Sunday, 21 June 2015
Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 1st Baronet
Nearly 2 years, how did that happen; actually I know exactly how that happened. Last years study of 2 small courses taking over the summer is how it happened. This year however I get a summer, hard to believe looking out the window on the longest day but yes it is the summer. Time to chillax with my housies, take a breath before starting it all over again in October. And so a visit to the big smoke was embarked upon, M elected to indulge in retail therapy in Westfield while I tubed it to Liverpool Street to meet up with Wayne who was up for a wander around an area of London that he didn't really know. We settled on Whitechapel - an area that I know fairly well. M and I had done one of the excellent London Walks - http://www.walks.com/ a year or two ago focusing on the few remaining relics of Jack the Ripper's London and I'd taken mum on another one focusing on the East End and its Jewish heritage - a heritage that has left its mark on the area. Given this I decided to print off a DIY walk that I found on the web - probably a mistake but hey...a focus for our meanderings. Looking at the gentrification of the area now it is a world away rom the warren of tiny alleys that contained a million or so Londoners in the nineteenth century - many of them immigrants - particularly those fleeing pogroms in the East. But it is there - they may have a new coat of paint but the soot-stained high terraces are still there - lurking. And in this squalor there was found a philanthropism that seems entirely lacking for modern political life - a fact brought home by those outnumbered by the police there to shepherd them gathered to protest against the latest round of austerity cuts handed down by the rich and brainless. This was slightly to my discomfiture aligned along a religious axis. I point you towards Sir Fowell Buxton commemorated at Truman's Brewery on Brick Lane, home of some of the best curry houses in the capital - a legacy of later immigrants - those from Bangladesh. Sir Fowell Buxton's mother was a Quaker a religious sect that I have a great deal of time for having met a few on various demos in the past and who seem rather more focused on improving the situation down here rather than saying to those who have not "never mind, you'll get your reward in heaven". He was however not involved in the temperance movement - being a director of what was then Truman, Hanbury and Company who were the largest brewer in the world in the mid-19th century. He financially supported the local weavers who had been effected by mechanization and cont4ributed to Elizabeth Fry's campaign for penal reform. He was elected to Parliament in 1818 and continued to work for penal reform, fighting to abolish the death penalty - although this wasn't achieved in his lifetime the number of capital punishment offences were decreased to 8 from over 200. He was also a founding member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824, an event also commemorated in plaqular form. His do-gooding (and when was it that "do-gooder" became a slur to be levelled at someone?) however did not stop there. In 1823 he founded the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery, taking over the stewardship of the issue from William Wilberforce who retired from public life in 1825. Buxton introduced a bill to Parliament calling for the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire calling it - "repugnant to the principles of the British constitution and of the Christian religion". Further to this he lobbied for treaties to be made with African leaders to outlaw the trade feeling that slavery should be replaced with legitimate trade - a precursor of the modern call for fair-trade. For his efforts he was made a Baronet in 1840. He died in 1845 disappointed though having failed to effect this change in policy.