Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Philanthropy in the eighteenth century

"St Lukes Hospital for Lunatics, London" by Unknown -
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - 
Although the 18th century has a reputation for lax morals, it was also an age of profound moral earnestness and of burgeoning philanthropy. One of the key moral values was ‘benevolence’. Both the aristocracy and the middling sort founded and contributed to numerous and varied charities, which acted as a sort of proto-welfare state. See this site for more information about the range of charities to be found in London.

Besides ‘benevolence’ there were other motives for charity. One was ‘social control’ – fears of a moral collapse among the ‘common people’ and the desire for trustworthy servants. Another was the  fear that the population was declining and the consequent need to save lives – especially young lives.

The most modern forms of charity were subscription charities, which appeared in the 1690s alongside other forms of subscription association such as the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. Certain features marked the new charities out:

  1. They were not linked by any formal ties to the apparatus of local government and they drew no revenue from any form of taxation.
  2. They devoted considerable care and energy to wooing subscribers, often publishing annual reports and subscribers’ names.
  3. They commonly gave subscribers a voice, even outright control over management.

Charity schools

Charity schools, which emerged at the end of the 17th century and burgeoned in the 18th century, were the first widely popular form of subscription charity. They arose to supply the need for trustworthy servants and in early 18th century London they were the chief outlet of philanthropy. In the 1690s they were no more than a handful; by 1700 there were 112, educating 2597 boys and 1490 girls. In 1723 the high water mark was reached when 1,329 charity schools were recorded, though the numbers then remained static until the 1770s. On reason for the decline in growth lies in the fact that after 1714 they were suspected of Jacobitism.

Education: They provided education in the 3 Rs but at their heart was Christian instruction. They were established to give instruction in reading the Bible and the catechism and sometimes (in the cases of the boys) in writing and casting accounts. The children, who attended between the ages of 6 and 10, received instruction and clothing which marked them off from grammar school children and those in the private venture schools. On Sundays the teachers accompanied the pupils to church and sat with them in pews reserved for them.

Teachers: These were required by the SPCK to be communicant members of the Church of England, of ‘meek temper and humble behaviour’. London charity-school masters were full-time teachers. They had to be in school from 7 to 11 am and 1-5pm in summer (with shorter hours for winter). The men had to be able to ‘write a good hand’ and understand basic arithmetic. They had to be approved by the minister of the parish. Women teachers were not required to understand arithmetic. 

Financing: Some children paid a nominal sum, others had their schooling financed by charity. The subscription schools drew funds not only from the well-to-do but also from substantial numbers of the middling sort. The funds and the administration were vested in trustees, usually members of families resident in the neighbourhood. Charity sermons were an important money-raising device. 

From the mid 18th century subscriptions fell off and many schools had to depend on charity sermons and personal bequests. The decline was probably caused by minimal population growth and signs of a labour shortage in the 1730s and40s. By the end of the century, when the population began to rise, charity schools were overtaken by Sunday schools, which had the advantage of not taking the children away from work.

Charity schools flourished in the provinces. The first parish based school in Bristol was sparked by a bequest in 1699, which allowed for the education of seven poor orphans of Temple parish. It was founded by Arthur Bedford, vicar of the Temple church; the patron was Edward Colston. Bedford was a correspondent for the SPCK. 

Case study: Mary Webb’s school, Fishponds, Bristol. The school was set up following the will of Mary Webb, dated 15 October 1729. The school was to be in the parish of Stapleton (now a suburb of Bristol but then in Gloucestershire) for teaching ‘Twenty poor Boys and Ten poor Girls’ and the master was to be paid £15 pa.; the remaining part of the charity was to provide an almshouse and 12d a week for ‘three poor old Women’ of the parish. 

Mary Webb's school, Fishponds, Bristol
my photograph


For most of the 18th and 19th centuries hospitals were the resort solely of the poor; the better off were treated in their own homes. There is no evidence that hospital treatment improved the health of the patients!

The medieval foundation of St Thomas’s Hospital had been refounded in Southwark in 1551 on a former monastic foundation. In 1693 the governors decided to rebuild and the rebuilding was completed in 1709. Over 250 patients could be accommodated in wards each containing 12 to 29 beds. The finest room in the hospital was the governors’ hall where gold-lettered wall tablets recorded the names of subscribers. 

Some of the earliest of the new general hospitals were foundation charities paid for by wealthy philanthropists. The physician John Radcliffe (d. 1714) of Oxford left a bequest for both the extension of St Bartholomew’s in London and the erection of the Radcliffe Infirmary in his home town.  Another physician John Addenbrooke  of Cambridge (d. 1719) left a modest fortune ‘to hire, fit-up, purchase or erect a building fit for a small physicall hospital for poor people’—an intention only disclosed in his will. Though the master and fellows of St Catharine's were given responsibility as trustees, the will was only implemented with the aid of subscriptions and an Act of Parliament. The hospital was not completed until October 1766.  

Guy’s Hospital was chartered by Act of Parliament following the will of Thomas Guy (d. 1724). He profited greatly from well-timed investments in South Sea stock and the hospital was founded from the bulk of his fortune of £200,000.  It was intended for 400 sick persons deemed to be incurable for treatment elsewhere and took in 2,000 patients per annum. A ward for incurable lunatics was also established.

But Guy’s was not typical.  The other general hospitals established at this time were subscription. They were entirely dependant on gifts and legacies and there were administered by governors appointed by the subscribers.
1720: Westminster; this was largely due to the initiative of Henry Hoare, banker of Stourhead.
1733: St George’s
1740: London (by 1785, it was seeing 7,000 patients a year)
1745: Middlesex

With very few exceptions the management and administration of provincial hospitals were entirely in the hands of all male subscribers of 2 guineas per annum and benefactors of £20, otherwise known as governors, each of whom had the right to recommend patients and to have a vote in the management of affairs. Women made up to 10-20% of annual hospital contributors and up to 25% of weekly ones, but they had to exercise their privileges by proxy.

The potential for undue influence by the elites was circumscribed by the use of ballots during contested elections and second by the rule that the accounts had to be opened to any subscriber. Persons whose subscriptions were not paid up were excluded from privileges.

The enthusiasm of the medical profession aroused fears that infirmaries were being used to carry out experiments on the poor. But the main benefit for physicians lay in the fact that they were permitted and expected to have paying pupils of their own in attendance.

The London hospitals carried out an increasingly specialized range of treatments:
1749: British Lying-in Hospital in Long Acre
1750: City of London Lying-in Hospital
1752: General Lying-in Hospital (later Queen Charlotte’s)

1746: two smallpox hospitals were founded.
1746: the Lock Hospital: patients received moral instruction as well as medical care. It was closely associated with the Countess of  Huntingdon’s Connexion. Her preacher, Martin Madam, was her chaplain until his public advocacy of polygamy in 1780 compelled him to resign. His assistant was Thomas Haweis, who was the executor of Lady Huntingdon’s will.

1751: St Luke’s Hospital for the Insane was established partly because the waiting lists for Bedlam were so long, partly because Bedlam’s constitution did not did not allow subscribers to share in its government. The Retreat at York, founded by Quakers and opened in 1796, pioneered humane treatment for the mentally ill.

"RetreatOriginalBuildings" by Gemälde von Carve
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Public viewing at Bedlam, made notorious by Hogarth, finally stopped in 1770 at considerable financial loss to the foundation. 

See here for the excellent Bedlam 'Museum of the Mind' website

The Rake in Bedlam, from 'The Rake's Progress' by William Hogarth -
Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH..
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - 

The most successful ‘mad doctor’ at St Luke’s was the highly respected William Battie.
1763: Newcastle asylum
1776: Manchester
1777: York

Provincial case study: The Bristol Infirmary

The first voluntary general hospital in the provinces was the Winchester County Hospital, which admitted its first patient in 1736. This was followed by the Bristol Infirmary. In 1736, 78 people signed a memorandum promising subscriptions of from two to six guineas annually. The subscribers alone were to have the power to recommend one inpatient and two outpatients at a time for admission to the hospital.  An initial £1,500 was provided by John Elbridge, the Controller of Customs. The Imfirmary’s motto was ‘Charity Universal’. The first patients, 17 men and 17 women, were admitted in December 1737. The opening of the Infirmary was celebrated by a church service at St James attended by the Mayor and Corporation, the medical staff and the trustees (the subscribers).

In 1788 plans for the enlargement of the Infirmary began.

28 June 1788: Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal
‘The foundation Stone of the Centre Building of our new Infirmary was laid on Tuesday last when William Turner, Esq of Belmont, Somerset, nobly presented one thousand pounds to the Treasurer towards completing the benevolent design. __ May the opulent of our city and neighbourhood speedily follow so humane and liberal an example! and thereby prevent the capital stock of this excellent charity from being diminished, which otherwise must be the case before the building can be completed ... the increased size of the Hospital will require a great increase of income to support it, and the annual subscriptions for that purpose being extremely precarious, its permanent fund should be as inviolate as possible. ...’

25 Oct: FFBJ
‘Last week died in College Green, Miss Turner, sister of Wm Turner, Exq of Belmont, near Wraxal, Somerset, __ who, we have good authority to say, has left a very handsome legacy to our Infirmary’.

For Thomas Coram and the Foundling Hospital see the next blog.

The Magdalen

At the onset of the Seven Years War moral outrage over prostitution helped lead to the foundation of the Magdalen in 1758. A number of businessmen were involved, including the Baltic merchant John Thornton. At the same time the Female Orphan Asylum was founded. The Magdalen preacher William Dodd was later hanged for forgery. In 1765 Queen Charlotte bestowed her patronage.

The Marine Society

In 1756 the philanthropist, Jonas Hanway, a member of the Russia Company, approached his fellow member, the Hull merchant John Thornton, with a proposal to encourage the unemployed of London to volunteer for the Royal Navy with an offer of a suit of clothes, the Admiralty bounty and a religious tract. The Marine Society was founded on 25 June 1756, its (revealing!) motto: ‘Charity and Policy United’). In 1786 it commissioned the first pre-sea training ship in the world for poor boys of good character.

No comments:

Post a Comment