George Edward Ardill (1857 – 1945) evangelist and social worker
While still in his 20s, Ardill devoted himself to full-time charity organising. As a printer and Gospel preacher in 1882, he opened a Women’s Refuge known as the ‘Home of Hope for Friendless and Fallen Women’. With his wife Louisa, he then initiated the Blue Ribbon Gospel Army, which ran the Home of Hope, the Discharged Prisoners’ Mission and the Open All Night Refuge.
George Edward Ardill was born on 17 December 1857 at Parramatta, New South Wales, second son of Joshua Ardill, plasterer, and his wife Anna Maria, née Johnson. The family were Baptists. After elementary education at Parramatta, he took an office job and then in 1883 briefly set up in Pitt Street, Sydney, as a stationer and printer. While still in his 20s he devoted himself to full-time charity organization. Already attracted to the gospel temperance movement, he started the Blue Ribbon Gospel Army, a temperance organization which long remained under his personal direction. He joined the Local Option League on its formation in 1883, and later the New South Wales Alliance, serving it for some thirty years as councillor, honorary treasurer, and secretary in 1900-03.
In taking the gospel to the godless at late-night street meetings, Ardill discovered destitute and homeless women. With characteristic practicality, he set about providing shelter and in 1890 formed the Sydney Rescue Work Society to help finance his work; it became a major charitable organization, attracting support from (Sir) Samuel McCaughey and Ebenezer Vickery. In 1884 an All Night Refuge and the Home of Hope for Friendless and Fallen Women were opened, the latter a lying-in hospital to which later he attached a commercial laundry where the women were gainfully employed and given ‘training’. In another home, the Crusade to Women operated to reclaim the penitent, especially those saved from drink. He ran two other homes for discharged prisoners in 1884-91.
So that the mothers from the Home of Hope could take work where a child was not acceptable, Ardill soon was involved in providing for the unwanted children. In 1886 he founded the Society for Providing Homes for Neglected Children, which opened Our Babies’ Home that year, Our Children’s Home at Liverpool in 1887 and, in 1890, Our Boys’ Farm Home at Camden where older boys were to be trained on near-by farms. In the 1890s Ardill was organizing crèches in the city. By then he was reputedly a director of twelve societies: his work was becoming less directed to rescuing the fallen than to providing for the needy.
On 8 September 1885 at the Baptist Church, Bathurst Street, Ardill had married Louisa (1853-1920), daughter of Thomas Wales. She had had experience as an evangelist in England and, after her arrival in Sydney in 1883, in the Blue Ribbon Gospel Army and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. She served on the executive of the latter, superintended its franchise department in 1901-02, and represented it on the New South Wales Alliance for many years. Louisa also shared her husband’s work, taking prayer-meetings, acting as supervisor from time to time in one or other of the homes and, notably, as matron-superintendent of the Home of Hope hospital, which provided under her direction and instruction a training centre for midwifery: in 1900 seventy-six trainees passed the external examinations, their fees amounting to about a tenth of the hospital’s income. As it came to be used more by private patients in separate rooms, it was renamed South Sydney Women’s Hospital. Extensions were made in 1904 and 1911, and surgical and gynaecological departments added. Louisa died in 1920 after a long illness but the hospital continued until World War II without government subsidy.
The Sydney Rescue Work Society was formed in 1890 to ‘take over, continue and strengthen the Rescue Work for seven years usefully and beneficially carried on by Mr G.E. Ardill and his philanthropic co-workers’. It ran numerous refuges and homes for women and children in Sydney and surrounding suburbs. From 1911 until at least the 1950s it was based at 141-155 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills. It changed its name in 1982 to Communicare. George Edward Ardill was a printer and Gospel preacher who, in 1882, opened a Women’s Refuge known as the ‘Home of Hope for Friendless and Fallen Women’. With his wife Louisa, he then initiated the Blue Ribbon Gospel Army, which ran the Home of Hope, the Discharged Prisoners’ Mission and the Open All Night Refuge.
Ardill has been described as an energetic professional social worker and evangelist who loved to scheme and contrive in the interest of causes ‘dear to his heart’. He was a mover-and-shaker and a Victorian public man, a moral improver who was absolutely certain of the validity of his notions. When he ‘discovered’ homeless women and abandoned children, he formulated the template that he would use to deal with impoverished Aboriginal children.
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