Tuesday, 24 May 2016
Putting aside my enormous workload and cup of tea this morning I began to make a list of the buildings donate to the town over the years by the Courtauld family of weaving fame.
The museum itself is housed in what once was a school, erected 1862 by George Courtauld for the young of the town. The stone above commemorates the erection in 1897 of an infants school to go with the rest of the building. Note this had 257 pupils in a small school! The school in total contained over 600 pupils according to one source I came across! Jings! This lasted happily enough until 1990 when to many pupils distaste the school closed and they were forced into larger less happy establishments. All who were taught here at the end retained happy memories of the building.
The Courtauld's were Unitarians, a heretical but popular movement in the 19th century, and they insisted that while the bible should be read every day no particular slant could be placed upon it. This they ensured by the use of a slab 20 feet high and ten feet across including a portion of the deeds which hangs high above the main gallery. In the 19th century poverty affected at least a third of the people and that was during the good times, earlier in the century things were worse. However many rich folks spent their cash on improving their workers lives by providing things required for daily life, although not always increasing their wages while doing so.
George Courtauld was keen on education as with mills elsewhere he also created schools for the young in those places and in town here in 1864 added a Mechanics Institute, a popular item for helping artisans and others educate themselves and join another Victorian passion 'Self help.'
Sydney, who lived in a proper 'Big House' had a very large estate part of which was divided by a road. In 1888 he gave that portion of the garden to the town, parks were a major part of improving the towns and cities at the time. This garden continues today and Julian Courtauld is one of those trustees keeping it going.
William J. Courtauld gave the town a new and splendid Town Hall, always worth a visit and of course I cannot find any pictures as I have 'sorted them.' This cost an enormous amount but he never informed people of how much but even for 1928 it was a huge financial cost to him. He also gave a cottage hospital that operated (get it?) until a couple of years ago, it is now a number of houses.
William created modern Almshouses in 1936 although I am not sure what goes on in these today, and in 1939 just in time for a war he gave a splendid nurses home, now used for storing troubled young folks.
Why am I mentioning this?
It is just that with all the cash swilling about folks pockets today it is remarkable that few of those living in houses worth 20-30 million rarely are seen benefiting their workers, more like they are benefiting themselves and robbing the pension fund. In times past several built housing estates for their workers, as indeed the Courtauld's built some houses for some workers. Hospitals and doctors were provided, working conditions improved and usually staff here at least were content to a great degree. Many mill workers were young girls rescued from London workhouses and given a new but hard life in the country. Few returned to London.
Why is it people with many millions in the Panama banks feel the need to increase this cash rather than put it to good use for the world around them? I am aware of one Scots millionaire who's name I forget who has donated large sums to many needy organisations, how come so few do so nowadays?
Of course when I am a millionaire....