Frederick Charrington (1850 – 1936) was the son and heir of a partner in one of London’s largest breweries, the Charrington Brewery. In his late teens, he underwent a conversion and became an evangelical Christian, and then astonished his family by renouncing his claim to the brewing business in order to devote himself to improving the living conditions of the East End poor.
He became a keen member of the temperance movement, and he personally funded many endeavours which were aimed at steering rich and poor alike away from the evils of the demon drink.
On March 5th, 1904, The Boston Sunday Globe published a biography of the man whose endeavours amongst the East End poor, and whose giving up a share in a brewing fortune, had evidently impressed them a great deal.
The article read:-
GAVE UP SIX MILLIONS
Fred Charrington Had Big Brewing Business, Now Living In The Slums, Where He Toils For Working People
Six millions of dollars is not a sum to be sneered at, yet an Englishman of excellent family, and very good education and an enviable position in London Society, deliberately gave up the luxuries of life to which such a fortune entitled him in the future because he could not have the “cake and the penny, too.”
This extraordinary person, who preferred to follow his own bent to falling heir to an immense. and growing business and $6,000,000, is Frederick N. Charrington, who declares that he finds life much more worth living in his modest little home in the center of the poorest district of the great English capital than he did as one of the family in the magnificent mansion in the center of fashionable London.
Then, he attended smart functions and generally led the life in which the profits from his father’s very lucrative brewing business enabled him to move.
Now, he spends very little on his personal pleasures in a year, and a great deal of both money and time in bringing simpler enjoyments and actual necessities into the way of his present humble neighbors, among whom he is far more popular and famed than he was among his former friends when he was a leader of the younger smart set.
THE MAN WHO CONVERTED HIM
At the door of Rev Dr W. S. Rainsford, the prominent New York clergyman, Mr, Charrington lays the responsibility for all his extraordinary behaviour, and to judge by the close friendship between these two well-known men, Dr Rainsford is evidently glad of the “honor,” as he calls it, of such an accusation, and Mr Charrington is apparently very proud of the opportunity to accuse his reverend friend of such an act.
Mr Charrington gave up his wealth and luxurious life to help poor unfortunates in their struggles against the temptations that crowded the life of the lower classes, and in doing so he took up arms against the very business whose financial success had secured for him in his father’s home all that could make life comfortable and worth living.
He is the son of the late millionaire brewer Charrington, the head of the largest firm engaged in that business in London; and this conversion to temperance and turning to battle against the means which gave him formerly his means of livelihood, he declares, is due to his friend Dr Rainsford.
During one of Dr Rainsford’s visits to the continent, he met Charrington, who was then actively engaged in the brewing business with his father.
The clergyman and the young brewer became companions during their trip, and, as a result of many long talks, Mr. Charrington became interested in the temperance question.
EMBRACES THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT
After their return to England, Charrington accompanied Dr Rainsford to many of the meetings of the temperance workers in the mission halls of the Whitechapel district.
The inner side of the liquor question that was there revealed to him caused him to vow that he would never again be connected in any way with the liquor traffic and that he would do all in his power for the cause of temperance.
The day following this statement, Charrington went to his father and told him of his resolve. There was a scene, but, despite his father’s threats and entreaties, the young man remained firm.
CUT OFF FROM THE FAMILY FORTUNE
Soon after this, the elder died and it was discovered that he had cut off his son from any share in his $6,250.000 estate.
Had it not been for the fact that the young man’s mother had left him a large fortune, the future might have been rather dark for him.
EMBARKS UPON HIS LIFE’S MISSION
Without hesitating to think what the possible consequences might be, he took a room for himself in the very midst of the people whose life he had determined to share in the hope of raising it, and set about to gain their confidence and help in his project.
It was rather discouraging at first – for he not only had to upset many of their pet vices, but, in order to do this, he had to step on a number of their – to them – harmless traditions, and. worst of all, sweep away their prejudices against the class of which they knew him to be a member.
He was a very big young man, and when he could not make them stand in awe of him through his teaching he gave them a very wholesome lesson in ”corporal punishment,” and this form or moral suasion probably had as much to do with bringing the great number of penitents and eager helpers to his side as his meetings and “district visiting.”
THE GREAT ASSEMBLY HALL
He had the temerity after a time to put up a big building known as the Great Assembly hall right in the midst of the locality taken up by the brewing business. Here, in spite of violent opposition from supporters of the liquor traffic, he carries on his campaign, and, from the start, he met with enormous success.
His idea in starting this mission house was to provide a counter-attraction to the neighboring saloons, where people could hear good music, discuss social topics and play games without buying drinks.
The hall cost Charrington and some of his friends $200,000.
In the venture he was supported by the late Earl of Shaftesbury.
Such leading lights in the temperance movement as the Countess of Warwick and Lady Henry Somerset have pleaded for temperance within its walls.
Lady Henry Somerset, now famous as an enemy of alcohol, admits that she got her first inspiration to become a temperance worker while sitting silently and unobserved in the body of the great hall, listening to Mr Charrington and his friends.
SUBJECTED TO MUCH RIDICULE
When he started on his campaign he was subjected to much ridicule.
“How much are you making out of your new job?” was a frequent query, to which the answer invariably was that his bit of blue ribbon was costing him about $100,000 a year.
His meetings have been broken up occasionally, and although he is a man of powerful physique, he has had to run for his life more than once.
He has, however, succeeded in breaking down much of the prejudice against him, and, although Charrington’s brewery still flourishes, Frederick Charrington’s missionary work flourishes too.
There are 8900 members on the roll, and on an average 2500 pledges are granted each year, the total expense to Mr Charaington being about $15,000 a year.
A REMARKABLE NEW SCHEME
Encouraged by such results, the former brewer is now launching forth on a scheme that is quite as remarkable as anything in his career.
He has bought for a novel purpose the whole of the hitherto neglected Osea island, in that deep bay on the Essex coast called the Blackwater. It is close to the famous town of
Brightlingsea, whence come most of the various Shamrock crews and captains.
This island, which cost Mr Charrington $30,000, is to be turned into a retreat for aristocratic drunkards.
Work has already been begun on a luxurious inebriates’ hotel or home, and bungalows and houses are to be built for the use of those who want to live by themselves.
At the present rate of progress, it is thought that the Island will be ready for business in less than a year.
Only a part of the island will be built upon, the rest is to remain in its natural state.
There will be a village green and a village “pub,” but it is needless to say that intoxicating drinks will be strictly excluded.
After the place is properly fixed up, any habitual drunkard will find that he is living in a perfect paradise, away from the temptations that had made him hitherto anything but a desirable citizen.