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Clara Ellen Grant (1867 – 1949)

Clara Grant was a primary school teacher and settlement worker in London’s East End, who moved from the West Country to Bow at the turn of the last century.  She became Head Teacher at the Infant’s School in Devon’s Road in 1900, quickly instituting a number of thoughtful changes that directly improved the lives of the children in her care.

She revised class room techniques of structure and punishment, provided a hot breakfast for the children in her care, supplied them with some clothes and shoes and – most famously – created and distributed Farthing Bundles.  Intended to provide children with toys to call their own, they were available for a token cost and the proceeds were directed back into the Settlement funds.  These packages eventually earned her the affectionate nickname of the Bundle Woman of Bow.

“Farthing bundles are full of very human things such as children love,” Clara explained. “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, scraps of patchwork, odds and ends of silk or wool, coloured paper for dressing up, cigarette cards and scraps.”

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Queuing for Farthing Bundles in Fern Street, 1930s

These proved so popular that children were queuing up from quarter to seven in the morning, even though they only went on sale from eight.  They tried various methods of limiting the numbers but they were still selling far more than was practical and in 1913 the famous wooden arch was introduced.  Emblazoned with the legend “Enter Now Ye Children Small, None Can Come Who Are Too Tall”, this limited the bundles to the youngest residents.

She died in 1949, shortly after receiving an OBE from, but farthing bundles were sold until 1984, the school was renamed the Clara Grant Primary School in 1993 and the Fern Street Settlement continues as a centre for the local communities  to this day.

Her grave is in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, with a head stone in the shape of an open book.  I recently went past it, and saw someone had added this wooden arch, in memory of one of the remarkable people who dedicated their lives to improving those of their neighbors in London’s East End.

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For more information on Clara Grant, there are some links below:

http://www.eastendtalking.org.uk/ourhistory/legends/default.asp?ID=9

http://www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/content/towerhamlets/advertiser/downmemorylane/story.aspx?brand=ELAOnline&category=downmemorylane&tBrand=northlondon24&tCategory=eladownmemorylane&itemid=WeED11%20Aug%202008%2015%3A58%3A32%3A513

http://eastlondonhistory.com/farthing-bundles/

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