February 20, 2024

Random Acts of Kindness Day: Henry Stanley Newman’s Good Deeds

This Saturday was Random Acts of Kindness day, which inspired us to think about our Victorian philanthropist founder Henry Stanley Newman. Henry Stanley was known for his kindness and quiet good deeds – if he wasn’t caring for the children who lived at the Leominster Orphan Homes, he was ensuring that his students at the Leominster First Day School were receiving the best education possible. In honour of Henry Stanley, we’re celebrating his good deeds which have been remembered by author Maggie Waldman in A Friend In Deed.

Leominster First Day Schools

The First Day School movement began in the late 18th century and offered a valuable education to working men and women in England, focusing on literacy and bible study. Henry Stanley’s father Josiah established Leominster’s First Day School in 1858 and Henry Stanley played a central role in its popularity and development. On the 50th anniversary of the school, Henry recalled:

One man after another joined the class. They brought one another. I wondered why they continued coming. But the more they came, the more they won my heart and became my personal friends.

Henry Stanley Newman in A Friend In Deed, by Maggie Waldman

Henry remained devoted to the school throughout his life, teaching right up until his passing in 1912.

The Orphan Homes, Leominster

Henry Stanley’s attitude towards education and childcare was decidedly modern for his time, especially towards orphans. In the Victorian era, orphaned children were often subjected to harsh treatment. He rejected this entirely and believed that they should have an education and a loving home. He founded the Leominster Orphan Homes in 1869, often housing children from industrialised areas like Birmingham or London. Our book The Story of the Orphan Homes, first published in 1883, details the children’s new life in Leominster, from spotting the wildlife on their walks in the countryside to their education at Bargates school.

Many are the country rambles the children enjoy. Our richly wooded county of Herefordshire, with its hop yards and orchards, affords plenty of interest for them.

Henry Stanley Newman, The Story of the Orphan Homes

Our sister company Orphans Press was founded as a way to raise funds for the home, and to teach the boys a trade. The presses are still rolling today!

Everyday life

Extravagant good deeds weren’t really Henry Stanley Newman’s style – his kindness was modest, quiet, and felt by everyone who knew him. He truly embodied random acts of kindness. We’re really proud to be carrying on his legacy, so we’ll be sure to celebrate him with a random act of kindness today.

Children with their matron outside the Leominster Orphan Homes
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