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Commemorative Plaques Record Details

Meredith Brown (1845 - 1908)

Picture of the Palque

Location : 78 Dee Street

Area : Central Aberdeen

Plaque Type : Yellow

About Meredith Brown : Social reformer. Born in 1845 in Glasgow and brought up in Aberdeen: her father was the Reverend David Brown, and her mother was Catherine Dyce. At the time of the death of her mother she moved to London. She became concerned about the lives being led by factory girls in the East End. She and a friend experienced this aspect of life by disguising themselves as factory girls and she subsequently wrote a book based on this experience, Only a Factory Girl. The proceeds of this book allowed her to purchase a house and set up the Shaftesbury Institute. She directed this institution for the remainder of her life. The Institute provided a place where girls could spend a safe, and teetotal night, and a cheap B & B for girls arriving in London. She died in 1908.

More Information : Meredith Jemima Brown was born in 1845, although the New Dictionary of National Biography gives 1846 as a possible date, in Glasgow. Her parents moved to Aberdeen and she was brought up in Aberdeen. Her father was the Reverend David Brown, a Free Church minister, and one of those involved in revising the New Testament. Her mother was Catherine Dyce, sister of the famous artist, William Dyce. In the 1880s after her mother died Meredith moved to London. It was here that she became interested in the lives being led by impoverished factory girls in the East End. She realised that those girls working in similar factories in the West End led comparable lives and set out to effect some improvements. Initially this was done by setting up a place where these girls could meet in their spare time. She and a friend disguised themselves as factory girls in order to learn more about the lives being led by girls living in slums in the West End. Their experiences formed the basis for a book, Only a Factory Girl, the sales of which provided some £2000. Meredith used this money to purchase a house at 16 Union Street, Lisson Grove. This was the first incarnation of the Shaftesbury Institute. This provided not only cheap bed and breakfast accommodation for women coming to London but also a crèche, and a place where women and girls could spend a safe, and teetotal, night. Meredith's work began to extend beyond the Institute: she set up bible classes and began to visit homes and slum lodging houses of the West End. A training Home for girls was later set up in Clarendon Road, Maida Vale and a men's labour home in Bell St, Lisson Grove. The costs of the Institute were met by charitable subscriptions. In 1904 following new County Council Building Regulations there was a need to alter the building which housed the Institute. At this time it was felt better to demolish the ageing existing building and commission a new build, at an initial estimated cost of £6000. The men's home on Bell St was closed and the girls from the Institute moved in when the building was demolished. Meredith worked tirelessly to raise the money for the new building, which she accomplished one year later. On 29 February 1907 the new building named Portman House (after Lord Portman, who had been a benefactor to the new building) was opened by Princess Louise Augusta, who became President of the Institute. Meredith continued her work tirelessly until her death on 5 November 1908 at the Shaftesbury Institute. Her reputation as a worker and as a social reformer were extremely high at the time of her death and remains so to this day.