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Farthing Bundles


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A custom which has lost much of its original raison d'ětre but which is still carried out on special occasions is the distribution of Farthing Bundles at Fern Street School Settlement, Bow, in East London, which was founded by Clara Grant in 1907. In addition to numerous practical philanthropic schemes, Farthing Bundles were distributed to children every Saturday:Farthing bundles are full of very human things such as children love, e.g. tiny toys of wood or tin whole or broken, little balls, doll-less heads or head-less dolls, whistles, shells, beads, reels, marbles, fancy boxes, decorated pill boxes, ballroom pencils, scraps of patchwork, odds and ends of silk or wool, coloured paper for dressing up, cigarette cards and scraps.

Farthing bundles are full of very human things such as children love, e.g. tiny toys of wood or tin whole or broken, little balls, doll-less heads or head-less dolls, whistles, shells, beads, reels, marbles, fancy boxes, decorated pill boxes, ballroom pencils, scraps of patchwork, odds and ends of silk or wool, coloured paper for dressing up, cigarette cards and scraps.

The bundles were so popular, attracting thousands of children each week, that ways of controlling the numbers were sought. From 1913, to be eligible, children had to pass, without stooping, under a purpose-built wooden arch fixed on a frame, although the height of this arch had to be raised twice over the years as improving living standards resulted in taller children. Changing populations and circumstances rendered the bundles increasingly anachronistic, and the last regular distribution was made in 1984.R. Beer and C. A. Pickard, Eighty Years on Bow Common (1987).


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