Reed, Charles (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


REED, Sir CHARLES (1819–1881), chairman of the London school board, second son of Andrew Reed [q. v.], the philanthropist, was born at a farmhouse near Sonning in Berkshire on 20 June 1819, and was educated, successively, at Madras House, Hackney, under John Allen (1771–1839) [q. v.]; at the Hackney grammar school; and at Silcoates, near Wakefield. As a youth he was admitted a professed member of his father's church, and for a time had thoughts of becoming a minister of the gospel. In December 1836 he was apprenticed to a firm of woollen manufacturers at Leeds, and there, in 1839, with his friend Thomas Edward Plint, he started and edited a magazine called ‘The Leeds Repository.’ In 1842, in conjunction with Mr. Tyler, he founded at Bolt Court, Fleet Street, London, the firm of Tyler & Reed, printers. In 1849 he left Tyler to continue the same trade with Benjamin Pardon of Hatton Garden. The firm afterwards moved to Lovell's Court, Paternoster Row. In 1861, when Reed's friend, Alderman Robert Besley, retired from the typefounding business, he took advantage of the opening thus created, and set up a typefounding factory in Fann Street, city of London. The enterprise proved highly successful, and as ‘Sir Charles Reed & Sons, Limited,’ is still a flourishing concern.

Reed in very early life interested himself in popular education. In 1844 he joined the Sunday School Union in London, and in course of time inspected numerous schools connected with the association in large towns. On one occasion he descended a coal-mine in order to visit a class of boys who only once a week came to the surface. In 1851 he won a first prize offered by the London Union for an essay on ‘The Infant Class in the Sunday School,’ and he published many new-year addresses on the education of the poor. Those called respectively ‘Diamonds in the Dust’ (1866) and ‘The Teacher's Keys’ (1872) had a wide circulation.

Reed soon interested himself in the government of the city of London. In 1855 he became a member of the common council for the ward of Farringdon Within, and actively aided in developing the Guildhall Library (cf. his Plea for a Free Public Library and Museum in the City of London, 1855) and the City of London School. He also interested himself in the preservation of Bunhill Fields burial-ground, and in the administration of the Irish Society's estates in Ulster, which he visited officially. Four times he moved that the freedom of the city should be conferred on distinguished men—on Lord Clyde, Sir James Outram, Sir Leopold McClintock, and George Peabody. He was one of Peabody's British executors in 1869, and helped to carry out his philanthropic designs.

In politics he was a staunch liberal. As early as 1847 he organised the publication of a weekly paper, ‘The Nonconformist Elector,’ during the general election of that year. On 17 Nov. 1868 he was returned to parliament as the first representative for Hackney. He made his maiden speech on introducing a bill for exempting Sunday and ragged schools from poor rates, a measure which was carried into law. In 1870 he took a prominent part in the debates on the Elementary Education Bill. He advocated bible instruction without sectarian teaching. On 6 Feb. 1874 he was re-elected for Hackney, but, through a technical informality on the part of the returning officer, he was unseated on petition (14 April 1874), and, declining to be nominated again, suggested the selection of Henry Fawcett [q. v.] as candidate in his stead. With a view to devoting himself exclusively to educational work, he remained out of parliament till 5 April 1880, when he was returned for St. Ives in Cornwall.

Meanwhile his public life was mainly devoted to the affairs of the London school board. He was elected member for Hackney to the first board on 27 Nov. 1870, and in December he became the vice-chairman, and chairman of the works committee. On 10 Dec. 1873 he was chosen chairman of the board in succession to Lord Lawrence. He filled the post with energy and efficiency, carefully maintaining the religious compromise which the act embodied. As chairman he delivered and published seven valuable annual statements. He remained chairman till his death.

Reed visited America in 1873, and on his return was created a doctor of laws by Yale University. On 21 Feb. 1874 he was knighted by the queen at Windsor Castle. Throughout life he displayed some antiquarian predilections. In 1849 he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and he assiduously collected keys and autograph letters. In 1861 he exposed as forgeries a collection of ‘pilgrims' signs’ said to have been found by workmen when excavating Shadwell Dock. In 1861 he assisted H. T. Riley in translating the ‘Liber Albus,’ the ‘White Book of the City of London,’ published in the Rolls Series. For many years he contributed to ‘Notes and Queries.’ He was author, with his brother Andrew, of ‘Memoirs’ of the life of their father (1863), and he also took an active part in the direction of the Religious Tract, the British and Foreign Bible, and the London Missionary societies.

Reed died at Earlsmead, Page Green, Tottenham, Middlesex, on 25 March 1881, and was buried in Abney Park cemetery. A full-length portrait is in Hackney town-hall.

He married, on 22 May 1844, Margaret, youngest daughter of Edward Baines, M.P. for Leeds, by whom he had four sons and four daughters. His son, Eliot Pye Smith Reed, became chairman of Sir Charles Reed & Sons, Limited, in 1890.

The eldest son, Charles Edward Baines Reed (1845–1884), secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society, born in New Broad Street, city of London, on 24 July 1845, entered the City of London School in 1857, and proceeded thence to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1864, where he gained a foundation scholarship, and graduated B.A. in 1868 in the first class of the classical tripos. After further theological study at New College, London, he became minister of Common Close Congregational chapel at Warminster in 1871. In 1874 he was appointed one of the secretaries of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and proved to be admirably fitted for that post. He was accidentally killed while visiting Switzerland by a fall over a precipice near the Morteratsch glacier at Pontresina on 29 July 1884. He wrote ‘The Companions of our Lord’ (1873), and ‘Memoirs of Sir C. Reed’ (1883) (Congregational Year-book, 1885, pp. 219–21).

The third son, Talbot Baines Reed (1852–1893), writer of books for boys, born at St. Thomas's Square, Hackney, on 3 April 1852, was educated at the City of London School. In 1868 he joined his father's firm, Sir Charles Reed & Sons, typefounders, and ultimately became managing director. Talbot Reed was greatly interested in literary history. In 1892 he co-operated in founding the Bibliographical Society, and was honorary secretary until within a few months of his death. His ‘History of the Old English Letter-foundries, with Notes Historical and Bibliographical on the Rise and Progress of English Typography,’ 1887, represented the researches of ten years. He also edited and supplied a memoir of the author to the ‘Pentateuch of Printing,’ by William Blades, 1890. He is, however, best known by his numerous and popular books for boys originally contributed to the ‘Boys' Own Paper.’ These are: ‘The Adventures of a Three-Guinea Watch,’ 1880; ‘The Fifth Form at St. Dominic's,’ 1881; ‘My Friend Smith,’ 1882; ‘Willoughby Captains,’ 1883; ‘Follow my Leader,’ 1885; ‘Reginald Cruden,’ 1885; ‘A Dog with a Bad Name,’ 1886; ‘The Master of the Shell,’ 1887; ‘Sir Ludar, a Story of the Days of the Great Queen Bess,’ 1889; ‘Roger Ingleton Minor,’ 1889; ‘The Cock-house of Fells-garth,’ 1891; ‘Dick, Tom, and Harry,’ 1892; and ‘Kilgorman,’ with a memoir of the author, by his friend, John Sime, 1894. He died at Highgate on 28 Nov. 1893. He married, on 15 June 1876, Elizabeth Jane, third daughter of Samuel MacGurdy Greer [q. v.], by whom he had issue two sons and two daughters (Stationers' Trade Journal, 21 Dec. 1893, p. 546; Graphic, 9 Dec. 1893, p. 710, with portrait; information from James Drummond, esq.).

[Memoir of Sir C. Reed, by his son, C. E. B. Reed, 1883, with portrait; Stevenson's Sir C. Reed, Chairman of the London School Board, 1884; O'Malley and Hardcastle's Report of Election Petitions, 1875, ii. 77–87; Daily News, 26 March 1881, p. 5; Illustr. London News, 1873 lxiii. 609–10, 1881 lxxviii. 329, with portrait; Graphic, 1874, ix. 146, 148; Biograph, 1880 iv. 288–92.]

G. C. B.