We’re thrilled to welcome Dr. George Gosling as a new Placecloud expert. George is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Wolverhampton. His work deals with broad questions concerning citizenship, consumerism and gender, primarily by looking at medicine, charity and welfare in modern Britain. He’ll be publishing 10 viewpoints on Placecloud in June 2021.
They’ll include the story of Thomas Guy, who used his enormous wealth to found a new hospital just south of the Thames in the 1720s. Guy’s Hospital is a leading medical institution and still an impressive site today, so why was his statue hidden from sight in 2020?
Another wealthy businessman and philanthropist who left a mark on London was the American George Peabody. They may be private flats today, but the Peabody Trust’s 1864 housing project on Commercial Street was a notable effort to improve the living conditions of London’s poor. Not far away, on Wentworth Street, a lone archway remains to mark the site of another social housing project. The Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company was established by Nathan Mayer Rothschild in 1884 to house the large number of Jews who had fled persecution in Eastern Europe.
Toynbee Hall was established as a university settlement on nearby Old Castle Street in the same year, with staff and students from Oxford and Cambridge Universities amongst others living and working among the poor of the East End. His time as a resident here would prove a lasting influence on Clement Attlee, who would go on to set up the postwar welfare state as Prime Minster in the 1940s. One group for whom the welfare state would consistently fall short was new arrivals in the country and helping them with the challenges of British bureaucracy was a key task of the welfare centre set up on Featherstone Road in Southall by the Indian Workers Association in 1957. This became a new focus for the organisation, a decade after Indian independence.
St Dunstan’s Lodge in Regent’s Park was a crucial site for the rehabilitation and retraining of the men who had been blinded fighting in the First World War. The crafts they were trained in were intended to restore them to a life of independence and selling the items they made was another important aspect of the charity’s work. Mr Selfridge was the guest of honour at the opening of the St Dunstan’s shop on Regent Street in 1922. This was a charity running a shop but not quite the charity shop as we know it today.
Mount Street in Mayfair was the site of a fundraising shop from 1870 until the 1930s but, once again, this was not quite what we might expect. By the turn of the century, the corner of Judd Street and Euston Road was home to the dominating presence of the Salvation Army’s Trade Headquarters, where fundraising was a key motivation for opening up what has been described as a salvationist department store. This was a far more impressive venture than Christian Aid’s 1960s charity shop on Sloane Square in Mayfair, which showed some of the challenges in establishing the charity shops that are now such a familiar sight.