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Dear visitor: Summer is here, and you may be thinking about a well-deserved vacation, family get-togethers, BBQs with neighborhood friends. More than likely, making a donation to Catholic Answers is not on your radar right now. But this is exactly the time we most need your help. The “summer slowdown” in donations is upon us, but the work of spreading the gospel and explaining and defending the Faith never takes a break. Your gift today will change lives and save souls for Christ this summer! The reward is eternal. Thank you and God bless.


Capital of England and chief city of the British Empire

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London, the capital of England and chief city of the British Empire, is situated abdut fifty miles from the mouth of the Thames, Lat. 51° 30′, Long. 0° 5′. The word London is used in widely different senses for administrative purposes:- (i) The City of London, with a population of 26,923, occupying an area of 668 statute acres, little more than one square mile. (ii) London, as defined by the Metropolis Local Management Act, now the County of London, with a population (last census 1901) of 4,536,541 and an area of 75,462 statute acres, or about 117 square miles. London district as referred to in the Registrar-General’s Tables of Mortality coincides very nearly with this. (iii) London, in reference to the Parliamentary Boroughs, has a population of about 4.25 millions and an area of 80,126 statute acres, or 125 square miles. (iv) London, as the Metropolitan Police District, together with the City has a population of 6,581,372 and an area of nearly 700 square miles. It extends over a radius of 15 miles from Charing Cross. (v) London, as an Anglican diocese, comprises Middlesex, Essex, and part of Hertfordshire. London will here be treated under the following heads: I. General History. II. Ancient Catholic Diocese. III. London Catholics after the Reformation. IV. Modern Civil Administration.

In 1840 Pope Gregory XVI redistributed England into eight vicariates, on which occasion the London District lost Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Ten years later Pope Pius IX restored the hierarchy; the London District ceased to exist and its place was taken by the new Dioceses of Westminster and Southwark, the former including all London north of the Thames and the counties of Middlesex, Essex, and Hertford, the latter embracing London south of the Thames and the rest of the old vicariate. The progress of Catholicism since 1850 will be found under Westminster Cathedral and Diocese of Southwark. The prelates having jurisdiction over London since that date have been:—Archbishops of Westminster:—Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, 1850-1865; Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, 1865-1892; Cardinal Herbert Vaughan, 1892-1903; Francis Bourne, 1903. Bishops of Southwark:—Thomas Grant, 1851-1870; James Danell, 1871-1881; Robert Coffin, C.SS.R., 1882-1885; John Butt, 1885-1897; Francis Bourne, 1897-1903; Peter Amigo, 1904. The following figures refer to London itself, including only the postal district: Total There are no means of ascertaining even approximately the total number of Catholics now in London, but it is estimated variously from 300,000 to 400,000. All other particulars will be found under Westminster Cathedral and Diocese of Southwark.


A. Local Government

It has already been seen that the extent of the city of London, properly so-called, was limited by the ancient walls, and that there grew up a vast new city surrounding the ancient one and gradually absorbing all the outlying villages. Until 1855 the city itself was governed by ancient charters, and the rest of the metropolis by parochial systems under various Acts of Parliament. The Metropolis Local Management Act of 1855 created the Metropolitan Board of Works, the 45 members of which were elected by thirty-nine vestries, or district boards. Originally established for the construction of sewers, it was entrusted by later Acts with very many other duties and powers, including all street improvements, the care of parks and open spaces, and the maintenance of the fire-brigade. But this new body in no way affected the City corporation, which preserved all its original rights within the City boundaries. This state of things continued until 1889, when the Local Government Act of 1888 came into operation. This Act created an administrative county of London, which covers an area of 121 square miles. The City of London was very slightly affected by the Act and is still governed by the City corporation. For non-administrative purposes, such as quarter-sessions and justices, the City and the rest of the metropolis form two counties, known respectively as the County of the City of London and the County of London.

(a) The City of London

The government of the City proper by the lord mayor, aldermen and common councilmen has already been described. The lord mayor is elected annually on September 29 from the alder-men who have served as sheriffs. The electors are the “livery” consisting of the freemen of London. The new lord mayor is sworn into office on November 8, and on the following day makes his final declaration of office before the Lord Chief Justice of England. The state procession on this occasion is popularly known as the Lord Mayor’s Show. The City corporation retains within its proper limits its civil and criminal jurisdiction and full rights of local government. It returns two members to Parliament.

(b) The London County Council

The County of London consists of twenty-eight boroughs, each of which is ruled by a mayor and corporation—Battersea; Bermondsey; Bethnal Green; Camberwell; Chelsea; Deptford; Finsbury; Fulham; Greenwich; Hackney; Hammersmith; Hampstead; Holborn; Islington; Kensington; Lambeth; Lewisham; Paddington; Poplar; St. Marylebone; St. Pancras; Shoreditch; Southwark; Stepney; Stoke Newington; Wandsworth; Westminster, City of; Woolwich. These boroughs form the local administrative authorities, and act as local sanitary authorities, are the overseers of the poor, collect the rates, are responsible for making, lighting, and regulating the streets, and providing public baths and libraries. But the central administration remains in the London County Council, consisting of 138 members, viz., a chairman, 19 aldermen, and 118 councillors. The powers of this council are very wide, including all duties formerly belonging to the Metropolitan Board of Works in connection with drainage, parks and open spaces, fire brigades, street improvements, tramways, artisans’ dwellings, infant life protection, etc. Secondly, those transferred from the former county-justices with regard to reformatory and industrial schools, lunatic asylums, music and dancing licences, coroners, etc. Thirdly, powers as to high-ways, supervision of common lodging-houses and licensing of slaughter-houses. Fourthly, new powers conferred by recent Acts of Parliament as to registration of electors, public health, historic buildings and monuments, suppression of nuisances, reformatories for inebriates, and the administration of Acts such as the Shop Hours Act, Employment of Children Act, and Midwives Act. Fifthly, under the Education (London) Act 1903, the Council became the authority for all public education in the county. Sixthly, powers connected with the raising and loaning of money and the sanctioning of loans required for all the local authorities in the county. Most of the business is done by committees and the Council meets weekly to consider their reports. Its annual expenditure is about £16,000,000, of which £5,000,000 are spent on education. The outlay is met by two main sources of supply, capital money raised by the issue of stock, and current income raised by a county rate. The rating for the year 1908-9 amounts to three shillings in the pound (15 per cent), and the assessable value of the County of London, on April 6, 1908, was £44,332,025.

B. Education
(a) London University

This university was instituted in 1836 as an examining body for conferring degrees, and was reconstituted in 1900. Since then it has possessed an “academic” department for the organization and control of higher education, and an “external” department for continuing its former functions of examining students and confer-ring degrees. Its teaching is conducted (i) by the University itself; (ii) by the several “Schools of the University”; (iii) at other institutions in which there are “Recognized Teachers of the University”. In 1900 University College (Gower Street), an institution founded in 1828 on undenominational principles, was made a “School of the University” in the faculties of arts, law, medicine, science, engineering, and economics, and on January 1, 1907, it was transferred to the university of which it is now an integral part. The university also maintains the Physiological Laboratory at South Kensington and Goldsmiths’ College at New Cross.

(b) Higher Education

Other institutions for higher education are King’s College, founded as a Church of England establishment in 1828, also a “School of the London University”, in the same faculties as University College, with the addition of theology, and Gresham College, founded in 1597 by Sir Thomas Gresham, where lectures are given in divinity, law, science, music, and medicine. Professional education is afforded in connection with various bodies; medical schools are attached to all the great hospitals; lectures in law are given at the Inns of Court and the Incorporated Law Society; music is taught at the Royal Academy of Music (founded 1822), Royal College of Music (1883), Guildhall School of Music and elsewhere; art at the Royal Academy Schools of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, as also at, the London University.

(c) Secondary Education

The chief London schools are St. Paul’s and Westminster. The former was established by Dean Colet in 1512, and was removed about 1880 from St. Paul’s church-yard to Hammersmith. The latter was endowed by Queen Elizabeth in 1560, and provides for forty king’s scholars on the foundation in addition to the day boys. Christ’s Hospital, the Blue Coat School, founded by Edward VI in 1533 with nearly 1200 children on the foundation, is now situated at Horsham; and the Charterhouse School, established by Sir Thomas Sutton in 1611, has been removed to Godalming, the site of the old school being now occupied by the Merchant Taylors School, a medieval foundation. Mention must also be made of the City of London School (founded 1835), University College School, King’s College School, Dame Owen’s School, Islington, the Mercers’ Grammar School, and St. Olave’s School, Southwark. Catholic schools include the college of the Brothers of Mercy at Highgate, the Benedictine School at Ealing, St. Ignatius’s College, Stamford Hill, and the Sacred Heart College at Wimbledon, both conducted by the Jesuits and the Salesian school at Battersea.

(d) Elementary Education

Until 1870, when a School Board for London was instituted, the only organizations for educating the poorer classes were the British and Foreign School Society (founded 1808) and the National Society (1811). Under the Education Act 1903, the London County Council became the authority for all public education, both secondary and elementary. The Education committee consists of thirty-eight members of the council and twelve coopted members. The estimates for the year 1908-9 amounted to £5,437,908, of which £4,442,007 is for elementary and £995,901 for higher education. In addition to the council schools there are a large number of “provided” schools established by Catholics or by the Church of England. In 1905 there were 554,-646 scholars in the council schools, 205,323 in the “provided” schools.

C. Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction

The High Court of Justice for the whole of England is situate in The Strand. It includes the Appeal Court and the Chancery, King’s Bench, and Probate, Divorce, and Admiralty Divisions. For the special requirements of London there is the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey, the Court of Quarter Sessions held at Newington and Clerkenwell, the Police Courts presided over by metropolitan police magistrates, and for civil causes of minor importance the County Courts. The City of London has its own Court of Quarter Sessions, and the Lord Mayor, sitting at the Mansion House or Guildhall, has the powers of justices in petty session of a police magistrate.

D. Trade and Commerce

The position of London and its intercourse with every part of the world have combined to make it financially rather than commercially the world’s metropolis. Being a market far removed from any great manufacturing center, there is a great excess of imports over exports. The port of London in spite of some drawbacks is still the greatest port in the world in respect of the amount of shipping and goods which enter it. In 1907 the tonnage of British and foreign vessels engaged in the foreign trade entered and cleared was 11,160,367 tons entered and 8,598,979 tons cleared, as against Liver-pool’s record of 8,167,419 tons entered and 7,257,869 tons cleared. The total shipping entering it is about one-fifth of the total shipping of the United Kingdom; the value of imports one-third, and the value of exports one-fourth of the total value of the national imports and exports. Steps are now being taken for dock extension and a reconstitution of the port and dock authorities.


Even a bare enumeration of the various charitable agencies which labor for the relief of distress in London would be beyond the limits of this article. For detailed information reference should be made to the “Annual Charities Register and Digest”, which is a classified register of charities in or available for the metropolis, together with a digest of information respecting the legal, voluntary, and other means for the prevention and relief of distress, and the improvement of the condition of the poor. For Catholic charities see the “Catholic Social Year Book”, and the “Handbook of Catholic Charitable and Social Works”; both published by the Catholic Truth Society. As, in addition to non-sectarian organizations, every religious body has its own agencies, and the public authorities are now empowered by statute to exercise responsibilities which narrow the field of charity, there is considerable overlapping. At the present moment there is a crying need for systematic coordination among the various charities, and could this be effectually arranged, efficiency and economy would gain alike. Turning first to statutory provision for charitable relief, this is divided among various bodies. The administration of Poor Law relief is vested in the Board of Guardians, subject to the direction and control of the Local Government Board; the Metropolitan Asylums Board is responsible for the insane, and some classes of the sick, and the London County Council has also certain duties, especially with regard to the suitable housing of the poor. The Charity Commissioners have large statutory powers over endowed charities, but much remains to be done in the direction of remodeling some of these charitable trusts on wise principles.

Turning to voluntary charities, a very important part is played by the London Charity Organisation society, a federation of thirty-eight district committees, and a central council. Its object is to direct into the most effectual channels the forces of benevolence. All agencies and persons interested in charity in each Poor Law Union are invited to the local district committee. These committees form centers of information, and investigate and deal with cases brought before them on the twofold principle that thorough investigation should precede relief, and that relief given should be suitable and adequate. Cases to which adequate relief cannot be supplied are left to the Poor Law. The various organizations which, in cooperation with this society, or independently, relieve distress may be divided into several classes: (I) Relief in. affliction, involving the care of the blind, deaf, dumb, cripples, lunatics, inebriates, idiots, imbeciles, the men-tally defective, epileptics, and incurables. (2) Relief in sickness, which embraces the work of the general hospitals, special hospitals, surgical aid societies, medical and surgical homes, convalescent homes, dispensaries, and nursing institutions. (3) Relief in permanent distress, which includes homes for the aged and incapacitated, pensions, homes for the employed (workin boys, etc.), homes for children, and day nurseries. (4) Relief in temporary distress, affording shelter of various kinds, relief in money, and relief in kind. (5) Reformatory relief, including reformatories, certified industrial schools, prisoners’ aid societies, and institutions for fallen women. (6) Miscellaneous relief, under which head may be grouped the various emigration societies, life protection societies, training farms for the unemployed, and social and physical improvement societies.

Purely Catholic charities are very numerous. The Aged Poor Society (founded in 1708), and the Benevolent Society for the Aged and Infirm Poor (established 1761) both give pensions. At Nazareth House, Hammersmith, and the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor at Notting Hill, there are homes for the aged poor. There are almshouses at Brook Green, Chelsea, and Ingatestone. Homes and orphanages for boys and girls are very numerous, and a great work is done by the “Crusade of Rescue and Homes for Destitute Catholic Children”, which now maintains over a thousand children. The visiting and relief of the poor is chiefly in the hands of two societies, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and the Ladies of Charity. There are four Catholic hospitals: that of St. John and St. Elizabeth, in St. John’s Wood, under the Sisters of Mercy; the French hospital, under the Servants of the Sacred Heart; the Italian hospital, under the Sisters of Charity; and the Hospital for the Dying, at Hackney, under the Irish Sisters of Charity. There is a home for epileptic children, under the Daughters of the Cross, at Much Hadham. There are industrial schools for boys at Manor Park; for girls, at Isleworth; a reformatory school for boys at Walthamstow; and the Prisoners’ Aid Society visits Catholic prisoners and helps them on release. The charitable clubs for Catholics are too numerous to recapitulate.


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