Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Sweep-Preacher of South London

William Carter was a nineteenth century sweep who gave up his job to become a full time preacher. According to the Christian Spectator in 1867, he was 'called the "sweep-preacher" by the roughs of Lambeth' and dedicated to 'pleading the cause of the destitute, the helpless, and the fallen on South London, with its half million of inhabitants nearly all belonging to the poorer classes'. Indeed his aim was to 'perservere in this line of things until I shall have preached Jesus to all the subdivisions of the working-classes in the south of London'.

Carter organised large scale free teas in Deptford and elsewhere:

'Mr. Carter mentioned that he had given five thousand free teas to companies of thieves, prostitutes, and drunkards, who had been thus drawn within the sound of the gospel, and many of them permanently converted. They had given proofs of this by maintaining honest and virtuous behaviour in spite of severe temptations to the contrary. He had engaged for sabbath services, chiefly for these classes, the Victoria Theatre, the Deptford Dancing Rooms, and a hall at Kennington' (Thomas Shillitoe, the Quaker Missionary and Temperance Pioneer, 1867)

In 1864, he opened the South London Refuge as night shelter for 250 homeless people on Southwark Bridge Road, where in addition to a bed for the night, people were given 'half a pound of bread and a pint of coffee' (Christian Spectator).

Thieves, prostitutes and drunkards in Deptford. Who knew?! I wonder where the Deptford Dancing Rooms were, I've never heard of them before.


Bill Ellson said...

The two sources you quote are the only references I can find to the "Deptford Dancing Rooms". One of them copied the mistake from the other.

Carter had a Sunday School and a soup kitchen at the Deptford Theatre, he also used the Deptford Lecture Hall. Carter's book "The power of grace: results of theater preaching"
is in snippet view on Google Books.

The July 1866 edition of 'Temple Bar' magazine contains an article 'A real casual on refuges'.
The writer had used Carter's South London Refuge and was not impressed

Transpontine said...

Thanks Bill, sounds like there may not have been a Deptford Dancing Rooms as such though I guess there may have been rooms used for dancing in the Lecture Hall.