Joseph Soul

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Joseph Soul (1815–1881) was a nineteenth-century British reformer who worked for 36 years to assist the plight of orphaned children in London and in support of the abolition of slavery. He worked at the Orphan Working School in Hampstead and founded another orphanage at Hollway which together eventually became the Royal Alexandra and Albert School.[1]


Soul was born on 14 November 1805 and baptised in St. Leonard's church in Shoreditch in February the following year. His parents were Eli and Elizabeth Soul.

The Orphan school in the 19th century

He took up the position of secretary to the Orphan Working School in Hampstead. The school had been in existence since 1758.[2]

In 1840 he attended the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London where his portrait was included with other notables in a painting that is now in the National Portrait Gallery in London.[3] Over the next few years Soul corresponding with the aging Thomas Clarkson keeping him informed on the progress of measures to abolish slavery completely.

Isaac Crewdson (Beaconite) writer Samuel Jackman Prescod - Barbadian Journalist William Morgan from Birmingham William Forster - Quaker leader George Stacey - Quaker leader William Forster - Anti-Slavery ambassador John Burnet -Abolitionist Speaker William Knibb -Missionary to Jamaica Joseph Ketley from Guyana George Thompson - UK & US abolitionist J. Harfield Tredgold - British South African (secretary) Josiah Forster - Quaker leader Samuel Gurney - the Banker's Banker Sir John Eardley-Wilmot Dr Stephen Lushington - MP and Judge Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton James Gillespie Birney - American John Beaumont George Bradburn - Massachusetts politician George William Alexander - Banker and Treasurer Benjamin Godwin - Baptist activist Vice Admiral Moorson William Taylor William Taylor John Morrison GK Prince Josiah Conder Joseph Soul James Dean (abolitionist) John Keep - Ohio fund raiser Joseph Eaton Joseph Sturge - Organiser from Birmingham James Whitehorne Joseph Marriage George Bennett Richard Allen Stafford Allen William Leatham, banker William Beaumont Sir Edward Baines - Journalist Samuel Lucas Francis August Cox Abraham Beaumont Samuel Fox, Nottingham grocer Louis Celeste Lecesne Jonathan Backhouse Samuel Bowly William Dawes - Ohio fund raiser Robert Kaye Greville - Botanist Joseph Pease, railway pioneer W.T.Blair M.M. Isambert (sic) Mary Clarkson -Thomas Clarkson's daughter in law William Tatum Saxe Bannister - Pamphleteer Richard Davis Webb - Irish Nathaniel Colver - American not known John Cropper - Most generous Liverpudlian Thomas Scales William James William Wilson Thomas Swan Edward Steane from Camberwell William Brock Edward Baldwin Jonathon Miller Capt. Charles Stuart from Jamaica Sir John Jeremie - Judge Charles Stovel - Baptist Richard Peek, ex-Sheriff of London John Sturge Elon Galusha Cyrus Pitt Grosvenor Rev. Isaac Bass Henry Sterry Peter Clare -; sec. of Literary & Phil. Soc. Manchester J.H. Johnson Thomas Price Joseph Reynolds Samuel Wheeler William Boultbee Daniel O'Connell - "The Liberator" William Fairbank John Woodmark William Smeal from Glasgow James Carlile - Irish Minister and educationalist Rev. Dr. Thomas Binney Edward Barrett - Freed slave John Howard Hinton - Baptist minister John Angell James - clergyman Joseph Cooper Dr. Richard Robert Madden - Irish Thomas Bulley Isaac Hodgson Edward Smith Sir John Bowring - diplomat and linguist John Ellis C. Edwards Lester - American writer Tapper Cadbury - Businessman not known Thomas Pinches David Turnbull - Cuban link Edward Adey Richard Barrett John Steer Henry Tuckett James Mott - American on honeymoon Robert Forster (brother of William and Josiah) Richard Rathbone John Birt Wendell Phillips - American M. L'Instant from Haiti Henry Stanton - American Prof William Adam Mrs Elizabeth Tredgold - British South African T.M. McDonnell Mrs John Beaumont Anne Knight - Feminist Elizabeth Pease - Suffragist Jacob Post - Religious writer Anne Isabella, Lady Byron - mathematician and estranged wife Amelia Opie - Novelist and poet Mrs Rawson - Sheffield campaigner Thomas Clarkson's grandson Thomas Clarkson Thomas Morgan Thomas Clarkson - main speaker George Head Head - Banker from Carlisle William Allen John Scoble Henry Beckford - emancipated slave and abolitionist Use your cursor to explore (or Click "i" to enlarge)
The painting which shows Soul at the 1840 Anti-Slavery Convention. He is shown at the centre of the picture but right at the back[3]

By 1859, the Orphan Working School was home to 250 children and since its inception it had acted in loco parentis for 1,889 children. The school relied entirely on public subscription but it was hoping to expand to take on additional children.[2] The children learnt of the History and Geography of the Bible as well as studying scripture. Two of the orphans were those saved by the bravery of Alice Ayres. Alice had died saving these children and had been buried with public mourning due to her heroism. The school was able to teach these children so that they could become domestic servants.[4]

Another orphanage was envisaged in 1864. The second school was intended for children between the age of five and eight and was founded by the Orphan Working School with Soul as the first honorary secretary. The establishment was based at Albert Hill in Holloway, London and was open to children independent of the religious denomination.[5] In 1867 Queen Victoria planted a Wellingtonia Gigantea tree during an "Inauguration Ceremony" for the new school.

In 1870 the "Orphan Working School" was noted to include History, Geography, English and Maths. The Maths in the boys school was described as "excellent" although the girls school was not as good "as would be expected". The school was still working. The school in one year made over 1,000 items of clothing and repaired 17,000 other items. It made 130 frocks, trimmed 130 bonnets and repaired over 18,000 stockings.[5]

In 1875, Soul was credited with leading the way for a convalescent home in Margate which was used by the children from the Hampstead school. The home was opened by Princess Mary and the Duke of Teck. The leading liberal politician, Earl Granville noted that "sadly" the children "inherited diseases from their parents"[6]

Soul died in 1881 and the school went on to become The Royal Alexandra and Albert School.[1]


  1. ^ a b Headmasters speech, accessed February 2010
  2. ^ a b Clark, Samuel; William Martin; Peter Parley; Ben George; Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1860). Peter Parley's annual: A Christmas and New Year's present for young people p4. 
  3. ^ a b The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1841, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG599, Given by British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1880
  4. ^ Price 2008, p. 58
  5. ^ a b Archer, Thomas (1870). Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Terrible Sights of London, Chapter 1 pt 3. Retrieved February 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. ^ "New Convalescent home in Margate". British Medical Journal: 308. Sep 1875.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help);
  • Price, John (2008). Postman's Park: G. F. Watts's Memorial to Heroic Self-sacrifice. Studies in the Art of George Frederic Watts. 2. Compton, Surrey: Watts Gallery. ISBN 978-0-9561022-1-8.