St George's Mission

from the English Church Union Kalendar 1863

St George's Mission, St George-in-the-East
The parish of St. George-in-the-East was originally formed out of the parish of Stepney, with a population of 48,000, of which three ecclesiastical districts take about 22,000, leaving 26,000 to the mother church. At the time the Mission was commenced one of these ecclesiastical districts had not been formed, so that about 30,000 souls were left to the care of the rector and two other clergy. Within the boundaries of this parish lies the greater portion of the London Docks. Ratcliff Highway, so notorious for deeds of violence, scenes of debauchery, and flagrant vice, runs right through, and is chiefly contained within it. Its population is for the most part connected with the docks or river and contains many foreigners, and it abounds in lodging houses for sailors, public houses, dancing and concert-rooms, and various low places of amusement. The Church, at the time of the founding of the Mission, had little influence in this district, though the rector had for years consistently fulfilled his duties in the Church itself. The parish church is a classical structure, erected about seventy years ago, and is filled with pews, ill-adapted to Christian worship, and specially to the wants of the poor. When the rector wished the Mission work to commence in and around the parish church, it seemed hopeless to bring the poor into such a building. The schools, though enjoying a liberal endowment, yet being in the hands of lay trustees, were permitted to go on in their mediocrity. A small Sunday school was attached to the parish church, and an infant school of about seventy children founded by a parishioner as a mark of respect to the rector. There was also a proprietary chapel, which has since been consecrated, with an ecclesiastical district attached, under the name of St. Matthew, and which has good schools in connection with it. This was the whole religious machinery of the Church brought to bear upon 30,000 souls at the time of the commencement of St. George's Mission.

On Ash Wednesday, 1856, the Rev. C. F. Lowder and a friend commenced the Mission work. The spot chosen for their first attempt was a workshop at the end of a small court in Ratcliff-highway, where a Sunday school had been held. Here they preached and prayed with a few persons gathered together by some handbills circulated in the parish. This was continued for a fortnight, two clergy going down three times in the week. From inquiries which were then made it was found that the usual attendants at these services for the most part belonged to the parish church; and, as in such an extensive parish the room seemed too near the church, it was resolved to seek a more distant spot for their operations. This was soon found in a room in one of the most miserable alleys in the parish, near the river, and a new beginning was made the same evening. No sooner, however, had the hymn commenced than a violent opposition displayed itself on the part of the Irish who swarmed in the alley, and who on the first evening interrupted and almost frustrated all attempts at preaching by their clamour and violence; many dangerous missiles flying at the heads of the preachers, and frequent attacks on the doors and themselves, overpowering their exhortations and prayers. This was continued with more or less energy for another fortnight, when they were left to fulfil their work in peace. But, as they became better acquainted with the district and more interested in its spiritual condition, they felt that it would be hopeless to expect any permanent good from such desultory attempts. Accordingly, the Mission agreed to furnish the rector with missionary curates; and a house was taken in the very centre of the district, in which the Services had been latterly held, and not far from the spot itself.
In July, 1856, the Mission took possession of their House in Calvert-street. The district contains more than 6,000 souls, of whom perhaps a third are Irish Roman Catholics. A room was at once opened in the House, with the license of the Bishop of London, for daily prayers and frequent preaching, and here was gradually gathered a little congregation. A small choir of boys was formed, and classes were held for instruction in the Bible and preparation for Holy Communion. Even then the Mission was not free from disturbance, and generally one priest took charge of the door, while the other conducted the service. However, a beginning was made; and the bell daily witnessed for God in a district which knew little of prayer or the blessings of the Gospel. An evening Sunday school was also commenced, and on Sunday afternoons the missionaries preached from the steps of the parish church. On the Thursday before Advent in the same year a temporary iron chapel was opened for Divine Service in the garden of the Mission-house, which was able to accommodate 200 persons. This chapel is frequently thronged on Sunday evenings, and often with attendances of forty or fifty during the week.

The Mission was joined at this time by one or two laymen, candidates for Holy Orders. Two ladies had also joined it, and opened a small school at their lodgings, and acted as district visitors. In the spring, however, of 1857 another lady who had already been engaged in works of charity at the head of a Religious House offered her services to the Mission, which were gladly accepted; and another house was taken near Calvert-street, where she was soon joined by others, and the Sisterhood commenced in a more regular way, opening a day school for girls, taking one or two into the house to be trained for service, and visiting the sick and poor. About the same time also another opening for mission work in the parish presented itself. A church in Wellclose-square, in the western part of St. George's (Calvert-street being in the south-east), built in 1696 for the Danes living in this part of the metropolis, afterwards used by Boatswain Smith, and latterly by the British and Foreign Sailors' Society, was vacant. The Mission at once resolved on renting it of the trustees, and, after some necessary repairs and alterations, Service was commenced in Lent, and it was formally opened soon after Easter. A Mission-house was now opened in Wellclose-square, and a small school attached to it in a loft, kindly lent for the purpose by a neighbour. They obtained also the services of a schoolmaster in Calvert-street, and a boys' school was commenced in the Mission-house. In September a further change was made. The clergy were united in Wellclose-square; the Sisters moved into the Mission-house in Calvert-street; and the schools into the former house of the Sisterhood: and this arrangement, with few alterations, has continued ever since.
Of the Penitentiary work and Industrial Schools connected with St. George's Mission mention is made under the head of "Hendon House of Mercy and St. Stephen's Home". A great deal has been done to further the objects of the Mission by open-air preaching. On almost every Sunday in the summer sermons were delivered in one of the districts; and any circumstance which might be taken advantage of was turned to account in the same way. At times violent opposition attended these attempts, — so much so, that it was with difficulty that the clergy and choristers were able to escape. The work of the Mission has however steadily advanced, and at present the following is the list of Services conducted by the Mission. Besides the daily celebration at the Chapel of the Good Shepherd in Calvert-street, Mattins is said daily at St. Saviour's, Wellclose-square, and Evensong in both chapels at 8 p.m. Litany is said on Wednesdays and Fridays at 12.15, and on festivals Mattins is said at 11. Sermons are preached on Wednesday and Friday evenings, and on Eves. During Advent and Lent courses of sermons, sometimes by other clergy, are preached, and confirmation, communicant, and other classes are held on some appointed evenings, either before or after service. On Sundays there are celebrations at 8a.m; morning prayer, litany, and sermons at 11; services for the children of the schools at 3.30 p.m., and occasionally baptisms; and evening prayer with sermons at 7. After this there are Bible or communion classes for those who wish to attend. There are good congregations on Sunday evenings, and on the evenings of the week there are between twenty and fifty attendants in each chapel.
Mention has already been made of a small infant school under the rector of St. George's in one of the Mission districts. This he placed under the management of the Mission, and from this small beginning of seventy children the numbers have gradually increased until this year there are 700. The boys' school in Calvert-street, first commenced in a room of the Mission-house, has, after one other change, been carried on for the last two years in the former infant school in Old Gravel-lane. The girls' and infant schools are in the house adjoining that of the Sisters, and under their care and management. The boys' school was started under a master who has since been ordained deacon by the Bishop of Oxford, and is now working in the Central African Mission; he has been succeeded by a master trained at St. Mark's and certificated, so that now they have the help of pupil teachers and a grant from Government. The school has been already inspected, and it is hoped that the result will procure some help in carrying it on. The numbers have gradually increased to upwards of 100, but unfortunately space will not allow of the extension of this number until additions can be made, or schools built. There is the same difficulty in the infant school, which is overcrowded, though the children are divided in two rooms.

In Wellclose-square the second school, commenced in a loft close to the former Mission-house under a very energetic teacher, who for some time volunteered her services, grow so large that it was necessary to divide it, and there are now three schools, — one for boys, another for girls, and a third for infants. These make up altogether six schools. They are taught very carefully in school and in church the fundamental doctrines of the faith. The hymns, canticles, and litany, which they sing with much spirit and understanding, make them consider the Services of the Church a privilege; and, though there may be disappointments in those who leave when their school-time is over, still the choir among the boys, and the industrial school among the girls, are not without effect in still retaining a hold upon them.

From the education of the children the Mission was led on to establish some institution for working-men, and they were enabled to begin this work when help was least expected. At the time when the parish church was closed, after the first outbreak of the riots, the mob, disappointed in their weekly opportunity of profane violence, made some attempts on the Mission chapels. This brought several offers of help from strangers living in a distant part of London. One of these, seeing the danger from the mob soon over, transferred his services to the parish church, and was then more than ever impressed with the necessity of doing something to win the working classes of the parish to the side of order and religion. He accordingly proposed to the mission to open an Institute for them, which should provide the newspaper and periodical literature of the day, lectures, classes, and opportunities of rational amusement, such as chess, draughts, &e. This was first commenced and carried on during the winter in the boys' schoolroom, and, although the arrangements were not so satisfactory as could be desired, yet a very fair beginning was made. At any rate, the promoter felt encouraged to enlarge very considerably his original plan, and to secure more convenient promises. A good house next to the Mission-house was taken, the founder moving into it himself as resident honorary secretary, a very attractive programme of lectures, classes, and other advantages, was put forth, and the new season opened under very favourable auspices. Reading-rooms for two classes with varying payments were opened, a smoking and conversation room in which coffee was provided at cost price, a circulating library, and a separate room for boys. Classes in reading, writing, and arithmetic were carried on, as well as in singing, French, and drawing; for the latter some casts were kindly presented by Mr. Ruskin; many presents of books were also made for the library, and several very excellent teachers connected with the Working Man's College in Great Ormond-street kindly gave their services. A large number of members soon joined, and during the year 1860 about 400 were admitted. The Mission, however, has never made itself responsible for the support of the Institute.

There are already four houses in Wellclose-square connected with the work of the Mission. Next to the Mission-house is the Working Man's Institute, which, though under its own committee, is in open connection with the Mission; opposite are two houses, in one of which are the boys' and girls schools, and the mistresses live; at the back of  the other is the infant school. The Mission household meets for prayer soon after 7 a.m. and at 10 p.m., and the clergy keep the other hours of prayer.

House of Mercy, Hendon
The penitentiary work of the Mission began on the removal of the Sisters to Calvert-street. The task was a difficult one, but in a short time sixteen girls from the streets were housed in the Refuge. It was found however that confinement in London was too much for them, especially in the midst of their former haunts. A house was accordingly taken for them at Sutton in Surrey in 1858, while the head-quarters remained as a Refuge in Calvert-street. In 1860 a further change was decided upon and after much difficulty the premises at Hendon were met with and taken on a lease of twenty years. They are situated on a high and healthy spot three miles beyond Hampstead. The old buildings were originally almshouses, to which had been added schoolrooms and dormitories, and the whole occupied by the children belonging to the workhouse of the parish. The former portion, by throwing down ceilings and partitions, are now converted into a washhouse, drying chambers heated by hot air, ironing, sorting, packing rooms, of London are received as probationers, so far as room allows. After six weeks or two months of good behaviour, they are formally received with a religious service, and then are considered among the regular inmates of the House ; whilst after a sufficient term of trial they are prepared for Confirmation, and subsequently for Holy Communion. The routine of the House is as follows : — 5 a.m., rise ; 5.30, private prayer ; 5.45, industrial work ; 6.45, prayers in chapel; 7, breakfast; 7.30, industrial work ; 12, dinner ; 12.30, midday prayers in chapel, and recreation; 1, industrial work; 4, tea ; 4.30, work ; 7, Bible class and reading ; 8, last Service in chapel and private prayers. The following, extracted from an account written in 1801, gives the results of the penitentiary work at that time : — Out of 100 who, since the commencement of the work in 1857, have been formally admitted, after about two months' probation, there have been sent to service, 21; restored to friends, 10; sent to other penitentiaries, 8; Bent to hospitals and workhouses, 6 ; married, 1 ; emigrated, 1 ; died, 4 ; still at Hendon, 18 ; dismissed or left of their own accord, 31. Besides these a large number have stayed for a shorter time, but either from not being able to boar the discipline, or other causes, have left ; and though for the most part it has been impossible to trace them, yet there is reason to hope that some proportion have been benefitted by their temporary sojourn.

[In 1861 the Ladies' Ecclesiastical Embroidery Society made an altar cloth for the chapel]

St Stephen's Industrial School
An Industrial School was among the early works of this Mission. Having a small beginning in Calvert-street, similar to the Penitentiary, it was in like manner removed to Hendon, where it is now carried on under the name of St. Stephen's Home. The children are here under the spiritual charge of the chaplain of the House of Mercy, and attend the daily services in the chapel.

St George's Sisterhood
It remains to give some account of the Sisterhood attached to St. George's Mission. The Society consists of the Warden, the Mother Superior, the Confirmed, Probationer, and Lay Sisters. The Probationer Sisters are those who, after a visit of some months' duration in the Sisterhood, during which time they live and work with the Sisters, and under the same rules of discipline, desire to be admitted on probation. After they have completed two years of probation, and desire to devote themselves altogether to a Sister's life, they are confirmed. The Lay or Serving Sisters are those of a lower rank of life, who fulfil the household duties or attend to assigned departments with the penitents or children of the Industrial School. These have a longer probation than the other Sisters. Besides these there are Associate Sisters, i.e., ladies living in the world, who have domestic or other ties which prevent their entire devotion to a Sister's life, and yet are able to spend some time every year in the Sisterhood ; and outside these again there are the Associates of the House, who undertake the collection of alms and obtaining the interest of friends for the Mission generally.

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