Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
The Orchard Mission, tucked away off Peckham High Street in Mission Place, has a plaque on the front elevation announcing ‘Orchard Mission Founded 1887’ and the intertwined initials of the Ragged School Union. At the end of the 19th century, the street was known as Blue Anchor Lane and extended north to Goldsmith’s Road. At the northern end were a row of houses and gardens known as The Orchard, probably built on land that had once been an orchard. The Mission was founded in 1887 by a group of evangelical young men who held open air services in the warm summer months, known as Flower Services, but as the weather got cooler, a four room cottage was rented. This may have been in one of the houses in The Orchard, giving rise to the name of the Mission.
By the end of the 19th century, the area around Blue Anchor Lane was described as being the resort of costermongers and labourers whose children were mostly engaged in street selling and lived in wooden houses, more like shanties, that lacked sanitation. The Mission was said to be the home of much riotous behaviour which was countered by “steadying developing Gospel Work.” In 1893 the Mission moved to larger, but still cramped, premises in Batchelors Hall and two years later the Mission started a building fund to build its own larger premises. There was a shortage of donations to the building fund for the Annual Report of 1900 announced the fund stood at £150, while the present premises were described as “small and inconvenient.”
The same Annual Report gives details of the Mission’s activities that included:
•A Sunday School that had 190 scholars with an average attendance of 140 with 14 teachers
•A ‘Help One Another Fund’ which “encouraged in the children a spirit of generous loving sympathy.”
•A Children’s Choir
•Sunday Morning and Evening Children's Services which attracted good attendances
•An Evening Service for Adults which was less well attended.
•An older Girls’ Club where needlework was taught and special events were held
•A Boys’ Club
•Visiting and Relief of the Sick which included the sending of sick children to holiday homes.
•The Band of Hope
•Special activities for the disabled. In January, after one such tea and entertainment had been held, each child received a Christmas hamper
•The Goose Club, a Christmas Savings Club. 64 families made provision for a good Christmas dinner, consisting of a turkey a plum pudding and half a pound of tea for the sum of 6/6 (32p).
•A jumble sale of clothing and household articles was held in that raised £5.
•A Harvest festival
•On Boxing Day about 100 children partook of a hearty meal provided by the Christmas Appeal Fund.
•On Good Friday morning 100 children were regaled with a bun and cocoa breakfast provided by the workers and their friends. The afternoon was spent in playing games in Peckham Rye Park and a lantern display in the evening.
From the outset, the Mission had been affiliated with the Ragged School Union and Shaftesbury Society which in 1904 celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. As part of the celebrations, it built or acquired seven new mission halls, one of these being the Gospel Lighthouse Mission in Union Street, Borough. Mr Spriggs, the President of the Orchard Mission, had placed an advertisement in the Christian Weekly appealing for £1000 in donations for the building of a new mission house. The RSU met with the Mission and the RSU agreed to sponsor the building of a new Mission house on condition that substantial local donations would also be raised. The current site in what is now Mission Place was found and the freehold secured for £630. The building costs were estimated to be £1950.
The opening ceremony took place in January 1906 and performed by Mr Goddard Clarke in his first duty as local MP. The two storey building contained on the ground floor a large hall suitable for Sunday School and public meetings and on the other floor a smaller hall for Band of Hope, Mothers’ Meetings and Infant Class, six rooms for Bible Classes and a Boys’ and Girls Club Room, kitchen and toilets. In February, 200 children were entertained and sat down for tea in the new hall, the first event of its kind held in the new building.
Sources Used: 13th Annual Report of the Orchard Mission, 1900. (Within Booths Notebook B310)
In His Name: Magazine of the Ragged School Union and Shaftesbury Society No. 198, January 1906