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Pentland’s Street Robins

In 1893 Joseph George Pentland, a printer and Vice Chairman of the Birmingham School Board, founded the Bull Ring Mission, which aimed to help slum children. The principles of the Mission were ‘bodily comforts first, and then moral lessons’ [1]. Picnics and trips to the countryside were organised for the children, and frequent appeals were made for money to support such activities. The annual report for 1902-03 states that

in the spirit of sympathy, love and brotherhood we carry our work into the 6,000 courts and slums of the City, seeking to stem the tide of those deadly evils following in the train of dirt, drink, and the devil.


A jubilee for street children was organised every January (in the summer time there was an excursion to Sutton Park). In January 1900, 5,000 of the ‘Street Robins’ processed through Birmingham to gather at the Volunteer Drill Hall on Thorp Street. Almost 400 gallons of tea were drunk, and each child received a piece of currant cake, a fruit bun and a mince pie. In addition to feeding the children, the Mission also gave gifts – 12,000 books, 5,000 toys and 500 pieces of clothing were distributed.

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[1] ‘Religious History: Protestant Nonconformity’, A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7: The City of Birmingham (1964), pp. 411-434