The following address was written by John Mills and presented to John Gilberd Pearse on the occasion of the opening of the Royal Albert Temperance Hall and Soup Kitchen, New Road, South Molton on 4th September 1862.
Honoured & Venerable Sir, To you
We feel a debt of gratitude is due:
Not only on our own account, but others
Whom we regard as Sisters and as Brothers.
All who survey these structures sure must see
Spontaneous acts of pure philanthropy.
Solicitous to help your fellow-man.
Unasked, unaided, you this work began,
Continued, and completed. Well we know
This is no pompous, or vain-glorious show.
With these the Poet sings of your good name
"Does good by stealth and blushes at its fame".
A Temperance Hall has long been wanted, still
All men have not the power who have the will
To do a noble deed. Oh may this room
Become the means of saving from the doom....
The inevitable doom of drunkenness which awaits,
And is the lot of all inebriates!
If such should happen, perhaps the other door
Which leads to the Refectory for the poor,
Will be less needed. But, should want e'er come,
As come it may, in the most frugal home,
And ofttimes unexpected, here we see
Provision made to meet gaunt Poverty.
Nutritious soup, of which, for simple fee
All may partake, whatever their degree.
Hail generous Founder of this friendly dome,
May you be happy in the world to come!
If earthly deeds conduce in heaven to bliss,
Sure ‘tis an act of Charity like this,
Long may you live to succour the distressed,
And by the gratitude of all be blessed –
Blessed while you live - blessed when you come to die,
And blessed in the realms beyond the sky.
Background to the poem:
In 1861 John Gilberd Pearse of Broomhouse, a local Solicitor, decided to build a Temperance Hall in South Molton. He gave a piece of land known as Shaddock's Close situated in New Road and instructed Mr. John Cock junior to erect the building. The following year, whilst the work was under construction he decided to add a soup kitchen. The soup kitchen was to provide nourishment for the poorer inhabitants of the town during the winter months whilst the Temperance Hall was intended to encourage them to give up the evils of drink! The finished buildings consisted of a soup kitchen, a caretaker's cottage and hall.
Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, died in December 1861 and the buildings were dedicated to his memory. The inscription in front of the building read as follows:-
THE ROYAL ALBERT TEMPERANCE HALL
AND SOUP KITCHEN
Erected and Dedicated to the Memory
Of a Good and Illustrious PRINCE who was
born at Rosenau Castle near Coburg on the 26th of
August 1819, Married to Her Most Gracious Majesty
QUEEN VICTORIA, on the 10th February, 1840, and
Died at Windsor Castle on the 14th of December, 1861,
lamented and regretted by the whole Nation.
Thirty years later, in 1891, John Mills writes that a quart of nutritious soup, with a lump of beef was being supplied to the applicants for the nominal charge of one penny.
By 1928, both the soup kitchen and Temperance Hall had ceased to function. The date "1862" can be seen to the left of the porch of No. 10 (look closely and you will see the outline of the door leading into the old temperance hall). Above the front door, the space where the memorial to Prince Albert was placed can still be seen although the plaque has long since disappeared.
Created by Shirley Bray - original poem in South Molton Museum
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