John Passmore Edwards - Chartist and philanthropist

John Passmore Edwards
John Passmore Edwards

John Passmore Edwards was a Victorian philanthropist. He established a foundation which funded a number of libraries and educational institutions in London, Cornwall and elsewhere, particularly for the benefit of the working classes. He was born, the son of a carpenter, in1823 in Blackwater, between Redruth and Truro. After an education at the village school, he became a journalist and by the early 1840s was working as a free-lance writer in London

During this time he became an activist and served on several committees. These included such causes as the abolition of capital punishment, the suppression of the opium trade and the abolition of flogging in the services. Passmore Edwards also helped direct the Political Reform Association. From 1848 onwards, he attended various peace conferences in Europe as a delegate from the London Peace Society. He also published and edited various magazines, promoting such things as peace and temperance. Over the following years, he purchased several successful publications and in 1876 bought the "Echo", the first London daily halfpenny paper.

From 1880 to 1885 John Passmore Edwards was Liberal MP for Salisbury and later he began his philanthropic activities. Some of his major beneficiaries were the Whitechapel Art Gallery and the London School of Economics. He founded 24 libraries in London, the Home Counties and Cornwall. In a short period, more than 70 major buildings were established as a result of bequests from John Passmore Edwards In addition to the libraries, hospitals, schools, convalescent homes and art galleries were founded, many of which continue to the present day. John Passmore Edwards, chartist and philanthropist, was a life-long champion of the working classes.