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Posted in Historical articles, History, London, News, Philanthropy, Politics on Wednesday, 22 May 2013
This edited article about W H Smith originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 263 published on 28 January 1967.
A branch of W H Smith at a Victorian railway station
The rather stately house at No. 12 Hyde Park Street, Westminster, is not the sort of property one would expect to be the home of a bookseller. But then, W. H. Smith, who once occupied it, was no ordinary bookseller, and the blue plaque there mentions another aspect of his life, for William Henry Smith was one of the leading statesmen of his time.
W. H. Smith’s business life was thrust upon him by his father, a leading newsagent, who insisted that, instead of going to Oxford University, he should enter the family firm. Bitterly disappointed, the young man nevertheless threw himself into his work, and, at 21, became his father’s partner.
He was very shrewd, and soon realised that the new railways offered great possibilities for the company. His first step was to obtain exclusive rights to open bookstalls on the stations of all important lines – and on one of them he was known for a time as the ‘North-Western Missionary’, owing to his refusal to sell books he considered dubious. At main stations he leased all appropriate blank walls, which he then let to those wishing to practise the new art of advertising. He opened a circulating library with a stock of many thousands of volumes, and entered the publishing trade with a series of cheap reprints. By the time his father died, in 1865, he was 40 years old and head of a large and very profitable business.
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Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Philanthropy, Religion, Royalty on Friday, 17 May 2013
Royal Hospital of St Katharine, Regent's Park, London
The ancient Royal Collegiate Hospital of St Katharine had stood on the banks of the Thames, next to the Tower of London, for nearly 700 years before it was relocated to Regent’s Park to make way for the massive excavations for St Katharine’s Dock. Founded in 1148 by Matilda of Boulogne, wife of King Stephen, it was a charitable institution providing spiritual rather than medical care. The new buildings provide an early example of Gothic Revival architecture in the capital, and add to the variety of prospects around the park itself. The design by Ambrose Poynter follows a collegiate plan with a central chapel and college wings to each side, the whole giving a pleasing impression of a mediaeval Oxbridge college.
Many more pictures of Regent’s Park can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.
Posted in Historical articles, History, London, Philanthropy on Monday, 13 May 2013
This edited article about Dr Barnardo originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 253 published on 19 November 1966.
London a hundred years ago was a nice enough place in which to live if you had money. The rich, secure and powerful, could afford endless servants to make their lives easier and smoother. Even the not-so-wealthy middle-classes enjoyed a solidly tranquil existence.
But, for the poor, London was a grim city. This was the London of Oliver Twist, of horse-drawn traffic and gaslit thoroughfares. It was not wise to walk alone in some streets. Public hangings still took place. There was no compulsory education, no state social services.
Sanitation, as we accept it today, hardly existed. There was overcrowding, malnutrition, a high rate of death among children and high unemployment.
Thomas Barnardo knew little of this when he became a medical student at the London Hospital. He had been born in Dublin in July, 1845, and had come to London originally to be accepted as a missionary. On being told that he had to have a medical training, he had enrolled at the London Hospital, which was regarded as one of the best hospitals, but its amenities and conditions would not be tolerated today.
The operating theatre was dingy and primitive. Instruments were not sterilised, and the floors were broken and uneven, their cracks a breeding ground for germs and disease.
Every so often, Thomas was detailed to accompany a midwife on her visits to poor houses – often so sordid that only a pile of dirty rags served as bed linen.
Bad though all this was, these conditions were nothing to those Thomas was to encounter in a vast cholera epidemic which soon swept London. In one fortnight, some 250 patients were admitted to ‘The London’. Of these, 150 died. By the epidemic’s end, the death-roll had reached 3,909. With the exception of the Great Plague of 1665, this was the worst outbreak of disease London had ever known.
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Posted in America, Astronomy, Historical articles, History, Philanthropy, Science, Space on Wednesday, 8 May 2013
This edited article about astronomy originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 247 published on 8 October 1966.
Andrew Carnegie in 1913
There can be few people who have not heard of the Palomar Reflector, which has a mirror 200 inches across. It is much the most powerful telescope in the world, and it has allowed astronomers to look further into space than they would ever have been able to do without it. It is known as the Hale Reflector, in honour of the man who planned it, but who died before it was completed: George Ellery Hale.
Hale was born in 1868, in Chicago. Astronomy was his boyhood interest, and at the early age of 23 he became famous for his invention of an instrument known as a spectroheliograph, used in studying the Sun. Even as a young man, Hale was far-sighted; he knew that if men were to probe into the depths of the universe, large telescopes would be needed. Unfortunately, such instruments are very expensive indeed. It did not seem likely that any Government would put up the money for a giant telescope, and so Hale looked around for someone who would be prepared to do so.
In 1892 he met Charles Yerkes, a millionaire who owned a large part of the city of Chicago. Yerkes could afford to pay for a large telescope, and he agreed to finance the project. It was decided that the telescope should be a refractor, collecting its light by means of a lens known as an object-glass; the optics were made by Alvan G. Clark, the world’s leading expert. Clark’s object-glass, 40 inches in diameter, turned out to be well-nigh perfect. The telescope was set up in a new observatory outside Chicago, named in honour of Yerkes – with Hale, naturally enough, as its first Director.
Within a few years the Yerkes 40-inch had more than justified the 34,900 dollars spent in building it, but Hale was not satisfied. His motto was ‘More light!’ and he knew that the essential thing was to collect the light from immensely faint, remote stars and star-systems. The 40-inch, powerful though it was, had its limitations, and Hale made up his mind to obtain something better.
There were hopeless difficulties in the way of making an object-glass more than 40 inches across. However, a reflecting telescope collects its light by means of a mirror instead of a lens, and there seemed every chance that a huge mirror could be made – if only the money could be found.
Again Hale was lucky. Andrew Carnegie, one of the few men as wealthy as Charles Yerkes, had set up a financial trust known as the Carnegie Foundation, and this trust agreed to finance a reflector with a 60-inch mirror. George Ritchey, at that time unrivalled as a mirror-maker, took charge of the optical work, and in 1908 the new telescope was ready. It was placed in an observatory on Mount Wilson, a peak in California, from which the observing conditions were particularly good.
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Posted in Historical articles, History, Philanthropy, Politics on Friday, 3 May 2013
This edited article about Christian philanthropy and social justice originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 241 published on 27 August 1966.
During the 19th century the Churches of Britain sent out their missionaries in thousands to every continent. But that did not mean that the needs of their own country were neglected. The changes brought about by what we often call the ‘Industrial Revolution’ meant that great cities like Birmingham and Manchester grew up, where the new factory workers were housed in very poor conditions which developed into slums. And while some professing Christians did not seem concerned at the hardships of their fellow-countrymen, there were others who struggled hard to make life happier and fairer for them. The names of many who fought as Christians for social justice are forgotten, but one, Lord Shaftesbury, is still held in honour, and is commemorated in London’s famous Shaftesbury Avenue.
His life (1801-85) almost spanned the century, and from the time he entered Parliament in 1826 he worked ceaselessly to improve the conditions under which industrial workers, and particularly women and boys, were employed. Acts of Parliament to limit their hours of work, to fix a minimum age for child employment, and to prevent women being employed in the mines, were largely the result of his efforts. He was also president of what was called ‘the Ragged School Union’ for educating the children of the poor, and he showed a particular concern for the little boys who were sent up the chimneys of great houses by the chimney-sweeps of those days. They were eventually protected from this cruel employment by his ‘Climbing Boys’ Act’. All this he and his supporters did as part of what they saw to be their Christian duty.
It was an immense task, and despite the efforts of men like Shaftesbury, the slums continued to grow. Heavy drinking became a serious community problem, and the Church in the slums had to fight this and many other social evils. Clergymen of different political views served in churches built in the heart of the slums and docks, and became greatly loved by those they tried to help. The best known among them was the Reverend Charles Kingsley (1819-75), who used his gifts as a novelist to stir the nation’s conscience about its social problems. The Water Babies is still a popular story, and refers to the trials of one of the boys employed as a chimney-sweep.
Kingsley wrote many others, and was one of the founders of what was called the Christian Socialist Movement. This found strong support among the Methodist churches, and led to the founding of ‘Working Men’s Colleges’ and ‘Friendly Societies’ to help in giving education and sick-benefits to the under-privileged.
Such men were pioneers, and it must be recognised that not all Christians shared their enthusiasm for social reform. Many still held the view contained in a popular hymn of the time:
‘The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.’
Posted in Adventure, Philanthropy on Tuesday, 16 April 2013
This edited article about V.S.O. originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 226 published on 14 May 1966.
On the night of October 30, 1961, Hurricane Hattie suddenly changed direction. It turned back across the Gulf of Mexico and struck Belize the seaport capital of British Honduras, at 150 miles an hour.
The force of the gale splintered houses to matchwood, killing hundreds of people. The sea rose in a great tidal wave and flooded the town, until only the tops of the palm trees were visible.
Deanna Boga, a young English girl who had come out from Clapham, South London, only a month before, to teach in a convent school, was sitting in her bedroom writing a letter home. The convent, a concrete building, had been designated a hurricane shelter.
Suddenly the bedroom ceiling shivered and cracked. She just had time to seize a few belongings and move to another wing of the school before the whole roof was blown off and all the rooms were flooded.
For the next two weeks, Deanna never stopped working. There was no drinking water, no food, no dry clothing, no electricity or gas. The school had a sack of rice, four loaves of bread and one tank of water, which kept them going until supplies arrived from Guatemala.
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Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Philanthropy, Royalty on Thursday, 4 April 2013
This edited article about the Royal Hospital, Chelsea originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 217 published on 12 March 1966.
An old soldier begs King Charles for help; Wren’s Chelsea Hospital is visible behind the royal carriage, by Peter Jackson
When Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660, he was shocked by the number of ex-soldiers begging in the streets of London. Most of them had been wounded fighting for the Royalist cause in the Civil War and had then been discharged without pensions or money.
Charles decided something must be done for old soldiers unable to earn a living. On March 11, 1682, he was able to lay the foundation stone of a Royal Hospital for “worthy old soldiers broken in the wars.” The inmates of this Royal Hospital are the Chelsea Pensioners, who still wear the military uniform of Charles II’s day.
The Royal Hospital was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was built on the site of the former Chelsea College. Facing the Thames, it is 700 feet long and cost £149,470.
The hospital is administered today much as it was over 200 years ago. Candidates for admission must be ex-soldiers of good character, without family ties and at least fifty-five years old.
There is accommodation for 558 pensioners, who are organized in six companies and live in two blocks. Every man has a small cubicle or room to himself. Except for the sick and infirm, all the pensioners take their meals in the Great Hall, which, with the Chapel, forms the central part of the building.
Chelsea Hospital is supported by annual grants from Parliament. It is administered by a resident governor, who is always a high-ranking and distinguished officer on the retired list.
Posted in Education, Historical articles, History, Philanthropy, Religion, Sport on Wednesday, 27 March 2013
This edited article about the Victorian education system originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 211 published on 29 January 1966.
The Governess was an important figure in Victorian life and literature; this idealised picture, ‘Lessons’, is by Helen Allingham
When Queen Victoria came to the throne less than half of the children received any schooling at all. The majority even of these left school at the age of twelve or earlier. Perhaps just as serious was the lack of any means of progress from the elementary schools to the secondary schools and universities.
Children left school as soon as possible, and entered the industrial or commercial world. They then found themselves in an educational desert, though later in life workers who wanted more opportunities to learn could, if they had the time and the money, attend what were called literary or mechanics’ institutes. These were few and far between, for even in London there were less than half a dozen.
The education of women in particular was neglected, and such private schooling as existed was for the most part both expensive and bad.
As the Industrial Revolution developed it became the respectable thing for middle-class households, as well as for the aristocracy, to have a governess, and in the Victorian Age she became a firmly established institution. In the census of 1851 over twenty-one thousand women appeared as governesses.
One or two attempts to provide more schools were made in the early part of the century, but so far as the mass of the English people was concerned it was the Education Act of 1870 that really mattered. Before it became law it was estimated that there were two million children in England and Wales who got no schooling at all, while another two million were getting instruction at schools which might or might not be efficient. This new Act set up compulsory Local School Boards to provide elementary education for all children between the ages of five and thirteen, and at first it was unpopular with some parents because it meant that children were to be at school instead of doing odd jobs that brought in money.
As a whole the middle-class preferred to send its sons to Public Schools. In the early part of the century there were seven leading ones – Winchester, Eton, Westminster, Charterhouse, Harrow, Rugby and Shrewsbury, and very badly conducted places they were by modern standards. Contempt for outside opinion, an obstinate adherence to old customs, and a refusal to consider the boys’ point of view frequently resulted in rioting.
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Posted in Historical articles, History, London, Medicine, Philanthropy, Transport on Friday, 22 March 2013
This edited article about Victorian London originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 208 published on 8 January 1966.
Among the six million people who poured into the Great Exhibition of 1851 there must have been not a few who had been born in the City of London, for its resident population was still over a hundred and twenty thousand. As has already been mentioned, Old London Bridge, with its shops and houses, had already gone, but Temple Bar still stood to mark the boundary between the City and Westminster; the schools of Charterhouse and St. Paul’s had not yet moved elsewhere; and the construction of Cannon Street and Holborn Viaduct still lay in the future.
Those condemned to death were still hanged in public, outside Newgate, for it was not until 1868 that public hangings came to an end.
Although almost as many lived in the City as at the beginning of the century, people were already beginning to live farther out. Everywhere suburban villas were springing up in the middle of fields and orchards, and the chief reason for this was that new transport and road facilities were making it possible for men to live away from their work. Southwark Bridge, for example, shortened the way to the Surrey hills.
The four-wheeled cab had been on the streets for the best part of a generation, and the hansom made its appearance in 1834. The omnibus, too, was a familiar sight in the streets at the time of the Great Exhibition. The first bus to run in London was that started in 1829 by M. G. Shillibeer, and it went from the Yorkshire Stingo at Marylebone to the Bank; it was drawn by three horses abreast, carried twenty-two inside passengers, and the fare for the journey was a shilling. Though speedy, it proved too large for use in traffic, and was replaced by a smaller type, while in due course seats made their appearance along the centre of the roof.
If the move from the City was encouraged by improved means of communication, it also created a demand for further improvement in them. The traffic problem in the City of London is probably as old as the City itself, but it became especially acute during the second half of the nineteenth century. In an attempt to improve matters Cannon Street was built in 1854; and Holborn Viaduct fifteen years later, but it was not until the coming of the underground railway from Paddington to Farringdon Street in 1863 that the pressure upon the streets became eased to any real extent.
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Posted in Architecture, Historical articles, History, London, Philanthropy on Thursday, 21 March 2013
Haberdashers’ Aske’s Alms Houses are one of the lost architectural treasures of London.
The east prospect of Haberdashers’ Alms Houses at Hoxton
On his death in 1689 Alderman Robert Aske left most of his considerable fortune to his livery company, and made specific provision of £20,000 for the purchase of land just a mile from the City and the erection of almshouses for the poor members of that Company. They were built to a design by Dr Robert Hooke, and the architect left a good account of their construction in his diaries. The entire range of alms houses was demolished in 1824 when a new row was built, only to be closed as Haberdashers’ Aske’s School expanded.