The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4
The Magdalen Hospital.
This noble institution was projected by Mr. Robert Dingly, in the year , for the reception of penitent prostitutes. It was at kept in a large house, formerly the London Infirmary, in , Goodman's-fields, and was called the . The utility of this charity was so conspicuous, and so well supported, that the views of the benefactors extended to the building an edifice more enlarged and convenient for the purpose; in consequence of which the spot on which the present edifice stands was made choice of; and on the , in the year , the earl of Hertford, president, with the vice-president and governors, laid the stone at the altar of the chapel, under which was placed a brass plate, with the following inscription::
This hospital consists of brick buildings, which inclose a quadrangle, with a basin in the centre. The chapel is an octangular edifice erected at of the back corners; and, to give the inclosed court an uniformity, a building of a similar front is placed at the opposite corner.
The unhappy women, for whose benefit this hospital was erected, are received by petition; and there is a distinction in the wards according to the education or behaviour of the persons admitted: the inferior wards consisting of meaner persons, and of those degraded for their misbehaviour. Each person is employed in such kind of work as is suitable to her abilities, and has such part of the benefits arising from her industry as the committee think proper. The articles of their employment are, making their own cloaths, both linen and woollen; knitting and spinning; making lace, artificial flowers, and children's toys; winding silk, drawing patterns, making women and children's shoes, mantuas, stays, coats, &c.; but no part of their labour is to be sold in the house, but at such place as the committee shall think proper to appoint. In their work, as in every other circumstance, the utmost care and tenderness are observed, that this establishment may not be thought a house of correction, or even of hard labour, but a safe retreat from wretched circumstances.
A probationary ward is instituted for the young women on their admission, and a separation of those of different descriptions and qualifications is established. Each class is entrusted to its particular assistant, and the whole is under the inspection of a matron. This separation, useful on many accounts, is peculiarly so to a numerous class of women, who are much to be pitied, and to whom this charity has been very beneficial; viz.
They have never been in public prostitution, but fly to the Magdalen to avoid it. Their relations, in the moments of resentment, refuse to receive, protect, or
|acknowledge them; they are abandoned by the world, without character, without friends, without money, without resource; and wretched, indeed, is their situation! To such especially this house of refuge opens wide its doors; and, instead of being driven by despair to lay violent hands on themselves, and to super add the crime of self-murder to that guilt which is the cause of their distress, or of being forced by the strong call of hunger into prostitution, they find a safe and quiet retreat in this abode of peace and reflection.|
The method of proceeding for the admission of women into this hospital is as follows: the Thursday in every month is an admission day; when, sometimes from to petitioners appear, who, without any recommendation whatever, on applying at the door to the clerk, receive a printed form of petition, gratis, which is properly filled up. Each petition is numbered, and a corresponding number is given to the petitioner herself. They are called in singly before the board, and such questions are put to them as may enable the committee to judge of the sincerity of their professions, and to ascertain the truth of their assertions.
The treatment of the women is of the gentlest kind. They are instructed in the principles of the Christian religion, in reading, and in several kinds of work, and the various branches of household employment, to qualify them for service or other situations wherein they may honestly earn their living. The chaplain attends them daily to promote and encourage their good resolutions, and to exhort them to religion and virtue.
The time they remain in the house varies, according to circumstances. The greatest pains are taken to find out their relations and friends, to bring about a reconciliation with them, and if they be people of character, to put them under their protection; if, however, the young women are destitute of such friends, they are retained in the house till an opportunity offers of placing them in a reputable service, or of procuring them the means of obtaining an honest livelihood. No young woman, who has behaved well during her stay in the house, is discharged unprovided for. When discharged, they are for the most part under years of age.
After the continuance of any woman in the house years, upon the modest and virtuous demeanor and industrious conduct of such woman, or upon application of her parents or friends, or any housekeeper of sufficient credit, if such friends declare they will forgive her past offences, and will provide for her; or if such housekeeper will receive such woman as a servant; in either of these cases the governors discharge them with a discretionary bounty.
Every woman placed in service from this house, who shall continue whole year in such service, to the entire approbation of her master and mistress, on its being made appear to the satisfaction of the committee, they give the woman a gratuity as a reward for her past, and an encouragement for her future good conduct.
In short, such is the establishment of this excellent charity, that nothing is omitted that can promote the great ends of preserving life, of rendering that life useful, and of making valuable members of those who would otherwise have been lost to themselves and to the world.
At the south end of Blackfriar's road, and on the west side, near St. George's-circus, is a well known place of entertainment, called