Eglantyne Mary Jebb (1876-1928), founder of the 'Save The Children Fund' taught in this building when it was St Peter's School.
The Blue Plaque commemorating Eglantyne Mary Jebb, the founder of the "Save the Children Fund", is on the wall, to the left of the entrance, of the Library on the junction of Hyde Lane and the High St. The library building used to be the former St Peter’s School and Eglantyne Jebb taught at the school in 1899.
Eglantyne was born in 1876 in Ellesmere, Shropshire, and grew up as part of a well-off family that had a strong social conscience and commitment to public service. Having studied history at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, she trained to become a school teacher, but 12-18 months experience at St. Peter's School convinced her that this was not her vocation and she moved to Cambridge to look after her sick mother. There she became involved in the Charity Organisation Society, which aimed to bring a modern scientific approach to charity work. This then led her to carry out an extensive research project into conditions in the city, and in 1906 she published a book, "Cambridge, a Study in Social Questions" based on her research.
She then lived quietly for several years until in 1913 she was asked to undertake a journey to Macedonia on behalf of the Macedonian Relief Fund. Her experience over the next few years at the end of the First World War, working with her sister Dorothy on publicising the effects of the war, showed that everyday life in the enemy countries was far worse than government propaganda suggested, and that the children of these countries were suffering appallingly from the effects of the war and the Allied blockade, which continued even when an armistice was signed.
A pressure group, the Fight the Famine Council, was set up in 1919 to persuade the British government to end the blockade. Its focus soon shifted to organising relief however, and on 15 April 1919, the Council set up a fund to raise money for the German and Austrian children – the Save the Children Fund. This organisation, launched at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 19 May 1919, quickly raised a large sum of money from the British public, and the success of the Fund led Eglantyne and Dorothy to attempt to set up an international movement for children. The International Save the Children Union (Union International de Secours a l'Enfant) was founded in Geneva in 1920, with the British Save the Children Fund and the Swedish Rädda Barnen as leading members.
In London, it was now Eglantyne who was in charge, and she ensured that the Fund adopted the professional approach she had learnt during her time in Cambridge.
There then followed a reorganisation in 1918, when the parish divisions no longer applied, and St. Peter's became the boys' school for the town while the girls went to St. Mary's in Herd St (still standing, but now private housing). In 1962 the boys, and the older girls from St. Mary's, moved to the former Grammar School building in The Parade, which became St. Peter's Junior School. The old St. Peter's School closed and soon became the town library.
Blue Plaque Location:
Click here for details of a circular walk linking all the Blue Plaques