The Peabody Trust was founded in 1862 as the 'Peabody Donation Fund' and now brands itself simply as Peabody.. It is one of London's oldest and largest housing associations with around 55,000 properties across London and the South East. It is also a community benefit society and urban regeneration agency, a developer with a focus on regeneration, and a provider of an extensive range of community programmes.
The Trust was founded in 1862 by London-based American banker George Peabody, who in the 1850s had developed a great affection for London, and determined to make a charitable gift to benefit it. His initial ideas included a system of drinking fountains (comparable to the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association scheme actually set up by Samuel Gurney and Edward Thomas Wakefield in 1859), or a contribution to the "ragged schools" of the Earl of Shaftesbury. In March 1859, however, he settled on establishing a model dwellings company. Three years later, in a letter to The Times on 26 March 1862, he launched the Peabody Donation Fund, with an initial gift of £150,000. The aim of the organisation, he said, would be to "ameliorate the condition of the poor and needy of this great metropolis, and to promote their comfort and happiness". The paper reported, "We have today to announce an act of beneficence unexampled in its largeness and in the time and manner of the gift". Shortly before his death in 1869, Peabody increased his gift to a munificent £500,000.
The Peabody Trust was later constituted by Act of Parliament, stipulating its objectives to work solely within London for the relief of poverty. This was to be expressed through the provision of model dwellings for the capital's poor.
The first block, designed by H.A. Darbishire in a red-brick Jacobethan style, opened in Commercial Street, Spitalfields, on 29 February 1864. It cost £22,000 to build, and contained 57 "dwellings" (i.e. flats) for the poor, nine shops with accommodation for the shopkeepers, and baths and laundry facilities on the upper floor. Water-closets were grouped in pairs by the staircases, with one shared between every two flats. This first block was followed by larger estates in Islington, Poplar, Shadwell, Chelsea, Westminster, Bermondsey, and elsewhere. By 1882 the Trust housed more than 14,600 people in 3,500 dwellings. By 1939 it owned more than 8,000 dwellings.
In its early days, the Trust imposed strict rules to ensure that its tenants were of good moral character. Rents were to be paid weekly and punctually; there was a night-time curfew and a set of moral standards to be adhered to; and the dwellings could not be used for certain trades.
Peabody wants to help people make the most of their lives by providing good-quality affordable homes, work with communities and promote wellbeing. It will: put the most vulnerable first; create great places at scale, where people want to live (Thamesmead and larger developments like St John’s Hill are examples of these); and build resilience in people and communities
Peabody is leading a £1 billion regeneration of Thamesmead, Abbey Wood and Plumstead in South-East London. The Group worked with the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the London Borough of Bexley to successfully bid for Greater London Authority housing zone status, which led to a c£80 million investment.
As well as providing thousands of new homes in the area, Peabody says it will provide firm foundations for Thamesmead’s long term, sustainable rejuvenation by investing in existing homes, infrastructure and services to improve the quality of life for existing residents. Going beyond "bricks and mortar", Peabody says its work with partners will enhance employment, enterprise, cultural, social and leisure opportunities for people locally.
Thamesmead and the surrounding area is a major growth and opportunity area for London. Crossrail will open at nearby Abbey Wood from 2019, and Peabody has said it will capitalise on this, ensuring the right amenities, infrastructure and transport connections are available for the long term sustainability of the area.
In 2014 Gallions, Trust Thamesmead and Tilfen Land became part of the Peabody Group. The Peabody Group now comprises two housing associations, Peabody and Gallions, and a number of trading companies..
Housing associations borrow money to pay for new homes and improvements. In March 2011, Peabody raised £200 million on a corporate bond, at a rate among the best secured by a housing association borrowing in its own name. In 2013 it issued a public bond for £350 million.
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