One of the buildings that we encounter on our nightly tour of the East End of London is the former Providence Row Night Refuge.
Although the building is now student accommodation, the Providence Row charity is still going strong and still doing excellent work in the East End of London.
The first night refuge came about as a result of the endeavours of Catholic priest Father Daniel Gilbert, who was determined to do something about the horrific poverty he had encountered on a visit to the East End of London.
With the aid of the Sisters of Mercy, he raised sufficient funds to open a night refuge in a narrow thoroughfare off Finsbury Square called Providence Row, and set about welcoming the destitute, regardless of their race or religion, giving it the distinction of being London’s first non-sectarian night shelter.
Such was the demand amongst the outcast and destitute poor, the refuge moved to a larger, purpose built premises on Crispin Street in Spitalfields, directly opposite the entrance to Dorset Street, the scene of the murder of Mary Kelly on the 9th of November, 1888.
PROVIDENCE ROW NIGHT REFUGE AT HOME
Of course, funding proved an ongoing problem and necessity for the shelter to be able to continue with its mission of providing food, shelter, clothing, and even employment for the destitute poor of the Victorian era.
The Wexford People, in its edition of Saturday, 30th December 1876, provided its readers with an update on the fundraising activities, and of the useful purpose that the charity was serving:-
“We learn from the lately issued report for the year 1876, that in this institution three hundred and seventy-eight thousand nights lodging with suppers and breakfasts, have been given gratuitously to the poor, whilst, at present, the average number weekly is nearly seventeen hundred.
During the past year besides forty-three thousands nights lodgings with suppers and breakfasts supplied to the deserving poor, over eight hundred persons have been provided with situations or supplied with clothes, or sent to their homes, or furnished with tools or implements for work, and have thus been assisted to make a fresh start in life.
Among the inmates of the Refuge who have been thus helped during the past year, have been a lieutenant in the army, a chemist, a medical assistant, a governess, &c, &c.
NO DISTINCTION OF RELIGION
In this institution there is absolutely no distinction of religion, the manager receives no remuneration whatever, and the poor are welcomed from all parts not only of London, but from every district in Great Britain, &c.
All applicants are examined on admission by a committee of ladies and gentlemen, and if their statements are found to be false they are at once excluded; but if, upon inquiry, they are proved to be true, additional help is given them to enable them to rise from the poverty and misery by which they are surrounded.
POVERTY IN EVERY SHAPE OR FORM
Now the Providence (Row) Night Refuge assists deserving poverty in every shape and form. It shelters and feeds the outcast and the homeless; it has a home for servants. it provides temporary lodgings for those of a better class who are destitute, and it gives help to families in their trials, that they may not become paupers or perhaps worse.
Contributors are respectfully invited to visit the Refuge. Parcels of old clothes, which can be made up for the benefit of the poor by the inmates of the home, will be thankfully accepted.
The income of the past year from all sources amounted to £3,446 4s 2d, and the expenditure, including £1,200 repayment of part of the mortgage, to £3,448 8s 1d, leaving a deficit of £2 3s 10d.”