John Passmore Edwards was a Victorian philanthropist, publisher and social reformer . He was a life-long champion of the working classes and is remembered as being a Benefactor Extraordinary.
Born March 24th, 1823, in Blackwater, a small village, situated between Redruth and Truro, in Cornwall. He was the son of a carpenter and part-time publican. He was educated at the village school.
He became a City journalist on the Manchester Sentinel, a Liberal Member of Parliament for Salisbury, Editor of a leading London newspaper, 'The London Echo'.
He became involved in liberal and humanitarian organisations. From 1845 he was on the committees for the Abolition of Capital Punishment, the Abolition of Flogging in the Army and Navy, the Political Reform Association, the Ballot Society; the Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade.
In 1848 he was a delegate for the London Peace Society at the International Peace Conference in Brussels, and at Peace Conferences in Paris (1849) and Frankfurt (1850).
In 1850 he published the monthly magazine "The Public Good", and in 1851 became editor of the "Peace Advocate" and launched the "Temperance Tract Journal".
During the 1860s Edwards bought the "Mechanics Magazine" and the "Building News". In 1876 he bought the first London daily halfpenny paper, the "Echo", which had started in 1868.
During the 1868 General Election John Passmore Edwards was not successful when he stood as the Liberal candidate for Truro. However he was elected between 1880 to 1885 as Liberal MP for Salisbury.
In the 1890s he started to found good causes. In London he endowed the Whitechapel
Art Gallery, the Mary Ward Centre and the London School of Economics and Political
Science. In 1901 he gave the LSE money to transfer to a new site at Clare Market
in Aldwych, London. Edwards founded 24 libraries in London, the home counties
In 14 years over 70 major buildings were established as a direct result of bequests from John Passmore Edwards. Many of these still exist today.
In his "English Philanthropy 1660-1960" David Owen says "Amongst the late Victorian philanthropists, Passmore Edwards will survive critical examination better than most. Not only were his motives beyond reproach... but his benefactions expressed deeply held and intelligent convictions about conditions of progress in his society".
The Times 24 April 1911 in his obituary, said ."He did more good in his time than almost any other of his contemporaries"
John Passmore Edwards
about John Passmore Edwards
By 1900 there were 20 buildings within Cornwall bearing his name :-
Blackwater Institute was the first of JPE's bequests
Liskeard Cottage Hospital
Perranporth Convalescent Home
Falmouth Free Library, Art & Science Schools
St Day School and Meeting House
Truro Free Library & Cornwall Central Technical Schools
St Agnes Miners and Mechanics Institute
Liskeard Free Library
St Ives Free Library
Bodmin Free Library and Institute
Childrens' Wing to Redruth Hospital
The Opie Memorial Library, Newlyn
Camborne Free Library
Launceston Free Library & Science & Art Schools
Redruth Free Library
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