skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Kent Church Penitentiary Society1   [before 21 February 1866]2

about a third of a page missing〉 for Discharged Female 〈4 or 5 words〉 maintained by the donations 〈2 or 3 words〉 〈    〉d by annual subscriptions. These funds 〈1 or 2 words〉 〈    〉uate, a laundry was commenced three years ago, 〈    〉s from which have since that time more than 〈cov〉ered one half of the total expenditure.—3

Since the first formation of “The Home” seventy one cases have been received from the Prisons of East and West Kent, of whom fifty-three have been satisfactorily dealt with.—4

Notwithstanding this success, it has been found that a small establishment is proportionately very expensive, and that the Home, while benefiting the class of female domestic servants only, did not enlist that general sympathy and support which could alone ensure its permanence.

It was therefore unanimously resolved at the last Annual General Meeting of the Subscribers, that the present Home should be closed, and that the Association should be 〈about a third of a page missing〉 the reception of s 〈    〉〈5 or 6 words〉 may deem fit objects for its inter〈    〉 〈2 or 3 words

It has been calculated that 〈3 or 4 words〉 are annually discharged from the Gaols of 〈2 or 3 words〉 of whom a considerable percentage might be res〈    〉 〈1 or 2 words〉 means of admission to such Refuges, Homes, or penitentiaries, or by assisting them to emigrate:—

Owing to a deficiency caused by the fitting up of the laundry at the late Home, and by the expense of transferring its inmates to another Refuge, the Society is now burdened with a debt. We beg respectfully to ask you to co-operate with us by a donation in paying this off at once, so that the Society’s means of usefulness may not be crippled during the present year.—

We wish also earnestly to solicit an annual subscription toward this most important work, not only on the ground of philanthropy, but also on that of sound social economy.5


Kent Church Penitentiary Society was founded in 1860, in association with the Church Penitentiary Association for the Reclamation of Fallen Women, founded by William Ewart Gladstone in 1848 (Nokes 1895, pp. 15, 26; R. Jenkins 1995, p. 76).
The date is established by the reference to the removal of the home, and by entries in CD’s Classed account books (Down House MS). St Mary’s Home, or the Kent Penitentiary, moved from Tenterden, Kent, to Stone, Kent, in the first half of 1866 (Nokes 1895, p. 27). CD made a payment of £1 10s. to ‘Book hawk & Kent penitents’ on 21 February 1866, and thereafter usually recorded an annual donation of £1 or more to what he variously described as ‘Church. Eng. Pen. Soc.’, ‘Kent Female Pen.’, and ‘Kent Penitent’.
Other means of earning money having failed, a laundry was set up at the penitentiary in Tenterden, and in 1866 earned £40 (Nokes 1895, pp. 19–20).
According to Nokes 1895, p. 34, the girls and women were generally sent by clergymen or district visitors, or brought by their friends, or received through refuges. They were trained to domestic service.
See n. 2, above.


Jenkins, Roy. 1995. Gladstone. London: Macmillan.

Nokes, Harriet. 1895. Thirty-two years in a house of mercy. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.


Appeal for funds for paying of the Society’s debt, and for an annual subscription.

Letter details

Letter no.
Kent Church Penitentiary Society
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 142: 92

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5481F,” accessed on 17 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14