The Church Labour Home

The Church Labour Home (CLH) owed its existence to the Venerable Archdeacon John Douse Langley. It was founded by Langley in 1891 with ‘the view of assisting a class entitled to the deepest sympathy … those poverty stricken- genuinely desirous of work but unable to obtain it’.[1]

Archdeacon John Douse Langley

Archdeacon John Douse Langley

Langley was born at Ballyduff, County Waterford, Ireland, on May 17, 1836, and was the son of Henry Langley and Isabella Edwardes Archdall. He graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 1853 and arrived in Sydney with his parents and four siblings in December 1853.[2] He associated himself with the fledgling YMCA and for a short time was joint Honorary Secretary with Sharp H Lewis.[3] He contributed to the ministry of the YMCA in this role for some two years and also conducted an evening class in mathematics for the YMCA.[4] Langley was an employee of the Bank of Australasia from about 1857 and around 1858 or 1859 was appointed to look after the branch at West Maitland[5] where he remained until 1868 after which time he moved to the Newcastle branch. He was the manager there until he resigned in 1872 in order to enter Moore College to train for the Anglican ministry.[6] Langley was ordained deacon and later priest in 1873 and served as the incumbent of Berrima with Mittagong, 1873-75; St David’s, Surry Hills, Sydney, 1875-81; secretary of the Church Society, 1880-83;[7] and rector of St Phillip’s Sydney, 1882-1907. He was elected the second bishop of Bendigo and consecrated in January 1907, resigned from the diocese in June 1919, retired to Melbourne and died 11 years later in 1930.[8]

Langley was a busy churchman and was involved in many things within the Anglican Church as well as in the community, but in the 1890s he became very involved in assisting the jobless. By 1890, there was a growing unemployment problem brought on by the conditions that led to a major economic downturn in this period. In February 1890, a meeting of about 500 people, chaired by G E Ardill, met to consider the plight of those who wished to work but could not find employment. A deputation was formed, of which Langley was a member, to wait upon the Minister of Works and to encourage the Government to increase employment through a capital works program.[9] More importantly and more effectively, as the deputation did not receive much benefit from its meeting with the minister, a committee was formed to see what could be done in a practical way to assist the destitute unemployed. By the following month, under the chairmanship (more…)

Thomas Roberts (1805-1871) Missionary and Artist and Mary Roberts (1808-1890) Matron, Sydney Female Refuge


On November 10, 1852, Thomas Roberts, a portrait painter,[1] and his wife Mary (nee Griffiths) arrived in Melbourne with seven of their children on the Hope to begin a new life in Port Phillip.[2] The children were Samuel (20), Ellen (18), Sarah (16), Hartley (14), Elizabeth (5), Emma (4) and Walter (1).[3]  Thomas was born in Denbighshire, Wales, and had spent a number of years in Manchester at least from the time of his marriage in 1830 until sometime before January 1846 when he and the family moved to London.[4] In Manchester, the family had been involved with the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church Chapel in Cooper Street.[5]

Thomas not only worked as a portrait painter, but he also served for several years as a London City Missionary[6] and, according to Thomas’ grandson, he received a ‘lay reader’s commission from the Bishop of London to act as a chaplain on board the ship’[7] on their trip to Australia. Thomas and also his two daughters, Ellen and Sarah, came to the colony under the auspices of the Colonial Church and School Society (CCSS)[8] whose purpose was sending out clergymen, catechists and school teachers (both male and female) to the Colonies of Great Britain and to British residents in other parts of the world.[9] Ellen, was appointed in charge of the St Mark’s Girl’s school Collingwood, and Sarah also worked for several years as a school mistresses in Melbourne.[10] The CCSS was formed from pre-existing Anglican Evangelical Societies (Newfoundland School Society and the Colonial Church Society) on January 1, 1851, and the Rev Mesac Thomas (afterwards first Bishop of Goulburn in New South Wales in 1863)[11] was appointed its Secretary.


Bishop Mesac Thomas


Robert Sidaway (1758-1809) and Mary Marshall (1756-1849) Sydney’s first philanthropists?

Robert Sidaway (1758-1809) is the first person to be designated a philanthropist in the newspapers of colonial NSW. At his death in October 1809, the 51 year old was described as

one of the first inhabitants of this Colony; during his very long residence in which he ever supported the reputation of a true philanthropist, and in all other respects a valuable member of society, in which he was universally respected.[1]

In 1782, Robert had been convicted of theft and later of absconding from custody and was sentenced to transportation to NSW for life. He travelled on the Friendship as part of the First Fleet and was regarded as troublesome spending some time on the journey in irons. He received an absolute pardon on 27 September 1794. Robert was awarded a contract to be a baker for the troops and also received a liquor license so that he could run a public house. In 1796, he was operating the first theatre in Sydney which was eventually closed by the Governor as it was considered a corrupting influence. At this time, he also had a farm at the Field of Mars where he grew maize and wheat.[2] From very early in his time in the colony, at least from November 1789 when they worked together in Robert’s bake-house,[3] Robert had been living with ‘Mrs’ Mary Marshall (1756-1849) and she had become his common-law wife.[4]  In 1788, Mary had come as a convict in the First Fleet on the Lady Penrhyn having been convicted for stealing linen handkerchiefs in 1787 and sentenced to seven years transportation.[5] It appears that, with Mary’s assistance, Robert had managed to quickly establish himself within colonial life and was moderately well off and prosperous for, by 1797, he was said to have accumulated more than £3,000.[6]

An original playbill from Sidaway's theatre, dated 30 July 1796

An original playbill from Sidaway’s theatre, dated 30 July 1796

The wording of his death notice, designating Robert as a ‘philanthropist’, seems to indicate at least two things. Firstly, that he had a reputation as a philanthropist. The community view was that his philanthropy was not related to a single event, but that it was an attitude and activity over the considerable period of his time of residence in the colony. Secondly, that he was thought of as a ‘true’ philanthropist. This suggests that his philanthropy was regarded as genuine and not an activity with any ulterior motive. His philanthropy, together with that of Mary, could not have been expressed through any charitable organisation such as the Benevolent Society which only began in 1813, but must have been through their personal dealings.


Abraham S Gordon (1866-1936) Art Union Fund Raiser, Canvasser and Author

Abraham Samuel Gordon

Abraham Samuel Gordon

Abraham Samuel Gordon was, in the late nineteenth century, a leading organiser of charity Art Unions in Australia. As early as the 1840s, the Art Union appeared in the colony of NSW when Maurice Felton,[1] an artist, advised ‘his subscribers that the division of his Oil Paintings among the Shareholders will take place THIS DAY, the 14th January 1842.’ [2] This procedure adopted by Felton was modelled on the English practice where an artist sold tickets for the disposal of a body of his works of art. These were raffles where the artist was the beneficiary of the proceeds.

Gordon refined this early process and ran across most colonies of Australia what were, in essence, lotteries for the purpose of raising funds for charity, though some suggested that the main charitable beneficiary of these ‘Art Unions’ was Gordon himself. In the 1890s, a depression hit Australia and unemployment increased as businesses were bankrupted and ceased operation and giving for charitable purposes was significantly reduced as individuals sought to prune their expenditure. This took place against the background of an increasing need for the services of the various benevolent institutions as the unemployed applied for assistance. So when a fundraising opportunity presented itself to various charitable bodies via Gordon’s Art Unions it was, to many charities, a great opportunity to gain access to much-needed funds.

Gordon’s background is obscure. He said that he was born in Szagarren, Russia,[3] which is now in Lithuania, on the Baltic and near Riga where his father was a feldsher[4] (Surgeon) and his mother a mid-wife. He travelled to London when he was 15 or 16 to join his eldest brother and to find work to support himself and said that, consistent with his birthplace, he knew well the Russian, German and French languages and had a fair knowledge of Hebrew and the Talmudic lore.[5] Gordon remained in London for two years, went to Cardiff in Wales then, around 1885, moved to Codoxton ‘where they were building a new dock’[6] and where he went into business with his younger brother Isaac[7] selling furniture, jewellery and fancy goods. He said he was in England and Wales for five years before coming to Australia which would mean he left to come to Australia sometime around 1887. It seems likely, therefore, that he is the ‘Albert Gordon’ who arrived on the Potosi in July, 1887.[8]

Initially, Gordon went door-to-door selling hairpins, bootlaces and jewellery[9] then, in December 1888, he opened a shop in High Street, Bendigo, as a General  (more…)

John Sidney (1846-1916) Charity Secretary

John Sidney played an important role in the nineteenth-century charity scene primarily as a charity secretary but also as a collector, however, little is known about his personal life. He was English and the son of John Sidney, a medical doctor, and his wife Mary nee Johnson.[1] Born in 1846 and living at some stage in Rochester, Kent,[2] he also seems to have been well acquainted with Devon and Cornwall.[3] It is uncertain when he arrived in the colony of NSW, but it was probably sometime in early 1877[4] and it is possible that he had been a member of the London Stock Exchange; he was certainly quite familiar with London.[5] Prior to his arrival in the colony, John had been married in England to Susan (maiden name unknown) but she either did not come with him to the colony or, if she did, she returned to England from NSW.[6] It is most likely that she never came as no trace of her has been found in NSW or elsewhere in Australia. Early in February 1887, a notice appeared in two Sydney newspapers advising that Susan, aged 35, the wife of J Sidney, had died at her father’s residence in Torquay, Devon. No date of death was given,[7] but less than a month later John Sidney married Margaret Thomson Cameron.[8]  At no time, between his arrival and the insertion of the notice of Susan’s death, had John returned to England so it would seem that he and his first wife had been, for whatever reason, estranged.[9] Two male children were born to John and his second wife Margaret, but it seems they died at birth or in infancy as there is no contemporary record of either their births or their deaths. John himself died in 1916 at 70 years of age.[10] At this time he was a recipient of the recently introduced Commonwealth Government pension and was the onsite caretaker of the Royal Society at 5 Elizabeth Street, Sydney.[11]

Health Society of NSW (HSNSW)

Sidney’s name is first mentioned in charitable circles in 1877 in association with his role as the collector[12] for the Health Society of NSW (HSNSW), an organisation formed in August, 1876.[13] Henry Burton Bradley was the leading advocate of the Society which sought to alert others to various community health issues within Sydney. Initially employed by Bradley as a collector of funds, John Sidney was soon given the task of investigating public baths in Sydney. His comprehensive report pointed to problems of sewage within the Sydney Harbour and for the need to ultimately find another method of disposing of it. In his report he took the initiative to comment upon the supply of meat and on animal welfare at the abattoir prior to slaughter. He found that at the Glebe abattoir on a hot day, the animals were ‘packed as close as sardines’ which he compared unfavourably to the process he saw implemented in London.[14] His association with the HSNSW was short-lived and he seems to have concluded his role as secretary and collector in 1881.[15] Sidney’s time with the HSNSW, however, began a life-long friendship with Henry Burton Bradley and probably brought him to the attention of the Western Suburbs Horticultural Society of which Bradley was the President. Sidney became secretary for this group in 1878 and retained the position until the end of 1881.[16] His time with the HSNSW also brought him to the attention of those interested in promoting animal welfare in NSW. (more…)

Women’s Branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

The ‘Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ was founded in Britain in 1824 by a group of 22 reformers led by Richard Martin MP, William Wilberforce MP, and the Reverend Arthur Broome. In 1840, it was granted its royal status by Queen Victoria to become the ‘Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (RSPCA), as it is known today. Its influential members lobbied Parliament throughout the nineteenth century which resulted in a number of new laws such as the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835.[1]

It took the Colony of New South Wales nearly 50 years before it began to form a similar society and the catalyst was a letter that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on July 3, 1873, observing that

Not a day passes without our being pained, usque ad nauseam, with the most wanton cases of cruelty to animals. In these prosperous times it behoves us surely to devote a little of our time and money to the redress of this grievance.[2]

This letter drew attention to the boast of their ‘go-ahead sister’, colonial Victoria, of the ‘entire absence of such barbarities’ from their colony; a claim due to the existence of an organisation for the prevention of cruelty to animals.[3] In response to this letter, supported by the Sydney Morning Herald[4] and after various small preparatory meetings,[5] a public meeting was called on July 16, 1873, to form such a society in Sydney.

Horse, cabman and cab

Horse, cabman and cab

The society, named the ‘Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (SPCA), had as its patron the Governor Sir Hercules Robinson, Charles AW Lett as the honorary secretary, Alfred Sandeman as the honorary treasurer and Thomas Mitchie as the honorary veterinary surgeon, while the committee was made up of prominent male citizens of Sydney.[6] The primary focus of the SPCA was the detection and prosecution of those guilty of animal cruelty.

At the 1878 annual meeting of the society, where the SPCA was renamed the ‘Animal’s Protection Society’ (APS),[7] the Rev Dr William F Clay expressed the view that measures beyond inspection and prosecution were needed to ensure the protection of animals. He advocated for

the delivery of lectures such as were given in England, and by which the young might be trained to the proper treatment of dumb animals. Prizes had already been given in connection with this subject, and might be given again. Could not the pulpit, he would ask, be brought to deal with this matter.’[8]

In 1885, a letter to the editor of the SMH, signed ‘Beth’ of Hunter’s Hill, was published. It advocated the formation of juvenile branches of the SPCA in connection with the schools along the lines of the Bands of Mercy in England and America.[9] Unknown to ‘Beth’ and the general public, however, such a work had already begun, but knowledge about such Bands of Mercy would only become more widely known after the formation of a woman’s branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals[10] in Sydney on December 16, 1886.

Initially, the women’s branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (WSPCA) did not use the prefix ‘Royal’ in its title (see Timeline and Terminology of Animal Protection in Britain and NSW), but did so shortly after its formation when it sought and believed it was granted affiliation with the parent body of the RSPCA in Britain.[11] In 1896, a question was raised as to the right of the committee to use the prefix ‘Royal’ and its use was discontinued.[12] While the WSPCA consisted only of women, there was a male honorary secretary, John Sidney,[13] who was also the paid secretary of the APS.[14] Sidney’s membership was obviously at the invitation of the women, and was presumably because the WSPCA saw the need for his knowledge and experience, as well as his being their direct link to the APS and its activities.


The Model Lodging House Company of Sydney (Limited)

Henry Burton Bradley (NSW State Library)

Henry Burton Bradley (NSW State Library)

In the 1870s, the development of housing for working class single men was an issue that many thought needed to be addressed. To do this a group of philanthropically minded men decided to form a limited liability company with shareholders to address the matter. This charity was different to most and was not, strictly speaking, a charity as those who benefited had to pay for the benefit they received and the shareholders were to receive a dividend from their investment. The project was called the Model Lodging House Company of Sydney (Limited) (MLHL). There was already a Model Lodging House in Melbourne which commenced in 1871,[1] but it proved more difficult to commence one in Sydney. The purpose of the company was ‘to furnish in Sydney accommodation for the poor of the hard-working classes, who have no homes of their own, a shelter by night, both healthful and decent, at a cost which will make the institution self-supporting, and which may in the course of years pay a moderate dividend to the shareholders.’[2] The principle of the MLH was that the working man did not need charity in the narrow sense of the term and so they were determined to make the MLH pay. They did not intend to disparage the broad principle of charity, but they wished to avoid the ‘eleemosynary [Latin for charity] element’ in an institution that should stand alone.[3]

Advertisement for shares in the Model Lodging House, Sydney

Advertisement for shares in the Model Lodging House, Sydney

First efforts to commence a MLHL were made in 1874 by Alfred Stephen but were unsuccessful.[4]  Henry Burton Bradley (1815-1894),[5]  Secretary of the Health Society of New South Wales (HSNSW) again raised the matter in 1876[6] and under the banner of the HSNSW continued to pursue the matter approaching Josiah Mullens[7] to enlist his support for such a venture.[8] In August of 1877, the HSNSW agreed to attempt to float a company in order to raise the capital to build a lodging house initially to accommodate 100[9] with FH Reuss (Snr) giving his services as an architect to design the building. In February 1878, Bradley, ever positive and hopeful, was reported as saying that commencement of the building was to soon begin.[10]  The company was formed with a capital of £5,000, 1000 shares of £5 each, its directors being Thomas Buckland, James Reading Fairfax, Alexander Stuart with Josiah Mullens the broker, Henry Burton Bradley the Secretary[11] and John Sidney was the collector.[12] (more…)

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