London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:

1820 - 1993

Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Collection comprises administrative records, including: minutes, agenda and reports for meetings of the Society's General Committee (1884-1915), trustees (1915-1990), House/Western Lodge Committee (1920-1961), Executive and Finance Committee (1915-1925) and Western Asylum Sub-Committee (1843-1848); annual reports and accounts; trust deeds for the Society's funds and property; staff agreements and contracts; secretaries' letter books and correspondence files; 19th century papers and correspondence relating to the administration of the society, premises, bequests and staff; subject files on the administration of the Society, events, finance, fundraising, premises, staff and the history of the Society; and visitor books.

    Records relating to residents at Western Lodge and the Society's other Asylums, including: censuses of admission; admission papers; admission and resident registers; reports on residents; index cards; rules and regulations; and menu books.

    Financial records for the Society, including: balance sheets and accounts; a ledger used to compile the accounts; notes on the accounts; ledgers; audit books; cash books; donation books; board and lodging receipt books; returns of monies received and paid by the Superintendent; and a set of accounts paid by the Finance Committee in the 1820s and 1830s.

    Property records including deeds, tenancy agreements and inventories of Western Lodge
Extent: 4 linear metres
Classification: CHARITIES
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • The Society for the Relief of the Houseless Poor (now known as Western Lodge, also referred to as the Nightly Shelter or Asylum for the Houseless Poor, the Association for the Relief of the Houseless Poor and the Houseless Poor Society) was founded in January 1820, the outcome of a public meeting convened to discuss ways of helping those who found themselves without shelter in the City of London, particularly in the winter months. At the meeting Mr Hicks donated his warehouses on London Wall to the charity, and a refuge, or asylum, was set up to provide lodgings and food for the destitute and houseless, funded by donations and bequests from the public. A second asylum in Playhouse Yard, Whitecross Street, Islington, opened in the 1820s.

    Residents, or inmates, were housed in separate men's and women's wards, with a straw bed and medical care. The refuge opened at night for a season over the winter months, typically from October/November until March/April. During the nineteenth century it appears that residents were asked to assist the Society's fundraising by preparing and selling bundles of firewood, doing laundry or completing needlework. A chapel was also in operation at the refuge.

    The Society opened additional refuges in Glasshouse Street, East Smithfield, City of London (known as the Eastern Asylum) and Upper Ogle Street, Foley Street, Marylebone (known as the Western Asylum) in the 1840s, and the Playhouse Yard Asylum became known as the Central Asylum.

    The Central Asylum moved to new premises in Banner Street, Islington in 1870 with accommodation for 550 men, women and children. Between 1903 and 1914 additional asylums were opened for men at Warner Place, Hackney (open from 1903 until the late 1910s) and women at 88 Carlton Vale, Brent (1903-1909), 21 Nutford Place, Marylebone (active 1907 - 1913, closes before 1915), 39 Homer Street (active 1910 - 1913, closes before 1915), 117 Seymour Place (open for the 1910 season only) and 8 Queen Street (open 1913, closes before 1915). At this time the Society also operated a labour yard in Hoxton Street where men could receive food and a ticket for lodgings in return for two hours week.

    Tragically a fire at the Banner Street Asylum on 27 Feb 1903 resulted in the death of one of the inmates, and in 1915 the Banner Street Asylum was sold to Bovril Limited, who owned the adjoining buildings. The Society's work was suspended for the duration of the First World War. In 1920 the Society reopened to male residents at Grove Lodge, 3 Highbury Grove, Islington, and then in 1925 relocated to Western Lodge, 84 West Side, Clapham, where temporary accommodation could be provided for around 28 single men. Initially cases were referred to Western Lodge by the Church Army, the Metropolitan Asylum Board, the After Care Association, the British Legion and other organisations, and later cases were sent from Social Services and other agencies. The Society also took in residents who applied in person.

    The move to Western Lodge saw a shift in the duration of residence, with residents staying for longer periods of time in single rooms rather than the communal wards of the Banner Street Asylum. Initially a wing for 2-3 women or a mother and child was also available for cases referred by the Night Office of the Metropolitan Asylum Board, but accommodation was eventually restricted to men.

    The charity was administered by Trustees who, with a few additional members, formed a General Committee of management. Sub-committees were established to oversee individual Asylums. The Committee Rooms were originally in offices at 75 Old Broad Street and then moved to 6 St. Benet Place, Gracechurch Street (1872-1897), 28 St Martin's Lane (1898), 128/130 Edgeware Road (1900-1905) and 55 Bryanston Street, Marylebone (1905 -1917).

    The Church Army had been involved with the Society's work since its establishment in 1882, and in 1898 three members of the Church Army's executive committee (Wilson Carlile, Edward Clifford and Colin Fitzwilliam Campbell) were elected as members of the Society's General Committee, and effectively took over the running of the Society when the original trustees retired in 1900.

    In 1915 the Charity Commission approved a scheme to register the Society as a charity. The scheme specified that the Society's trustees should include the nominees of the Bishops of London and Southwark, the Corporation of the City of London, Westminster City Council, the Commissioners of the City of London and Metropolitan Police, and the Church Army. A Board of Trustees replaced the General Committee, managing the Society and the investment of its funds and securities, as well as communicating with the Charity Commission and the purchase and sale of property.

    The Trustees appointed a temporary committee in 1915 to appoint a Secretary and investigate how best to conduct the Society's business. This committee became the Executive and Finance Committee in October 1915, and became responsible for arranging for the implementation of the Trustees' principles and methods The Trustees then appointed at House Committee in November 1920, who supervised the work of the Society's Superintendent (or warden), who managed the day-to-day running of the refuge with the assistance of a Matron. The Executive and Finance Committee was absorbed into the House Committee in December 1926, and the Committee was renamed as the Western Lodge Committee.

    The Society found it necessary to launch a fundraising appeal in the 1970s, called the Western Lodge Appeal. The appeal aimed to raise £17500 for fire precaution work, repairs, furnishing and decoration to the property.

    The work of the asylum was highlighted in an article in Households Words in 1856 (issue 309, 20 Feb 1856) which may have been written by Charles Dickens. The Society's work was also discussed by Friedrich Engels in his 'The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844'.

    The Society continues to provide temporary accommodation and housing and employment support for single men over 30. The Society moved to new premises at 85 Trinity Road, Tooting, in December 2012 where accommodation is provided for 10 men: the new premises have retained the name Western Lodge.

    Sources: (accessed 9 May 2013)
Copyright: Depositor
Source of Acquisition:
  • 1997/026
Access Restrictions: These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 2018
Arrangement: LMA/4624/A Administration
LMA/4624/B Residents
LMA/4624/C Finance
LMA/4624/D Property The majority of the records date from the twentieth century, with the exception of the papers in series LMA/4624/A/01/05, LMA/4624/A/06, LMA/4624/C/10, LMA/4624/D/01 and LMA/4624/D/02. These papers were originally stored loose or in bundles and have been grouped together by the archivist by subject. Original bundles have been kept together
Title Notes: Western Lodge