The Providence (Row) Night Refuge was founded in 1860 by Mgr Daniel Gilbert, and heavily supported by Alfred Purssell [GG grandpa] almost from its foundation. There is a slight element of “Noblesse oblige” in the family’s behaviour, but also a great deal of old-fashioned philanthropy.
In the winter of 1857, Fr Gilbert, was walking through the East End and came across a woman sheltering in a doorway. He struck up a conversation with her and discovered that she had no money and nowhere to go. He was so moved by her situation that he decided to create a refuge for people like her. Fr Gilbert called on the help of the Sisters of Mercy in Wexford, Ireland, and in September 1858 five of the Sisters arrived in London. Initially they moved to a house on Broad Street but found it too small for their purposes. Fr Gilbert then found a large stable block at the back of 14 Finsbury Square. The property opened on to a narrow street called Providence Row.
After less than a month of hard work and fundraising by a small group of Fr Gilbert’s friends, Providence Row Night Refuge opened on 7th October 1860. It was the first non sectarian shelter in London, open to anyone regardless of their race or religion. The alternative was the workhouse.
Originally it had only 14 beds but quickly expanded to 45 by February 1861. This still didn’t prove big enough to meet the growing demand and the refuge soon moved to a larger site on Crispin Street, near Spitalfields Market. By1862 it had provided 14,785 meals to homeless and destitute people in London. By the time of his death in 1895, Fr Gilbert had become Monsignor Gilbert and had raised over £100,000 (£74,000,000 at present day values) for the refuge, building work, and improving and expanding the services on offer.
It was later supported by his children, sons-in-law, and other members of the family. Both Uncle Edmund (Bellord), and Uncle Wilfred (Parker), were chairmen of the committee, George Bellord [Uncle Edmund and Aunt Agnes’s son] was on the committee in the 1930’s. Uncle Frank (Purssell) had also been on the committee, and deputised for his father at times, notably shortly before Alfred’s death in 1897.
The following are a series of extracts from “The Tablet” spanning just over forty years with various members of the family taking part.
(1.) 1896 – FUND-RAISING FOR PROVIDENCE ROW.
Alfred Purssell’s letter, probably from 1896,
St Michael’s Alley,
The Honorary Manager of the Providence (Row) Night-Refuge & Home, Mr Alfred Purssell, C.C., presents his respectful compliments to Her Grace The Duchess of Newcastle, and begs once more to plead for this most deserving charity.
During the Winter Months, the Refuge provides every night nearly three hundred night’s lodgings, suppers & breakfasts to homeless wanderers free of cost. From the foundation of the Refuge thirty six years ago by the late Rev. Dr. Gilbert, nearly one million two hundred and fifty thousand night’s lodgings suppers and breakfasts have been provided.
The work of the charity does not end at “feeding the hungry” and “harbouring the harbourless”. It is also the means of enabling many of those, who find shelter within the walls of the Refuge, to begin life afresh, and to obtain again a position for themselves in the world. Those, for example, who through dire necessity, to save their families from starvation or worse, have parted with their tools, are enabled to recover them: sellers of fusees (large matches), flowers, newspapers, bootlaces, and the like, without hope or money, are supplied with a little stock: rent is paid and a small allowance granted to mothers and children, when the breadwinner through sickness is unable to work: the ragged are also clothed and situations obtained for them.
It is specially desired to call the attention of the charitable to some distinguishing marks of the Charity. In the first place it is absolutely non-sectarian. There are no questions as to nationality or creed. Whilst there is accommodation in the Refuge, no bona-fide applicant is refused, the sole passport necessary being genuine poverty and want. Secondly no effort is spared to secure the benefits of the Charity for the really deserving. The imposter, the professional beggar is soon detected. All the inmates are called upon to make a statement as to their last employment, and the cause of their misfortune, which is afterwards inquired into. By this means the benefits are secured for the bona-fide poor. It must be distinctly understood however that the poor applicant is not kept waiting for relief, but is lodged and fed, whilst the investigation is proceeding. Nor are the fallen debarred from participating in them, truth being considered a guarantee of desire to amend.
This winter special help is needed. There are no signs of any diminution in the poverty and distress around us. If the weather is severe, the sufferings of the poor will be materially increased. At times so great do their misery and wretchedness become, that those who are attempting to alleviate the distress are well nigh discouraged. The thought that hundreds of men, women and even children have in the depths of winter no home but the streets is simply appalling. There is a worse aspect to the question than this. How many of our poorer brothers and sisters in this vast metropolis are driven to crime. As degradation, by the want of food and shelter. Men and children become thieves; women and girls, alas! Barter their most valuable possession, their priceless innocence for food and shelter. These unfortunate ones find in the Refuge the means of reforming their lives, and of turning their backs for ever on the sinful past.
Will you kindly help the Committee of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home in their great work amongst the poor? If you could pay a visit to it, one night during the winter months, and see for yourself the good that is being done by it, you would willingly do so.
Hear the opinions of some who have visited it:- Mr James Greenwood, the “Amateur Casual”, writing in the “Ludgate Monthly” has said “Outcasts of all kinds and from all parts find shelter there, and all are sure of something for supper and a bed, and a big roll, and a mug of cocoa ‘as a comforter’, “before they start on their way next morning…. The Managers of the Home have been thus unostentatiously engaged for many years, and the good they have effected is incalculable.”
The late Mr Montague Williams Q.C., in “Later Leaves” says of this Refuge: “There is no more Excellent institution…. The place is beautifully clean…. This institution, which is not nearly so well known as it deserves to be, is in the heart of Spitalfields.”
The “Daily Chronicle” has said: “Christianity is certainly not played out at the corner of Crispin St., and Raven Row, although it may be doubled, whether it ever found more depressing material to work upon.”
As an example of the distress, which exists in our midst may be mentioned that in the Refuge last year, amongst those assisted were an Architect, an Optician, clerks, waiters, valets, woodcarvers, ivory-turners, weavers, painters, a professor of music, a linguist, certificated teachers, dressmakers, domestic servants, etc., etc.
In addition to the Refuge, there are two homes, one for Servants, who partially support themselves by work, the other where women out of engagements can board and lodge at a small cost per week, whilst searching for situations.
An especial appeal for help is made this year, in order that funds may be raised to extend the work, which has now been carried on so effectively for thirty-six years. The Refuge was founded by the late Rev. Dr. Gilbert in 1860 with fourteen beds. It has now accommodation for nearly three hundred. Will you assist in extending the good work?
The smallest donation will be gratefully acknowledged, and the heartfelt prayers of the hungry you help to feed, of the houseless you help to lodge, the naked you help to clothe, the fallen you help to brighter and happier lives will be bound to.
(2.) 1897 – EASTER SUNDAY AT THE PROVIDENCE ROW NIGHT REFUGE AND HOME. – This is seventeen days before Alfred’s death on the 5th May 1897, and about six weeks before Frank Purssell’s wedding on the 6th June 1897.
On Easter Sunday at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home, Crispin Street, Spitalfields, E., in accordance with the custom of the late Mgr. Gilbert, a special dinner, consisting of hot soup, meat, potatoes, and bread, was provided for the inmates, who numbered over 300. In the absence of the Hon. Manager, Mr. Alfred Purssell, [Great, great-Grandpa] through illness, his son, Mr. F. W. Purssell [Uncle Frank – technically GG Uncle] , presided, and was supported by the Rev. M. Fitzpatrick, the Misses Purssell, [ probably just Aunt Agnes (Bellord),Great granny, and Aunt Charlotte (Parker) because Laura had married Max Winstanley in 1883 and Lucy had married Henry Grant Edwardes in 1892 ] Miss B. G. Munk, Mr. and Mrs. Secrett, Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary) &c.
In the men’s refectory, Mr. F. W. Purssell gave a short address. He said that they came there on behalf of the Hon. Manager and the committee to bid the inmates welcome to the refuge. Whilst deeply regretting the misfortune which had forced them to accept its hospitality, he trusted that it might be the means of reinstating them in life. Although it was very hard to be poor, poverty was not necessarily a disgrace. The refuge had been established by the late Mgr. Gilbert to help the deserving poor, and his work was still being continued. There was every prospect this year of a revival in trade owing to the many public celebrations which were to take place, and he (Mr. Purssell) hoped that when Easter came round next year, all the inmates present would have homes of their own. In conclusion, he announced that the Rev. Mother would give each inmate sixpence as an Easter gift on leaving the refuge next morning. Three ringing cheers for the Rev. Mother and the Sisters of Mercy, and for Mr. Purssell were followed by dinner, which was served by the Sisters. The visitors then proceeded to the women’s room and to the servants’ homes, in each of which Mr. Purssell addressed a few kindly words to those present. During the course of the afternoon oranges were distributed, and additional fare was given at the tea in the evening. Altogether the poor people had a very enjoyable day, and the Sisters and visitors must have been gratified at the joy and happiness to which they by their help contributed.
(3.) 1907-THE PROVIDENCE (ROW) NIGHT REFUGE.— Some four hundred poor people, men, women, and children, irrespective of creed, were entertained to a Christmas dinner at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge, Crispin-street, E., which was founded by the late Mgr. Gilbert in 1860. The large refectories were tastefully decorated for the occasion. Mr. E. J. Bellord (Chairman of the Committee) [ Uncle Edmund – well technically GG Uncle ] presided, and was supported by Mr. W. H. Foreman, Mr. J. G. Bellord, [ John Bellord, who is Edmund’s brother] Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary) [John Gilbert – later Sir John Gilbert was the nephew of Mgr Gilbert who founded the Refuge] , Mr. N. S. B. Kidson, Mr. G. Dutton, Mrs. Bellord [presumably John’s wife] , Mrs. E. J. Bellord,[Aunt Agnes] Mr. E. M. Barry, Mrs. Rolph, Miss Gilbert, Mr. G. R. Dutton, Miss Raynes, Mr. R. O’Bryen [Uncle Rex], Mrs. R. O’Bryen [Aunt Florence], Miss Barry, Mr. A. Bellord [John Bellord’s son], Mr. C. Bellord [ Cuthbert, Edmund’s son from his first marriage], Miss F. B. Goold, the Misses Bellord [ probably Mildred and Margery, Edmund’s daughters from his first marriage], and others.
In the men’s refectory before dinner, Mr. E. J. Bellord, on behalf of the Committee, wished all the inmates a very happy Christmas. It was a matter of deep regret, he said, to all concerned in the management of the Refuge that they had, night after night during the present severe weather, to send a numbers of applicants for relief through lack of room. He hoped, however, that the severe distress would soon pass away. He asked them all that day to think very gratefully of the founder of the charity, the late Dr. Gilbert, whose work the Committee were carrying on, and he also trusted that they would remember how much they owed to the Sisters of Charity, who devoted their lives to the service of the poor. The dinner, which consisted of soup, beef, potatoes, bread, and plum-pudding, with oranges by way of dessert, was served by the Sisters and visitors. Afterwards each child received a toy, each man a small packet of tobacco and each woman a small packet of tea, all the gifts generous friends of the charity. Later on in the day there was tea with cake, and entertainments were provided both in the men’s and women’s sections by the girls in the boarders’ and servants’ homes and others.
(4.) 1907 – A NEW KNIGHT OF ST. SYLVESTER . MR. J. W. GILBERT’S INVESTITURE. —On Friday last [4th January] , at the Convent of Mercy, 50, Crispin street, E., the Archbishop of Westminster invested Mr. J. W. Gilbert with the insignia of the knighthood of St. Sylvester, which has recently been conferred upon him by the Holy Father. A large gathering of friends witnessed the ceremony in the guild room of the Convent. The visitors included the Archbishop of Westminster, the Bishop of Southwark, Mgr. Brown, Canon St. John, Canon Murnane, Canon Moncrieff Symth, the Very Rev. Prior Kelly, D.D., 0.S.A., the Revv. T. Ring, D. McCarthy, W. Cooksey, 0. Fitzgerald, A. Walsh, D.D., 0.S.A., P. W. O’Connor, C. Donovan, G. H. Palmer, W. Donovan, H. E. Daly, and B. McFadden, the Rev. Mother and Sisters of the Convent of Mercy, Lady Parker, Messrs. E. J. Bellord [Uncle Edmund] and W. H Foreman, Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Bellord [John Bellord, Edmund’s brother], Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Parker [Uncle Wilfred and Aunt Charlotte], Mr. and Mrs. W. Towsey, Messrs. J. Arthur Walton [ both Ernest and Rex O’Bryen were at his wedding in 1900] , E. A. O’Bryen [Great-grandpa], R. O’Bryen [Uncle Rex], S. P. Jacques, Wm. J. Price, Mr. T. G. King, K.S.G., and Mrs. King, Messrs. V. M. Dunford, K.S.G., C. J. Munich, K.S.G., J. P. McAdam, W. Keane, Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Ryan, Messrs. J. Fox, J. Fentiman, G. E. Anstruther, P. Johnston, Misses Munk, Gilbert, Pattman, Upton, W. Campbell, H. Barton, Fox, Dunn, Feeney, Goss, Keeffe, Ryan, M. Head, M. S. Weale, K. McCathy, V. Edwards, Lenihan, K. Leithan, M. Dwane, P. McCrudden, and others. The Archbishop of Westminster [ Archbishop, later Cardinal Bourne] who presided, said that he did not think it would be necessary to say many words as to the object of their meeting that afternoon. Mr. Gilbert’s work for the Catholic cause was known not only in London, but throughout the country. It was most fitting that the presentation of the insignia should be made at Crispin-street, where the chief work of Mr. Gilbert’s life—his work amongst the poor in connexion with the Night Refuge—was carried on. They had all had opportunities of witnessing how the charity, since the death of his uncle, Mgr. Gilbert, had under his care not only maintained its position, but had gradually developed. Mr. Gilbert had also done much for the cause of Catholic education. They would remember that upon him had fallen the greater share of the work in connexion with the organisation of the Albert Hall demonstration in 1906 against Mr. Birrell’s Bill, [ The Education Act 1906, which was intended to end state funding of Anglican and Catholic Church schools. It was defeated in the House of Lords. ] the results of which meeting had been so striking. Mr. Gilbert had also rendered particularly valuable service in London in connexion with their efforts to obtain equal treatment for their schools from the local authority, and in their struggle against the other Education Bills of the Government. He made no reference to work in connexion with the Eucharistic Congress, except in passing. They had felt—and he knew that Mr. Gilbert agreed with him—that the unique success of that gathering, and the public thanks of the Holy Father, were sufficient reward for all those who had taken part in its organisation. The knighthood of St. Sylvester was a distinction which was not easily given. It had been granted to only a few in this country, and the Holy See had had this in consideration in conferring this honour on Mr. Gilbert for his exceptional work. He would like to conclude by expressing his own personal gratitude to Mr. Gilbert for the valuable service he had rendered him both whilst Bishop of Southwark and since he had been Archbishop. He thought he could not put it more strongly than by saying that whenever he had called upon Mr. Gilbert for his help, he had never failed him.
The Bishop of Southwark cordially supported everything that the Archbishop had said. He pointed out that although much of Mr. Gilbert’s work lay within the archdiocese of Westminster, he lived in the diocese of Southwark, and therefore was a subject of his diocese. Catholics in Southwark had a good reason to be grateful to Mr. Gilbert for his work in connexion with their schools since the London County Council had become a local education authority, for his efforts on behalf of the Southwark Rescue Society, and for the valuable assistance he had given in connexion with the Catholic Boys’ Brigade. Mgr. Brown, on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy at Crispin-street, spoke of the happy relations that had existed for more than twelve years between them and Mr. Gilbert in all affairs connected with the conduct of the charity which had been founded by his uncle. He also personally wished to express his thanks to Mr. Gilbert for his work for education in Southwark, attributing his own success at two London School Board elections to Mr. Gilbert’s organising capabilities. Mr. E. J. Bellord, on behalf of the Committee of the Providence Row Night Refuge, of which he is Chairman, expressed the thanks of all concerned for the work which Mr. Gilbert had carried on in connexion with the Refuge for the past twelve years. Mr. Gilbert, in reply, expressed his very grateful thanks to the Holy Father for the honour he had conferred upon him. There was no honour more valued by a Catholic than a distinction granted by the Sovereign Pontiff, whom the whole of Christendom regards with the deepest veneration, respect, loyalty, and affection, and who has won universal admiration and devotion by his unique work as priest, Bishop, and Sovereign Pontiff, and by his saintliness and charm of character. Mr. Gilbert also expressed his thanks to his Grace the Archbishop of Westminster, to whom he was indebted, not only for this honour, but for all the marked kindness he had always met with from him, both as Bishop of Southwark and as Archbishop. He attributed any success that might have attended his efforts on behalf of the Catholic cause to the generous encouragement and practical help of the leader of the Catholic Church in this country, who last September was acclaimed by the whole Catholic world as the champion of Catholic liberty, who had not hesitated to join issue with an English Prime Minister, and who came out of the conflict triumphant. He also offered his sincere thanks to the Bishop of Southwark, to Mgr. Brown, to Mr. Bellord, and to the Sisters of Mercy, who were really responsible for the gathering. Mr. Gilbert spoke with the warmest praise of the self-sacrificing zeal and perseverance of the Sisters in their work amongst the poor.
(5.) 1908 – CHRISTMAS DAY AT THE PROVIDENCE (ROW) NIGHT REFUGE.- On Christmas Day at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home, Crispin-street, E., which was founded by the late Mgr. Gilbert in 1860, a Christmas dinner was given to nearly 400 destitute poor, men, women, and children, irrespective of creed. The large rooms were tastefully decorated with evergreen, Christmas mottoes and the like. The dinner consisted of hot soup, beef, potatoes, bread, plum-pudding, and oranges by way of dessert. Mr. E. J. Bellord[ Uncle Edmund again] presided, and was supported by a large number of visitors including Mr W.H.Foreman, Mr J.W.Gilbert,[ John Gilbert.. see above] Mr J.G.Bellord, Mrs Bellord, Mr R. O’Bryen, Mrs O’Bryen, [all see above] Mr E.A.Mackenzie, Mrs George Blount, Miss Sherrington, Miss Gilbert, Mr Austin Bellord [ see above], Mrs Rolph, Mr Cuthbert Bellord, the Misses Bellord,[ see above] Mr L.M.Barry, Mr J.M.Barry, Miss McCarthy-Barry, Miss F.K. Pollock, Mr A. McDonnell. Mr J. McDonnell, &c., &c.
In the men’s refectory before dinner, Mr. E. J. Bellord, speaking on ‘behalf of the Committee, wished all the inmates a very happy ‘Christmas. He was very sorry for their misfortune, and trusted that by the time next Christmas came round, they would all have recovered themselves, and would spend Christmas in their own home. The Committee wanted them that day to remember the great Founder of the Refuge, the late Mgr. Gilbert, to whose zeal and self-sacrifice they owed that institution, and whose wishes they were doing their best to carry out. He also asked them not to forget the great debt of gratitude which they were under to the good Sisters of Mercy, who devoted their lives so generously to the services of the poor, and who provided so well for their comfort and happiness.
The dinner was served by the Sisters and the visitors, the latter Including a number of children, who vied with each other in waiting on the poor guests of the charity. After dinner each man received a present of tobacco, each woman a packet of tea, and each child a toy—all the gift of generous friends of the institution. Later on in the afternoon, tea with cake was provided, after which entertainments were given both in the men’s and women’s sections by the girls of the boarders’ and servants’ homes and others.
(6.) 1909 CHRISTMAS DAY AT THE PROVIDENCE ROW NIGHT REFUGE,CRISPIN STREET E.1. 1909
In 1909, Uncle Edmund (Bellord), Aunt Agnes’ husband, was chairing the committee. The Purssell family attendees on Christmas Day included most of the Bellord family, various cousins from the Winstanley family [ Aunt Laura and Uncle Max’s children]. Uncle Rex, and Aunt Florence (O’Bryen), not strictly Purssells, but Uncle Rex is Great-Granny’s brother-in-law, and she’s a Purssell. J.W. [John, later Sir John] Gilbert the Hon. Secretary was the nephew of Mgr. Gilbert, the founder of the hostel.
On Christmas Day at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge, Crispin-street, E., in accordance with the custom of the Founder, the late Mgr. Gilbert, a special Christmas dinner, consisting of hot soup, beef, potatoes, plum-pudding, bread, and oranges by way of dessert, was given to all the inmates of the Refuge. More than one hundred poor people, for whom there was no room in the Refuge, were admitted to the dinner, the total number of guests, men, women and children, being nearly 400. The two large refectories were gaily decorated for the occasion with holly and evergreen and Christmas mottoes.
Mr. E. J. Bellord (Chairman of the Committee) presided, and was supported by Mrs. E. J. Bellord, Mr. W. H. Foreman, Mr. and Mrs. R. O’Bryen, Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Bellord [Uncle Edmund’s brother], Mr. L. J. Winstanley [Laura and Max’s son], Mr. E. A. McKenzie, Mr. A. Bellord [John Bellord’s son], Mr. C. Bellord [ Cuthbert, Edmund’s son from his first marriage], Mr. E. Kerwin, the Misses Winstanley [probably Margaret, and Dorothy], Mr. G. McCarthy-Barry, Mr. A. McDonnell, Mr. J. McDonnell, Mr. J. Fentiman, the Misses Bellord [Mildred and Margery, Uncle Edmund’s daughters from his first marriage] Miss Gilbert, Miss McCarthy-Barry, Miss Robinson, Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary), and many others.
In the men’s refectory before dinner, Mr. E. J. Bellord, on behalf of the Committee of the Refuge wished all the inmates a very happy Christmas. He greatly regretted that, owing to the abnormal amount of distress, there was so much poverty and suffering. He hoped, however that, with the New Year, there would be a better chance for them to secure work. They must, however, forget their troubles on this great day and enjoy the fare which was awaiting them. He would ask them to bear in memory the name of Dr. Gilbert, the Founder of the Refuge, who had left it in so good a condition that they were able to continue his work up to the present time, and to whom, therefore, they really owed their good dinner that day: He also wanted them always to remember how much they were indebted to the Sisters of Mercy, who devoted their lives to the service of the poor, and who, by their generous help, made the Refuge the useful institution it was.
Dinner was served by the Sisters and the visitors, who were most generous in their attentions to their poor guests. For more than an hour both refectories presented a busy spectacle. After dinner each man was presented with a packet of tobacco and a cigar, which had been sent for them by two anonymous donors ; each woman received a small packet of tea and each child a toy, both of which were again the gifts of friends of the charity. Later on in the afternoon tea with cake was provided for the inmates, and a concert and entertainment were provided in each section for them.
Moving on twenty years to the 1930’s, the family are still involved but everything has moved on. Aunt Agnes (Bellord) had died in March 1925, followed by Uncle Edmund (Bellord) in December 1927. Uncle Rex (O’Bryen) had died in January 1928. Uncle Wilfred (Parker) has replaced Uncle Edmund as chairman of the committee, and George Bellord [Uncle Edmund and Aunt Agnes’ son, and one of Alfred Purssell’s grandsons] has joined the committee
(7.) 1930 – ANNUAL FOUNDER’S DAY MEETING OF THE PROVIDENCE ROW REFUGE. – Mrs. Wilfred W. Parker [Aunt Charlotte] , whose effective speech at the Annual Founder’s Day Meeting of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge last week, made a considerable impression, is a daughter of the late Mr. Alfred Purssell [Great, great, Grandpa] a founder of Westminster Cathedral, who was an intimate friend of the late Monsignor Gilbert, and a co-trustee with him of this well-known charity at the time of his death. Mr. Purssell served for many years as a member of the Court of Common Council for the Ward of Cornhill, of which the present Lord Mayor is Alderman. If memory serves, he was Chairman of the Bridge House Estate Committee when the Tower Bridge was opened. [He wasn’t – he was on the committee, but not the Chairman. The Bridge House Estates is a charitable trust, established in 1282 by the City of London Corporation. It was originally established to maintain London Bridge and, subsequently, other bridges; funded by bridge tolls and charitable donations, the trust acquired an extensive property portfolio which made it more than self-sufficient. It paid for and built Tower Bridge] Another speaker at Crispin Street last week, Mr. J. S. R. Towsey, is a son of the late Mr. William Towsey, another great friend of Monsignor Gilbert. He joined the Night Refuge Committee at its initiation in 1860, remaining a member until his death in 1925, certainly a record. Last Tuesday was the thirty-fifth anniversary of Monsignor Gilbert’s death.
(8.) 1931 – PRINCESS MARY AT CRISPIN STREET.
Princess Mary c 1930
In the course of its seventy years’ history the Providence (Row) Night Refuge has several times had the honour of welcoming members of the Royal House within its walls. The Prince of Wales visited the Refuge about four years ago; and on Friday last week Princess Mary presided at the annual Founder’s Day celebration, the third princess to accept the performance of that function; her Royal Highness’s predecessors were Princess Alice of Athlone, who presided in 1913; and Princess Marie Louise, in 1924. Founder’s Day at Crispin Street is always an occasion for enlisting the sympathy, by presence, of a distinguished chairman; no fewer than eleven Lord Mayors of London, it may be noted, and five Chairmen of the London County Council, have been among those presiding in past years. This year, the visit of Princess Mary gave added distinction to the occasion, and the present Lord Mayor, Alderman Sir William Phene Neal, attended among those who welcomed Her Royal Highness and expressed their welcome in words. With the Lord Mayor were the Bishop of Cambysopolis, representing His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop; Viscount FitzAlan, the senior trustee of the charity; Alderman Sir Harold Downer, K.C.S.G.; Sheriff Collins ; the Mayor of Stepney (Mr. M. H. Davis, L.C.C.); Captain W. W. Parker, M.B.E., Chairman of the Committee; Sir John Gilbert, K.C.S.G., K.S.S., Secretary; Adele Countess Cadogan, and others.
Her Royal Highness, attended by Miss Dorothy Yorke as Lady-in-Waiting, took the chair. A bouquet was presented by Bona Leather, of St. Aloysius’ Secondary School, Clarendon Square, N.W. The speeches followed. First of all the Lord Mayor, expressing gratitude to the Princess for the honour of her presence, extolled the work of the Night Refuge and commended as an example the action of market workers in the City who had subscribed fifty pounds to its funds. Lord FitzAlan associated himself with the words of welcome ; and the Bishop, who followed, remarked, as representing the Cardinal, that His Eminence, in whose name he thanked Her Royal Highness for honouring the institution, took a deep interest in that as in all other good works in the Archdiocese. His lordship referred also to the beneficent labours of the Sisters of Mercy at Crispin Street, labours, he said, which included work that in its result often meant more than the value of food and shelter to the poor and needy who sought the Refuge. Monsignor Butt was followed by Sir John Gilbert, who briefly related some salient facts and figures in connection with the work, as, for instance, that since 1860 the Refuge has provided nearly 2,600,000 free nights’ lodgings, and 5,200,000 free meals, upon an organization plan aimed at securing the benefits of the deserving.
Princess Mary and the other guests afterwards paid a visit to the various parts of the Refuge. They found everything in its customary’ order ; the inmates for the night had been admitted as usual at five o’clock, and the only circumstance marking the rejoicing for the visit of Her Royal Highness was a special meal, provided by an anonymous benefactor and more satisfying in its character than any banquet of cakes and ale.
The valuable link between the Home and the Corporation of the City of London may be noted from an examination of the charity’s list of officers in the annual report. Sir John Knill, treasurer and a trustee, was Lord Mayor of London, 1909-10; Sir Henry T. McAuliffe, a trustee, has served for many years upon the Common Council and is Deputy-Alderman for Bishopsgate; Sir Harold Downer, a member of Committee, was Sheriff in 1924 before his election last year as Alderman for Coleman Street Ward. Similarly, an extensive “second generation” of workers for Monsignor Gilbert’s institution will be recognized. Sir John Knill’s offices were formerly held by his father, the late Sir Stuart Knill, London’s first post-Reformation Catholic Lord Mayor; as mentioned above, Captain W. W. Parker, son of the late Sir Henry Watson Parker, a well-known City lawyer, fills the chair of the Committee, as did his father-in-law, the late Mr. Alfred Purssell, a former member of the Corporation and the great personal friend of the Founder ; Mr. George Bellord has succeeded his father, the late Mr. Edmund Bellord, thirty four years a member of Committee and twenty-six years its chairman ; Mr. Joseph Towsey joined the Committee upon the death of his father, the late Mr. William Towsey, an original member with a record service extending from 1860 to 1926; Mr. J. Arthur Walton is the son of the late Hon. Mr. Justice Walton, a trustee for many years. Finally, Sir John Gilbert, a nephew of the Founder, will this year complete thirty-five years’ work as Secretary.
Princess Mary has had a letter sent to Sir John Gilbert expressing her deep interest in all she saw at the Refuge. Her Royal Highness wishes to show that interest by a grant from Queen Mary’s London Needlework Guild.
(9.) 1932 – CHRISTMAS DAY AT CRISPIN STREET.–In accordance with the practice of its founder, nearly three hundred destitute poor were entertained to dinner at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home on Christmas Day. Captain W. W. Parker,Chairman of the Committee, [ Uncle Wilfred – well technically GG Uncle] presided; and the visitors included the Rev. F. D. Healy, M.A., Alderman Sir Harold Downer, Sir John Gilbert, the Revv. C. Flood, P. J. O’Hickey, O.S.A., C. J. Dullea, O.S.A., P. Geisel, S.J. and G. Eldridge; Mrs. W. Parker [ Aunt Charlotte], Mr. George Bellord [ Uncle Edmund’s son, and one of great, great, Grandpa’s grand-sons] , Mr. J. G. Bellord,[ John Bellord, who is Edmund’s brother] the Misses de Zulueta, Mr. R. Bellord [Robert Bellord, George’s brother, and another grand-son of Alfred Purssell.] Miss Margolis, the Misses Parker[ Uncle Wilfred, and Aunt Charlotte’s daughters, so more of Alfred’s grand-children], and others. In the women’s refectory, Captain Parker unveiled a clock presented to the Refuge by Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood, [George V’s daughter, and the Queen’s aunt] who presided at the annual Founder’s Day last April. After dinner, which was served by the Sisters of Mercy and visitors, presents were distributed, the gifts of generous friends of the charity.
(10.) 1935 – FOUNDER’S DAY AT CRISPIN STREET.—The thirty-seventh ” Founder’s Day ” celebration took place on Tuesday last at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge at Crispin Street. The chair was taken by the Lord Mayor, Sir Stephen Killik, who was accompanied by the Lady Mayoress and by the Sheriffs. This was the thirteenth occasion when a Lord Mayor has presided on Founder’s Day.
After Sir Stephen Killik had expressed his pleasure at being present, and had pointed out the great help given by the Refuge to those who, sometimes through no fault of their own, fall by the wayside, he deplored the deaths which had so directly affected the institution since the previous year’s gathering. The Court of Common Council had recently made a grant of £100 to the charity.
Father Bernard Hyde, of Moorfields—who replaced his lordship the Bishop of Cambysopolis, prevented by indisposition from attending—followed with an appeal for continued and increased support, financial and moral, for the great charity inaugurated by one of his predecessors at St. Mary’s, Monsignor Provost Gilbert.
Adele, Countess Cadogan stressed the importance of the work being carried on for so long a period by the Sisters of Mercy, who devoted themselves so wholeheartedly to their task in the truest spirit of charity.
The loss sustained through the death of Cardinal Bourne, [he died on New Year’s Day 1935] a frequent Founder’s Day visitor; of Sir John Knill, [he had died in 1934] who for thirty-six years had occupied the post of treasurer, formerly held by his late father; and of the indefatigable secretary, Sir John Gilbert, nephew of the founder, was emphasized by Capt. W. W. Parker, the chairman of committee, and the newly-appointed secretary, Mr. J. R. Walker. Sir Henry McAuliffe proposed, and Mr. J. S. Towsey seconded the vote of thanks to the Civic Visitors, to which Sir Stephen Killik replied. A tour of the premises followed, and the new Hostel for youths between sixteen and twenty-two formally received the name of the Purssell Hostel, in memory of the late Mr. Alfred Purssell, a co-operator with Monsignor Gilbert in the pioneer days. The annual report mentioned that this hostel, developed in premises in Gun Street, had cost upwards of £1,700, towards which sum much was still required. At Gilbert House, the hostel for business girls, specified improvements had been made; and in the servants’ hostel the laundry had been refitted with electrical plant. Regarding the ordinary routine of the shelter, 40,000 nights’ lodging, and about 90,000 free meals had been dispensed from November to May, bringing the total to 2,800,000 nights’ lodging and about 5,000,000 free meals, during the existence of the refuge, to poor persons irrespective of creed.
Among those present, in addition to the speakers and others already named, were Canon Ring and Canon P. McKenna; the Revv. E. King, S.J., V. Baker, Cong. Orat., and A. Reardon; the Earl of Denbigh; Sir Thomas Molony, Bart; Sir James and Lady Connolly; Mr. G. Bellord; and Mrs. Copland-Griffiths.
Sir Harold Downer, K.C.S.G., has accepted the dual office of Trustee and Treasurer, rendered vacant by the death of Sir John Knill, and his place on the Committee has been filled by Mr. Leonard V. Parker. [Uncle Wilfred and Aunt Charlotte’s son]
(11.) 1937 – PROVIDENCE ROW. The Founder’s Day Meeting of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home was held at the Refuge, on Tuesday, February 16th. Lord Russell of Killowen [Francis Xavier Joseph Russell [Frank], Adah Russell’s brother-in-law. ] was in the chair, and the two principal speakers were the Archbishop of Westminster and Sir Arthur McNalty, who had come in the place of Sir Kingsley Wood, the Minister of Health, who was unavoidably prevented from attending. The Refuge was founded in 1860, by the late Mgr. Gilbert, whose nephew, the late Sir John Gilbert, also was closely associated with it for forty years. As Lord Russell of Killowen pointed out in his speech, the chief work of the Refuge lay in giving the unemployed a place to which they could return after a day’s fruitless search for work, a place where they could find food and shelter and warmth and kindness. The extent of this work can be seen in the fact that last winter, 36,386 nights’ lodging and more than seventy-three thousand meals were provided for the homeless irrespective of creed or nationality. In addition, the Refuge includes Purssell House, a special Hostel for boys and young men ; Bellord House, a special Hostel for women ; Gilbert House, which gives an inexpensive home to young business girls whose own homes are at a distance ; and a Home of Rest for women, at St. Albans. Truly, as the Archbishop of Westminster said, the Refuge has become a worthy monument to its founder. Sir Arthur McNalty reminded his hearers of the fact that it was not until after the Dissolution of the monasteries that the State had to make any provision for the care of the destitute, and added that it was good to know that the Church continued its tradition of charity, for there were aspects of poverty with which the State could hardly deal successfully, and the work of such places as the Refuge was invaluable. This work could not be carried on but for the labours of the Sisters of Mercy, who have been in charge of the Refuge from its foundation, and the generosity of many benefactors. Notable among these recently have been Rosamond, Lady Trevor, who bore the whole cost of refurnishing the women’s dormitory ; and those who responded to Lord Russell of Killowen’s broadcast appeal and enabled many other improvements to be made.
(1.) From the University of Nottingham manuscripts and special collections. http://tinyurl.com/h9krov7
(2.)The above text was found on p.36, 24th April 1897 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .
(3.) The above text was found on p.23, 5th January 1907 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .
(4.) The above text was also found on p.23, 5th January 1907 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .
(5.) The above text was found on p.24, 4th January 1908 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .
(6.) The above text was found on p.38, 2nd January 1909 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .
(7.) The above text was found on p.22, 22nd February 1930 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .
(8.) The above text was found on p.22, 2nd May 1931 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .
(9.) The above text was found on p.23, 2nd January 1932 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .
(10.) The above text was found on p.25, 23rd February 1935 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .
(11.) The above text was found on p.26, 20th February 1937 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .