Venning, John (DNB00)

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VENNING, JOHN (1776–1858), philanthropist, born at Totnes, Devonshire, on 20 May 1776, was the son of Walter Venning, a merchant, by his wife Mary Ann. He was educated at Totnes grammar school, and at the age of fourteen was put into the counting-house of Messrs. Jackson & Co., a firm of Russia merchants in London. He went to St. Petersburg in 1793, and made for himself a high position there as a merchant. His interest in the condition of Russian prisons was aroused by his brother, Walter Venning [q. v.], and in 1819, on the foundation of the St. Petersburg Society for the Improvement of Prisons, he became treasurer. After his brother's death (1821) he threw himself with great energy into this branch of philanthropic work, visiting the prisons of Sweden, Germany, France, and England, and making reports and suggestions, which he laid, with some success, before the imperial government. He had much personal intercourse with the czars Alexander I and Nicholas I. In addition to prison reforms, he was able to introduce many needed improvements in lunatic asylums. In 1830 he settled in Norfolk, where he aided in benevolent and evangelical work. He died at Norwich on 11 April 1858. He was married on 13 Sept. 1805 to the daughter of James Meybohm, a merchant of St. Petersburg. She survived him and left issue.

[Miss Henderson's Memorials of John Venning, 1862, with portrait.]

A. G.