The Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa


An ongoing problem for the Society was finding suitable employment for its children after they left its homes. A solution favoured by the Society was that of emigrating the children to British colonies, where labour was in demand. Another advocate of emigration was Lord Ashley who, in June 1848, made a speech in the House of Commons suggesting that an annual government grant be made to fund the voluntary emigration of children from London's ragged schools. His proposal received widespread support and the sum of £1,500 was subsequently made available for the purpose.

At the end of 1848, a party of 22 boys became the first to emigrate under the scheme, with each of them having been provided by the Society with a new outfit of clothes and a bible. All together, total of 150 boys, selected from amongst 6,000 at 30 different ragged schools, departed for New South Wales. Although the government grant was not renewed, the Society continued to fund the emigration each year of as many children as it could afford. In July 1857, a party of ten girls was accompanied to Canada by the matron of the Girls' Refuge, Mrs Edmonds, who remained until she was satisfied that they had all obtained suitable situations.

In 1883, a house in Hamilton, Ontario, was taken by the Society on a three-year lease as a reception home for its boys who were emigrating to Canada. It provided a base for new arrivals until they found a job, and also a temporary home for those who were out of work or ill. Financial and other difficulties led to its move to cheaper premises in nearby Wingham and eventual abandonment in 1888.

In the same year, Lord Jersey came to see off that season's party of the Society's boys travelling to Canada and donated a sovereign to each, payable once they had commenced their new employment. In 1889, a party of 24 boys emigrated under the care of a Mr Pady who ensured they found suitable employment.

The Society continued to emigrate boys well into the 1920s.