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.
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.
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 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.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- No records noted at present for this establishment — any information welcome.
- Lowe, Clara M.S God's Answers: A Record of Miss Annie Macpherson's Work at the Home of Industry, Spitalfields, London, and in Canada (1882, James Nisbet)
- Bagnell, Kenneth The Little Immigrants: The Orphans Who Came to Canada (2001, Dundurn)
- Birt, Lilian M The Children's Home-Finder: the story of Annie Macpherson and Louisa Birt (1913, J. Nisbet)
- Corbett, Gail H Nation Builders: Barnardo Children in Canada (2002, Dundurn)
- Kershaw, Roger and Sacks, Janet New Lives for Old: The Story of Britain's child migrants: The Story of Britain's Home Children (2008, The National Archives)
- Kohli, Marjorie The Golden Bridge: Young Immigrants to Canada 1833-1939 (2003, Natural Heritage Books)
- McEvoy, Frederick J 'These Treasures of the Church of God': Catholic Child Immigration to Canada (in CCHA, Historical Studies, 65 (1999), 50-70)
- Parker, Roy Uprooted: The Shipment of Poor Children to Canada, 1867-1917 (2010, Policy Press)
- British Home Children in Canada.
- National Library and Archives Canada especial the Home Children section.
- Young Immigrants to Canada.
- British Home Child Group International - has database of over 23,000 Canadian British Home Children
- British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) - has several indexes of the names of children brought to Canada by various organizations in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
- National Archives of Australia — Immigration Records.
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.