Joseph Dare 1800 - 1883

Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel on East Bond Street today

Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel on East Bond Street today

Joseph Dare was a pioneering social worker in Victorian inner city Leicester. 

Born in Hampshire in 1800, Joseph was still a young boy when his family moved to Hinckley in Leicestershire and became very involved with the local Unitarian congregation. Joseph later became a respected member of the Hinckley community and belonged to several charitable organisations. By the early 1840s he was a member of the Unitarian congregation of the Great Meeting Chapel, East Bond Street in Leicester.

Living conditions in many parts of Victorian Leicester at this time were shocking. During the early 19th century Leicester’s population started to increase rapidly due to the rising demand for labour for the town’s expanding hosiery and boot and shoe industries. Much of this new workforce found that the only accommodation available to them was cheap and badly built and was often densely packed around a courtyard, which lacked proper ventilation and sunlight. Water supplies and drainage were often inadequate and death and disease were prevalent, with infant mortality being particularly high

This photo from 1915 shows Canon Linwood Wright of St. Marks on Belgrave Gate.

This photo from 1915 shows Canon Linwood Wright of St. Marks on Belgrave Gate. He carried on some of the good work that Joseph Dare had done; promoting the importance of sanitary living conditions for the poor. Shown here with children from the slums around Belgrave Gate

The public health issues of the town started to be a cause of great concern. In 1845 the Unitarian congregation of the Great Meeting Chapel on East Bond Street opened the Leicester Domestic Mission to undertake social work among the poor. A missionary was required to carry out the work and Joseph Dare, who by now was well known to the congregation, was appointed to the post. Living at 122 Churchgate, opposite St Margaret’s Church, Joseph remained as domestic missionary until 1876. On average he made 4,000 home visits a year and each year he produced a report for the Mission. Joseph Dare became an authority on the health problems and living conditions of local Leicester people and his reports offered valuable insight into how major changes were made by local authorities and voluntary agencies to improve the living conditions for the working class of Leicester.

Joseph dare died on 6th September 1883 at the age of 83 and he is buried in Leicester’s Welford Road cemetery.

Reference

Haynes. B  Working-Class Life in Victorian Leicester: The Joseph Dare Reports, Leicester, Leicestershire Libraries and Information.