Friday, 6 May 2011

Potted Peabody History

For those unfamiliar with the Peabody Estate, here's an extract from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for George Peabody (1795-1869):

In Britain Peabody's major philanthropy was centred on housing. He wanted to leave London some token of his affection for the city. He thought first of an elaborate system of drinking fountains; then he considered helping Lord Shaftesbury's ‘ragged schools’ for the children of the very poor. In the end, Shaftesbury convinced Peabody that it was more important to provide better housing conditions for the working classes, and in March 1859 Peabody decided that his gift would be a number of model dwellings. By means of the Peabody Donation Fund he gave £500,000 towards building houses to be inhabited by poor Londoners who had good moral characters and were good members of society. The first block was opened in Spitalfields in 1864, and it was soon followed by buildings in Chelsea, Bermondsey, Islington, and Shadwell; by 1882 the fund owned 3500 dwellings and housed more than 14,600 people, and by 1939 there were more than 8000 dwellings. In 1962 the queen mother unveiled a plaque to Peabody at another new Peabody estate in Blackfriars. Peabody was made a freeman of the City of London, the first American to receive this honour, though he turned down the offer of a barony from Queen Victoria. In 1867 the US congress conferred a gold medal on him. Popular subscription raised the funds in England to provide the statue of Peabody in the royal exchange, which was unveiled by the prince of Wales in 1869.

So now you know.

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