Saturday, 18 July 2009

Historic Bush N02

So who was J Passmore Edwards? And why did he give the Bush its first library? He himself laid the foundations stone of our building in July 1895, 114 years ago.


John Passmore Edwards (March 24, 1823 – April 22, 1911)was a Victorian journalist, newspaper owner and philanthropist. He was born in Backwater, a small village, situated between Redruth and Truro, in Cornwall, the son of a carpenter.

A life-long champion of the working classes, Passmore Edwards is remembered as a generous benefactor. Over the space of 14 years, 70 major buildings were established as a direct result of his bequests. These included hospitals, 11 drinking fountains, 32 marble busts, 24 libraries, schools, convalescence homes and art galleries and the Passmore Edwards Settlement in Tavistock Place. He was also a generous donor to the Workers’ Educational Association.

He became the Manchester representative of London Sentinel , a weekly newspaper, opposed to the Corn Law . He was a Liberal Member of Parliament for Salisbury.
He then became the editor of a leading London newspaper The London Echo which he had bought in 1876. His publishing ventures had been failures for a time, but his 1862 purchase of Building News lead to profitability, this was followed by Mechanics Magazine and a share in the daily Echo. He eventually sold two thirds of his share in the London Echo to Andrew Carnegie to follow a political and social agenda. However, they disagreed and he bought it back and restored his editor in 1886. The paper closed in 1905
He was a delegate to peace congresses in Brussels, Paris, and Frankfort (from 1848 to 1850). He stood as an Independent candidate for Truro in the General Election of 1868. He didn’t win this seat but in 1880 he gained the parliamentary seat of Salisbury. However, he soon became a bit sceptical about the quality of professional politics and the inability of politicians to effectively represent the interests of their constituents. He twice refused knighthood, and his opposition to the Boer War made him somewhat unpopular. It makes me wonder how different today’s world would be if we only listened and learned from our ancestors.
Shepherds Bush library is about to be moved out of the J Passmore Edwards Building to Westfield. Is this a good thing? Probably yes, I’ve never argued against progress but its also a shame that a building that has stood since the 1890s as a library, and which was donated to be just that, is to lose its role.

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