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Brickfields Victorian Hackney
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Church and Charity

 
There 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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St Leonard's Hospital
This building on Kingsland Road, which is now St Leonard's Hospital, was originally the Shoreditch Workhouse when it was built in 1837.


Hoxton Market Christian Mission
This photo shows hundreds of children outside the Hoxton Market Christian Mission in 1900.
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