adventure and wickedness!" . . .
"From the commencement of our Ragged Schools, emigration has been ever regarded as an important object of
interest. All the appliances I have mentioned are required
to prepare the wandering and ignorant outcast for a respectable position in society; and it has been also our conviction
that none should be sent out as colonists from our Ragged
Schools, unless they have proved by their conduct that they
are anxious to be industrious, and to maintain that character
which, I rejoice to say, our Ragged School emigrants have
" Private means supply, in some instances, the funds necessary for the outfit and passage merely of these children. In other cases, the Committees of various schools have from time to time selected steady and industrious inmates of the Refuges, and have sent them to the colonies.
"The Ragged School Union devotes to this purpose a special 'emigration fund;' by means of which 365 boys and girls, besides those sent by private funds, have been enabled to emigrate; and perhaps there are more than 500 inhabitants of Australia who were once in the Ragged Schools of London. The letters which are constantly received from themselves and their masters bear almost unanimous testimony to the good conduct and success of [-64-] these citizens of another hemisphere. The boys are eagerly; in most cases, engaged for service at once on their arrival, or they are assisted by benevolent persons in Australia to procure permanent employment.
"Gratitude has induced many of these emigrants to send home money saved from their wages: and a short time ago one had transmitted from the gold mines* (* The Committee [of the Ragged School Union] are of late desirous to send their emigrants rather to Canada than to the gold fields in Australia.) no less than 84l. in gold-dust, of which the chief part is intended for his father in London, while the largest 'nugget' was particularly consigned to the teacher of his Ragged School.
"If you would understand the arrangements of this department of our labour, you should visit the Colonial Training School in Westminster, where 100 lads are prepared for emigration under an excellent system of management."
Mr. Sergeant Adams's Eulogy of the Effbrts of Ragged School Teachers.
The credit due to the Ragged School voluntary teachers
is very great. And it is a most gratifying circumstance to
know that there are 1,657 persons engaged in so arduous a
work throughout London. But the Lord has greatly
rewarded them in the fruits which have resulted by his
blessing from their toils, Mr. Sergeant Adams recently
expressed himself in the following terms on this subject:-
"The enthusiasm of teachers of Ragged Schools is marvellous. I have them occasionally before me, to give characters to boys who have been at their schools, and I thus have practical opportunity of learning what they do. This little anecdote may not be uninteresting. A female, some time ago, came before me as a teacher of an Infant School. She came to give a character to a boy who had been in the school for 3 or 4 months. I said, 'What do you know [-65-] about this boy of 12 years of age. What has he to do with an Infant School?' Oh,' said a person by her, 'my Lord, you are mistaken ; she means that this is what she gets her living by, but she is a teacher also of a Ragged School.' 'What! How many hours are you teacher of the Infant School?' 'From 9 in the morning till 5 in the afternoon.' 'Then what time have you for teaching the Ragged School?' 'Oh, that does not begin till 7.' And the evenings of this woman, after the day had been spent in the wearisome occupation of managing these infants, was spent in voluntarily teaching these poor children. And I should say that, although perhaps that is a remarkable case, yet it is by no means an uncommon one; I never have a teacher of a Ragged School before me without asking what his occupation is, and I find that their occupations are all of the same character, and that the whole that they do is carried out by the self-sacrifice of time and rest. That a system so supported must produce good effects sooner or later I have no doubt."
Three Cases of Usefulness from the "Ragged School Union Magazine."
As illustrations of the benefits arising from these
schools, and the elevation of the wretched outcasts who are admitted
into them, the following three cases may be cited, referred
to in a single page of' a Report recently presented by an
officer of the Ragged School Union:-
"A few weeks ago, on a dark wintry Sabbath evening, we perambulated the east of London in quest of a small Ragged School, the whereabouts of' which was extremely difficult to find. While groping our way through a succession of dark, dank, narrow courts and alleys, ploughing deep furrows in the mire that intercepted the pathways, we halted occasionally, and listened, hoping that the busy hum of the [-66-] school itself would direct our course. At length we found a female guide, who conducted us to a small house, which we had passed and repassed. Lifting up the latch, we were at once introduced into a room about 9 feet square, filled with children and youths of the the Ragged School stamp. They were divided into 2 classes, and were being instructed by 2 decently dressed, and evidently zealous young men. The order was excellent and the teaching good. But great was our surprise when the secretary informed us, that when the school was first opened, those very 2 young men were admitted, and were among the rude and degraded class for whose benefit the school had been established. They are the fruit of the efforts here.
"Visiting another school, more in the centre of London, we saw a goodly number of scholars arranged in their classes, with teachers drawn from circles the most respectable, and all intent upon their duties. The superintendent conducted us to one class in particular, where we observed a young man at the head of a class of boys, commanding their utmost attention. The superintendent whispered in the ear of one of the visitors, 'Do you know him?' 'No,' was the reply. 'Do you not remember, when the school was opened, several boys outside threw stones in at the windows, and one struck the head of a boy, inflicting a severe wound?' 'Oh yes! very well.' 'Well,' continued the superintendent, that young man threw the stone. He subsequently came to the school; after a long time, became reformed; the instruction has been blessed to him temporally and spiritually; and now he is yonder, one of our teachers.'
"At another time we made our way to a crazy, small house, down a narrow court near King's-cross. Here we saw 12 lads busily employed sawing, chopping, tying, and packing firewood. They were merry and happy as larks. The master signalled, and in a second they formed a circle [-67-] around us. 'Well, my boys,' we asked, 'what makes you look so sad?' 'Sad!' cried one, a sandy-headed active little fellow, some 11 years old, 'we aint sad.' 'No,' said another, 'we are happy,' at the same time wiping the perspiration from his face with his jacket-sleeve. 'Happy!' we reiterated, 'what makes you happy?' 'We learn here to work for our living,' said a third, 'and we are not obliged to thieve now. If we does our work, we gets our grub, and a good night's lodging; and we goes to school at nights and Sundays, and learns to read and write.' 'And is that all?' 'No,' answered another, 'teachers tell us the way to heaven.' After a little more of such agreeable chit-chat, the master signalled again, and with a speed truly astonishing they flew to their posts and resumed their work, evidently priding themselves on the skill they manifested in cleaving the wood at a stroke, and striking within an eighth of an inch of their fingers without touching them.
Case of Usefulness reported to the Author by a Clergyman.
The following case is reported to the author, in a letter
which he recently received from a clergyman, who is incumbent of a large parish in London. It refers to a lad, only a
very short time since one of the ragged class, now training
to be a schoolmaster of a National School, to whom will be
entrusted the important charge of the teaching of the poor
children of a parish. How great the change between the
two positions of life! And of this change, a Ragged School
was the instrumental cause:-
"Two years and a-half ago, a young man, aged 17, came to our evening Ragged School for the first time. His regular attendance, his evident desire to improve, and his intelligent countenance, soon attracted our attention. We found that he had never been to a day or Sunday-school, but that when he was 14 years of age he went to an evening school for a [-68-] short time, where he felt no interest and learned very little. But now, feeling a desire to learn to read and write, he resolved to go to some evening Ragged School. While in this state of mind, he saw one of our bills, headed, 'Evening Classes for Young Men.' He was only able to read the heading, and got his mother to read the rest. Soon after this, he came to the school. He had not been to a place of worship for years, and spent all his evenings in low theatres, concerts, &c. At the school he improved wonderfully. He soon learnt to read, write, and cipher, well. In the latter he was much interested, and so excelled that he became wiser than his teachers. He had been regularly attending the Ragged School 3 months, when he was prevailed upon by the teachers to come to church on Sunday evenings. He afterwards said, that he had no better motive for coming than gratitude to myself and the teachers. There the Word was blessed to his soul. He regularly attended church morning and evening on Sunday, and on Wednesday evening, and became quite a changed character. After he had been with us a year, he was most desirous to become a Sunday-school teacher in the Ragged School. He became a very efficient teacher, was confirmed, and became a regular communicant. All this time he was wretchedly poor, and living with ungodly friends, but adorning the doctrine of God his Saviour in all things. After 2 years, he was sent to the Metropolitan Training Institution for Schoolmasters, at Highbury. He has been there 4 months, has made great progress in his studies, and is conducting himself to the entire satisfaction of the Principal.
Two other Cases of Usefulness, from the "London City Mission Magazine."
A fuller illustration of the benefit effected by Ragged
Schools on individual attendants, is given in the following [-69-]
extract from the "London City Mission Magazine," of' July,
"February - It has been my privilege during the past month, to have met a number of young persons, once the children of our first Ragged School, all of whom are now in respectable situations"
"March - Seldom a week passes but some youths are met with by me, who were among the first of our Ragged School children, who have risen up in life, and have become honest and industrious members of society."
The following two cases of usefulness are specimens of those benefits:-
"Case 1.-H. C. T. was the son of dissipated parents. He had one brother, who had been transported, and a younger brother, who was, at the time of his admission into school, confined in prison, because he would rather steal than starve. He became very much attached to school. For regular attendance and good conduct he was rewarded with a pair of new shoes and stockings - the first, he told us, that he ever had. On returning to school, the following day, after the present, he brought his shoes under his arm, in frost and snow, for at the time the snow lay on the ground some inches. 'You see, Sir,' he replied, 'my feet are all chilblains. I could not bear them on, and I would not leave them at home, because I should not be likely to see them again. My mother would take them to my uncle's, and drink the money. You know, Sir, my mother would have drunk me if I would go up the spout!' The writer replied, 'C., I am sorry to know that what you say is too true.' Often did this poor boy promise that he would never do as his brothers had done. Ah, poor boy! he often suffered the greatest privations from the want of food. After many shifts, he applied to the writer for the loan of 3d., saying, at the same time, that he thought he could make his own living, and attend school too. He was [-70-] furnished with 3d., and off he hastened and purchased one dozen boxes of lucifers. So successful was he, that he realized 3d. profit. Encouraged by his new undertaking, he made up his mind to go out every morning with his dozen boxes of lucifers, which he did for nearly 2 years, attending school all day, and doing sufficient business at night to provide him with food during the next day. When he was asked how he managed to live, 'Why, you know,' he replied, 'that I can always manage to make 3d., and sometimes more. I spend one penny for breakfast, another for dinner, and the same sum for supper: that's better than my brothers did; and by and by, when I can read and write well, I will get a situation.'
"The good resolution of this neglected youth contrasts strongly with the conduct of the parents, and is worthy of all praise, and even of the imitation of some placed in better circumstances, and enjoying higher advantages. What were the impelling motives which led this boy to the adoption of such a course? Was it the example of those to whom he ought to have been able to look for protection and support? No; they were sunk into the vortex of intemperance, the veriest slaves of the gin palace and the gin glass. Their home was the deserted, cheerless home of emptiness, with the exception of 2 cups, which stood on the mantel-shelf; an old tin tea-kettle, without a cover, which stood on the fireless grate; and a few shavings in the opposite corner of the room; but without even a rag to cover them or their children during their midnight repose. Fancy poor C. rising from such a bed in the morning, taking an old rag to the back yard, where stood the water-butt, to wash (for a drunkard could not afford either soap or a wash-basin), to make himself somewhat decent among his school-fellows. Thus prepared, see him set out to the cheap bread-shop, a few doors from the schoolroom, to have his morning's meal, in the shape of three [-71-] farthings' worth of bread and one farthming's worth of dripping; which, however, was to him as rich as the new-made butter is to those who have not lucifers to sell before they can have a breakfast.
"It might be supposed that C. was the dull spiritless youth, broken down by bad living and cruel treatment of worthless parents; quite the reverse, he was the happy, contented, spirited lad - the very life of the playmates with whom he associated. He was always the first at school, and never behind with his lessons, pushing onwards as if longing for the time when he would be fit for the duties of life.
"He had an only sister, who attended the same school, and who was also very regular and punctual, though she suffered for so doing from the wicked treatment of her mother. Poor C. often shared his morsel of bread with her when there was none at home for the poor girl; of the two, she was the elder. The time at last arrived when our youth set out in search of a situation. After much search he obtained one as a fishmonger's errand-boy, at 4s. a week. Five years have since passed away, and he is now the confidential servant of his employer. He has ever looked upon his master's interests as bound up with his own.
"Some months after our young fishmonger entered his situation his mother fell a victim to her passion for strong drink. This event left some impression on the mind of her dissipated husband, and, for a time, was a means of leading him to abandon his evil propensities. So altered did he become, that he moved from his wretched hovel - the scene of many a drunken debauch - to a more comfortable abode, which, by sobriety, he was enabled to furnish according to his circumstances, and for upwards of 3 years his daughter kept him and his home comfortable, until he again became the victim of intemperance, returning to it like the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. He soon sold [-72-] every article of furniture he possessed, and turned his daughter into the streets. He has become the inmate of a wretched lodging-house, where he is now dragging out a miserable existence. Happy was it for the poor girl that her brother was the honest journeyman fishmonger, for he shared his loaf with her, and paid her lodgings, until she obtained the means of her own support, which she has long done by honest industry, and may be seen every Sunday bending her way, in company with her brother, to the house of prayer, both attributing what they are to the blessing of God on the instruction received at the Ragged School in the old stable.
"Case 2.- From a wretched home were taken a son and daughter to the schools, shortly after they were opened. These 2 children were in such a state of filth and rags that the first thing done with them was to have them cleaned and scrubbed. So fearfully neglected did they appear to have been, that more than ordinary attention was given to them. On their return to their miserable home and parents, they were scarcely known to be the same son and daughter, by their worthless mother. The new pinafores and clean hands and faces had wrought such a change that they even attracted the notice of their neighbours. The mother soon found that one of the rules of the school was cleanliness: however poor and ragged might be the dress of the scholars, this important appendage to health was looked after by the teacher. In this family it wrought well, for the children would not go to school until they had a good wash in the morning. This was done by the mother, and it began to have some effect upon her own person, for nothing looked more unseemly than the appearance of her tattered gown and matted hair, which at once told that she troubled herself very little with either soap or water about her person. The children's comparatively clean appearance engendered some respect for her own personal comfort, so that she began to apply both water and [-73-] soap, until it became a habit daily. Her dress, too, had the benefit of the wash-tub. Her husband's shirt, also, had some share of her attention. Their room floor, that did not appear to have been washed for years, began in a few weeks to show that the scrubbing-brush had been applied to it: in short, the whole appearance of both room and family, in 3 months after the children's admission into school, wore an aspect we never saw before, both of cleanliness and comfort. The children made progress in their lessons; they were never absent from their class; the hymns and texts of Scripture they were taught by their teacher were repeated over to their parents when they went home; and they listened to their children with much pleasure. The consequence was, the father was induced to think more of his own fire-side than he was wont to do; and the progress of his children pleased him so much that he put away 1d. a-week to purchase a Bible for each of them. The improvement wrought in this family was not only observed by their neighbours, but the landlord of the court was attracted by their new habits, which led him to make the offer to them to let the whole of the cottages in the court to their care. Arrangements were entered into, arid the father of this once wretched and indifferent family became the landlord of the place, which soon began to look comfortable and clean. The dust-heap that lay in the centre was removed, and the first story of each house-front was washed twice a-year; and so continued for years, until death removed the father, and the mother went to the country, to live with the son. He works as a labourer in Surrey, while the sister still remains the honest servant-girl, in a family at Chelsea."
The missionary, after reporting the 2 previous cases, makes the important observation:-
"The greatest difficulty I had in the compiling of them [-74-] was the selecting of the cases from hundreds of others which could yet be given."
The Shoe-blacks a most remarkable illustration of
the Success of the Efforts made to benefit this Class.*
(* The substance of the following paragraphs is taken from Mr. McGregor's evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons.)
The shoe-blacks now to be seen throughout the London
streets are a very interesting class, illustrative of the vast
benefit which may be conferred on individuals and on
society by well-directed voluntary Christian efforts. They
are employed by a Society, the Committee of which are
twelve barristers of the Temple or Lincoln's Inn, who honourably devote much time and
attention to a cause so
apparently humble. One of these gentlemen gave evidence
before a Committee of the house of Commons in 1852, that,
in addition, he had been a Sunday-school teacher for the last
15 years, a member of the Committee of the Ragged School
Union for 4 years, and that he had been in the habit of visiting Ragged Schools two or three times every week,
as well as on the Sundays. The boys employed have been
taken as nuisances from the streets, and as criminals from
the gaols - made useful servants to the public, able to earn
an honest livelihood during their reformation, and give
promise of becoming religious and respectable lads at home,
or useful colonists abroad. Of those engaged in the first 1? year, 27 had been criminals, and some of them had been
many times in gaol. They are from 12 to 16 years of age,
though not often so old as 16 now, as younger boys are
found preferable. They are more generally now about 12
or 13. During the Exhibition of 1851, the number of these
lads was increased to 36, but since then it has even
increased, and during the summer of 1852, was 45. It [-75-]
is supposed that there is room for the employment of 200 in
the great city. They are all dressed in a red uniform,
provided by the Society, which Inns been found extremely useful - to the boy, in enabling him to keep himself
separate from his former associates; to the Society, in
enabling them to find the boy and inspect his conduct; and
to the public, in showing them where the boy is stationed.
The stations occupied were applied for by the Society, and
allowed by the Police Commissioners. They vary very
much in their value, and the lads are promoted from an
inferior station to a better one as a reward for good conduct,
or removed from a better to a worse station as a punishment
for bad conduct. The boys are all taken from the Ragged
Schools, and their reception is held out as a prize for merit.
It devolves on the superintendents of the 26 best Ragged
Schools to select the candidates, and from these the Committee of the Shoe-black Society select a given number,
whom they consider most worthy of the distinction. Before
they are employed they have a week's training at the
Society's premises, No. 1, Off-alley, George-court, Strand.
There they all assemble every morning before they proceed
to their respective stations, and prayers are conducted at
half-past 7 by one of the Committee, or, in his absence, by a
paid officer, who receives a salary of 64l. a-year. Ten of
the boys sleep on these premises, which pays the rent of the
entire house; for the Society is made now entirely self-
supporting. The boys in general take their meals at their
posts, and return at 6 in the evening to pay in all the money
they have earned. On Wednesday evenings a lecture is
delivered to them on religious subjects. There are provided
for them a library, a savings-bank, and means for providing
bath-tickets. They attend their respective schools in the
evening, and a Sunday morning school is conducted for
their benefit by one of the Committee, "Good-conduct" [-76-]
badges are given by the Society as marks of merit; and
warning, suspension for a week, or discharge, as punishments. Each boy is paid 6d. a-day. The remainder of his
earnings is divided into three parts, the first of which
is paid to the boy himself, the second is put by for him
in the savings-bank, and the third is given to the Society
to defray its expenses. A penny is the charge for brushing
a gentleman's shoes and cleaning his trousers. Sometimes
2d., 3d., 4d., or even 6d., is given, but the Society desires to
discourage this excess of payment. About 800 pairs of
shoes were cleaned each day during the summer of 1852.
During the first year the boys laid by for their future
welfare, in the savings-bank, 156l. The earnings of course
much vary, according to the state of the weather, the traffic
of the station, and the quickness of the boy. It once reached 2l. 2s. a-week by an Irish lad during the
Exhibition. In the summer, 10s. is a fair sum to earn. This, continued all
the year, with 45 boys, would amount to 1,404l. ; but in the
winter months the earnings are reduced one-half. The
boys have generally been found honestly to bring to the
office what they receive. As they are changed, the value of
each station is tolerably known. They are also inspected by
officers of the Society. If suspicion is excited, they are
watched. But only 2 cases of dishonesty were thus discovered during the Society's first year. During that year,
of the 27 previous criminals, 3 were sent out by the Society,
as a reward, as emigrants, 5 obtained situations, I was
restored to his friends, 3 left of their own accord, 2 were discharged for incompetence, 4 for misconduct, and 9
remained in the employment. All these had been convicted
as thieves. Of 29 other boys employed that year, whose
parents were convicts, or drunken and depraved, or had
abandoned their children, 4 emigrated, 6 obtained situations,
1 was apprenticed, 1 left of his own accord, 2 were dis-[-77-]charged for
incompetence, 7 for misconduct, and 9 remained
in the employment. Of the first class - the thieves, a lad
was raised from the rank of a criminal to the rank of
inspector, and was paid 10s. a-week by the Society.
Another, who had been a burglar, and who entered on
his work with a bullet in his neck, received a similar
promotion. And a third, who, although so young, had been
30 times in custody, and 3 times in gaol, was proceeding
favourably. In one case, a lad received the reward of
emigration, who was the son of a transport, and who took
within him 15l., which he mad saved from his earnings. In
another case, a boy, who was without a father, had only
a drunken mother, and who was a criminal himself, obtained
a situation as in-door servant, and, on doing so, commenced
family prayers in the kitchen. He gave every satisfaction
to his employer. One of the best lads remaining has no
father; his mother is a criminal; and he himself had been
a criminal also.
A remarkable circumstance is, that the Society has received numerous applications from respectable parents to employ their sons, who have apparently felt no objection to their children associating within lads of so debased a class, so satisfactory has been the general conduct of the latter. The Society has refused, however, such applications, desiring to limit the number of the lads to those who have passed through Ragged Schools.
Another interesting circumstance is, that 25 of these lads, although so young, actually supported their parents by their earnings.
It is also very interesting, that the lads are so fond of their situations, that it is difficult to get them to leave for more permanent ordinary places. They will not go for less than 7s. a-week, and they often show a desire to return, after having left.
[-78-] Nor is it an unimportant circumstance, that the Society has no need to seek after situations for the lads. They receive numerous applications for them. One omnibus company alone, during the year, applied for 40 lads.
Similar Societies have also been formed in Dublin, Liverpool, and Sheffield.
The lads who have no homes, and who do not lodge at the Society's house, live in model lodging-houses, and the refuges connected within their schools. Those who lodge in Off-alley pay 3d. a night for their lodging.
Emigration expenses have been met partly by the schools to which the lads pertain, and partly by the Ragged School Union. The outfit is in every case paid for out of the lad's savings. None are sent out but those who really desire to leave the country. In many cases they prefer remaining at home.
Arrangements are in progress for establishing a school especially for these lads, and making them pay for it, which they appear to be most ready to do.
All the lads on the Sunday must attend either church or school.
A fine of 1d. is levied for want of punctuality at prayers in the morning, which is applied to a sick fund.
The following advantages in the plans of the Society are believed to have been most important in its success. By them industry is not merely enforced, but immediately rewarded; permanent employment is held out in prospect; good and bad conduct are made directly apparent to the other lads, and to the managers; emulation is promoted by classification; honesty by constant money transactions, in which trust is involved; economy by daily saving; attention to respectability of appearance by enforcing proper clothing; punctuality by fixed hours; steadiness by the requirement of prolonged attention to duties at a certain post ; learning by [-79-] promotion to stations requiring it, and love of home by a provision for those who would otherwise be without a smelter.
Broomers, and how they might be made to cleanse London.
As during the winter months so many street shoe-blacks cannot be profitably employed as in the summer, a portion of them then become broomers. The shops in Regent-street and Bond-street were canvassed, and to those whose owners were willing to pay 1d. a day, boys were sent during the winter of 1851-2, to each of whom was entrusted the duty of sweeping the pavement from morning to evening before 20 shops, and keeping it clean from dirt. Their earnings about sufficed only for their support. This employment, however, besides being far less lucrative, is much inferior in its discipline. The whole sanitary condition of London might be attended to by boys of this description. It might be extended, almost indefinitely, if suitable persons would devote time to its superintendence. Broomers are now established in York, Brighton, and Gravesend.
Another occupation in which boys of this description have been employed by the same Society, is that of messengers. The Electric Telegraph Company have allowed two boys to be placed in Lothbury, and two at Charing-cross. They are clothed by the Society in a better uniform, with black trousers, red striped, and a little red jacket. They carry messages, at the rate of 2d. for the first half-mile, and 1d. for every subsequent half-mile. They are furnished with books for their parcels, and are made responsible for a booked parcel up to the amount of 3l. In order to provide for the last-mentioned requirements, those lads only are employed by the Society in this work, who have money, which they [-80-] have saved in the bank, and the Shoe-black Society would come upon this, in case of wilful loss. More recently the new Crystal Palace Company have employed these lads.
Steppers and Ragged Nursery.
"Other varieties of this street work have been at various times suggested, as for cleaning the brass plates of houses, or knives, from door to door. A large field of labour, healthy, remunerative, and unoccupied, is open to the ingenious. . . . The little girls, too, are employed in the open air. The little steppers from the Refuge in Dorchester-place attend the dwelling-houses of the neighbourhood every morning, and brush and wash the steps for 1d. a door. Nor may we omit from our catalogue the Ragged Nursery, where infants are cared for, fed, and fondled by the elder girls, for the small sum of 3d. a day." * (* Macgregor's Lecture, pp. 12, 13.)
Comparison of the Expenses of Schools and Prisons.
How much better is it to seek to prevent crime than to
have to punish it! The foregoing facts most strikingly
illustrate that truth. It is also far more economical. The
following comparison of the expenditure of prisons and
schools is most conclusive. It is by Andrew Thomson, Esq.,
"The expense of all prisoners, old and young, in Scotland, is about 16 guineas a-year, the expenses in England are about 24l., and both these sums are altogether independent of the costly buildings in which they are lodged. The expenses in a Scotch workhouse or union-house are generally from 10l. to 12l. a-year, but in the industrial schools the expense of training up a boy is about 3l. 15s., after deducting the amount of his earnings. In the girls' school the expense is much smaller. . . Now contrast that with the [-81-] expense of a prisoner, especially if he goes through the usual career. A practised regular thief generally spends about 3 years in prison before he is transported. His 3 years in prison cost from 60l. to 70l., and his expense of transportation is variously stated, say from 150l. to 250l. Altogether it costs, say about 300l., before you have done with him; and he is not better when you have done with him, or very little better, than he is at the commencement. Now, if you send him to an Industrial School, and keep him there for 5 years, which is much more than the usual period we are able to keep them, he would not have cost 20l., and he would have been put fairly in the way of getting a living. He would have been thoroughly educated in the first principles of religion, and the elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and he would have been thoroughly taught industrial habits, all of which can now be done for 20l. in the case of a boy, and for 14l. in the case of a girl. Compare this with the enormous expenditure in some of the prisons in England; for instance, in Pentonville and York Castle. In the latter, every prisoner sits in a house which costs the public 60l. a-year, for each cell in York Castle cost 1,200l., so that each felon confined there, boy or girl, pays a house rent of 60l. a-year. Nay, the very walls that surround York Castle cost an enormous sum of money, above 100,000l., all of which was raised by voluntary assessment on the county of York."
The especial Claims of Girls.
It must not be, however, understood from previous
observations that Ragged Schools are only for boys. The
number of girls is as large. Fewer by far of these have
been, or are likely to be, in prison. But this is not because
they are more free from the sin of theft, although they are
probably not so adventurous in stealing large amounts. But [-82-]
the public is more unwilling to prosecute girls than boys for
theft, under any circumstances. And the breach of the
eighth commandment with girls is so almost universally
associated with a breach of the seventh commandment also, that
the fear of exposure in the latter particular generally causes
those who are robbed to prefer with quietness to submit to
the loss. If, however, the public welfare, so far as the
expense of punishment is concerned, is less interfered with
by criminal girls than by criminal boys, it is in other and
more important respects imperilled to a far greater extent.
Miss Mary Carpenter, the authoress of "Reformatory
Schools for the Children of the poor and destitute Classes,
and for Juvenile Offenders," who for the last 17 years has
devoted herself to this class, with a zeal which may put to
shame most of those whose zeal to their Redeemer professes
to be founded on a recognition of his essential Deity, has
observed on this subject:-
"I greatly lament that there has not been as yet that attention paid to the condition of girls which I think to be exceedingly necessary, for although girls may be considered altogether, as rather more virtuous than boys, if they are kept out of temptation, yet when they do once fall into vice, they are even more dangerous to society. It is, therefore, very important that greater attention should be directed than has hitherto been done to girls, especially when we remember that they are to be the mothers of the next generation. I have known numerous instances in which a family has been well brought up, with a bad father and a good mother, but I have NEVER known an instance of a family being otherwise than vicious with a bad mother."
Nor has less success attended the efforts made for ragged girls. The same authoress states,-
"In 'the perishing and dangerous class' girls are very far sunk below boys. Nevertheless, when we can get [-83-] them under influence, and we have at times collected in the school some very miserable ragged girls, there has been a more striking and perceptible effect produced upon them in a short time than upon the boys. Therefore I believe that proper influences brought to bear upon them before they are fixed in sin would prove very efficient."
Voluntary Effort, and that by the Masses, rather than Government Aid, to be especially rested on.
The foregoing calculation of the comparative expenses of
schools and prisons, makes no reference to the amount of loss
to the more respectable portion of the community by the
plunder of these juvenile thieves. That is a most considerable item to add. It would be good political economy for
the national funds to be appropriated to Reformatory Schools
rather than to prisons. Less national money would be
expended, and the end desired would be far more effectually
promoted. The day may probably arrive when this will be
seen and acted on, as it is already by those undergoing
sentences of imprisonment in the Reformatory Institution at
Red Hill, near Reigate.
But it is important for Christian persons not to lean too much on governing powers. Their hands are ordinarily very full, and there is very general disappointment experienced in hopes resting on legislative bodies. The great dependance of the Church of Christ should be on her own exertions. These will suffice, at all events, for such an object as this, if she is only alive to her responsibilities. And what is needed to be done, is likely to be done with far more effect when it is done by voluntary effort, and from affection to the work. This kindly feeling, exercised by teachers, towards those who have only been accustomed to harshness and severity, has, indeed, under God, been a main cause of the success of the effort. The hearts of the poor [-84-] outcasts have first been won to the teachers, and then to God.
Nor is it desirable to depend too much on the voluntary aid of the higher classes. To interest the great masses of the population, and especially of the Christian population, is by far the more important. This was illustrated in a striking manner in Aberdeen, where the working men of the city were so desirous that schools for the destitute class should be set up, that they subscribed 250l. in one sum, and presented it to the Directors of the Aberdeen Schools for that purpose.
Appointment of a Missionary by the London City Mission for this Class, supported by Lord Shaftesbury.
A missionary of the London City Mission is now employed by that Society, supported by the Earl of Shaftesbury,
whose province is thus defined by his Lordship, in a letter
to the Committee of the Ragged School Union :- "His duty
is to perambulate London - ascertain the names, pursuits,
habits, of the Ragged class - dive into the recesses, alleys,
courts and dens of filth and misery - use all his influence
with children, parents, or relatives, and effect, if possible,
attendance at the Ragged School of the district He
will go into the highways and lanes, and compel them to
It is to be hoped that this appointment, apart from its indirect benefits, will tend to the extension of the Ragged School system, until the whole number of the dangerous and perilous class are brought under its salutary training.
The same result will also, doubtless, be accelerated by the constant increase in the number of City Missionaries, Scripture-readers, and voluntary visitors of the poor, as well as by the united efforts of the ministers of the Gospel.
Importance of Increased Exertions, in order to bring the whole of this Class under Ragged School Instruction.
At present there are probably, at the very least, from 8,000 to 10,000 more of this class in London to be brought under instruction, supposing that the children now attending Ragged Schools are, as they should be, exclusively of the class for which the schools were designed. how important is it, then, that greater efforts should be made Ragged Schools have ordinarily hitherto arisen from the efforts of City Missionaries, nor would they be filled, if erected, without some such agency to bring in the outcasts. There is a very near proportion of the number of children yet brought within the walls of the schools of the Ragged School Union, as compared with the total number of that class, and the number of poor brought under the visitation of the London City Mission, as compared with the entire poor population of the metropolis. Support of the one Society, therefore, leads to the extension of the other. The Union itself also needs pecuniary help, and its schools much need additional voluntary teachers. The latter is a most blessed work, blessing those who engage in it as well as those who receive the more immediate benefit.
Let the reader behold the class:-
"There is not a father by whose side, in his daily or his nightly walk, these creatures pass - there is not a mother among all the ranks of loving mothers in this land - there is no one risen from the state of childhood, who shall not be responsible in his or her degree for the enormity.
"There is not a country throughout the earth on which it will not bring a curse; there is no religion upon earth [-86-] that it would not deny; there is no people upon earth it would not put to shame."* (*Charles Dickens)
Let not the reader turn away from these his neighbours.
"Though poor, ragged, and degraded, the outcast is thy brother still - why shun and despise him? In years past such an one might have been saved; yet you refused to counsel him. It is a solemn reflection, 'I might have saved a soul from vice and infamy, yet I refused.' Ye who have been remiss in duty, who have not cared when a brother erred and perished, awaken to new life, and be not slack in the performance of duty. It is not too late - scores may yet be saved by your judicious efforts, by your counsels, your tears, your affectionate hearts and open hands. A kiss is better than a blow. Kindliness is a moral lever, judiciously used, which will move the world and raise it to life, light, and joy."* (*"American Christian Advocate")
Let the reader especially reach forth a helping hand to this class. The souls of all are in one sense alike important. They are all endued with immortality, and that immortality will be either of bliss or woe. But, in another sense, this class is the most important of all to be saved. They are more an object of pity; they are by far the most dangerous and costly to society; and the power of the Gospel is the more honourably shown in their change. God is more glorified and man is more benefited by the deliverance of these outcasts than in other classes. Nor are they by any means, when other criminal and vicious classes are added to them, that minority of the population of the one half of London, which the other half, unacquainted intimately with the condition of these, are too much disposed to imagine.