In my recent post the Philanthropic Society I introduced you to ten-year-old George Lefoy the first ‘subject’, as the children of the Philanthropic Society were called. In this article I give you Thomas Mitchell and Nicholas Sweetman, subjects number two and three.
Children admitted into the Society’s Reform were the offspring of the criminal classes or those destitute and in need of rescuing from penury or domestic disharmony and the Characters of the Society (registers) offer fascinating insight into London of the late eighteenth century.
Thomas Mitchell was admitted into the Reform aged twelve, in November 1788. It was noted that he had ‘neither father nor mother’ and lived in an ‘infamous part of St Gile’s’. Could he have known George Lefoy, who also lived in an area of St Gile’s? It is possible. Like George he was placed in the care of the Matron. Unlike George, he didn’t settle well with the tradespeople he was placed with.
He first went into the care of the tailor in at the beginning of May 1789 and ’employed at that trade’, but by the 28th May he had joined George with the shoemaker. He was placed with the carpenter on 1 July 1789 and apprenticed to him in March 1791. The last we hear of him is January 1793 for he ran away after being ‘very insolent to his Master’ when he would have been around sixteen-years-old.
The third boy to be taken under the wings of the gentlemen founders of the Philanthropic Society was Nicholas Sweetman. Like Thomas, he was twelve-years-old when given a home at the Reform at St George’s Fields. Like the other two boys Nicholas was initially placed in the care of the Matron in December 1788. He had lived with his mother in Lewkener’s Lane. He had to beg to keep his mother and himself housed and fed. Sadly we do not know what prompted his admission into the Reform.
In April 1789 he was placed with the shoemaker and ’employed at that trade’, joining George Lefoy and for a short time, Thomas Mitchell. In March 1791 Nicholas was apprenticed to the shoemaker ‘by his mother’, clearly his mother was present in his life, unlike many of the other subjects of the Society. Maybe Nicholas’ apprenticeship was a positive change for him and his Master, as weeks later George Lefoy would also be apprenticed to the shoemaker.
Images: Author’s own
Surrey History Centre, Philanthropic Society, 1788 Characters of the Boys Admitted into the Reform, 2271/10/1