A dual mission

Photo:At the 'penny sit-up' at Blackfriars, homeless men could spend the night indoors for 1d.

At the 'penny sit-up' at Blackfriars, homeless men could spend the night indoors for 1d.

© unknown

By Natasha Lewer

Social problems  

While the Salvationists saw their spiritual mission as vital, the social aspect of their work was equally important. In the days before social welfare provision, many people in Hackney were living in dire poverty, housed in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions and without access to basic healthcare. And where the Salvationists saw a need, they sought to find a practical solution. Rather than being overawed by the scale of the problem, they got on with doing what they could, however small. They were determined to make a difference on an individual level, and their reports are full of the statistics of individual successes. 

Food and shelter  

The first social initiatives took the form of soup kitchens and shelters for the homeless and destitute, where people could get a bed for the night and a hot meal, in exchange for 2d, or the equivalent in work. At the 'penny sit-up' in Blackfriars, men could sit on a bench all night for half that amount.


“Of all the causes that bring them down, drink is the chief,” stated Adelaide Cox. There were at least two ‘homes for inebriates’ in Hackney, for women addicted to both alcohol and laudanum: Grove House, in Oldhill Street; and Hillsborough House, in Rookwood Road and later in Amhurst Road. At first, women received free treatment, but by the late 1890s only paying cases were admitted. Women stayed for a period of six to twelve months, and were watched over for the following three years, after which time the success rate was said to be 50%.

Click here to see a map of central Hackney produced by philanthopist Charles Booth in 1898-99. Known as the 'Poverty Maps', the houses on them were coloured according to the income levels of their occupants, shading from yellow (wealthy), through red (well-to-do) and pink (fairly comfortable), and all the way to dark blue (chronic want) and finally black (lowest class).




Photograph reproduced courtesy of www.workhouses.org.uk.


This page was added by Natasha Lewer on 11/11/2009.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.