In 1881 Thomas Agnew, a Liverpool banker, witnessed the work of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and in 1883 formed his own Society in Liverpool. This spread to form similar branches in other cities, such as London in 1884 and Birmingham in 1888, although it was not collectively known as the NSPCC until 1889.
Having previously used temporary housing around the city, the Birmingham branch had its first permanent offices at 29 Broad Street by 1892. This now demolished building contained a “shelter” room with two beds for children in need. This accommodation was used for children whose parents were awaiting court dates or for children waiting to be removed to new homes.

BA&H: L41.3106

The Annual Reports [L41.3106] are full of child abuse cases and figures for those children helped by the society. In the first 5 years the Birmingham society saw 1,171 cases, 977 of which were true cases of child cruelty and which affected 2,807 children.

The lease on the Broad Street property expired by Christmas 1894 and new premises were found on New Street, albeit without a “shelter” room. By this time the Birmingham branches’ subscriptions had risen to some £543 from £101 in its inaugural year. The inside cover of the 1894 Annual Report recorded:

It has been calculated that if all the children whose sufferings have been alleviated by the NSPCC, during the 9 years of its existence, were to join hands, they would form a complete circle round London; and a procession of them in single file would take twenty-three hours to pass a given point.

More information on the history of the NSPCC nationally is available here

Patrick Haines


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