July Reflection

Immigrants arriving in London-1850s


London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow in the 1850s onwards experienced a time of development and growth. Many of our museums, hospitals, libraries and railways in London were built by many immigrants during the Victorian era. Prince Albert and his team of architectural developers relied heavily on the skilled workmanship from Europe, Ireland and from the Empire. Britain became known as the “Workshop of the World”. These men and women who entered the country were called the “heroes of the age” – mechanical inventors. Coal, iron and cotton were the raw materials of the 18th century so the work-force was required and immigrants were welcome! No one questioned why they wanted to leave their homelands and language to take up life in London and elsewhere in Britain.

How quickly we forget the age of invention when our buildings, bridges, tunnels and railways are now built and part of our everyday life! Immigrants coming today into Britain are not so welcome and have become considered a troublesome burden on the same society that two hundred years ago welcomed them.

As our farmers begin to harvest their crops and summer fruits in the warm July sun, immigrants will undertake the work in our fields. Despite our political persuasion and the hundred and one reasons why these people leave their homes, we cannot deny that these people are essential for the economy and often or not they are desperate to work and do jobs that we are unable or unwilling to do. What makes them any different to the many men and women who came to our shores in the 1850s?

When we think back to the place

where we felt most at home, we

quickly see that it was where

our hosts gave us the precious

freedom and welcome to come and go on our own

terms and did not claim us for

their own needs. Only in a free

space can re-creation take place

and new life begin.

                                                                                        Henri Nouwen

Lord, we praise for the past and trust you with our future

Rose Mary Harbinson, RNDM