Part 3: The petitions
There had long been a tradition in Britain of giving to those who are less fortunate. However, it was during the nineteenth century that charities became more organised.
The Charity Organisation Society was formed in 1869 with the aim of regulating charities so that support would be given to the poor in a much more orderly fashion. Like Samuel Smiles, they believed that helping people indiscriminately could stop people from helping themselves.
The Lord Crewe’s Charity had been set up in 1721 to distribute the wealth of Lord Crewe after his death. It was originally intended to help the families of clergymen, but Lord Sharp expanded it to help poor people in Northumberland and Durham, both through initiatives like a school for poor girls in Bamburgh and through individual donations to people who asked for help.
These pleas for help took the form of ‘petitions’.
Click on the image links below to view the sources.
In groups, look at this selection of petitions that were written to the Lord Crewe’s Charity Trustees.
What basic information can you extract from these petitions? Who wrote them, and when? Where did they live? What did they do?
Looking at the petitions as a set of information:
• What common factors can you find among the people seeking help?
• Are there any events which seem to drive people to seek help?
Class discussion: How do they think the Trustees decided who to help?