Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

26

WESTMINSTER AND ITS JUVENILE POOR.

work has thus been carried on in this humble building, the results of which it is neither safe nor necessary for us to know; but we feel assured that it has been rendered a blessing to many thousands of miserable and unfortunate children, and exercised a correcting and purifying influence upon many a dreary home. For many years it has been supported chiefly from contributions raised by a lady, well-known in Westminster for her untiring zeal and self-devotedness on behalf of the poor and the destitute. Another school, in Palmer's Passage, under the same patronage, has also been in operation for several years, and has been the means of effecting much permanent, and we trust spiritual good. So great was the disorder at the commencement, that even two teachers were unable to maintain their authority, and at one period the school had to be closed for several weeks in consequence. Now, however, the improvement of the children is so manifest, that, in point of order and efficiency, it is equal to any school of similar standing in London. A Ragged School has been conducted in New Tothill Street for nearly two years, with an attendance (including the Sabbath Schools) of nearly two hundred children. As an instance of the absence of home-training among that class of children, it is worthy of remark, that at one time, out of ninety on the books, sixty scarcely knew the alphabet. An Infant School has also been in operation for a considerable time in connection with the “Working Man's Institute," at the corner of Pear Street, Duck Lane. This institution possesses peculiar interest. The building was formerly used for a public-house, and a place of resort for thieves and coiners. It became their chief rendezvous after quitting the one in Old Pye Street, but, owing to public attention being so specially directed to the locality through an increase of missionary and educational efforts, this seed-plot of crimes and criminals was afterwards broken up. Through the aid and persevering exertions of Lord Ashley, a few gentlemen were enabled to take the building, and fit it up with reading rooms and other conveniences as a Working Man's Institute. * An Infant Ragged School was afterwards opened, conducted by a paid master and mistress ; and also a small Dormitory for grown-up lads, several of whom were notorious thieves, received from the Compter Prison. Of these lads fifteen-after giving satisfactory evidence of genuine reformation-have emigrated to the colonies and North America, under the auspices, and several at the expense, of the Committee of the Ragged School Union. We hope to lay before our readers, in a future number, a brief account of some of these lads, exhibiting the advantages of Scriptural instruction and religious influence over that of prison discipline.

As the existence of this, and all kindred institutions, depends entirely upon the voluntary contributions of the public, we here consider it our duty to correct an error which we have just observed in the last number of the City Mission Magazine. In that periodical it is inadvertently stated, that this educational establishment in Pear Street is the institution of the Lon. don City Mission; but apart from the very valuable assistance it has received from their excellent missionary, we know of no other connection existing between them. It is due, therefore, to the Committee of the Institute to

* When the workmen were employed in fitting up the building, they discovered nearly a bushel of counterfeit coins (gold and silver) deposited between the wall and the ceiling.

WESTMINSTER AND ITS JUVENILE POOR.

state, that they receive no pecuniary aid whatever from the Mission, but are dependent—as in the case of all other Ragged Schools-upon local contributions, supplemented by special or regular grants from the Ragged School Union. It has often been a pleasing duty to record our gratitude for the very valuable assistance received-especially at the commencement of our labours-from many of the City Missionaries, in the establishing of schools on their districts; but these efforts are seldom successfully prosecuted without the formation of a Local Committee, to undertake the financial responsibility and the general arrangement of the schools. It ought to be understood, however, that while the two institutions must present their respective claims to the public, they are both indispensably necessary for the full completion of our evangelistic enterprise. Often the little ragged scholar becomes the pioneer of the missionary, procuring his first entrance into a turbulent home ; while he in turn strives to secure the co-operation of the parents, gathers the little ones from the lanes, and sends them to the school. Eternity alone will disclose the amount of moral and spiritual benefits arising from the individual and associated efforts of the missionaries and Ragged School teachers in Westminster; but while the public has paid for the support of the institutions connected with the latter more than treble the amount expended on the former, we cannot but consider that the operations of the more expensive agency have been equally " systematic," and not less effective in their respective departments, in producing a proportionate diminution of crime, and in diffusing a knowledge of Scriptural truth among the godless and neglected poor.

In the autumn of 1846, the Juvenile Refuge and School of Industry was commenced in Old Pye Street. A limited number of boys were first admitted, and as discipline and order were established they were gradually increased to fifty. Shortly afterwards, a 'school for girls was commenced, and by a similar arrangement the numbers were gradually increased. As each child, in addition to industrial training, was supplied with a portion of its daily food and supplementary clothing, the admissions were limited to the most wretched and destitute children, living within an allotted district. This“ territorial” arrangement was continued until the establishment of other schools and the improved condition of the locality rendered such arrangements unnecessary. From fifteen to twentyfive boys, having no homes, and in many cases orphans, have been lodged on the premises, and therefore dependent upon the institution for their entire maintenance. Many of these poor creatures, on their first admission, were not only dying from starvation, but on being stripped of the filthy rags that partially covered them, (which were instantly destroyed,) their bodies were actually full of holes and ulcers, from the effects of vermin! So great have been the physical sufferings endured by many of these children, and consequent injury to their constitutions, that ever since the establishment of the Refuge some of their number have been under medical treatment. It is impossible to enumerate the benefits and results arising from an institution of this description ;, but those who, like ourselves, have seen and conversed with the tattered and wretched applicants prior to admission, and afterwards beheld the transforming effects of the moral and industrial training to which they were subjected, could not but wish that such institutions were more liberally supported, and that, even for the sake of economy, their numbers should be multi

28

WESTMINSTER AND ITS JUVENILE POOR.

plied in the metropolis an hundred-fold. The average attendance of boys during the past year has been sixty-five, and girls about forty. During the last two years, thirteen boys have been apprenticed to trades in London, under respectable masters, and fourteen boys and four girls have emigrated to the colonies. Those from whom we have received communications have obtained constant and remunerative employment, and one of the girls has been married since her arrival. Originally, the entire industrial employment for the boys was tailoring and shoemaking; although yielding no pecuniary returns from their labour, yet they were considered the most useful occupations, as the tattered garments of the children were thus renewed by means of their own handiwork.

In November, 1849, a select class of boys was formed under the superintendence of the master, for the manufacture of pocket books, travelling desks, dressing cases, etc., but owing to the want of proper accommodation, the number of boys so employed was very limited. The time chiefly devoted to this department was from six till eight o'clock in the morning. During these fourteen months, they have made the following articles, and certainly the workmanship was by no means inferior :--86 pocket books, 64 ladies' reticules, 48 collecting money boxes, 24 blotting books, 11 knitting cases, 10 Bíble cases, 2 portable desks, 2 picture frames, and a satchel, besides sundry repairs. These articles have been purchased at the usual selling price, chiefly by ladies and gentlemen visiting the institution, and have realised a profit, (after deducting the cost of materials,) of £9. 6s. 9d. In addition to innumerable repairs, the tailors and shoemakers have made, during the last twelve months, 42 jackets, 69 pairs of trousers, and 72 pairs of boots; these have been carefully distributed among them according to merit and necessity, thus enforcing the practical advantages of moral rectitude and persevering industry

We had purposed giving a few details of the strange and dreadful histories of some of the elder boys, to illustrate the duty, economy, and humanity of establishing and supporting such institutions ; but want of time and space compels us to defer it for the present. We cannot quit this department of our subject, however, without referring briefly, and somewhat complainingly, to the very meagre assistance rendered to this institution by the wealthy inhabitants of Westminster. Although under the direct management of the Central Society, it was established on a footing similar to other Ragged Schools, being supported from a separate fund, specially raised for the purpose ; but this fund has fallen so far short of the actual expenditure, that had it not been for the munificent contributions of one lady,—who has given in repeated donations for the Refuge and other purposes, no less a sum than £1,200,the institution could not have been maintained to the present time. The following will show the actual receipts and expenditure since the commencement, apart from the contributions just referred to :

EXPENDITURE
In 1847.
£813 14 6

£817 14 4
1848.
458 9 4

786 4 7
1849.
406 0 11

720 15 4
1850.
167 17 0

675 11 11 Not only has this limited assistance proved a discouragement to the Committee, but it has also, in a measure, prevented them from enlarging

RECEIPTS.

WESTMINSTER AND ITS JUVENILE POOR.

29

their accommodation, so as to meet more effectually the moral necessities of Westminster. · So urgent, however, do they feel the necessity of this, that at last they have determined on securing larger premises in the neighbourhood, (still retaining the present Refuge for school purposes,) and leaving it with the public to say, whether this important step shall be frustrated for want of funds, and the children turned over to the “ blessed pastures” of. Dr. Wiseman and his numerous coadjutors, under another name, that abound in the slums of Westminster. This must unavoidably be the case, unless the deficiency arising from the absence of the liberal donations already referred to, be supplemented by the contributions of the many.

There is scarcely a district in London where the blessed effects of Ragged Schools have been more strikingly manifested than in Westminster, and certainly not one other from which a smaller amount of local aid has been obtained. Schools for the training of robbers and pickpockets have been converted into Refuges and Reading-rooms; streets, into which policemen were often afraid to enter, are now quiet and orderly; and hundreds of poor children are being trained to pious habits and honest callings, who would otherwise have been nurtured in criminality and shame.

We cannot better conclude these hasty observations than by laying before our readers the following communication, forwarded to us by a gentleman intimately acquainted

with the past and present condition of the juvenile poor in Westminster-one who has not only watched the progress of every evangelistic effort with the deepest interest, but who has ever been ready with personal or pecuniary assistance in helping forward every good work ;

WESTMINSTER PROPER. SIR,—Westminster Proper consists of the parish of St. Margaret; at a comparatively recent period, a district for ecclesiastical purposes has been carved out of it, called the parish of St. John the Evangelist ; but for paro-. chial purposes it still continues one and entire ; while all the other parishes . are the liberties, and not the city of Westminster,

This will explain the allusion of Dr. Wiseman to Westminster Proper, with. its population so wretched, and its slums so filthy; although it has the palace at one end, the courts of law and houses of parliament at the other, and Westminster Abbey in the centre, with its annual revenue of thirty-five thousand pounds.

The population of Westminster Proper is about sixty thousand souls, being equal to the whole population of the counties of Huntingdonshire and Westmoreland, and nowhere on the face of the globe could it have been surpassed, ere the establishment of the London City Mission, in the filth and dilapidation of its slums, or the marauding pursuits, bullying manners, and beastial practices of the inhabitants of those offensive dens. Here were congregated masses of society, unexplored, and consequently unknown to the inhabitants who surrounded them, except that the terror they inspired caused it to be considered unsafe for any, except the well-armed police, to penetrate the district. Indeed, since the Mission has been established, one of the missionaries reports that he has seen upwards of forty policemen beaten out of Old Pye Street by the inhabitants, while attempting to take a thief.

Here were children who knew not that they ever had a father, and who were taught and driven to plunder, to procure money for a drunken and debauched woman to get gin. Here were children of tender age, banded together to "prig," as they called it, to exist, and exercising all the art and

80

WESTMINSTER AND ITS JUVENILE POOR.

cunning of aged adepts to prevent detection. Here were schools to teach the art of conveyancing, or thieving, and regular colleges to reward the expert with degrees of honour, and admit them to the society and pursuits of their seniors, according to their ascertained proficiency in crime.

It is now about fourteen years since six individuals met with the City Missionary at his room in Orchard Street, Westminster, and clubbed together to open a school for the dirty and half-naked children, many of them of the character just described, who swarmed the streets of Westminster Proper. The filth and wickedness of these little immortals precluded their admission into

any of the schools then in being ; while the life they led in the streets, by day and by night, made them an annoyance, if not a terror, to all the inhabitants, and trained and fitted them to give employment to our police, our magistrates, our judges, our jailers, and the superintendents of our hulks and convict establishments.

These six individuals soon found that they had a most interesting class of pupils to attend to. The fears they had entertained that few would attend, and that those who might come would not endure the restriction of scholastic training, soon vanished. They had procured the services of a very talented young man, then out of employ, who undertook the office of schoolmaster for a pay of 12s. per week; this, with 4s. per week for the room, and 58. per week for firing, books, etc., was defrayed by contributions of 3s. 6d. per week from each of the six persons referred to.

Boys and girls were received in the same room, and taugḥt by the same master, but soon the applications for admission became so numerous that numbers were necessarily refused for want of proper accommodation. A stable was then procured and fitted up, but the number of applicants for admission was so great that this large accommodation soon proved inadequate. Circumstances reduced the six original projectors to four, then to three, afterwards to one, and when that one was about to give up from incompetence to bear the burden, a gentleman who visited with the missionary on that district, and saw the school, offered to bear half the expense of keeping the school open, until it was hoped the publie could be roused to come forward and support it. After various vicissitudes, Lord Ashley saw the schools; he took them up, and has from that day to the present, with a constancy and devotedness for which he shall be rewarded at the resurrection of the just, supported, defended, and encouraged them, and laboured for them with unceasing toil and care. Under his

auspices, and by the contributions he, and the Ragged School Union, and the missionaries have raised, they have been increased in efficiency, in numbers, and in usefulness. They are fed by the supplies picked up and brought by the City Mission agents. Seven hundred children in Westminster Proper are daily gathered out of the streets, and are brought under mental, moral, and physical culture and training Habits of comparative order and tidiness, quiet and respectful demeanour, a pure language, and regard for truth, observance of the Sabbath, and some taste for the services of religion, have taken the place of the dirt and rags, the turbulence and insolence, the filthy and blasphemous conversation and lying, and the contempt of God's word, God's day, and God's worship, which hitherto was the moral atmosphere, as it were, in which these children lived, and moved, and had their being.

It was found that these children had a peculiar sharpness, readiness, and tact for the acquisition of knowledge. Unlike children generally, they take great delight in the school exercises and lessons. They will go without food, and suffer great privations, rather than go without the privilege and pleasure of the school. Remarkable instances of destitution and self-denial have come to the knowledge of the writer, in which some of these must have suffered the torments of hunger, others the abuse and ill-treatment of parents, and others the pinchings of cold, producing wounds on their shoeless feet-all which they have endured with stoical indifference, so that they might enjoy the privileges of the school. The grand allurements have been the love and kindness of the

« AnteriorContinuar »