The million-peopled city
Formation of the School.
The missionary who founded this school thus reports the formation :-
" The district of Field-lane, in the year , presented one of the most deplorable and wretched spots in the metro- polis. It consisted of numerous courts and alleys, inhabited entirely by the most abandoned and dangerous classes. Being determined to get to the root of the evil, I procured the use of a small back room, in a court in , on a first floor, occupied by a Roman Catholic, for the sum of 2s. each time we met. The court led into another court, densely populated. Having intimated to those who sat on the ground playing cards, that there would be a school opened on Sunday, and having invited their attendance, they laughed, and said I should get killed, and that then the first would be the last day of it. Nothing daunted, however, I proceeded to the place alone, on the first Sunday in November, 1841. As soon as I entered the court, the shouts and yells began, amidst cries of, ' Here he comes- here he comes-curse the Protestant crew!' &c. When I reached the door, it was completely besieged, so many
|were seeking admittance; and on the room being opened, it was filled. Having no seats, we had to sit on the floor, and the windows opened on the uncovered Fleet Ditch and the knacker's-yard. Silence being procured, we attempted to sing part of the Hundredth Psalm, but so discordant a choir could scarcely be found. When addressed on the love of to fallen man, they listened as if it was to them entirely a new tale. The group consisted of 45, varying in age from 6 to 18 years; and on being questioned, I found 41 of them prayed to the Virgin Mary, and 1 was a Jewess.|
' The second day the room was again soon filled, while numbers sought admittance in vain. On this occasion I was much annoyed by a young man who had been liberated from Newgate the day before, where he had been sent for theft. When we attempted to sing, he jumped and danced 'Jim Crow.' Though told to desist, or leave the room, he would not, and challenged me to touch him. Being unable to proceed, I put him outside; but scarcely had I returned, when I beheld him rushing towards me with a large table- knife in his hand. I grasped him by the arms, and held him till a female pulled the deadly weapon from his hands, as he cried, ' I'll stick you, you Protestant,' &c.; and others answered, ' Oh, the teacher !' ' The teacher will be mur- dered!' At the close of the school, he was standing at the door armed with stones, when he was spoken to in an affectionate manner, but before I had gone many steps, a stone was thrown, which passed within a few inches of my head.
"The next Sunday he returned, and conducted himself orderly; and to my great surprise, on the following Sunday he was accompanied by his father, a Roman Catholic, who could not tell a letter. This youth continued to conduct himself well, which gained him friends; and after being in
|a gentleman's service several years, he was taken out to Africa.|
"Desiring to extend my labours, a meeting for adults was opened one night in the week, which was continued amidst great annoyance from without; for so very dreadful was the place, I could not prevail on any one to help me. One evening, coming down the court, accompanied by a female, who carried some articles of clothing for the most destitute, a stone was thrown, which struck her on the head, rendering her insensible for some moments, and leaving a protuberance which was frequently accompanied with pain, until her death, several years after.
"The landlady, taking advantage of the annoyance, doubled the rent, so I was obliged to seek another place, which was procured in White's-yard, Saffron-hill, on the ground floor; but, after some weeks, we were compelled to adjourn to the second floor, so great was the annoyance. "Now for the first time friends presented themselves willing to help in the great work; and in order to procure funds, cards were issued, to be produced monthly, each card being valued at one shilling, and supposed to be collected from twelve persons.
" Having procured more eligible premises in West-street, the teachers resolved to advertise in the ' Times' newspaper for assistance; and, in order to attract attention, it was agreed to head the advertisement, ,' and copies were attached to letters, and sent to many of the nobility and gentry. The first answer was from We believe this is the first time the words, ',' appeared in print, though there were several schools of the same description at the time. This brought the school before the public, and many persons of importance called to see for themselves."