This is seventeen days before Alfred’s death on the 5th May 1897, and about six weeks before Frank’s wedding a month later on the 6th June.
PROVIDENCE (Row) NIGHT REFUGE AND HOME.—On Easter Sunday at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home, Crispin Street, Spitalfields, E., in accordance with the custom of the late Mgr. Gilbert, a special dinner, consisting of hot soup, meat, potatoes, and bread, was provided for the inmates, who numbered over 300. In the absence of the Hon. Manager, Mr. Alfred Purssell, through illness, his son, Mr. F. W. Purssell, presided, and was supported by the Rev. M. Fitzpatrick, the Misses Purssell, Miss B. G. Munk, Mr. and Mrs. Secrett, Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary) &c.
In the men’s refectory, Mr. F. W. Purssell gave a short address. He said that they came there on behalf of the Hon. Manager and the committee to bid the inmates welcome to the refuge. Whilst deeply regretting the misfortune which had forced them to accept its hospitality, he trusted that it might be the means of reinstating them in life. Although it was very hard to be poor, poverty was not necessarily a disgrace. The refuge had been established by the late Mgr. Gilbert to help the deserving poor, and his work was still being continued. There was every prospect this year of a revival in trade owing to the many public celebrations which were to take place, and he (Mr. Purssell) hoped that when Easter came round next year, all the inmates present would have homes of their own. In conclusion, he announced that the Rev. Mother would give each inmate sixpence as an Easter gift on leaving the refuge next morning. Three ringing cheers for the Rev. Mother and the Sisters of Mercy, and for Mr. Purssell were followed by dinner, which was served by the Sisters. The visitors then proceeded to the women’s room and to the servants’ homes, in each of which Mr. Purssell addressed a few kindly words to those present. During the course of the afternoon oranges were distributed, and additional fare was given at the tea in the evening. Altogether the poor people had a very enjoyable day, and the Sisters and visitors must have been gratified at the joy and happiness to which they by their help contributed.
The above text was found on p.36, 24th April 1897 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .
The Providence (Row) Night Refuge was founded in 1860, and heavily supported by Alfred Purssell, and his children, and sons-in-law almost from its foundation. Wilfrid Parker, Alfred Purssell’s son in law, was chairman of the committee in 1931, Wilfrid’s nephew George Bellord was also on the committee. George’s father, Edmund Bellord (Agnes Purssell’s husband) had also chaired the committee. Frank Purssell had also been on the committee, and deputised for his father at times.
St Michael’s Alley,
The Honorary Manager of the Providence (Row) Night-Refuge & Home, Mr Alfred Purssell, C.C., presents his respectful compliments to Her Grace The Duchess of Newcastle, and begs once more to plead for this most deserving charity.
During the Winter Months, the Refuge provides every night nearly three hundred night’s lodgings, suppers & breakfasts to homeless wanderers free of cost. From the foundation of the Refuge thirty six years ago by the late Rev. Dr. Gilbert, nearly one million two hundred and fifty thousand night’s lodgings suppers and breakfasts have been provided.
The work of the charity does not end at “feeding the hungry” and “harbouring the harbourless”. It is also the means of enabling many of those, who find shelter within the walls of the Refuge, to begin life afresh, and to obtain again a position for themselves in the world. Those, for example, who through dire necessity, to save their families from starvation or worse, have parted with their tools, are enabled to recover them: sellers of fusees (large matches), flowers, newspapers, bootlaces, and the like, without hope or money, are supplied with a little stock: rent is paid and a small allowance granted to mothers and children, when the breadwinner through sickness is unable to work: the ragged are also clothed and situations obtained for them.
It is specially desired to call the attention of the charitable to some distinguishing marks of the Charity. In the first place it is absolutely non-sectarian. There are no questions as to nationality or creed. Whilst there is accommodation in the Refuge, no bona-fide applicant is refused, the sole passport necessary being genuine poverty and want. Secondly no effort is spared to secure the benefits of the Charity for the really deserving. The imposter, the professional beggar is soon detected. All the inmates are called upon to make a statement as to their last employment, and the cause of their misfortune, which is afterwards inquired into. By this means the benefits are secured for the bona-fide poor. It must be distinctly understood however that the poor applicant is not kept waiting for relief, but is lodged and fed, whilst the investigation is proceeding. Nor are the fallen debarred from participating in them, truth being considered a guarantee of desire to amend.
This winter special help is needed. There are no signs of any diminution in the poverty and distress around us. If the weather is severe, the sufferings of the poor will be materially increased. At times so great do their misery and wretchedness become, that those who are attempting to alleviate the distress are well nigh discouraged. The thought that hundreds of men, women and even children have in the depths of winter no home but the streets is simply appalling. There is a worse aspect to the question than this. How many of our poorer brothers and sisters in this vast metropolis are driven to crime. As degradation, by the want of food and shelter. Men and children become thieves; women and girls, alas! Barter their most valuable possession, their priceless innocence for food and shelter. These unfortunate ones find in the Refuge the means of reforming their lives, and of turning their backs for ever on the sinful past.
Will you kindly help the Committee of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home in their great work amongst the poor? If you could pay a visit to it, one night during the winter months, and see for yourself the good that is being done by it, you would willingly do so.
Hear the opinions of some who have visited it:- Mr James Greenwood, the “Amateur Casual”, writing in the “Ludgate Monthly” has said “Outcasts of all kinds and from all parts find shelter there, and all are sure of something for supper and a bed, and a big roll, and a mug of cocoa ‘as a comforter’, “before they start on their way next morning…. The Managers of the Home have been thus unostentatiously engaged for many years, and the good they have effected is incalculable.”
The late Mr Montague Williams Q.C., in “Later Leaves” says of this Refuge: “There is no more Excellent institution…. The place is beautifully clean…. This institution, which is not nearly so well known as it deserves to be, is in the heart of Spitalfields.”
The “Daily Chronicle” has said: “Christianity is certainly not played out at the corner of Crispin St., and Raven Row, although it may be doubled, whether it ever found more depressing material to work upon.”
As an example of the distress, which exists in our midst may be mentioned that in the Refuge last year, amongst those assisted were an Architect, an Optician, clerks, waiters, valets, woodcarvers, ivory-turners, weavers, painters, a professor of music, a linguist, certificated teachers, dressmakers, domestic servants, etc., etc.
In addition to the Refuge, there are two homes, one for Servants, who partially support themselves by work, the other where women out of engagements can board and lodge at a small cost per week, whilst searching for situations.
An especial appeal for help is made this year, in order that funds may be raised to extend the work, which has now been carried on so effectively for thirty-six years. The Refuge was founded by the late Rev. Dr. Gilbert in 1860 with fourteen beds. It has now accommodation for nearly three hundred. Will you assist in extending the good work?
The smallest donation will be gratefully acknowledged, and the heartfelt prayers of the hungry you help to feed, of the houseless you help to lodge, the naked you help to clothe, the fallen you help to brighter and happier lives will be bound to