Yesterday I wrote about Shrewsbury Prison, known as The Dana. Above the main entrance to the prison is a  bust of the prison reformer John Howard (1726 – 1790) , and the street leading up to it from the main road is named after him.

John Howard, prison reformer, above main entrance of Shrewsbury prison. Photograph from Wikimedia Commons taken by R J Higginson 2009.

In January 1790 John Howard died of typhus at Kherson in present day Ukraine. He is said to have contracted the disease on one of his prison visits.

Howard was buried in the Ukraine. Though he had requested a quiet burial, without pomp and ceremony, he was evidently judged an important person, and the Prince of Moldovia himself was in attendance at what in fact turned out to be a rather elaborate funeral.

When news of Howard’s death reached England a month later, a series of commemorative John Howard tokens was struck, including one reading “Go forth” and “Remember the Debtors in Gaol”.

Howard became the first civilian to be honoured with a statue in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Statues  were also erected in his honour at Kherson and at Bedford and other English prisons.

Memorial for John Howard. John Bacon the Younger (1777-1859). 1795. St. Paul’s Cathedral, City of London. Located near entrance to crypt. Image from, photograph taken by George P. Landow.

In 1786, four years before his death, a monument to Howard had been proposed. A subscription list was got up and a poem lauding his achievements was published.

Pratt, Samuel Jackson. The triumph of benevolence; occasioned by the national design of erecting a monument to John Howard, Esq. Printed by J. Nichols, Red Lion Passage, Fleet Street; sold by Messrs. J. Dodsley, J. Robson, T. Cadell, P. Elmsly, and C. Dilly; by Mr. Prince at Oxford; and Mr. Merrill at Cambridge, MDCCLXXXVI. [1786]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale Document Number: GALE|CW0112448476

Subscribers who gave £2 2s, that is 2 guineas, included Charles Chauncey Esq., Claude Champion Crespigny, Philip Champion Crespigny, and Charles Snell-Chauncy. Mrs Champion Crespigny is listed as having given £1 1s. I am not sure who Charles Chauncey was, but Charles Snell-Chauncy (1759-1809) was my 6th great uncle. Claude Champion Crespigny is probably another of my 6th great uncles (1734-1818). Mrs Champion Crespigny in this case is probably Claude’s wife Mary nee Clarke (1747-1812). Philip Champion Crespigny is my 5th great grandfather (1738-1803), the brother of Claude. Mrs Champion Crespigny was possibly his wife Dorothy nee Scott (1765-1837).

I found it interesting to discover relatives from two different branches of my family tree supporting prison reform.

Further reading

  • Howard, John (1726?-1790) Dictionary of National Biography in Wikisource