Peabody Battles London Slums

  • Overseas
  • 1862

American trader and large-scale philanthropist George Peabody relocated to London—from which much of his business originated—in mid-life. He was moved by the plight of that city’s poor, and over the years mulled various schemes for helping everyday families, including a water purification plant that would pipe pure drinking water to public fountains, and various forms of education aid. He finally settled on a plan to address the problem that was then most urgent in London—the horrendous slums into which many families crowded unhealthily.

With a gift of $2.5 million in 1862, Peabody created the Peabody Donation Fund. He appointed American and English trustees, and charged the charity with creating decent housing for “the labouring poor.” The first block opened in 1864, a handsome building with every two apartments sharing their own full bathroom. Many additional model properties followed. The charity still operates today as a housing and urban regeneration charity, now known as the Peabody Trust, and owns 27,000 properties that it rents at moderate rates. It also offers assisted living for people needing help, and various efforts to promote home ownership and healthy living.