Guild of the Poor Brave Things

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The Guild of the Brave Poor Things was established in 1894 by Dame Grace Kimmins (1871-1954) et al. to provide resources for disabled boys to enable them to make a productive place for themselves in society.


Play was seen as a major positive addition to the more traditional methods of learning by rote and of other much more drilled aspects of the elementary schools of the time, especially when teaching the physically handicapped. This resonates with teaching in mainstream schools today where play is a part of the UK's National Curriculum for all children.

The Guild of the Brave Poor Things provided education for physically handicapped children (in those days the term "crippled" was current and not viewed as pejorative).

In 1894, Kimmins organised a meeting which resulted in the foundation of the Guild of the Brave Poor Things. Juliana Horatia Ewing's 1885 novel The Story of a Short Life inspired Kimmins to start the Guild to help children with disabilities. Grace (and later Ada Vachell took their motto ‘Laetus sorte mea’ (‘Happy in my lot’) from Ewing's book.[1]

Child Life, the journal of the Froebel Society, described the Guild as "a band of men, women, and children of any creed or none, who are disabled for the battle of life, and at the same time are determined to fight a good fight". While this may seem patronising in the 21st century it was typical of the way good quality initiatives were started by women of strong character in the 19th century. In 1895 the guild inspired Ada Vachell to create a similar facility in Bristol which continued until 1987.[2]

The Guild of the Brave Poor Things also spawned the Chailey Heritage residential centre.



Local branches of the Guild hold archives in their corresponding county record office. The National Archives Discovery Catalogue lists the Hull Branch held at Hull History Centre, the Reading Branch held at Berkshire Record Office, and the Bedford Branch held at Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service.[3] The records of the 'Bristol Guild of the Handicapped', known up until 1918 as the 'Guild of the Brave Poor Things' are held at Bristol Archives (Ref. 39842) (online catalogue).

The History of Place project has been researching archival histories of the Guild[4] which will lead to an exhibition at M Shed in Bristol during 2018.[5]

Other resources[edit]

Part of the Guild of the Brave Poor Things facilities via the Chailey Heritage, but at some distance from Chailey itself was the now derelict Heritage Marine Hospital at Tide Mills on the beach east of Newhaven harbour.


  1. ^ Seth Koven, ‘Kimmins , Dame Grace Thyrza (1870–1954)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 accessed 8 Oct 2016
  2. ^ Elizabeth Baigent, ‘Vachell, Ada Marian [Sister Ada] (1866–1923)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 8 Oct 2016
  3. ^ "National Archives Discovery Catalogue, Guild of Brave Poor Things". Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  4. ^ History of Place project
  5. ^ History of Place - exhibition at MShed

External links[edit]