Bicentenary Festival Programme

12 JanuaryIllustrated Talk, Falmouth Old Cornwall Society
28 Jan – 6 FebOpening of “The Writers’ Block”, Redruth LINK
7 FebruaryTalk “The Passmore Edwards Legacy”, Hayle, WI, Passmore Edwards Institute
11 Feb -22 AprilNewlyn Art Gallery (Keith Woodhouse) LINK
1 Feb-25 MarchExhibition on Herne Bay Convalescent Homes, Herne Bay Museum LINK
22 FebruaryTalk by Clive Benney, “Blackwater and surrounds”, Blackwater Institute, 7.30pm
28 FebruaryTalk “The Passmore Edwards Legacy”, Mithian Institute.
1-30 MarchExhibition. St Ives Library. (Library hours)
3 MarchShallal Dance Theatre LINK
17 MarchTalk, “What John Passmore Edwards did for Liskeard”. Public Rooms, Liskeard, 7pm
20-25 MarchExhibition: Liskeard OCS, Stuart House, Liskeard.
21 MarchTalk “The Passmore Edwards Legacy” , Perranporth Probus Club.
17 MarchTree Planting at Kimberley Park, Falmouth. 11am
23 MarchLUSB Open Day at Former Borough Library Link
24 MarchBlackwater Big Birthday Party, Blackwater Institute. Unveiling of Blue plaque. Tree Planting. Town Crier.
24 March“Passmore Pass it On”. Redruth Library marks the transfer of the library service from the Passmore Edwards building to the new location. The Ladder, 10-12noon. With The Writers Block. Link
24 MarchCamborne Celebrates Passmore Edwards, The Former Library. 6pm Link
24 MarchHerne Bay Railway History Society Talk. LINK
17 March onwardsPlanting of 20 trees in Cornwall Communities
24 MarchTown Criers proclaim birth of Passmore Edwards in Cornish Communities. 12 Noon
25 MarchBlackwater Spring Show, Blackwater Institute. 2-3:30pm
25 MarchPurple Day, the international day for epilepsy LINK
25 MarchSpring Fair, MMI, St Agnes 10-4pm
26 MarchCelebrations by Friends of Burgess Park. Wells Way. From 2pm
29 MarchIllustrated Talk & Cream Tea, Falmouth Library. 2:30pm Link
1 April -30 AprilNewlyn Society of Artists Spring Show LINK
1 April- 30 SeptSt Agnes Museum LINK
3 AprilTalk “The Passmore Edwards Legacy”, Trevithick Society, Liskeard
4 AprilTalk “The Passmore Edwards Legacy”, St Agnes Old Cornwall Society
6 AprilTalk “The Passmore Edwards Legacy”, The Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton. Link
22 Aprillaying of Wreath at JPE Grave, followed by tour of Kensal Green Cemetery, and illustrated talks. LINK
17 June Reunion of former Pupils Truro Technical School (tbc)
18 June Civic Service in Truro Cathedral
21 July (tbc)Truro Quilting Group. The Passmore Edwards Quilt.
22 JulyCelebration of Cornish Music, Dance & Poetry, 2-5, MMI, St Agnes
September (tbc)Exhibition, Kresen Kernow, Redruth
September (tbc)Church Service, St Agnes
October (tbc)Exhibition Black History Month
4 NovemberConference “Architecture and Philanthropy in Cornwall,”. Cornish Buildings Group, Tremough Campus, Penryn.


The Passmore Edwards Bicentenary Festival 2023 (Passmore Edwards 200).

Passmore Edwards 200

The Passmore Edwards 200 Festival is a series of coordinated events to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Passmore Edwards, the Victorian Cornish philanthropist, on 24 March 2023.

Events will take place during 2023 throughout Cornwall, in London and across the south and south east of England, wherever a building funded by Passmore Edwards was built.
The Passmore Edwards 200 Festival has the potential to provide an exciting and wide- ranging programme of coordinated arts projects, exhibitions, learning programmes, walks and trails, media programmes and talks and debates to commemorate his life and lasting legacy. Participants will arrange for events in all of the areas where Edwards made his bequests, collaborating with others where possible, and together form a national Festival. The individual events will be specially created for the bicentenary or may be part of an organisations regular calendar of events, tailored to the bicentenary theme.

If you would like to take part then please contact the Festival organisers at


An account of the St Georges in the East Library in 1938.

The St.George’s Library was formally opened in 1898 and included:
Basement: Staff room, part of caretaker’s apartments and news-paper filing room.
Ground Floor: Magazine and Reading Room part of which was fitted with book-cases and served as the Adults’ Lending Department. The book-cases were protected by grills through which readers could see the books but not
touch them and in this way made their selection. The assistants would then unlock the grills and remove the books the borrowers indicated they wished to borrow.
Small room equipped with a few chairs and tables and one book-case containing about 500 books and used as the Children’s Room and Lending Department.
First Floor: Lecture hall which by day was used as a Reference Reading Room.
The Reading Room and the Children’s Room were opened to the public in November 1898 and the Adult Lending Department in February 1899, The total number of volumes contained in the library on 3lst March 1901 was 6042.A few years’ sufficed to prove that the Children’s Room was quite inadequate and the Department was transferred to the Lecture hall on the first floor and accommodation provided for 1500 books. This arrangement continued for some years until the need for more accommodation was imperative. The rooms of the resident Caretaker in the basement of the building were appropriated and converted into a Children’s Department.
In July 1929 the Council approved the proposals of the Public Libraries and Museums Committee for the transfer of the Children’s Department from the basement to the ground floor to occupy the space previously used as a News Room. The former original combined Reading Room and Adults’ Lending Department was divided into two by a wooden partition in proportion of about two thirds for the Adults! Lending Department and one third for the new Children’s Department. This transfer provided more extensive accommodation for the borrowers of books and enabled the open-access system to be introduced for the children for the first time in Stepney; and also provided the same system for the Adults. Further facilities for reading by the children on the library premises, through the provision of chairs and tables was made possible, This re-arrangement although a great improvement upon the previous system was, however, far from ideal and during the ten years that has since elapsed the problem of more room has grown acute. Both the Adult’s and Children’s departments stocks have steadily grown until to-day it is a difficult matter to provide suitable, adequate and satisfactory accommodation for either adults or children. The present Children’s Department covers a total area of 624 sq.feet and has a maximum accommodation for 3500 books and is incapable of any further enlargement.
This brief history of past adaptations provides justification for the claims that a building erected to meet the requirements and conditions of 40 years ago must of necessity have become restrict in its possible uses, not capable of meeting the greatly increased demands, and no longer equal to the many advances in practices and methods of librarianship which have developed since the building ws first designed and erected. The various adaptions to meet these changes have now been exhausted and the only course left is an extension of the building, In about two-years time when the new Town Hall and Municipal Buildings are completed an opportunity seems to present itself of finding the necessary means of enlarging the present building by absorbing and including in the existing structure part of the old Town Hall next to the library. This would allow for the provision and equipping of a separate and up-to-date Children’s Department similar to those added in the last few years i the Limehouse and the Mile End libraries. the space at present used by the Children’s Department would then become available for the much needed extension of the Adult Lending library. Further for some years past the Committee will remember that they have been concerned with the problem of finding means for the enlargement of the St.George’s Nature Study Museum which occupies the old Mortuary of the St.George’s Vestry in the Churchyard end opened in 1904. This small building has long since become inadequate to the demands made upon it, All attempts to find ways and means of this long overdue extension have so far failed, but if the extension of the St.George’s library is made possible in the way I have suggested then part of the proposed enlarged building could be utilised for a modern and more suitable Nature Study Museum,
The actual stock of books at the 31st March last was adults Department 20,012vols; Children’s Department 6,056vols; total 26,168vols. The annual issues were Adults’ Department 122,795 vols; Children’s Department 86,818vols; total 209,613vols. In 1902 the corresponding figures were Adult’s Department 6036vols; Children’s Department 1674vols; total 7710vols, The annual issues Adult’s Department 31,273vols; Children’s Department 5607vols; total 36,880 vols.

scan of a type written document evidently a report to the library committee in 1938.



“All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it (Did you think it was in the white or grey stone? or the lines of the arches or cornices?)”
In this blunt and characteristic saying Whitman suggests an artistic ideal which the younger architects have sought increasingly to follow. Recognising in architecture at once the basis and the crown of the arts, they would fain achieve in it, more fully than in any other, the expression of human personality and desire. Poetry, says Matthew Arnold—a more cultured and coherent critic—is the faithful and complete expression of a single mood of the mind. The poetry of architecture must, then, take larger ground than that utterance of individual feeling which the lesser arts supply. It must express, for, the moment that creates it, the mood of societies and nations,
The new residential colony in Tavistock Place, known as the Passmore Edwards Settlement, is a notable illustration of that development of modern life which is bringing together persons of kindred tastes and interests, more especially those engaged in social and educational work in a given neighbour-hood, to form a home in which the conveniences of family life shall be combined with individual seclusion and Liberty. Growing out of the former settlement at University Hall -an association inspired and practically founded by Mrs, Humphry Ward after the publication of “Robert Elsmere” in 1889 —the present building represents a larger effort in the same direction, and an architectural design of considerable originality as compared with the average building of today. Regarded from a higher standpoint, we may see in it a natural and simple solution of a modern architectural problem, and in this last aspect we shall briefly describe it.

Bold and effective as it is in the general mass, the first impression of the building from the street is not one of eccentricity but of commodious solidity and warmth. The broad projecting eaves give the idea of shelter and quietude, the expansive porches of hospitality and active intercourse, the ample and varied windows of diversity of life within, A general view of the settlement from the garden or from Tavistock Place is instructive, Instead of the usual hit and-miss arrangement of different materials, we have them used in large surfaces in a broad and sympathetic manner. The stone, brick, plaster, and slate are consistently confincd to particular portions of the structure: such a treatment gives scale and maintains the architectural form—a quality too often forgotten in the desire for elaborate detail. Breadth and dignity are achieved by the long unbroken line of the ridge facing the main street, and the happy grouping of the chimneys in the other elevations has helped to keep the whole design free from the merely picturesque outline affected by the ordinary architect,
The Mansard roof is very ably contrived, and the portion towards Tavistock Place is particularly ingenious, ‘The steep lower slope of the roof broken by a row of well disposed attic windows, is finished against two projecting wings Backing the gables at either end, which are carried up above the eaves and roofed by the fiat pitch of the Mansard running over them, the sides being hipped against the slope. The top-storey window in the wings, set close up under the eaves, is divided into three lights, the centre one breaking out into a small semi-circular bay. The second-floor windows, under these, are arranged in. single threes, while the main block at this level presents an unbroken facade which covers one side of the Lecture hall, The staircase windows in the wings are set diagonally, following the stairs, and give a pleasant variety to the surface scheme.
Entering from Tavistock Place, we pass the massive stone porch surrounding the front door, and enter the well wooded garden in which the building stands. Here we come upon the lofty bay-windows of the drawing room, and, on the quieter side of the quadrangle, the austerer precincts of the library and reading room. The design of the iron railings surrounding the basement may here be noticed: they are formed of single bars. placed angle-wise, and grouped at intervals into fours, which, on passing through the flat top bar-worked, where the standards enter, into a diamond shape to receive them – are bent round, flattened, and welded together in crossing one another.

One is tempted to regret that the beautiful recessed porch in the west wall is not visible from the street, forming as it does by far the most interesting and characteristic approach to the building. But the architects had, doubtless, some good reason for reserving the less poetic and more businesslike entrances to front the roadway, and thus securing for the residents’ private door the further charm of a garden path and an ancient tree in the foreground. ‘This porch (shown in our illustration), with its almost monastic, yet wonderfully genial shade, its perfect blending of the sense of hospitality with that of shelter and seclusion, is one of the most successful parts of the work.
Around and above it the well-lighted windows of the residential floors are ranged in pleasingly irregular groups, and the occupants, like a London poet of unhappier fate, may
“ —-mark,
The plane-tree bud and blow,
Shed her recuperative bark
And spread her shade below.”

A donation from Mr, Passmore Edwards has happily enabled the committee to give their architects, Messrs, A. Dunbar Smith and Cecil Brewer, a fairly free hand in the planning and carrying out of the building. In the actual putting together of the parts, frank and straightforward methods are the rule. Even difficulties in construction are made to contribute pleasing results. This simplicity of manner, this treatment of architecture as construction made beautiful, is very characteristic of the building.

The centre of the ground plan is occupied by the upper part of the gymnasium, which rises from the basement and extends through two Doors in height. The basement and ground floor have been advantageously utilised for the common rooms, including the dining hall, drawing and reception rooms, library, and a. number of small and homely classrooms, by which it is hoped to provide informally some educational facilities and social clubs for the neighbourhood, Above the roof of the gymnasium is an open quadrangle, which secures light and air for the backs of the upper storeys,
Entering the residents’ porch, we pass through a spacious hall and corridor, in which the prevailing note of the interior-simplicity of form combined with purity of colour-is instantly struck. The walls throughout the corridors and staircases are distempered a pale ochre, and the woodwork painted dark green. The simple lines of the small skirtings and architraves of the doors, unmarked by any extraneous ornament, serve to emphasise the restful quality of the colouring.
The drawing-room, which is one of the most picturesque in the house, is approached by a small ante-chamber, in which a judicious arrangement of pillars gives grace and dignity for the lack of a door. Any feeling of coldness that might be induced by this or by its ample window spaces is counteracted by curtains of plain blue tapestry, and thick Oriental carpet, which supplies the only colour pattern in the room, and two fire-places, one of which, as will be seen in our illustration is effectively placed between two doors slightly recessed in the thickness of the wall, and approached by a short flight of stairs on either side of the hearth. The dark blue tiles around the plain iron grate fail, however, to give quite the right note of colour to this end of the room, and seem to demand relief by brass or copper. ‘The chairs are mostly of ash wood, with simple rush seats, The table shown in the photograph is from a design used repeatedly in the common rooms, but with the greatest success in the dining hall, where, when out of use, the tables are folded flat in a remarkably small compass and are slipped into the shallow cupboards that line the wainscot, thus leaving the body of the room clear for friendly gatherings and house debates. By placing.a set of these ingenious items together, the convivial board is adjusted to
the required size. The room is somewhat long and narrow, well lit down one side from the north-west, and forms perhaps the most pleasant apartment in the house. The tone of the walls is here changed from the blue and green of the drawing room to a warm red. The floor is covered with cork carpet; the grate a broad and open pattern set in pale green brick; while the well furnished dresser and sideboards give a homely cheer to the place.

The library is dedicated to the memory of Professor Thomas Hill Green, the late leader of Heglian thought at Oxford, known to readers of “Robert Elsmere” in the character of Henry Gray. The central feature of the room is the memorial fireplace, a massive but simple structure of “Hopton wood” stone, with the monogram “THG” initialed in gold. The erection of a “memorial fireplace,” though somewhat novel, seems to commend itself as no less reasonable than the dedication of a window, especially when we consider how many admirable sentiments naturally gather round the social hearth. Deep book-cases have been built into the walls “to a considerable height, utilising the space in the most compact and economical manner, and the fittings are quiet and unobtrusive
The smoking-room is panelled in the window recesses, and has a large and comfortable settle, stained to the prevailing dark-green colour, occupying one of the side walls. The shallow arched recesses on each side of the fireplace break agreeably into the coloured wall above. “This and the other corresponding spaces have been painted by a friend of the settlement in a pictorial frieze representing outdoor recreations ; which as a labour of love is worthy of all praise.

The fireplaces throughout the building are by several well known designers They have been treated with freedom and diversity of method by Messrs, Lethaby, Voysey, Newton, Troup and Dawber, and the architects themselves have contributed the designs of the principal grates, the result giving a refreshing note of individuality to the different rooms, the cheerful hearth of the dining hall, with its setting in green “Lothaby brick,” has already been noticed, and it is satisfactory to know that this fireplace and fender, with several others, were carried out by the ordinary manufacturers from instructions and sketches supplied by the architects Such experiments deserve the fullest encouragement, and they have been amply justified in the present case. It is only in bringing modem design to bear directly upon ordinary production that any aesthetic growth can be effected in the commercial world, and thereby upon the public taste.
Without wishing to ascribe to a dominant artistic influence the credit due to the architects themselves, we may safely say that the building affords one of the happiest examples of the influence of “the Arts and Crafts” movement upon architecture. It proves, indeed, that the danger of such an infiuence degenerating into a cult is not a grave one, that it has, in fact, emerged from the experimental stage and taken its place as wholesome and potent stimulus to design. Seen from a broader standpoint as a factor in the modem rebuilding of London, the Passmore’ Edwards Settlement fully justifies its being, and gives, according to Mr Ruskin’s demand, something that compensates us for the last space of light and air; “an expressive picturesque object, a friend whose aspect, changing, with the seasons, becomes interwoven with our daily associations and is hailed with delight after absence ; not – as it too often happens – a shadow upon our life, a grim mass of lifeless stone or brick oppressing us with its tedious and persistent gloom.” It must at least be felt that such sincere and thoughtful architecture is in harmony with the ideal presented by Mrs, Humphry Ward in her inaugural address to the residents, “the building up of that true tolerance which lies in the passionate mutual respect of free individualities.”

all photographs by E G Martin.

The Passmore Edwards Ocean Library

The Passmore Edwards Ocean Library. started with his donation of 5000 books. Through the Ocean Library the Sailors Society was able to place collections of books on merchant ships throughout the world and exchange them when the ships visited a suitable port. The Princess of Wales ‘launched’ the library on the occasion of the opening of Jack’s Palace by placing a few books into a box that was to be sent to the crew of the steamship Ophir.

Books for all

Besides providing buildings, Passmore Edwards, from time to time, sent large contributions of books to public libraries and other institutions.

Amongst such were 
Bethnell Green Free Library 1000 volumes; Barking Public Library, 1000 volumes; Bromley Public Library, 1000 volumes; Battersea Polytechnic, 1000 volumes; Borough Road Polytechnic, 2000 volumes; Cobden Club & Institute, 1000 volumes; Caxton Convalescent Home, 500 volumes; Limpsfield, Camborne Free Library, 1000 volumes; Chelsea Polytechnic, 1000 volumes; Chiswick Library & Mission Hall, 500 volumes; Cornwall Convalescent Home, 500 volumes; Technical Institute & Library, Hayle, 500 volumes; Friendly Societies’ Convalescent Home, 500 volumes; The Library, Crays, Essex, 500 volumes; Lisson Grove Library, 500 volumes; Liskeard Free Library, 500 volumes; Mortimer Street Library, WC, 500 volumes; Marylebone Library, 500 volumes; Nicholas Cole Abbey Club, City, 500 volumes; Paddington Library, 500 volumes; People’s Palace, 1000 volumes; Poplar Library, 1000 volumes; Penzance Free Library, 1000 volumes; Shoreditch Public Library, 1000 volumes; Romford Road Library, West Ham,1000 volumes; Stoke Newington Library, 1000 volumes; Southampton Public Library, 1000 volumes; Salisbury Workingmen’s Club, St George in the east Library, 1000 volumes; St day School and Meeting Room, 500 volumes;Tottenham Public Library, 1000 volumes; Morley Memorial Library, 1000 volumes; Walthamstow Public Library, 1000 volumes; Canning Town Library, 1000 volumes; Whitechapel Public Library, 1000 volumes; Whitechapel Working Lad’s Institute, 500 volumes;Yorkshire Association of Institutes, Leeds,1000 volumes.
Passmore Edwards also contributed in smaller quantities, from 50 to 500 volumes, a still larger number of books to town and village libraries, hospitals, convalescent homes, workmen’s clubs, reading rooms, and other institutions. Amongst these were a number of books given to Ramsgate to start their first library.

The Schoolmaster, The Journal of the National Union of Teacher, 30 September 1899

The Schoolmaster: 30 September 1899.
All roads led to Sydenham on Saturday. From welsh mountain and Devonshire valley, from Yorkshire moor and Northumbrian borderland came the happy pilgrims to take part in the rejoicings at the completion and opening of the Passmore Edwards House for the orphans of teachers, to congratulate the London brethren on the magnificent work they have accomplished through the Special Effort Fund, and to thank Mr Passmore Edwards and Mr Whittick Rabbits for their splendid munificence. It was indeed a day of triumph, and the faces of the great gathering showed more than the mere applause how much the day meant to the profession. Outside the Conference themselves it would task the memory of our eldest members to recall such a representative and influential massing of the forces of the Union, With nearly
Twelve Hundred Present,
Most of whom are known throughout the kingdom, it would be easier top say who were not present than to mention those that were. London was naturally well represented. West ham sent a worthy contingent of well-known workers, and the other extra-metropolitan associations showed their sympathy by the presence of many of their local leaders.
Although the opening ceremony was fixed for three o’clock, the House was well filled before two, and the early arrivals took the opportunity of going the rounds before the crowd made circulation difficult. Westwood House, or Passmore Edwards House, as it will henceforth be called, was it may well be remembered, built from the designs of the late J. L. Pearson, R.A. some twenty years since, by Mr A. Littleton, of the firm of Novello & Co, as a palace for the entertainment of his musical friends. Five acres of beautiful grounds, gardens, paddocks, and lawns surround the House, which is reached by a magnificent avenue a hundred yards long. The great feature of the house is the magnificent music salon fitted in richly carved woods with a minstrel’s gallery at one end. It is said that the fireplace alone cost £1,000, and no expense has been spared to make the mansion a residence worthy of the kings of art. The doors are of elaborately carved mahogany, and the principle staircase is ornamented by sculptured figures on the newels. The winter gardens have domed roofs, and the garden terraces are amongst the happiest features of the design. Since coming into the hands of the Orphanage Council, a few alterations have been made to suit the new arrangements; but the thoughtful care of the members has allowed of this being done without interfering with the harmony of the
Beautiful Work of Art
which the House really is. The coach houses have been utilised as workshops and gymnasium, and the necessary sanitary arrangements have been made without breaking in any way the line of the building.
A tablet bearing the words:-The Passmore Edwards House for the Orphans of Teachers,” has been placed over the north front, and a brass plate with the following inscription is to be put up in the hall:-
To the Glory of God, and the Succour of the Fatherless, this House is dedicated,
This House and Grounds were opened as a Teachers Orphanage on September 23rd 1899,
J Passmore Edwards, Esq.,
With his noble benefaction and the proceeds of a Special Effort made by the Metropolitan Branches of the National Union of Teachers.
The Council of Teacher’s Benevolent and Orphan Funds were enabled to purchase the Freehold from the generous vendor,
C J Whittick Rabbits, Esq., JP.
Of the Council” Of the Special Effort:
Mr James Hodge, Chairman Mrs E M Burgwin, Chairman
Mr Fred W Hearn, Treasurer Earl Jersy, Jnt Teasurer
Mr J H Yoxall, Secretary Mr S Creswell, Jnt Treasurer
Mr W W F Osborne, Secretary

On Saturday the arrangements were in the hands of a special committee, and Mr Hardy with a band of devoted stewards made things easy and pleasant for the visitors. Indoors Mrs Burgwin, the “mother of the orphans,” received her guests, noble and simple, with the charming tact, which has so often, stood the Union’s Charities in good stead. Miss Ansell and Miss carter were in the forefront in showing visitors round, and we trust that few teachers will pass through the metropolis without sparing a few hours to view their latest acquisition. The dormitories are beautifully light, with an outlook that it would be hard to better, and the genial surroundings do much to take away the sad thoughts which those little beds, with their pathetic associations, call up. The day room is bright and cheerful, and it is to be hoped that before long the walls will be hung with pictures worthy of the building. Here is a chance for the many art lovers amongst our readers; for although the splendid decorations of the House prevent any suggestion of coldness, it cannot be doubted that the addition of some good pictures would help to cheer up our little guests who have now taken up their abode there.
With military punctuality the band of HM Scots Guards, under the baton of Mr Henry T Dunberton, opened the proceedings with a cheerful marching tune, and the platform erected at the South Front was speedily filled with the invited quests. Amongst them were:-
Sir George Kekeich, Mr Passmore Edwards, Mrs Passmore Edwards, and Mr Harry Passmore Edwards, Sir Charles Elliott, and Lady Jersey; Mr C Bowden, the Rev F Storer Clark, Mr T Gautrey, Mr A J Mundella, Mr J Sinclair, and Mr Warmington, members of the London School Board; Dr Garnett, Secretary of the Technical Education Board of the London County Council; Dr Heller; Mr T Clancy, President of the N.U.T.; Mr Marshall Jackman, Vice President , and Miss Jackman; Mr C James, Assistant Secretary, and Mrs James; Mr A Golding, Secretary of the Funds; Mr A A Thomas, BA, Secretary of the Examinations Board; Mr C J Whittick Rabbits, the generous vendor of the House, and Miss Rabbits; Mr J Hodge, Chairman of the Council, and Mrs Hodge; Mr P Baxendale, Vice Chairman of the Council, and Mrs Baxendale; Mr F W Hearn, Treasurer of the Funds, ( and many more listed by name).
A number of telegrams from those unable to attend were also read out)
The skies look rather threatening as the company rises to sing the opening hymn-“O God our help in Ages past”- but the rain considerably holds off for the first part of the ceremony. Mrs Burgwin is in the chair, looking radiant at the success of her effort. She is supported by the Vicar of Sydenham, Mr James Hodge, lady Jersey, Sir George Kekewich, Mr Clancy, Mr Baxendale, and other well known friends.
The hymn is sung with marvellous effect, the orphans at the foot of the platform taking no small part, and then the vicar of Sydenham offers up a short prayer for the present and future dwellers in the home. The Lords Prayer follows, and the chairman arises amid loud applause to give a short history of the movement. She points out the difficulties that had to be contended with in obtaining a suitable site. Time after time the sites Committee had been disappointed; but at length, through the generosity of Mr Passmore Edwards and their good friend Mr Rabbits, they had succeeded. They all knew now how Mr Richard Greenwood announced that Mr Passmore Edwards was prepared to give £6000 for the building if a site could be obtained, and how Mr Rabbits had generously let them have the beautiful building and grounds for the low price of £10,000. The London teachers had done splendidly, and she believed they would not rest until the full £10,000 was obtained. Continuing, Mrs Burgwin called forth hearty cheers by saying that there should be two portraits hanging in the hall. One of Passmore Edwards and one of Mr Rabbits. The names of these two gentlemen would, she said be handed down as happy memorials of unselfish kindness to the children to whom that house would be a source of refinement and progress, and the portraits wou’d serve as a reminder of their discerning liberality.
The House Beautiful
Would lend dignity to the whole body of teachers, and confer exceeding pleasure in possession. It would stimulate the imagination of the boys and be a source of inspiration to them in future life. “Who,” she asked, “could live here without having manners mellowed and every rude and brutal passion softened? No boy will be ashamed to own that he was brought up and educated in this house, but each one will look back with glowing pride and heartfelt joy at this place and its advantages. Moreover, these surroundings will stimulate the teachers and boys to take up literary and humane studies, and thus counteract that scientific materialism which Mr Bryce has so eloquently denounced. Not from this place can go forth the hard, dry, gritty and infertile mind. Here poetry, painting, music, architecture, and that Christian religion which has kindled these arts into a fierce flame in the bosoms of their possessors are everywhere present, teaching the lessons of enthusiasm, stirring the soul to valiant deeds, to brave danger and pain, and to go to labours cheerfully until life’s end”. An enthusiastic burst of cheering breaks in upon this eloquent expression of hope. When it subsides Mrs Burgwin goes on to show the advantages of the situation-sufficiently in the country to enable the boys to watch the progress of the trees and flowers from season to season, and near enough to the greatest city in the world to keep them in touch with the art and science of the world. Near to was the magnificent foundation of the College of God’s gift, the Dulwich gallery, the Horniman Museum and the Crystal palace. She was convinced that the presence of the orphanage in the midst of so many wealthy and splendid mansions would be no detriment to the neighbourhood, but on the contrary, would be welcomed with that
Cordiality, Benevolence and Hospitality
so essential to social communities. “This house” she continues will, we believe, inspire prayer, counsel, forgiveness, stifle self, and be a seminary of progress, sending forth heroes, inventors, men of practical science, student, and teachers of the highest patriotism and godly fear. And so thinking, fellow teachers I am joyful, and in our joy and in our gratitude we echo the words opf St Peter with all reverence, “Master, it is good for us to be here”. The vast audience were held spell bound by the speaker’s splendid peroration, and the cheering was long and general as she turned, with a few words, to present the key of the house to Mr Passmore Edwards as a memorial of the occasion. “Take this key as a memorial of this day. You will see that it is engraved with the motto of your life- Charity. Old and young in the years to come will rise up and call you blessed”.
Mr Passmore Edwards, who was received with three hearty cheers, said that it gave him the greatest possible pleasure to be present, but as he had to speak later on he would only at this stage express his thanks for their kindness. Renewed cheering burst forth and then three cheers more. When silence returns, Madame Antoinette Sterling rises to sing “O Rest in the Lord” with a feeling and emphasis that lend additional effect to the magnificent voice of the singer.
Mr James Hodge (Chairman of the Council) now steps forward to receive the keys of the house. In a few telling sentences Mrs Burgwin charges him to guard it “for ever”, as the trustee of the teachers of the country.
Mr Hodge, who was loudly cheered, said that, although he could not guard it “for ever” as the Chairman suggests, he would do his best to guard the funds of the home as long as he was able and then hand over the work to those who came after him. This was not the place, and he was not the person, to make a long speech, but it was his duty to move a vote of thanks- in no formal manner- to the gentleman whom they thanked not only for his munificent gift, but for the unvarying kindness he had shown to them, Mr Passmore Edwards. After the cheering which invariably broke out at the mention of the name of the generous donor had subsided, Mr Hodge went on to detail the trials and struggles of the house Committee. If it had not been for Mr Passmore Edwards, he said, the orphans would still be at Peckham. Mr Edwards’ splendid benefactions has made his name
A Household Word throughout the Country.
His work in connection with the Free Library movement appealed to them all as teachers, for public libraries were most valuable adjuncts to the schools. They all agreed with John Morley in his estimate of the advantages to be derived from living with good books, and he was glad of the opportunity of thanking Mr Passmore Edwards in the name of the teachers for his splendid gifts throughout the country. But Mr Passmore Edwards was an inexhaustible topic, and he would now move, in the hope that that day would long be a happy memory, the following resolution:-
“That this meeting, on behalf of the Teachers Benevolent and Orphanage Fund, recognising its great indebtedness to Mr Passmore Edwards, hereby tenders him its heartfelt thanks and unbounded gratitude for his disinterested and generous support of the Union’s charitable Funds; and further, it desires to express the fervent hope that he may long be spared to see the fruit of his noble work not only in this, but in the many institutions associated with his name.”
The cheering was again general as Mr Richard Greenwood, who looks as if his hard work in the cause had done him actual good, rose to second the resolution, which every teacher in the land supports. He could not, he said, find words to express his feelings and the feelings of them all; but he did thank God that he had put into the heart of a man to devote his life to doing good to his fellow creatures. It would be impossible to give a list of the good works of Mr Passmore Edwards, but he would tell them a story. This was, of course, a signal for a general smile, for who has not enjoyed Mr Greenwood’s little stories? There was, he said, a company formed in Cornwall for the purpose of building a series of large hotels for the convenience of Londoners and others, but he heard that they were unable to go on because
All the Best Sites had been Bought Up
By Mr Passmore Edwards as sites for hospitals and public libraries. Mr Edwards evidently enjoys this little joke, and Mr Greenwood is careful to explain that he does not warrant the story beyond the usual warrant of his little tales. Continuing in a graver vein, the veteran eulogises Mr Edwards for the personal care he gives in making his benefactions. When he first went to Mr Edwards he had to give assurances that the teachers were in earnest in the matter, and then he decided to help them liberally. He trusted that he would long be spared to see some of the fruits of his work; but even if he had no reward in this world he would in the world to come. More cheers as Mr J H Devonshire whose name has long been associated with the Orphanages, reminds us of the preface to this great work which he said was read at Liverpool in 1875. He was glad to see this, the closing of the first chapter, and still more delighted to see Dr Heller, his old co-worker, present to enjoy it all as well. Mr Passmore Edwards would have in that house living monuments more enduring than any structures of stone or iron. A storm of cheering announces the fact that Sir George Kekewick is on his feet, and the “new model” Education Secretary has to wait some time before he can begin. Sir George is in fine form, and delivers one of the best of the many happy little speeches with which he has cheered the meetings of the Union during the last few years. He is there, he says, not because he is the Secretary of two education Departments- it takes the meeting some seconds to see this sally, but one orb two see the point and the roar becomes general-nor because he is an orphan, but because he has always taken the keenest interest in the orphanages of the NUT, and because he was grateful to Mr Passmore Edwards for his munificence. In his opinion
A Donation to the NUT was a Donation to the cause of Education
And he is additionally grateful to Mr Passmore Edwards because the Orphanage and Benevolent Fund serve to strengthen the bonds of the NUT, They were branches that all could support, and anything that binds the NUT more strongly together is good for the cause of education. He looked upon the NUT as a bulwark against reaction in education, and a guarantee of the freedom of the teacher. The words of the Secretary of Department were punctuated with hearty applause, and Sir George sat down amid a ringing round of cheers.
Mr Passmore Edwards, who was greeted with cheers and musical honours, rose to reply, but the rain began to fall, and his speech was unfortunately curtailed. He said that that day would be a red letter day in his life. He had every reason to believe, from personal knowledge, that anticipations of the future good work of the Orphanage would be realised, Their commencement, like that of most other institutions of a similar nature , was almost microscopic in character. The income for the first year was £78, and the expenditure £37 11s 1d. Very substantial progress was, however, almost immediately made, in so much as 1879 £1654 was credited to the Orphan Fund, and £524 to the Benevolent Fund-total £2178. But so nobly have the teachers of the country risen to the needs of the widow, the orphan, and their suffering comrades, that for 1898 the total income raised was no less than £9507 13s 7d, and this , indeed, was not so much as some previous years have produced. Since 1878 the total sum raised for these charities is £131,900. Of this sum £35,564 have been invested, £18321 has been paid in home allowances, £23,817 expended on the two orphanages, £1918 in special grants, £11709 in temporary relief, £5038 on loans, £12854 on annuities. He was exceedingly grateful to them for their vote of thanks, and if in the future he could render them any assistance, he should be happy to do so. Loud and continued cheering followed the speech of the founder, who has evidently won the hearts of all by his generosity and goodwill.
Thanks to the Special Effort Committee.
Mr T Clancy, MA, President of the National Union of Teachers, moved the vote of thanks to the committee under difficulties, for the rain continued, but in the name of the teachers of the country he thanked the London teachers for the splendid effort which had been the means of raising £7,300, and he trusted that the good example of London would have a good effect in the country. Only 3% of convicted criminals were persons of education, and he thanked God that their own little children would be saved from the possibility of ignorance and crime. The London teachers had strengthened the bonds of friendship and the feelings of humanity, and the children would thank them in the years to come. The grateful feelings of all the teachers in the country were turned to London, and as President of the union and as a father he thanked them from the bottom of his heart. They would themselves be the greatest gainers , for every noble work done ennobles the one who does it. He wished them God-speed, and moved the vote of thanks with the greatest cordiality and gratitude. The cheering is again general as Mr Baxdale (Vice Chairman of the Council) seconds, and Mr Bird (Vice Chairman of the House Committee) supports in the shortest speech on record. The Countess of Jersey was unfortunately unable to remain to reply but Mr Cresswell (treasurer of the Special Effort Committee) does that duty efficiently and declares that the London teachers, having put their hands to the plough, would not look back until the whole £10,000 was raised. Mr Langler lifts up his umbrella and shouts “we Will” with an energy that leaves no doubt in our minds. Mr Baxendale would have liked to have mention some of the workers, but time permits him only to name Mrs Burgwin, the mother of the orphans, whose name would never be forgotten, and Mr James Hodge, who had worked so indefatigably in the cause. The Special Effort was an absolute necessity, he tells us for the teachers were giving all they could in annual subscriptions, and there was no margin for the new building, but the London teachers had pout there backs into the matter, and the result was before them. The rain clouds have by this time passed away, and the gathering is put in good humour by a welcome announcement of
Mr Treasurer Hearn,
Who comes forward to tell us that mr Bailey, of the well known Educational Musical Instrument Co. had just promised to present a splendid upright iron grand piano of the value of seventy five guineas to the orphanage. We cheer and cheer again, and Mr Hearn’s evident happiness is reflected on all our faces.
Thanks to the Chair.
Mr J Whitlock Rabbitts, JP, to whom next to Mr Passmore Edwards we are indebted for the orphanage, moves the thanks of the meeting to the chairman, and in doing so advises the members when they have anything particularly difficult to carry out, to apply to Mrs Burgwin. Laughter and cheers follow, and Miss I Cleghorn, LLA (Chairman of the Sheffield House Committee) seconds. She happily styles the meeting a harvest festival of human effort. The country teachers would never forget all the good work done by Mrs Burgwin, and on behalf of the 40,000 she cordially thanked her.
Mr Passmore Edwards, who was again enthusiastically cheered as he rose to put the motion, reads a letter he has received from a resident in the neighbourhood who objected to the orphans being housed in the district and carries the meeting with him as he reads the reply sent. This ran as follows:-
“My Dear Sir,- You should address yourself to the Teachers’ Benevolent Society, and not to me, in reference to the Teachers’ Orphanage; but I believe it is too late to alter the decision come to, and particularly for the miserable reasons mentioned in your letter. Westwood House has not been inhabited for years, and you would prefer its remaining so rather than it should be inhabited and enjoyed by poor orphans who probably are as much deserving the favours of Providence as you are. You evidently object to there near neighbourhood because they are poor and if so it reflects no credit to your head or your heart. You will probably now have an opportunity to learn that teacher’s orphans though poor, are clean, well behaved, and respectable- Yours faithfully, J. Passmore Edwards”
The resolution of thanks is now put and carried by acclamation, and then Mrs Burgwin and Mr Hodge having briefly replied, the ceremony closes with the Doxology.
Time is provided for refreshment, and the Scots Guards delight the company with a programme of fine music.
A grand concert, arranged by Mr Ben Johnson, was then given in the beautiful music room, which with the conservatory adjoining were packed with an appreciative audience. Miss Fanny Woolf’s violin solos won great applause, the extreme brilliancy of their execution being enhanced by the charm and grace of the player. Madame Olive and Messers. Ben Johnson and Mr Mullerhausen contributed vocal items, and Mrs Ben Johnson and Mr Manaton were admirable accompanists. Madame Antoinette Sterling won all hearts by her declaration that she “just loved them all, every man and woman in the room, because they were teachers, the calling she thought the most noble in the world”. She said she had not brought any music, so must sing without accompaniment. She gave “De Master ob de Sheep”, a haunting minor negro melody, and a little song the words of which were written by her daughter when a little child. Then she sang” There’s nae luck aboot the hoose”, and in reply to repeated requests for “Darby & Joan”, good naturedly acceded to the desire of the audience. In the two latter she was accompanied by Mr Manaton.
As the audience files out a scene of fairy beauty is before them, for the trees have been outlined with coloured lights. In the Dell a marquee has been erected, and is used as
A café Chantant
Where the ubiquitous Mr Fred Hearn, Miss Katie Malone, Mr Newman Stratton, Mr J H Mullerhausen, Professor Banbridge, Mr Harry Hawkes, Mr Henry M Grey, and Mr Habbijam’s Amphion Glee men have crammed and delighted audience until the chimes over the house buildings warn us that the day is over, and, with heartfelt thanks to the donors and the Committee who have managed all so well, the first garden party of the Passmore Edwards House comes to an end.

St Mary’s Church Gardens, Woolwich 1895

Passmore Edwards’ first contribution to the work of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association was to fund the transformation of the overgrown grave yard at St Mary’s Church, Woolwich.


In 1892, the Chairman, of the Metropolitan Public Garden Association, Lord Meath wrote to Passmore Edwards asking for assistance in the work of the association. His reply was:-
” My Lord
In answer to your letter asking me to subscribe towards expenses in utilising for public purposes the large parish churchyard of Woolwich, I cheerfully comply with your request. The very last thing I would sanction would be the desecration of “God’s Acre”. A graveyard, to my mind, is holy ground, and I never knowingly pass one without raising my hat. But for the sake of the living, and particularly in this overcrowded metropolis, where millions of our fellow citizens pass mostly, comfortless lives, I would make churchyards sweet resting places for the weary, and picturesque recreation grounds for the young.
You say that Woolwich churchyard is about four acres in extent and that it is near the centre of the town and situated on high ground, that it overlooks a fine view of the river Thames, that it would make a delightful garden, and that it the estimated cost of preparing it for public use would be about £1200. The object aimed at is so good, and the derivable benefit so certain, that I most willingly respond to your appeal and undertake to meet the whole of the estimated charge. Please accept this as my New Year’s gift to Woolwich, and believe me, –
Yours faithfully
J Passmore Edwards.”

By the opening in May 1895 St Mary’s graveyard, which had long been a wilderness, put on a new garb and bloomed with Flowers. The garden was opened by the Duchess of Fife, accompanied by the Duke. Lord Meath said that previous attempts to put the graveyard in good order had been made for over 10 years. It was only, with the generous aid of Passmore Edwards that is had been possible. 5 years later Passmore Edwards added a drinking fountain and provided funds to keep the garden in good order.
Although laid out by the MPGA the garden remained under the control of and maintained by the local authority.

The gardens have been extended and maintained by the local authority since 1895. On 1 April 1965 Woolwich became part of the London Borough of Greenwich and the maintenance of the gardens continues under their management to this day. In 1968 the remaining memorials were removed leaving only the Tom Cribb Memorial. It was probably at this time that the fountain, erected at the expense of Passmore Edwards, was also removed but I have been unable to determine its fate.
The present retaining walls and slopes between the gardens and Woolwich High Street were built in 1966 as a part of the construction of the new terminal for the Woolwich Ferry. At this time a plague pit was found and gardeners found several lead coffins whilst landscaping the banks.
Until the 1980s there was a glasshouse in the staff yard for growing the bedding plants. There was also a plot of land, now a lawn, where shrubs and other plants were grown.

Elizabeth Fry

Elizabeth Fry was born in 1780 and married Joseph Fry, the son of a successful Essex merchant in 1800. For more than twenty years they lived at the White House at Plashet Grove, East Ham. In 1813, Elizabeth Fry , a Quaker, made her first visit to Newgate Prison. She was appalled by the horrors of Newgate, where women and their children were crammed thirty to a cell in absolute squalor, .
and devoted herself to improving prison She was also opposed to the death penalty and campaigned vigorously for its abolition. At that time more than 200 offences, including the theft of clothing, still carried the death penalty.