Joseph Dare (1800–1883)

Joseph Dare was a pioneering social worker dedicated to tackling health issues in Victorian Leicestershire.

Joseph Dare (1800–1883)
Joseph Dare (1800–1883)

1800 Joseph Dare was born at Titchfield in Hampshire.

The Dare family moved northwards to Hinckley in Leicestershire when he was still a young boy in his teens.

1830 He married Mary Collington who was a local Hinckley girl.

16th December 1831 their first child was born; it was a little girl they named Harriet, they would end up having nine children together.

Joseph would become involved in the local Unitarian congregation, he also became a respected member of the local community in Hinckley, He became secretary of a number of voluntary bodies, like the Widows and Orphans Society.

1830s The Minister, Rev Charles Nutter would join Joseph in educating children during the day and teaching adults Unitarian during the night in a room attached to the Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel in Hinckley. During the same period Joseph also became known as a local poet, one of the poems he wrote was about the Hinckley churchyard.

1832 Joseph wrote that St. Marys Churchyard was full and that the 'bodies were daily disturbed in all stages of decomposition whilst the churchyard was being used as a playground!'. Three years later the Churchyard was expanded with 2,400 Square yards of land, this land would be full by the later 1850s.

June 1836 Elizabeth, Josephs youngest daughter died at the tender age of two and a half.

July 1836 Harriet, Joseph’s first child died just four and a half years old.

During the early 19th Century Leicester’s population grew rapidly due to the demand of labour at the expanding hosiery, boot and shoes industries. The living conditions in Leicester at this time was shocking, most of the workforce were living in cheap and badly built buildings which were densely packed around a courtyard, which also lacked proper ventilation and sunlight. The water supply and drainage were very poor which led to death and disease, infant deaths became very common.

1840s Joseph was known to be a competent accountant and was called upon to investigate the affairs of Needham & Hemming Bank, which was tottering to its ruin. He became a member of the Unitarian congregation of the Great Meeting Chapel along East Bond Street in Leicester.

1845 Joseph was appointed to the post of Domestic Missionary with a salary of £75 a year for the Leicester Domestic Mission at the Great Meeting Chapel, he was required to undertake social work among the poor. At the time Joseph was living at 122 Churchgate which was opposite St. Margaret’s Church in Leicester. Joseph would become an authority on health problems and living conditions and remained as a Domestic Missionary until 1876.

1847 This was the year of the Famine, Joseph visited a house that was occupied by an Irishman, his wife, and their Six children. The house only had two room, known as a one up and one down, both of those two rooms during the harvest would be occupied by a further 12 or 14 men. During this period there was no public authority for the supervision of lodging houses in Leicester. Joseph campaigned for some ‘control’ to be added, a Corporation had assumed the responsibility after a couple of years.

1849 A poem that Joseph had written was published called 'The Garland of Gratitude', which was about a sermon that happened in a Roman Catholic Church in Hinckley during April 1843 by Dr Wiseman.

1851 He acted as an enumerator for the 1851 Census, mainly in order to improve his understanding of the education needs of Leicester.

1852 The summer months were intensely hot, Joseph never normally would complain of his work, but he noted that the heat made the visiting of the sick ‘physically repulsive in the extreme’. He found one poor widow ‘literally frying in her bed, which was reeking with her perspiration’. The ceiling of the room was low with a slated roof lying close upon it, and no window would open, the upper sash was a fixture. This was common in many houses that he visited, he would campaign tirelessly to secure its prohibition. Joseph noticed that the conditions were not only found in old houses but in new houses being built.

Joseph visited 4,000 homes on average each year that he maintained pretty steadily thereafter. His detailed diary gives shows that on one-week during 1853-1854 Joseph made 81 visits, in addition to attending the evening classes the Mission ran, also taking a service on Sundays.

He also produced a report for the mission every year as well with an insight in to the changes that the local authorities and voluntary agencies had made to improve the living conditions for the working class of Leicester.

1860s Joseph noticed that bathing in the river became a widespread pastime to be commended on the grounds of hygiene, but reprobated for the indecency it involved. Joseph constantly urged the making of a regular tree-lined promenade on the back of the river from the North Bridge to the Abbey, and the regulation of public bathing. In the course of 30 years and more than 100,000 home visits, he saw some real improvements in the treatment of disease.

1868 Joseph fell seriously ill through over-work in the torrid summer, Ministers of other denominations took it in turns to carry on some of his work at the Mission room. It’s at this time the Mission began to run into difficulties with a slightly falling of income from subscriptions.

1871 The Domestic Missions school was closed; it was superseded by the introduction of Board Schools. It was never heard of that Joseph would take time off for a holiday of any substance until this year, after a protracted illness. Some the friends of the mission sent him off to the Isle of Man.

6th September 1883 Joseph Dare died at the age of 83, he was buried at Welford Road Cemetery in Leicester. Joseph’s estate amounted to £386.

A Blue Plaque has been put on Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel located at Baines Lane in Hinckley.


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