The Peabody Trust was founded in 1862 by George Peabody, an extraordinary American banker and business man who lived and worked in London. He wanted to ‘..ameliorate the condition of the poor and needy of this great metropolis, and to promote their comfort and happiness..’ and in March 1862 he launched the Peabody Donation Fund with a gift of £150,000. In 1869 he increased his gift with a further £350,000. Today the Peabody Trust in London has an annual turnover of c.£150,000,000.
He had initially considered paying for drinking fountains, or contributing to the ‘ragged schools’, but then decided to establish a model dwellings company. ‘The first block was built in Spitalfields, and further housing estates followed 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..’.
The Peabody Square between Blackfriars Bridge Road and Webber Road was designed by Henry Darbishire and completed in 1871. While somewhat austere, the building around a central square was very different from the tenements which existed before and influenced subsequent social housing. Today the buildings are Grade II listed.