History of the Whitechapel Mission

In 1876 the forerunner of the Whitechapel Mission was inaugurated as `The Working Lads' Institute and Home' at a Public Meeting in the Mansion House, presided over by the Lord Mayor of London. Little is known of the founder, Mr. Henry Hill, but the work was conducted from rented premises at The Mount, Whitechapel Road, London until 1885 when a brand new building was constructed to house the work at 285 Whitechapel Road (famous as the building that housed the enquiry into the 'Jack the Ripper' case). This building was opened by Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII also attended. From 1896 the work was continued by a Methodist minister, Revd Thomas Jackson and the burgers of the City maintained their association with the work, with the Lord Mayor of London and the Sherriff attending the anniversary celebrations each year.

The Whitechapel Methodist Mission was a Primitive Methodist foundation, arising from the home mission activities of one of the Methodists' greatest ministers, the Revd Thomas Jackson who worked in the East End of London for 56 years. His work at Whitechapel built on his earlier work in Bethnal Green, Walthamstow and Clapton. The Whitechapel Mission combined social work with evangelical work. The station began in 1897 when Revd Thomas Jackson bought the Working Lads' Institute which was due to close owing to a shortage of funds. He used this as the basis for his work in Whitechapel. In 1901 the Mission acquired a property on Marine Parade, Southend, to continue the provision of holidays and convalescent stays for the poor from the area. In 1906 Brunswick Hall was purchased and this enabled a physical separation of the social work and evangelical work. The Mission's many activities included free breakfasts and penny dinners for local children; a Medical Mission; a free legal advice service; a night shelter for homeless men; distribution of food, coal and grocery tickets to the poor; prison gate rescue work especially amongst young lads, which developed into full probation work with the opening of Windyridge Hostel.

The objective of the Institute then was to keep its doors open for orphan and destitute lads. Food, clothing, lodgings, and friendship were provided for upwards of 3,200 needy homeless between the ages of fourteen and eighteen years. In its first year the Institute served over 11,000 breakfasts and was open each and every morning for the homeless of any age.

The work we do and the way we do it have both changed completely since 1876, but the point of it is exactly the same: to make a difference in the lives of people, wherever it is most needed.

The National Archives (Whitechapel Mission)
The National Archives (Working Lads' Institute)
The National Archives (Probation Hostel)
The National Archives (Homes of Rest)
Wikipedia: Wynne Edwin Baxter
Wikipedia: Martha Tabram
Wikipedia: Annie Chapman
Wikipedia: Mary Ann Nichols

Our Impact in 2019

  • Over 5,200 volunteers, offering over 36.400 hours of their time.

  • New figures reveal that 16,134 people were found sleeping rough on any given night in England in 2018/19, an increase of 32% on the previous year.

  • Figures reveal that 8,096 people were found sleeping rough on any given night in London in 2018/19, an increase of 7% on the previous year.

  • Rough sleeping in England has now increased by 250% since 2010

  • 24% of rough sleepers have been on the streets for 2 years or more.

  • 108,398 breakfasts served during this year, an average of 297 a day.

  • 5,698 different people used our services during this year.

  • 2,457 people used our advice services during the past year. 566 were women.

  • 24% of people using our services are under 26 years of age.

  • 49 people use the Whitechapel Mission's address to receive their post.

  • 47 people were helped to find employment

  • 58 were referred to drug or alcohol programmes.

  • 298 people received help in claiming benefits.

  • 32% of people using our services have been in care at some point.

  • 15% of people supported by the Whitechapel Mission have been in the armed services.

  • 63 people found permanent accomodation, either a flat or apartment. 312 people found a hostel during this year.

  • 29 birth certificates purchased during this year.

  • 52 people came to us without any form of ID at all.

  • 23,800 showers during this year.

  • 38% of people using our services have been in prison.

Learn more >>>


challengeEnglish councils accused of hiding scale of homelessness crisis

Critics point out change of compiling method led to decrease in total count of rough sleepers

The Guardian - 25-02-2019
Thomas Jackson
The Old Whitechapel Mission