was terrible poverty for some people in Victorian Hackney
and no help from the government. If you could not afford to
look after yourself you could be sent to the workhouse. The
workhouses were designed to be as unfriendly as possible.
They were huge dark imposing buildings and were rather like
a prison for the poor, with uniforms, grim conditions and
hard work for no money. Not surprisingly people were terrified
of being sent to the workhouse.
Some people tried to help the poor by providing food, shelter
and education, and these people were often members of the
church. There were not as many religions in Victorian Hackney
as there are today. Although there were other religions,
such as Judaism, most people were Christian, but there were
many different types. There were Anglicans and Catholics,
Mormons and Baptists, Quakers and Shakers.
These church groups helped in a number of different ways.
A refuge in Shoreditch helped ex-prisoners emigrate to Canada,
America and Australia to start new lives. Many churches
were involved in the Ragged Schools, which were schools
for very poor or beggar children. There was a Ragged School
on Curtain Road in Hoxton run by a Baptist church. Others
provided childcare for women so they could go to work, libraries,
safe places for homeless girls to sleep, soup kitchens for
the hungry, even trips to the seaside for poor children.
This good work was not always just borne out of charity.
Sometimes these people wanted the poor to join their church.
Others were part of the temperance movement, which aimed
to stop people drinking alcohol. Some thought that the poor
were stealing in order to eat so helping them would prevent
crime, or enable them to get respectable jobs.
One place that had the welfare of children at heart was
the Hoxton Market Christian Mission. The founders of this
mission were two brothers, John and Lewis Burt, who themselves
had been educated at a Ragged School, having been found
on the streets. They tried to give other neglected children
the chance they had by offering them food and clothing,
schooling and a warm place to sleep.
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