Ancestry UK

Miss Macpherson's Home of Industry, Spitalfields, London

Born in 1825, Miss Annie Parlane Macpherson, a Scottish Evangelical Quaker, moved to London in 1865 where she took up mission work among the young female matchbox makers in the East End. The following year, she turned to providing accommodation for destitute children.

Annie Macpherson. © Peter Higginbotham

A house was rented in Hackney as a home for thirty boys. It was known as a Revival Refuge as financial support for its opening had come from readers of the evangelical newspaper The Revival. A second home for a further thirty boys followed, located at the rear of Shoreditch church. In 1868, she acquired premises at 60 Commercial Street, in the Spitalfields district. The building, originally a warehouse, had previously been used as a cholera hospital run by the Sisters of Mercy and was fitted throughout with gas and water supplies. The new home, named the 'Home of Industry', opened in February 1869, offering inmates food, shelter, work, basic education and religious instruction, to up to two hundred inmates.

Miss Macpherson's Home of Industry, Spitalfields. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Macpherson Home of Industry, Spitalfields. © Peter Higginbotham

Faced with the problem of the seemingly limitless numbers of children needing help, Miss Macpherson became an active promoter of child emigration. From 1870 onwards, she regularly took parties of children to Canada where she established reception or 'distributing' homes at Belleville, Galt and Knowlton from where they were placed with new families. The children she emigrated were drawn both from her own home and also other agencies such as Barnardo's.

Miss Macpherson was assisted in her work by her two married sisters Louisa Birt and Rachel Merry. Rachel and her husband Joseph Merry superintended the Home of Industry for several years, later moving to Canada to run the Galt home and its successor at Stratford. One of Macpherson's assistants at the Home of Industry, Ellen Bilbrough, also went to Canada to take charge of the Belleville home.

Macpherson expanded her work back in England with the opening of a Training Farm at Hampton in Middlesex, again superintended by the Merrys. A girls' home was also opened in Hampton but was found to be inconveniently far out of London for its staff to travel to, and was closed in 1874. It was replaced by a new home in London Fields, Hackney.

In 1887, the Home of Industry moved to 29 Bethnal Green Road, London. The purpose-built premises were designed by George Baines.

Miss Macpherson's Home of Industry, Bethnal Green Road. © Peter Higginbotham

Miss Macpherson retired in 1902 and died two years later at her retirement home in Hove, Sussex.

The Commercial Street building still exists, now adapted for commercial use. The Bethnal Green Road premises have not survived.


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