Posts Tagged ‘John Passmore Edwards’

A guest post by London Historians member Ursula Jeffries.

About a year ago Mike wrote on this blog about John Passmore Edwards, the nineteenth century philanthropist. London Historian members who take an interest in his London legacy might like to know how the guardian of his memory is getting on. Dean Evans, author of Funding the Ladder which tells his story, has won an award from the Cornish publisher Holyer an Gof  in their non-fiction section devoted to industry and heritage. Dean puts all proceeds from sales toward the fund to restore the Blackwater Institute near Hayle in Cornwall where Passmore Edwards began his quest for literacy for all. Raising money for any project is getting tougher but do look at the website dedicated to an almost obsessive supporter of libraries who left such a mark on London. His name lives on in some buildings such as the facade of Whitechapel gallery but is receding with the closure of libraries and removal of many of his more utilitarian donations such as horse troughs and drinking fountains. The former Haggerston library, a stunning building, has been adapted into apartments. Here’s an image sent by a colleague which expresses how I feel about the loss of the resources he sponsored although I imagine if I were richer I would want to live there!

John Passmore Edwards stone

P.S. Do any London Historians have any other thoughts about Cornish legacies in London? In the nineteenth century many Cornishmen left the West Country to seek their fortune and as was the way in those times formed the London Cornish Association. Their annual dinner, founded in 1895, is still held, a tradition only suspended on one occasion when George VI died. The LCA are producing a leaflet guiding their members and international visitors round London following a Cornish theme. The list, which includes Cornish gold and granite and Humphrey Davey at the Royal Institution is quite long already but all additional ideas are welcome.


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john passmore edwards

In the John Passmore Edwards Room at St Bride Foundation

Further to Ursula Jeffries’ post below, I’m really looking forward to tonight’s Centennial lecture on this remarkable Cornish newspaperman and philanthropist. I’d like to ask his biographer, Dean Evans, why Passmore Edwards twice declined a knighthood – once from Queen Victoria and once from Edward VII. The endowments that he bestowed on London alone, include:

Pitfield Street Library, Hoxton
Whitechapel Free Library & Museum
Haggerston Library, Shoreditch
Dulwich Public Library
Edmonton Free Library
Shepherds Bush Library
St George’s in the East Library
Borough Road Library, Southwark
Plashet Library, East Ham
Acton Free Library
Limehouse Free Library
Bow Library, Roman Road, Bow
North Camberwell Library
Plaistow Free Library
St Brides Printing Library, Fleet Street

South London Art Gallery, Camberwell
Whitechapel Art Gallery

Willesden Cottage Hospital
Wood Green Cottage Hospital
Hospital wing for West Ham Hospital
Tilbury Cottage Hospital
Acton Cottage Hospital & Nurses Home
East Ham Hospital

Orphanage for National Union of Teachers, Sydenham
Canning Town Boys Club
Passmore Edwards Settlement, Bloomsbury
Sailors’ Palace, Limehouse

I reckon the next opportunity for a Passmore Edwards centennial lecture will be in 12 years’ time. So if you’re free this evening, do join us to celebrate the life of this remarkable Victorian gentleman.

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A guest post by Ursula Jeffries

A beautiful reading room in an extraordinary building named after a very unusual man. The Passmore Edwards room is the setting next Monday for an evening which will explain the influence John Passmore Edwards (1823 – 1911) had on late nineteenth century society and the special role he played in the establishment of the world famous St Bride Library. This open reference library offers a collection of books, papers and artefacts on the subjects of printing history, typography, graphic design and all the allied trades. He died in 1911 and his memory would fade without the efforts of Dean Evans who will be presenting the main talk.

john passmore edwards

John Passmore Edwards by GF Watts (1894), on display at Bodelwyddan Castle, North Wales. By kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

If Passmore Edwards had not given his personal and financial support the library would have been restricted mainly to technical manuals for the printers who trained in St Bride Foundation. This is just one aspect of the Foundation as it operates today but why not join us for an evening of introduction to some of its well-hidden treasures.

st bride foundation

Historic printing presses at St Bride Foundation, most of which are still in use.

st bride foundation

The John Passmore Edwards Centennial Lecture. Monday, 10 October, 7pm at St Bride Foundation, Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EE

Tickets are £12.50 and include wine and snacks. Special rate to London Historians members: £10.
More information on this event here.
Book tickets here.

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