Peabody Buildings

1891 birthplace of Elizabeth Lyons,, daughter of Timothy & Elizabeth [nee Tobin] Lyons , 20/08/1891, at 10 Block D, Peabody Buildings. Bermondsey

Peabody Buildings, Blackfriars Road cerca 1880.


Plan of Peabody Building Bermondsey


The Peabody Buildings were blocks of Improved Model Dwellings for the respectable Working Class, which replaced the slummiest homes with neat, weatherproof, clean, much sought after small flats. The living accommodations was self contained, though kitchen areas tended to be communal for all but the most basic cooking, and sanitary provision was also in sets. All they lacked were bathrooms (nobody but the extremely rich had them). The tenants were carefully selected, and were generally in steady work and not (therefore) the poorest folk. Other groups added block buildings like this, and there is an actual study of one of the blocks (published by the Open University). There are some records of tenants and the management committees.

The Peabody Trust was founded in 1862 (as the Peabody Donation Fund) by an American merchant banker, George Peabody, to provide housing and support to various charitable schemes for people in need in London. The fund, which was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1948, has traditionally become known as the Peabody Trust.

It appears nearly 10,000 persons reaped the benefit of the Peabody Fund. In the far east there were buildings at Shadwell and Spitalfields; in the far west at Chelsea, in Westminster, and at Grosvenor Road, Pimlico - the latter edifice alone accommodating 1,952 persons. As many as 768 are lodged in the Islington block, and on the south side of the Thames there are Peabody buildings at Bermondsey, in the Blackfriars Road, Stamford Street, and Southwark Street. One room in the Peabody buildings is never let to two persons.

A writer in The Daily News says:" Advantage has been taken by the Peabody trustees to purchase land brought into the market by the operation of the Artisans and Labourers' Dwellings Act. At the present moment nineteen blocks of building are in course of removal either by the City or the Metropolitan Board of Works. They are situate at Peartree Court Clerkenwell; Goulston Street, Whitechapel; St. George the Martyr, Southwark; Bedfordbury; Whitechapel and Limehouse, near the London Docks; High Street, Islington Essex Road, Islington; Whitecross Street; Old Pye Street, Westminster; Great Wild Street, Drury Lane; Marylebone, hard by the Edgware Road; Wells Street, Poplar; Little Coram Street; and Great Peter Street, Westminster. All these are under the control of the Metropolitan Board of Works. The remaining three - at Petticoat Square, at Golden Lane, and at Barbican - are being removed by the Corporation of the City of London."

New Englander George Peabody made the beginning of his fortune in Baltimore during the city's rapid growth as a key port and center of trade. In 1837, he moved to London where he directed his empire from the financial capital of the Victorian world until the end of his life.

The story of the founding of George Peabody and Co., one of the largest financial empires of the nineteenth century, which later became the House of Morgan, is intertwined with the development of the era's greatest technological and scientific ventures. Peabody amassed the capital needed to push the American railroads westward and was a director of the company that laid the first transatlantic cables. As a youth of seventeen, George Peabody joined as a volunteer soldier when the British fleet was advancing on Washington. Ironically, years after enlisting to fight the British in the War of 1812, George Peabody became an unofficial diplomatic eminence in London, fostering commercial relations and political good will between America and the country in which he made his home.

The outbreak of the Civil War sharply divided the American community in London. Astonishingly for that era, Peabody insisted on providing educational opportunities for both races. Peabody's most dramatic benefaction in London was the establishment of the Peabody Trust to house the city's poor, which exists to this day, now housing over 50,000 people. The then Prince of Wales unveiled a statue of George Peabody on Threadneedle Street in the heart of London's financial district to commemorate the event.

In 1862, he founded the Peabody Donation Fund, providing £500,000 for "the construction of such improved dwellings for the poor as may combine in the utmost possible degree the essentials of healthfulness, comfort, social enjoyment and economy" for Londoners, a gift acknowledged by Queen Victoria as "wholly without parallel."

When Peabody died in 1869, the carriages of the Queen and the Prince of Wales followed the hearse to Westminster Abbey, where Gladstone was among the mourners. Some weeks later, the newest vessel in her Majesty's Navy, the Monarch, carried George Peabody to his final resting place near Danvers, Massachusetts.

Today, there are over twenty organisations, located in both London and America, which owe their existence to George Peabody and reflect his varied interests in the fields of housing, education, music, science and merchant banking. Accorded many honours, George Peabody was the first American to be awarded the Freedom of the City of London.

Peabody Donation Fund was founded in 1862 by George Peabody,1795-1868, a wealthy American, who had settled in London by 1837. The Trust became a housing society and built 18 Estates 1865-1885 for London's stable, 'worthy' poor: those possessing 'virtues of moral character and good conduct', excluding ' the pauper who would not work'. . The Estates were carefully managed and supervised and there were rules about conduct, as well as the use and abuse of the property.: no wallpaper[ might harbour vermin], no nails on the walls, no drunkeness. There was a resident superintendent at each estate. Rents varied from 2s 6d for a single room to 5s. for three, but most families would have had just 2 rooms, with a communal W.C. and sink on the landing, shared with 1/2 other families." I consider that a poor man's town dwelling should consist of a living-room and bedroom, with provision for additional bedrooms when required; that it should possess a plentiful and accessible supply of water, both for ablution and cooking; a W.C., sink and lavatory, distinct, but not far removed from his tenement; a wash-house, with the means of drying clothes in any weather without artificial heat; and, lastly, when practicable, a play-ground for his children". The Bermondsey Estate,1875, was unusually built of concrete[ which caused planning permission problems], and its 6 blocks,A-F, only had 3 floors. In total it accommodated 71 familes, plus superintendent's accommodation [ 2 blocks were severely damaged in WW2 and were later demolished, the remaining blocks sold to the LCC for a new road.]. It was in East Lane[ to the N. side of it , the blocks being in a straight line, with a Rope Walk Factory to their N.side] and the land cost £4786 and the cost of the building works was £8167. In 1881C, there were 132 adults and 183 children living on the estate. East Lane itself is just N.of Jamaica Road., near modern Chambers St., W.of Bermondsey Tube station

A summary of all the Peabody estates, prepared in 1904, says that tenements were fitted with cast iron ranges with oven and boiler.  It also states that a small gas cooking stove was provided in each tenement.  At this estate half the flats had no fireplace in any bedroom.

A table of information about estates, prepared around 1915, states that at Bermondsey no hot water was provided and there were no baths or pramsheds.  There were laundries on the roofs, which had recently been overhauled.  The coal store held 20 tons.  The average size of the living rooms was 169 square feet and the average size of the bedrooms was 136 square feet.

  "A few years ago I met a man who had lived on the estate as a small boy, which was before the Second World War, only moving away permanently when he was called up to do National Service after the war.  He said that the only place where the children could play was the small paved area which is visible in the foreground in this photo.  This is quite unusual on Peabody estates, because the architect normally designed the blocks round a central courtyard, so that a safe playing area was available for the children.  At Bermondsey the cramped nature of the site must have made this impossible"

bermondsey peabody bldg c1905

Peabody Building Bermondsey, early 1900s

East Lane, which exists in a truncated form, ran from Neckinger to the River Thames at East Lane Stairs. As the style of houses suggests, it was an ancient thoroughfare and many of its properties date from before 1750. This view looks south along the west side of the street. Seemingly the same side of the street as The Peabody Building!


Aerial shot of Peabody Buildings[not Bermondsey] 1961, probably Stamford Street one.

I do have more info. to introduce here.

More info. is on Timothy Lyons page.

Some forum posts on Peabody Buildings

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