Philanthropy Footprints that Shape Society Today

To mark the launch of the 2015 awards, and to encourage nominations, Beacon is celebrating ten inspirational philanthropists from cities around the UK (many little known) to kick start debate about who has left a ‘philanthropy footprint’ that still affects society today and who is creating a ‘philanthropy footprint’ now.

Barney Hughes 1808-1878 (Belfast)

A business baker and pioneer impact investee who's bread alleviated hunger on an industrial scale.

Bernard Hughes, known as Barney, was born in Armagh. Having worked as a bakers’ boy for 6 years, in 1826 he moved to Belfast, and by 1870 he was recognised as the cities’ leading baker. As the owner of the largest baking enterprise in Ireland, his production supplied Belfast’s poorer population with much-needed cheap bread, particularly during the harsh years of the Great Famine. He gained the respect of the community as a municipal politician and industrial reformer, donating the ground for St Peter's Cathedral.

Current legacy: St Peter’s Cathedral is described today as ‘a landmark building’ in Belfast.


George Cadbury 1839 – 1922 (Birmingham)

The son of UK Chocolate and pioneer of responsible business practices

Everyone has heard of the Cadbury’s chocolate empire, but not many people know that the founder’s son, George Cadbury, was an important philanthropist in the 19th Century. George was driven by a passion for social reform, wanting to create clean and sanitary conditions for his workers in contrast to the usual grim reality of factories in Victorian Britain. He set new standards for living and working conditions and gave the Bourneville estate to the Bourneville Village Trust in 1901. The trust was founded to develop the local community and its surroundings.

Current legacy: The Bournville Village Trust is one of the largest and most respected housing trusts in the country specialising in development, communities, supported housing, special needs and urban regeneration.


Sir Montague Maurice Burton 1885 – 1952 (Leeds)

A clothing entrepreneur with an ethical edge 

A Lithuanian immigrant who arrived at the turn of the last century with just £100 to his name, Montague founded Burton, one of Britain's largest clothing shop chains. He started a tailoring business with the philanthropic aim of clothing the entire male population in good quality, affordable suits. Having enforced an unusually short working day for the time (8 hours) on his workforce, he was aware of the necessity to encourage wise and profitable use of spare time. He became one of the first to instil formal welfare provisions in the workplace, introducing food halls, leisure groups and activities such as theatre, dance and sports teams. He took an interest in maintaining the wellbeing of workers through health clinics and rest rooms. 

Current legacy:  Burton Clothing is still a successful British retailer. The company has worked closely with Cancer Research UK funding research into bowel cancer, and has supported the Movember Prostate Charity Campaign with the 'Burton' moustache, modeled on the moustache of their founder.


William Armstrong 1810 – 1900 (Newcastle)

A visionary engineer who saw that culture, history and identity matter

A visionary inventor, engineer, scientist and businessman, in his heyday William Armstrong employed over 25,000 people in the manufacture of hydraulic cranes, ships and armaments. Armstrong built Newcastle’s Swing Bridge and the hydraulic mechanism that operates London’s Tower Bridge. He also restored Bamburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast, often hailed as one of the most magnificent English castles to survive.  A prolific philanthropist, he founded Armstrong College (which evolved into Newcastle University), and gave funds to the Royal Victoria Infirmary as well as the Hancock Museum of Natural History (now the Great North Museum). 

Current legacy: Bamburgh castle described as 'the finest castle anywhere in this country' in Time Out Great Britain. The Great North museum has extensive collections and is a fantastic resource for teaching and research.


Edward Rushton 1756 – 1814 (Liverpool)

A poet who developed advocacy and campaigning as a tool for social change

A poet and slavery abolitionist, Edward Rushton was born in Liverpool in 1756. Whilst sailing with slave ships as a young man he became outraged at the appalling conditions he witnessed.  After an outbreak of the eye disease ophthalmia, Edward took food and water to the slaves which resulted in him losing his sight in his left eye and the damage of the right. As well as a career as an influential abolitionist, Rushton helped establish the Liverpool School for the Indigent Blind, the first of its kind in Britain, in 1791.

Current legacy: The Royal School for the Blind, Liverpool  is one of the leading schools of its kind today.


The Davies Sisters Gwendoline Davies (1882-1951) and Margaret Davies (1884-1963) (Cardiff)

Welsh sisters who pioneered music therapy and founded one of the UK's first music festivals

The Davies sisters, Gwendoline and Margaret, were two sisters from mid-Wales who will be remembered as dedicated patrons of the arts, bequeathing one of the great British art collections of the 20th century to the National Museum of Wales.  This is not all, however. Serving as Red Cross volunteers in World War One, Gwendoline and Margaret were so moved by the suffering they witnessed they resolved to establish an art and music centre for ex-soldiers. Gregynog Hall, the location of the centre, became the home to the annual Gregynog Music Festival, attracting musical luminaries such as Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst.

Current legacy: The National Museum of Wales  houses Wales’s national archaeology, art, geology and natural history collections as well as major touring and temporary exhibitions. Gregynog festival is still going today 


Dame Cecily Saunders 1918 – 2005 (Barnet)

A founder of the modern hospice who revolutionised care for the terminally ill

Dame Cicely Saunders founded the modern hospice and started a worldwide movement to provide compassionate care for the terminally ill. A nurse, social worker and doctor, she developed what is now called palliative care, and the modern hospice. In 1948 she met a patient, David Tasma, a Polish-Jewish refugee who, having escaped from the Warsaw ghetto, was dying of cancer. He bequeathed her £500. This donation helped germinate the idea which would become St Christopher's, founded in 1967 and the beginning of the hospice movement. In 2002, Saunders co-founded a new charity, Cicely Saunders International. 

Current legacy: Cicely Saunders International St Christopher’s Hospice and the National Council for Palliative Care 


Edward Alleyn 1566–1626 (London)

An infamous actor of Shakespeare's time who created opportunities for others

Born in Bishopsgate, London, Edward Alleyn became widely known as one of the most accomplished actors of Shakespeare’s time. During his theatrical career he was the most famous of players, but is now little remembered. In his later life Alleyn turned away from the stage and towards philanthropy, founding a school. Alleyn’s bequest established clear principles by which the school should be governed, with an important attribute of the school being its favouring of ‘poor scholars’, so that children could access education irrespective of wealth or social background. 3 foundation schools are still supported by his legacy: Alleyns, James Allen's Girl's School and Dulwich College

Current legacy: the schools are very successful with strong philanthropic traditions upheld today, for example Dulwich 


William Alison 1790 – 1859 (Edinburgh)

A doctor who wanted to cure the establishment of its cruel indifference to poverty

William Alison was an eminent Scottish physician who argued that poverty’s link to disease was to do with circumstance and not sin. The ethos of the age dictated that poverty was due to indolence, and treatment should be withheld for the ‘healthy impoverished’. A man who was ahead of his time, Alison campaigned for the government to take a more active role in alleviating poverty, with his proposal of the Scottish Poor Law and his 1840 treatise Observations on the management of the poor. He lived to see a noticeable shift towards his call for tolerance and compassion. 

Current legacy: a key campaigner in changing social attitudes and an early pioneer of what would become the Welfare State and NHS


John Rylands 1801 – 1888 (Manchester)

A businessman whose gave locally and was concerned globally

The first multi-millionaire from Manchester, John Rylands owned the largest textile business in the UK, combining his aptitude for business with a social conscience. In the Borough of Stretford, where he resided at Longford Hall, he made considerable philanthropic donations to the town which included the founding of orphanages, homes for the elderly and the donation of a Town Hall. His huge gifts of money to aid the poor of Italy earned him the "Crown of Italy" honour from the Italian king, and his sizeable private book collection constituted the basis of the John Rylands Library. The Library was founded by his wife Enriqueta Rylands, a strong yet modest Victorian woman and an eminent philanthropist in her own right, who left the Library in memory of her late husband as a philanthropic gift to the city of Manchester.

Current legacy: The John Rylands library forms part of the university of Manchester’s library. Longford Hall is a Grade 2 listed building