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Full text of "Mr. Peabody's Gift to the Poor of London: Statement of the Trustees"

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ME. PEABODrS GIFT 



TO 



THE POOR OF LONDON 



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MR. PEABODY'S GIFT 



TO THK 



POOR OF LONDON. 



The proceedings of the Trustees, to whom Mr. 
Peabody committed the charge of his mmiificent 
' donation of 150,000Z. for the benefit of the poor of 
London,' and the course which they have adopted for its 
appUcation, conformably with the recorded intentions 
of the donor, will be best understood by recalling the 
terms in which his wishes were originally conveyed. 

In his letter of the 12th March, 1862, addressed 
to the United States Minister, Lord Stanley, M.P., 
Sir J. Emerson Tennent, Mr. C. M. Lampson, and Mr. 
J. S. Morgan, Mr. Peabody, after alluding to the simis 
which he had previously bestowed in America — at 
Danvers, the place of his birth, and at Baltimore, the 
first scene of his active life — for the foundation of in- 
stitutions calculated to promote the intellectual, moral, 
and social welfare of his fellow-countrymen, proceeds 
to say, that, in pursuance of a long-cherished determin- 
ation to attest, by a similar gift, his gratitude and 
attachment to the people of London, amongst whom 
he had spent the last twenty-five years of his life, he 
was then about to. devote 150,000/., ^ to ameliorate the 

A 



Z ME. PEABODY S GIFT 

condition of the poor and needy of this great metro- 
polis, and to promote their comfort and happiness/ 

This sum he hoped would be so applied by the 
trustees, that the result would 'be appreciated, not 
only by the present, but by future generations, of 
the people of London.' 

As regards its expenditure, Mr. Peabody had but 
three conditions to impose; but these were, as he 
said, ' fundamental principles, from which it was his 
solemn injimction that those entrusted with the appUca- 
tion of the fund shall never, under any circumstances, 
depart.* 

'First and foremost amongst them is the limitation of 
its uses, absolutely and exclusively to such purposes as may 
be calculated directly to ameliorate the condition, and aug- 
ment the comforts of the poor; who either by birth or 
established residence, form a recognised portion of the 
population of London. 

* Secondly y it is my intention,* he said, Hhat now and for all 
time there shall be a rigid exclusion from the management of 
this fund, of any influences calculated to impart to it a char- 
acter either sectarian as regards religion, or exclusive in 
relation to local or party politics. 

* Thirdly y it is my vdsh that the sole qualification for a 
participation in the benefits of the fund, shall be an ascer- 
tained and continued condition of life, such as brings the 
individual within the description (in the ordinary sense of 
the word) of the poor of London ; combined with moral char- 
acter, and good conduct as a member of society.* 

Assuring to the trustees the utmost latitude for 
the exercise of their judgment in deciding on the 
mode of expenditure, Mr. Peabody without, in the 
remotest d^ree, desiring to limit their discretion in 



TO THE POOR OF LONDON. 3 

the selection of the most suitable means for giving 
effect to his purposes, threw out one suggestion for. 
consideration, amongst the many, which would neces- 
sarily come under their attention, viz., whether it 
might not be found conducive to the realization of the 
conditions above stated; *to apply the fimd, or a 
portion of it, in the construction of such improved 
dwellings for the poor as may combine, in the ut- 
most possible degree, the essentials of healthfulness, 
comfort, social enjoyment, and economy.' 

Thus generously endowed alike with funds and with 
discretion to choose the mode of their employment, the 
first care of the trustees was to obtain a deed so framed 
as to confer legal powers on those who were to be 
entrusted with their administration, and to ensure 
their undeviating appUcation to the generous objects 
contemplated by the giver. But at this stage consider- 
able diiBculty was encountered, arising mainly from 
the fact that the large amount to be expended, was 
not a bequest by will, in which case precedents are 
sufficiently numerous, but a gift during the lifetime of 
the giver, which therefore involved the necessity of in- 
serting provisions to satisfy the requirements of the 
mortmain law. 

After some delay, a trust-deed was prepared, exe- 
cuted and enrolled ; and at the first meeting under 
it, which took place on the 23rd July, 1862, Lord 
Stanley was elected chairman and another of the 
trustees undertook to act as honorary secretary pro 
tern., thus faciUtating a resolution to postpone as long 
as possible the appointment of any salaried officers. 
Hence, as will be seen by the abstract of accounts ap- 



4 MR. PEABODYS GIFT 

pended, the gross amount for the management of the 
fund has amounted, in three years, to but 517/. 10^. 

Pursuant to the terms of the deed of trust, the main 
portion of the fund was invested at interest in Govern- 
ment stock and other negotiable securities ; the balance 
being held in readiness for early expenditure so soon 
as a decision could be come to, as to the most advan- 
tageous method of employing the fimd in conformity 
with the intentions and subject to the conditions laid 
down by Mr. Peabody. 

And here, on the very threshold of the undertaking, 
a question of grave significance presented itself; by 
the express terms of the gift, it was directed to be so 
applied as to ameUorate the condition and augment the 
comforts of the well-conducted poor of London. But 
before determining how this could best be done, for the 
advantage of those intended to be benefited, it became 
essential to determine who are the poor of London in 
the eye of the law? 

It has heretofore been held under the authority of 
judicial decisions that, in the absence of any governing 
or qualifying expressions, a gift or bequest to ' the poor * 
of any place is applicable exclusively to persons not re- 
ceiving parochial support: — and this, on the principle, 
that to relieve those already chargeable on the parish 
or the union, inasmuch as it would contribute to the re- 
duction of the rates, would virtually be conferring abenefit 
on the property rather than on the poverty of the locaHty, 

Later decisions have somewhat modified this view ; 
the rigidity of the law would now be more or less tem- 
pered to adapt it to the ascertained wishes of the donor ; 
and the mere fact of the receipt of alms would not, 



TO THE POOR OP LONDON. 5 

perhaps of itself, suffice to disqualify an indigent family 
for receiving additional comforts, from the donations 
or bequests of benevolent men like Mr. Peabody ; but, 
apart from technical distinctions of this kind, there 
were other considerations which constrained the trus- 
tees to confine their attention, in the first instance, 
to that section of the labouring poor, who occupy a 
position above the pauper. 

Pubhc attention throughout the United Kingdom 
having been attracted by the largeness of Mr. Peabody's 
bounty, commimications were received from numerous 
quarters suggesting benevolent plans for adoption. Many 
of these were in themselves highly desirable, but the 
majority involved arrangements, more or less at variance 
with Mr. Peabody's injunctions and the provisions of the 
deed of trust. For example; institutions connected 
with reUgious bodies were expressly excluded, and 
educational estabhshments, as ordinarily organised, 
were open to the same objection, inasmuch as they 
are more or less dependent for their success upon de- 
nominational favour. 

Hospitals, both for acute and chronic disease, pre- 
sented strong claims ; but on one, amongst other 
grounds, their consideration was deferred ; — Mr. 
Peabody, in his communication to the trustees, had 
not specially directed that the fund should be so 
employed as to render it re-productive; but that 
passage in his letter in which he expressed his hope 
' that not the present only, but future generations 
of the people of London^ would appreciate its ad- 
vantages, was felt to be entitled to the widest con- 
struction of which it was susceptible ; and it appears 



6 MR. peabody's gift 

to point to a mode of investment, such as, whilst ad- 
ministering to the immediate enjoyments of the labour- 
ing poor of London, would also bear within itself the 
germ of future extension and perpetuity. This result 
did not seem to be attainable in the case of hospitals, 
which would absorb without returning any portion of 
the fimd. The same remark appUes to almshouses 
and dwelKngs for the reception and support of the ab- 
solutely destitute, whose subsistence would necessarily 
be a perpetual charge, without presenting the sUghtest 
element of self-support ; and attention was thus forcibly 
directed to the object dictated by Mr. Peabody himself, 
of erecting dwellings for the labouring poor on such 
improved principles as to conduce at once to economy, 
salubrity and social enjoyment. This mode of employ- 
ing the fund had also the recommendation that the low 
rents at which this healthful accommodation could be 
given, would annually supplement the original fund, 
and thus create a source, whence similar advantages 
might continue to be derived for an almost indefinite 
period. 

In postponing other projects, such as those above 
already alluded to, it is not to be supposed that the 
trustees ignore their value or question their importance ; 
but a concurrence of circumstances at the moment 
combined to give preeminence to the one above alluded 
to. In the poorer districts of London, the dwellings 
of the lower classes had been suddenly disturbed by 
the long pent-up invasion of metropolitan raUroads, 
whose incursions were overthrowing whole streets in- 
habited by humble and industrious labourers and arti- 
sans. This dispossessed popidation, unprovided with 



TO THE POOR OP LONDON. 7 

adequate accommodation elsewhere, were thus driven 
away into alleys and courts, already inconveniently^ 
crowded by their previous inmates ; and discomfort 
and disease were in many instances added to loss of 
employment and expense. 

Even in ordinary times, the class here alluded to, is 
one pre-eminently entitled to the friendly sohcitude of 
those more happily circumstanced in life. It may be 
truly said, that the poorest section of society is not the 
absolute pauper ; whose very destitution constitutes his 
claim to a legal provision for his wants. Even the stunned 
feeling of knowing the worst, as he knows it, is more 
endurable than the active agony of the eflTort made by 
the labouring man, a degree above him in the social 
scale, to save himself from a similar downfall. It is to 
this class, and at such a crisis, that the extension of a 
friendly hand may enable the almost exhausted strug- 
gler to maintain his ground, and preserve his sense of 
independence and self-respect. 

Nothing is more calculated to cherish and develope 
these feelings than the removal of the individual and his 
family, from the squalor and discomfort of a dilapidated 
and imwholesome home, to a dweUing cheerful with 
light and air, and replete with faciUties for cleanh- 
ness, health, and every domestic operation ; — and all 
this at a cost somewhat less than he had been accus- 
tomed to pay for the filth and malaria of the fetid 
alleys he had left. It was under a strong conviction 
of the paramount importance of this object, and more 
especially imder the peculiar circumstances above 
adverted to, that the trustees came to the resolution, 
* without precluding the consideration of other subjects 



8 MK. PEABODY'S GIFT 

hereafter, to confine their operations for the present, 
to the object specially recommended to their notice 
by Mr. Peabody, viz., the improvement of dwellings for 
the poor of the Metropolis.' 

Enabled by this decision to proceed promptly with 
the business of the trust, the next inquiries of the 
trustees were directed to the system and style of 
buildings most conducive to the objects in view; and 
to the acquisition of sites in districts of the City most 
Buitable for their erection: these sites to be distributed 
throughout the various quarters of London, in order 
to diflfuse the benefits of Mr. Peabody's Gift over the 
largest possible area. 

The first site chosen was in Commercial Street, Spital- 
fields,near the terminus of the Eastern Coimties Bailway, 
where a space equal to 13,682 square feet was obtained 
from the Commissioners of Public Works for 3,300/. 
For a further expenditure, something under 24,000/. 
for buildings, acconmiodation was obtained for upwards 
of 200 persons, in tenements of one^ two, or three apart- 
ments each, according to the requirements of the several 
occupants. The latter sum included also the cost of 
erecting nine shops on the groimd floor,* the rents of 
which, amounting to nearly 500/. per annum, go to 
increase the general fund, and thus contribute to the 
reproductive character which it is the desire of the 
trustees to impart to it. 

'r Before the dwellings at Spitalfields were completed, 
the trustees were enabled to possess themselves of other 
sites in districts similarly claiming attention. At Chel- 
sea a plot, containing 13,616 square feet, was obtamed 

* See title-page. 



TO THE POOR OP LONDON. 9 

for 4,616/. ISs. Qd. ; for another at Bermondsey, with 
an area of 27,880 square feet, they gave 4,870/. 7^. M. ; 
a fourth at IsUngton, measuring 47,863 square feet, cost 
8,646/. 5^. Qd. ; and for 4,300/., a fifth was acquired at 
Shadwell, the extent of which is over 73,890 square 
feet 

Whilst the houses at Commercial Street were still in 
progress, the trustees commenced, on their premises at 
Islington, the erection of four blocks of buildings, to 
comprise in all 155 tenements, with ample accommoda- 
tion for upwards of 650 persons.* The whole cost of 
these buildings, exclusive of the sum paid for the land, 
will amoimt, when the accounts shall have been closed, 
to 31,690/. 

Before the square at Islington was finished, the trus- 
tees entered into a contract for the sum of 37,953/. to 
build on a similar scale on their property at Shadwell, 
and the works there are now considerably advanced. 

The principle and organisation in each of these ex- 
tensive structures is the same. Drainage and ventilation 
have been ensured with the utmost possible care ; the 
instant removal of dust and refiise is effected by means of 
shafts which descend from every corridor to cellars 
in the basement, whence it is carted away ; the 
passages are all kept clean, and lighted with gas without 
any cost to the tenants ; water from cisterns in the roof 
is distributed by pipes into every tenement ; and there 
are baths free for all who desire to use them. Laimdries, 
with wringing machines and drying lofts, are at the 
service of every inmate, who is thus reheved fi*om the 
inconvenience of damp vapours in their apartments, 

* See Frontispiece. 



10 MR. PEABODY'S GIFT 

and the consequent damage to their furniture and 
bedding. 

Every living-room or kitchen is abundantly provided 
with cupboards, shelving, and other conveniences, and 
each fire-place includes a boiler and an oven. But what 
gratifies the tenants, perhaps, more than any other part 
of the arrangements, are the ample and airy spaces 
which serve as play-grounds for their children, where 
they are always imder their mother's eyes, and safe from 
the risk of passing carriages and laden carts. 

In fixing the rent for all this accommodation, the 
trustees were influenced by two considerations. In the 
first place, they felt it incumbent on them, conformably 
with the intention of rendering the Peabody Fund 
reproductive, to charge for each room such a mod- 
erate percentage on the actual cost of the houses 
as would bring in a reasonable annual income to the 
general fund. In the second place, they were desirous, 
without coming into undue competition with the owners 
of house property less, favourably circumstanced, to 
demonstrate to its proprietors the practicability of 
rendering the dwelUngs of the labouring poor health- 
fill, cheerful, and attractive; and at the same time 
securing to the landlords a fair return for their in- 
vestments. 

At the present moment, owing to the vast changes 
in the metropolis, by which the houses of the laboiuing 
poor have been demolished to so great an extent, the 
cost of accommodation for them has been greatly 
increased. It of course varies in difierent localities ; 
but, on an average, the weekly charge for a single room 
of a very poor description is firom 28. Qd. to 3^. ; for 



TO THE POOB OF WSDON. 11 

two rooms, 5^. or 5^. 6d. ; and for three, from 6^. 6d. 
to Is* 

But the mere test of rent affords no adequate stand- 
ard by which to contrast the squalor and discomfort 
of one of these tenements with the hght and airy and 
agreeable apartments in the Peabody buildings ; and 
for one room there the charge per week is 2^. Qd. ; for 
two rooms, 4^. ; and for three rooms, 5^. 

On the 29th February, 1864, the first pile of buildings, 
erected in Commercial Street, Spitalfields, was thrown 
open to receive its inmates, and the number of appli- 
cants was and continues to be considerably in excess of 
the accommodation available. 

As Mr. Peabody had directed by his letter that the 
sole qualification to be required in a tenant was to be 
" an ascertained condition of life, such as brings the 
individual within the description of the poor of London, 
combined with moral character and good conduct as a 
member of society," it became the duty of the trustees 
to ' ascertain ' by actual inquiry ; first, that the circum- 
stances of the person proposing himself as a tenant 

• " In London, unless steps are taken, the poor bid iair to be thrust 
out of house and home, and to have no place left to dwell in. Our 
StreeMmproyement Acts and our railway demolitions are turning 
out the poor by thousands. Even in our crowded and deplorable 
districts, such as the streets and alleys running out of Drury Lane 
and in the region of the Seven Dials, apartments are not to be had ; 
and the rents in some neighbourhoods have been raised 50 per cent. 
A respectable omnibus conductor in our neighbourhood, who seeks 
to have two rooms, dingy and small, to accommodate five persons, pays 
seven shillings per week. A wretched family, where the husband 
never brings to his home more than twelve shillings per week, and 
often less (where there are five children), pays five shillings per week 
for two low damp kitchens." — Letter of the Key. Jabez Bums, D J)., 
December 2nd, 1865. 



12 MR. peabody's gift 

were such as to entitle him to admission ; and, secondly, 
that in the opinion of his employers there was nothing 
in his character or moral conduct to disqualify him 
from partaking in the benefits of the fund. 

These two conditions once established, the tenant, 
on taking possession of his new residence, finds 
himself as free in action and as exempt from intrusive 
restraint or officious interference as if he occupied a 
house in one of the adjacent streets. His sense of in- 
dependence is preserved by the consciousness that he 
pays for what he enjoys, and for this payment he 
provides himself with a dwelling so much superior to 
that which he had formerly been accustomed to, that 
the approach to his home is no longer accompanied by 
a feeling of humiUation.* 

As the result of the above inquiries, several apphca- 
tions for admission were declined, on the grounds either 
of a condition in life too easy to entitle the individual 
to be classed with the labouring poor, or of a moral 
character which could not bear investigation, because 
of habitual drunkenness or conviction before a legal 
tribunal. In some instances, too, the families of persons 
desirous to become tenants were found to be too numer- 
ous for the accommodation available ; and these, to avoid 
unwholesome crowding, were unavoidably excluded. 

At this stage of their operations the Trustees foimd 
it necessary to appoint a Secretary ; on whom would 
devolve the duty not alone of supervising the current 

* This effect of raising the dignity of the workman in his own 
eyes, by elevating the character of his dwelling, is pointed out in a 
description of the Familistenf, or Workman'a Home, erected bj 
M. Godin-Lemaire, at Guise, near St. Quentin, in the Sociai 
Science Review, for October 1865. 



TO THE POOR OP LONDON. 13 

affairs of the trust, now becoming extensive and various, 
but also of conducting the prehminary inquiries above 
referred to; and on the sedulous and conscientious 
prosecution of which the success of the undertaking 
is so mainly dependant 

The number of persons who took possession of 
their new homes in Spitalfields was upwards of 200, 
including such classes as charwomen, monthly nurses, 
basket-makers, butchers, carpenters, firemen, labourers, 
porters, omnibus drivers, sempstresses, shoemakers, 
tailors, waiters, warehousemen, &c. 

In the buildings at Islington, which were opened in 
September, 1865, the inmates axe of the same class, with 
the addition of persons employed in other trades; 
watch-finishers, turners, stay-makers, smiths, sawyers, 
printers, painters, laundresses, letter-carriers, artificial 
flower-makers, dress-makers, carmen, cabinet-makers, 
bookbinders, and others. The entire community there 
now consists of 674 individuals, of whom 19 are 
widows, the rest married persons and children. 

In evidence of the improved salubrity of the build- 
ings, the superintendents report that ill health is rare, 
and that the number of deaths since the first buildings 
were opened, in February, 1864 — nearly two years 
ago — ^have been one man aged 30, who died of a 
chronic complaint, and four children, one of whom was 
under 5, and two under 2 years old. 

The social contentment of the tenants is fi*eely ex- 
pressed ; no complaints have been made of any of the 
arrangements provided for their comfort, and they all 
speak approvingly of the unaccustomed advantages 
they enjoy. Amongst these they especially particu- 
larise the security of their furniture and effects, which 



14 MB. pbabody's gift 

are no longer liable, as they formerly were, to be taken 
in distress should the landlord become a defaulter. 

As regards the moral conduct of the tenantry, the 
superintendent reports that habitual drunkenness is im- 
known, and intoxication infrequent, and where the latter 
does occur to the annoyance of others it is judiciously 
dealt with, by giving notice to the offender that, in the 
event of its recurrence, he must prepare to leave. There 
has been but one person removed for quarrelling and dis- 
tiu'bing the peace; and one expelled for non-payment of 
rent. These exceptions, out of a community consisting 
of 880 persons, speak strongly for the self-respect 
and moral principles by which they are influenced. 

The Trustees cannot conclude this sketch of their 
proceedings without expressing their regret on discover- 
ing one obstacle to their usefulness, interposed by the 
large amounts levied on their buildings for poors' rate, 
inhabited house duty, income tax and general assess- 
ments for sewers and drainage. Looking to the fact 
that the fiind they administer operates to the repres- 
sion of the rates for the poor, in proportion to the num- 
bers whom it saves from becoming chargeable on the 
public, it seems to present a reasonable groimd for ex- 
emption; but as the levy is made conformably to law, 
they are content to express a hope that the Legislature 
may be induced to take the subject into consideration, 
with a view to the early appUcation of a remedy. . 

The foregoing statement has been prepared and issued 
under the authority of the Trustees. 

(Signed), 

H. G. SOMERBT, 

December, 1865. Secretary. 



TO THB POOR OP LONDON. 



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