Saturday, March 2, 2024


Aid for the industrious

Wondering along an unfamiliar street in Hereford, I came across this arch, looking like a Jacobean relic stranded in the modern city. A little research soon revealed that it’s neither Jacobean nor stranded. It’s actually Victorian – the Victorians revived virtually every earlier British style of architecture, Jacobean included and they knew that the flattened arch, scrolls, finials, curvaceous gable and pediment would evoke the kind of architecture popular on grand country houses and other buildings from around the year 1600.

The arch makes a grand entrance to a cemetery, and its grandeur is to commemorate a once-famous Hereford man, whose charitable works helped the city’s poor. Rev. John Venn was vicar of a parish in an impoverished part of the city. Working with his sister Emelia, he founded the Society for Aiding the Industrious. Among the Venns’ and the Society’s projects were a soup kitchen to feed the hungry, a dispensary, and allotments enabling people to grow their own food. They founded a school and a children’s home, and their initiatives to provide employment included a corn mill and a model farm.

The arch harks back to a time – the Tudor and Jacobean periods – which the Victorians saw as a period of British greatness. It was the era when British explorers laid the foundation of the empire that brought the Victorians much of their wealth. So much the better that they recognised the work of a couple who focused on helping those who accrued no wealth or power from the empire, bringing education, nourishment, useful work, and better living conditions to people who needed them most.

No comments: