Charity begins at home

Charity made life a little more bearable for those fallen on hard times or those who suffered impoverishment in the Victorian Era, even today we still give a vast amount of money to charities.

In 1860 J. Ewing Ritchie remarks in his book ‘About London’ about the charitable nature of Englishmen and of Londoners in particular, of the French he is not so well disposed:

When Guizot (François Pierre Guillaume Guizot 1787–1874) was a French historian, orator, and statesmanvisited London the principal thing that struck him was the nature and the extent of London Charities. Undoubtedly the English are a more charitable people than the French.

Bearing in mind here that the English and the French have squabbled like children for centuries…but it did make me laugh nevertheless!

What sums the nation subscribed for the relief of the wives and widows and orphans of the Crimean heroes. What an amount was raised at once for the victims of the Indian mutiny. An Englishman likes to make money, and makes many a sacrifice to do it; but then how lavishly and with what a princely hand he gives it.  And in this respect the Londoner is a thorough Englishman—his charity covers a multitude of sins.  I am aware some of this charity is of a doubtful character.  A draper, for instance, may subscribe to the funds—of such an institution as that for early closing—a very handsome sum, merely as a good business advertisement; other tradesmen may and undoubtedly do the same.  There is also a spirit of rivalry in these matters—if Smith saw Jones’ name down for £50, he, thinking he was as good as Smith any day, and perhaps a good deal better, puts his name down for £100.  Somehow or other we can scarce do good things without introducing a little of the alloy of poor human nature; but London charities undoubtedly cover a multitude of sins.

Well i’m not too sure to that as a complaint or insult!

Associations for the voluntary relief of distress, the reclamation of the criminal, and diffusion of Christian truth, are a noble characteristic of the English people.

Quite so I couldn’t agree more.

There is no city in the world possessing an equal number of charitable institutions to those of the British capital.  Taking the whole of London, and not exempting, from their distance, such as may be correctly classed as metropolitan institutions, as Greenwich Hospital, &c., we find there are no less than 526 charitable institutions, exclusive of mere local endowments and trusts, parochial and local schools, &c.

Quite so again and of course there are still many thousands of charities through out the UK.

Here is a snapshot from 1860 (above). These charities gave out the annual sum of which is an enormous figure £1,764,733 and £1,000,000 of that was from donations, quite incredible really!

The Times makes an appeal about Christmas time for the refuges of the destitute in the metropolis, and generally it raises somewhere about £10,000—a nice addition to the regular income of the societies.  The Bishop of London, since he has been connected with his diocese, has consecrated 29 new churches, accommodating 90,000 persons, erected by voluntary subscriptions.  We may depend upon it the various sects of dissenters are equally active in their way.  During last year the Field Lane Refuge supplied 30,302 lodgings to 6,785 men and boys, who received 101,193 either six or eight ounce loaves of bread.  At the same time 840 women were admitted during the year, to whom were supplied 10,028 lodgings, averaging 11 nights shelter to each person, by whom 14,755 loaves were consumed. On the whole it appears that 10,000 persons annually participate in the advantages of this institution, and 1,222 of the most forlorn and wretched creatures in London were taken from the streets and placed in a position where they might earn their own bread, and all this at the cost of 3s. 6d. each per annum.

It’s interesting to note that not only were the poor fed but also given (or made) to earn their bread.

In 1851 the original Shoeblack Society sent five boys into the street to get an honest living by cleaning boots rather than by picking and stealing, and now their number is about 350.  

This reminds me of the Big Issue. It clear to see from this that Charity did indeed begin at home…I wonder if it still does?

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