Peabody (Whitechapel) Estate, Glasshouse Street
(now John Fisher Street) see also Katharine Buildings
|George Peabody (1795-1869) [picture 1857 by James Reid Lambdin] was a New Englander who made a fortune during the rapid growth of Baltimore as a port and trade centre, and moved to London in 1837, aged 42, to consolidate his empire (financing American railroad expansion and the first transatlantic cables, and establishing the merchant bank that was to become Morgan Grenfell). He financed the American exhibits at the 1851 Great Exhibition. Ironically, for one who aged 17 had volunteered as a soldier to fight against the advancing British fleet, he did much to foster Anglo-American trade and political relationships; and come the Civil War (which divided the American community in London) pressed for educational opportunities for blacks. His major benefaction was the £150,000 Peabody Donation Fund (the Peabody Trust), later increased to £500,000, for the construction of such improved dwellings for the poor as may combine in the utmost possible degree the essentials of healthfulness, comfort, social enjoyment and economy for Londoners, a gift acknowledged by Queen Victoria as wholly without parallel. Its creation was marked by a statue in Threadneedle Street unveiled by the Prince of Wales. When he died in 1869, the carriages of the Queen and the Prince of Wales followed the hearse to Westminster Abbey, where Gladstone was among the mourners. He was the first American to be awarded the Freedom of the City of London.|
ARTIZANS' AND LABOURERS' DWELLINGS IMPROVEMENT ACT, 1875.
The Whitechapel District has already been greatly benefitted by the operations of the above Act, and should all the official representations which have been made to the Metropolitan Board of Works, of the several areas referred to in former Reports, be carried out, will be still further benefitted. The five areas of which the Medical Officer of Health has made official representations, are—
1. The Royal Mint Street Scheme.
2. The Flower and Dean Street Scheme.
3. The Goulston Street Scheme.
4. The Great Pearl Street Scheme.
5. The Bell Lane Scheme.
The whole of these several areas, together, comprise near twenty acres. At present, however, only three of these areas have been purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works, viz., the Royal Mint Street, the Flower and Dean Street, and the Goulston Street areas.All the houses, with the exception of the 'Crown' public house, in Butler's Buildings, and the Schools in Darby Street, within No. 1 area, have been taken down, and blocks of Peabody Buildings have been erected on part of the area. These buildings consist of eleven blocks, and are built to accommodate 286 families. The population in these buildings was, at the end of March last, 1207. Some idea of the wretched condition of the Royal Mint Street area may be formed, when I state that it consisted of about six acres, and contained 450 houses, which were occupied by 3,750 persons, thus allowing to each, on an average, a space of only 8.3 square yards; but in a court called Crown Court, which formed part of this area, and joined Blue Anchor Yard with Glass House Street, there was only an average space of 3.4 square yards for each person.
Henry Astley Darbishire was Peabody's principal architect until 1885 (he had designed their first scheme, Commercial Street in Spitalfields; the memorial drinking fountain to his patroness Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts - then the richest woman in England, and known as 'Queen of the poor' - in Victoria Park is also his work). He undoubtedly created a recognisable, standard formula for their estates, though the constraints of the sites that the MBW had prepared often shaped the design, and the tricky Whitechapel estate is one of his most flexible plans. Less concerned with streetscape - so that his buildings look grim from the road - they concentrated on inward-facing blocks with internal spaces between them. He was keen on the use of coloured bricks for string courses and other details - he read a paper on the subject to the RIBA in 1865. (Pictured is the standard street entrance door used after 1875.)
|John Fisher (1469-1535)
Cambridge and in 1502 became chaplain to Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother
of King Henry VII. Together they reinvigorated the university,
restoring the teaching of Greek and Hebrew, bringing Erasmus over as a
lecturer, and endowing chairs and scholarships. In 1504 Fisher was made
Chancellor of Cambridge and Bishop of Rochester. In 1527 he became
chaplain to the new king, Henry VIII, and confessor to the queen,
Catherine of Aragon. Henry regarded him highly, saying no other realm
had any bishop as learned and devout.
Thomas More (1478-1535) studied law and was called to the Bar in 1501. He spent four years at the Charterhouse considering a vocation to the religious life, but instead married (twice, because his first wife died) and raised a family - insisting, unusually, on giving his three daughters and stepdaughter as good an education as his son and stepson. Erasmus and Colet, and other moderate Reformers who did not seek a break with Rome, were among his friends. Henry recognised his learning and integrity, and he became Lord Chancellor. (Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons, later made into a film, tells the story of this humane and principled man.)
Both fell foul of Henry for refusing to support the annulment of his marriage to Catherine (on grounds of consanguinity), and further refused to acknowledge the King as having supreme authority over the English church. They were imprisoned and beheaded, Fisher on 22 June 1535 and More on 6 July 1535.
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