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Thomas Parker Reeve was born on May 6, 1824 at Deptford in Kent, England, to Isaac Reeve, a mathematics and classical scholar and teacher and his wife Elizabeth Parker. While living in Norwich, Thomas attended the St Mary’s Baptist Chapel where, aged 17, he was received into membership on December 1, 1841. He later recalled that:
in my youth while attending the ministry of the Rev W Brock of Norwich, my mind gradually opened to a sense of danger as a sinner, and of my need of a personal interest in the Great Atonement of Christ, but it was not till sometime after that I could realise a sense of God’s pardoning love.
Thomas married Lydia Pepperday (1825-1898), a Methodist, in 1848 at St Ives in Huntingdonshire, England. Having travelled in steerage aboard the Calphurnia, they arrived in the colony of NSW on September 17, 1853, with their two sons John (1849-1911) and George (1851-1951). Further children were born to them in the colony: Emma (1853-1863), Annie (1855-1943), Thomas (1857-1938), Lydia (1860-1946), Frederick (1861-1940), and Ada (1864-1867). The marriage was a happy one and on their 24th anniversary Thomas wrote ‘I think I can say we love each other more as we grow older and we are an [sic] happy yea, happier in all senses and I trust far nearer to God than we were years ago. I thank God for a good and affectionate wife’.
Thomas was a teacher like his father, but in November 1853 he set himself up in George Street, Sydney, as an importer and ironmonger. He sold goods ranging from shoes, galvanic pocket generators (which purported to remove pain) to a wide range of ironmongery which included saucepans, boilers, knives and forks. It was said he remained there until ‘aided by his good wife, he amassed a modest competency, and then retired to Stanmore to enjoy the fruit of his honest toil.’ It would seem that he moved to Cavendish Street, Petersham (later Stanmore), around June 1873, but continued working for some time probably retiring from active involvement in the business around 1880. By 1888, his son Thomas Henry had assumed control of the business as an ironmonger and organ importer.
On arrival in the colony, the Reeves immediately associated themselves with the Wesleyan (Methodist) Church and its activities. Thomas began his long association with the colonial
Christian education of children by becoming first Secretary and then Superintendent of the Hay Street Sunday school. By 1855, he had become General Secretary of the Wesleyan Sunday Schools of the South Sydney Circuit which embraced Chippendale, Hay Street, Glebe and Mt Lachlan. This was a position he held until 1873 and in this capacity he visited local Sunday schools and sought to improve the communication skills of the teachers. With his move to Petersham (Stanmore), he opened a Sunday School class in a cottage at Stanmore saying ‘I hope and pray that this may be the nucleus of a large and prosperous Sabbath School’ and he became Superintendent of the Stanmore Wesleyan Church Sunday School from 1875 until 1879. Something of his interest and zeal for the work is seen in a meeting he organised for the Rev William Taylor to address a group of Sunday School teachers. He did this because he was concerned that ‘the spiritual success in the way of conversions was not commensurate with the labour and zeal thrown into Sunday School teaching’. His interest in Sunday (more…)
The Misses Bowie: Louisa (1834-1884), Jessie (1836-1906), Catherine (1838-1918), and Elizabeth (1840-1922); Isabella Brown (1858-1932), Fanny Owen-Smith (1859-1932) and Violet Paterson (1871-1948)
The Misses Bowie, Isabella Brown, Fanny Owen-Smith and Violet Paterson who taught in the Sydney Ragged Schools, are examples of the dedicated, female, vocational philanthropists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While they gave a lifetime of devoted service to the Ragged Schools, they have hardly left a mark on the historical record of the times. This was not because their work was insignificant, but because official reports and newspaper accounts of the day gave much more attention to the governance and financial philanthropists of the charity and gave little mention to those who did the actual work of the organisation. Because of this lack of attention, their work and contribution has largely gone unrecorded and uncommented upon, and the paucity of sources makes this difficult to adequately redress. (more…)
Catherine (Kate) Gent nee Danne (1835-1899), Teacher and Vocational Philanthropist
A ‘Mr and Miss Danne’ were involved in the Ragged Schools of Sydney as part of a philanthropic attempt to assist the children of the poorest to gain some education and improve their situation in life. They were what might be termed ‘vocational philanthropists’ for they did not give financial support, other than by forgoing more lucrative employment, nor did they serve as committee members overseeing the work. Rather, they were employed by the committee to interface with the poor, assisting the parents and teaching their children, and the level of Miss Danne’s commitment and sacrifice meant that this employment was her vocation. They were both associated with the Ragged School as teachers and Miss Danne was appointed to the paid staff in October 1860 to teach the girls and to support Henry B Lee, the one paid male teacher. With Lee’s departure around May 1861, a Mr Danne was appointed to replace him. His salary was 30 shillings per week, while with his appointment, the salary of Miss Danne was increased from 30 shillings to 40 shillings per week.
So who were ‘Mr and Miss Danne’ of the Ragged School? The answer to this question is not immediately apparent as contemporary accounts refer to them simply as ‘Mr and Miss Danne’. The Danne Family, consisting of William Danne (more…)
Henry Brougham Richard Lee (1831-1883) The City Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen Manager
The name of Henry Brougham Richard Lee, abbreviated to H B Lee, became synonymous with the work of the Sydney City Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen in the period 1868 to 1883. His great gift to the organisation was not just his ability to relate to the ‘down and out’ of the community, but his skill in convincing merchants and business people to donate goods and food stuffs to this philanthropic work.
Lee was born at Finsbury, England, on February 26, 1831, to a shoemaker named Thomas Lee and his wife, Sarah Beal, and he came to the colony of NSW on the Plantagenet, arriving in July 1853. In 1860, he married Harriet Miller (1833-1878) and they had four children: Florence Mary Ann (1861-1909), Eveline Maud (1863-1937), Grace Hannah (1865-1867) and Alfred Ernest (1869-1953). It appears that Henry ‘had the misfortune to be deformed and short of stature’, but this did not impede him as he was frequently described as being energetic and indefatigable. In England he had been apprenticed to a nautical instrument maker, and went into partnership with Thomas Drinkwater in 1854 after his arrival in Sydney. They operated as Drinkwater and Lee, engineers who specialised in brass fittings, but the partnership was short-lived and was dissolved in April 1856. This was to be the first of a number of such short-lived and unsuccessful business and professional positions in which Henry was involved.
In January of 1856, Lee published the first volume of The Australian Band of Hope Review and Children’s Friend which was a journal for the promotion of temperance. It was to be published fortnightly, cost three pence, and was to be a children’s magazine consisting of anecdotes, stories and poetry, and often promoting the temperance message. Over time, it changed its emphasis from children to a more general audience and changed its title to The Australian Home Companion, but it remained a temperance advocate. Whatever else the newspaper may have done, it had the distinction of being the first newspaper to publish a Henry Kendall poem in February 1859. The poem was entitled ‘Oh Tell Me Ye Breezes’ and was on the disappearance of Ludwig Leichhardt, the explorer. It is clear the newspaper was not a commercial success for as early as 1857, after only fourteen months of publication, it was in trouble as its circulation was just 1,000 copies. The paper was barely covering its expenses and attempts were made by the public to raise £100 to defray its expenses. By October 1859, the circulation had increased to 1,900 but the paper still struggled financially. Lee remained the proprietor until December 1860 when he was forced to sell the paper to cover his debts.
In 1860, Henry became the first teacher for the Sydney Ragged School, the school founded by Edward Joy. Joy had advertised for a special sort of teacher who was more than just a teacher of reading and writing, but also someone who ‘has a truly Christian interest in the welfare of the class of children for whom the school is intended and who has at the same time the gift of winning the attention and securing the affection of such children.’ Lee was engaged as a teacher and his (more…)
John Kent (1843-1916), Accountant and YMCA supporter
John Kent was born in 1843 in Hinton Waldrist, Berkshire, England, the son of John Kent, a farmer with some 435 acres and employing 15 labourers, and Jane Gee. John was the fourth child and the eldest son among seven children. Around 1860, John left the farm and at 17 was placed under a private commercial tutor for special training in accountancy and commerce, possibly in connection with the drapery business. After gaining experience in a solicitor’s office that specialised in bankruptcy, further work in private banking and then in a sales department of a warehouse in London, he decided on a commercial career in Australia.
Kent arrived in Sydney in 1863 and obtained a position with the drapers and silk merchants Francis Giles and Co and by September 1864, the company had been placed in the hands of administrators as its debts were twice its assets. This experience provided John with a personal understanding of company insolvency, and this proved very useful for his later business career which involved overseeing and administering such insolvencies. His employer’s business was bought by John Thompson and continued to trade under the name of Francis Giles and Co with Giles as manager. It is possible that Kent retained his job despite the difficulties, but may have left after a fire destroyed the business in 1867. Kent’s obituary says cryptically that after his time at Francis Giles and Co he spent some time in the country and then, after three years, ‘resumed his business career’. It is probable that he spent some time, at least up to 1869, as an ‘Episcopalian catechist’ in the Kurrajong/North Richmond area. During his time there he was involved in public controversy over the abandonment of denominational schools and the commencement of public ones. Kent was concerned that the public education system would not allow the scriptures to be taught within it, a concern he maintained throughout his life. On his return to Sydney he began work for W Gardiner and Co who ran a soft goods warehouse, a similar line of business to his former employers.
In 1871, John married Helen Clayton (nee Felton) (1828-1902), a widow with two daughters Elizabeth (1856-1916) and Catherine (1857-1913), and John and Helen had one son, Walter John (1872-1873), who died at eight months and three weeks. Initially living in Francis Street, Sydney (1871-1879), they began to move with the increasing success of John’s business. They moved first to Marlborough Street, Leichhardt (1880-1883), then to Marion Street, Leichhardt (1884-1897), followed by O’Hara Street, Marrickville (1898-1904) then, after Helen’s death, John moved to Union Street, North Sydney (1905-1910) followed by a final move to Cleveland Street, Wahroonga (1911-1916). At least from 1888, Kent also owned a country residence, farm and orchard of some 445 acres at Barber’s Creek, later known as Tallong. Here he planted apples with a view to exporting them to England which he did from 1892, for he correctly foresaw that England could become a major market for the export of Australian fruit.
Charles Nightingale (1795-1860), Edward Ramsay (1818-1894) and James Druce (1829-1891) Charity Collectors
Obtaining funding for the work of the various nineteenth century philanthropic organisations was always a challenge. There was little government financial assistance available, and the various organisations were dependent upon the generosity of the public for financial support. In order to gain that support the many charities who wished to collect money from the public engaged in a number of activities and strategies. Prominent among their activities was the public annual meeting, often chaired by a socially important person, where the activities of the organisation were reported and supportive resolutions passed. At the meeting someone, usually the secretary of the committee, would read a report detailing what had been achieved in the year past, often giving encouraging examples of success as well as underlining the difficulty of the task which the charity had undertaken. Such reporting made the committee that ran the charity accountable to the public and to its subscribers. It also showed what had been achieved through public financial support, educated the community on the continuing need for the charity, and gave hope for success in the future so that there might be continued interest and increased financial support given by individuals.
Nineteenth century newspaper editors, at least up until the 1890s, gave very sympathetic treatment to such organisations and often printed extensive reports of the meetings which gave further publicity. Printing the annual reports of these organisations and circulating them to their subscribers was also a vital part of the strategy. Such documents contained the secretary’s report, a financial statement, the lists of subscribers and the amount of their subscription, and newspapers often printed subscriber and donation lists as well. It has been suggested that the existence of these subscriber lists is evidence that nineteenth century philanthropy was a morally approved way of self-aggrandisement. Motives are difficult to determine and it may well be that, for some, giving was motived by being seen to have done the ‘right societal thing’ or by a desire to gain praise for the size of a donation. For others, however, such support was undoubtedly a response to need and a desire to help without any ulterior motive. From the organisations’ point of view, it was an effective means of giving a receipt and perhaps a means of encouraging (more…)
Joseph Paxton (1828-1882) Miner, Musician, Philanthropist and Churchman
Joseph Paxton was, to a remarkable degree, both a financial and a governance philanthropist. He was born on 10 May 1828 at Dunbar, Scotland, to James a journeyman boot maker and Margaret (nee Greig) Paxton. Though a brass founder by trade Joseph was a gifted singer and musician and he taught music and also led the singing in one of the Edinburgh churches for some six years. He married Elizabeth Bennett in 1853 and they left for the colony of NSW arriving in Sydney in early 1854. Their daughter Margaret born in 1854 died in 1855 but two further children, James Alexander (1856) and Elizabeth Bennett (1860) were born to the family at Tambaroora (Hill End).
Initially Paxton earned a living in Sydney by giving performances of Scottish Songs and he also toured giving concerts in the Hunter Valley. His singing was appreciated and was compared in style to the famous Scots singers Wilson and Templeton with ‘interest being sustained by anecdotes and explanatory remarks illustrative of the songs’. It would appear that Joseph, as an entertainer, was comfortable being a public figure and throughout his life was willing to express his opinions on various subjects. These public skills and attitudes would later lead him to often be chosen to chair public meetings of various organisations.
The Gold Miner
In late 1854 the family left for the Gold Diggings on the Turon River in NSW where Paxton took up a miner’s right on Hawkin’s Hill at Hill End. By 1866, Paxton entered a partnership with William Holman and some others to form Paxton, Holman and Co whose purpose was to mine a claim on Hawkins Hill. There were some 32 men employed on the site working both day and night and probably six days a week and after thirteen months of extremely hard work the first ore was crushed in March 1869. In the period June 1870-May 1871 the mine was producing some £16,000 (approximately $2 million current value) worth of gold and the value of the area was shown when, in 1872, one nugget was found which on its own was worth £16,000. Paxton was involved in numerous other mining ventures and partnerships at Hill End as mining required considerable capital to exploit the deposits. There were 255 Companies on the Hill End goldfield in 1872-1873 and they had a combined nominal capital of £3,673,937 of which Paxton’s company was the biggest by far with a nominal capital of £160,000. As a miner and mine owner, Paxton was concerned for the safety of mining and was part of a deputation to the Minister for Lands to seek the appointment of a mines inspector for gold mines. He said that many accidents which had taken place on the gold-fields were due in many instances to the incompetency and utter ignorance of men appointed by boards of directors as mine managers. He had no patience with those mine owners and companies that cited cost as a deterrence to the appointment of a mines inspector for such miners who were under capitalised had no right to exist if they did not have the funds to protect the lives of their men. He thought that by such an appointment the Government might incur the displeasure of some but would at the same time earn the gratitude of thousands of miners. (more…)