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Bloomsbury Institutions


Bessbrook Homes for Sandwich Men

Also known as Bessbrook Homes/Bessbrook Homes and Advertising Agency Homes


It was founded in 1893 by G. P. H. Maynard and James Keates (Great Thoughts from Master Minds, 1898; The Times, obituary of James Keates, 22 August 1898)

Its home in Queen Square was opened in December 1893 as a “home for broken-down men” (The Quiver, vol. 33, 1898)

Its name comes from Bessbrook, the model village for mill workers founded in 1849 by Quakers in South Armagh

It took in men who already worked as sandwich men, carrying advertising boards, a seasonal job paid at the rate of 3/- or 3/6 a day, and not done during the summer, when the men all left London to do seasonal agricultural work such as hop-picking

The home in Queen Square apparently housed fifty men when it was visited for the Booth poverty survey update in May 1894

The home also took in homeless men who had been long out of work and provided them with employment as sandwich-men for 2/- a day, delivering circulars for 3/- a day, or addressing envelopes at a rate of 3/6 per thousand (Booth notebooks, B102, interview with James Keates)

It was apparently so successful that Keates was able to open two other branches (The Times, obituary of James Keates, 22 August 1898)

It no longer exists

What was reforming about it?

It took in vulnerable seasonal workers and the unemployed and homeless alike, giving the latter a home and employment as sandwich-men

It also helped the men become sober, sandwich-men being legendary for their drunkenness

Where in Bloomsbury

It opened a Home at 39 Queen Square in 1893

It also later seems to have had premises at 28 Orde Hall Street (Charities Digest, 1907)

Website of current institution

Books about it

There is a very short account of its history in Great Thoughts from Master Minds (1898)


None found

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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