Ancestry UK

British Penitent Female Refuge, Bethnal Green / Hackney, London

The British Penitent Female Refuge was established in 1829 at 10 North Side of Bethnal Green, Bethnal Green, London E2. The Refuge was a Magdalen Home whose object, according to a report in 1842, was 'to restore guilty females to the paths of virtue, and the confidence of society, and afford protection to the innocent who may be placed in circumstances of temptation and danger.' By that date, it was said,700 young women had been sheltered within its walls, the majority of whom had been reclaimed to virtuous habits, and restored to their friends, or placed in respectable situations. Each passing day found numbers of females applying for admission, anxious to abandon a life of profligacy. Nineteen out of twenty were rejected for want of funds; for though the Refuge's annual income amounted to upwards of £1,600, the current balance of funds amounted to only £39.

On December 13th, 1842, the Refuge moved about a mile northwards to new premises — originally built as a large private house in the classical style, on Andrews Road, Cambridge Heath, Hackney. The cost of lease, repairs and removal amounted to £470.

Former British Penitent Female Refuge, Hackney. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1875, the establishment became a Branch Home for the King Edward Industrial School for Girls at Mile End, and then the School's main premises in 1888.

After the School closed in around 1919, the building was used as a furniture factory known as the Firmback Works. The much altered premises are now a car pound for illegally parked vehicles.


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  • None identfied at present — any information welcome.


  • None identified at present.