In 1906, Old St. Paul’s church developed a charitable scheme aimed specifically at children to ‘counteract the evil influences of the Canongate slums of Edinburgh, by means of Kindergarten and allied methods. The ‘Saint Saviour’s Child Garden’ project was supported through subscriptions from donors.
The project’s committee created a hand written promotional booklet complete with photographs to appeal for subscriptions. Edinburgh City Archives holds two copies of the booklet. Entitled ‘The Life History of a Slum Child’, its contents not only show candid and intriguing images of life in the Canongate throughout this period. They also provide a fascinating insight into social attitudes surrounding poverty, teenage pregnancy, alcohol consumption, social reform and even gossip, at the turn of the last century.
The ‘Saint Saviour’s Child Garden’ was an ongoing programme started by the church in 1906 that extended on until 1977. The scheme was based at Chessel’s Court where children were be examined by medical staff, taught by trained teachers and had the opportunity to play in a supervised garden. These charitable efforts were intended to help children get a better start in life and were a reflection of a wider spirit of social reform.
The Canongate forms the lower part of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town. Today the Canongate is a popular tourist route dotted with shops, restaurants and museums. Throughout the 19th century, the Canongate was a markedly different place. Overcrowded and crumbling buildings housed poverty stricken residents in poor conditions. Programmes of slum clearance were initiated in the area at various points and continued up until 1959 with the construction of new tenement buildings throughout the district.
To read the Old St. Paul’s Charity Booklet ‘Life History of a Slum Child’, browse through the gallery below.