Maria Hackett takes a stand on chorister welfare
Memorial to Maria Hackett in the Cathedral Crypt (Ref. No. 440).
Maria Hackett takes a stand on Chorister welfare
In the 19th century, Maria Hackett worked to improve the welfare of Choristers at St Paul’s. Maria’s interest in the Choristers began in 1810, when she enrolled her seven-year-old orphaned cousin Henry Wintle as a Chorister at St Paul's. At that time, the boys were not receiving proper housing, education or supervision. They were routinely hired out, for the singing master's profit, to perform at public concerts and dinners with little thought for their safety or welfare.
Photograph of Maria Hackett.
The archives of St Paul's held the key to determining the Cathedral authorities' responsibilities towards the Choristers. After in-depth research, Maria sent the Bishop of London a detailed account of her findings in January 1811. His evasive reply prompted her to write to other Cathedral dignitaries, but with no more success. In 1813 she, George Capper, and her half-brothers initiated legal proceedings that had to be abandoned prematurely because of expense.
Hackett continued her letter writing and research, and her efforts began to meet with success. She published her Correspondence and evidences respecting the ancient collegiate school attached to St Paul's Cathedral (1811–32). She also began to investigate all the choral foundations of England and Wales, resulting in the publication of a 'Brief account of cathedral and collegiate schools with an abstract of their statutes and endowments' (1827).
A brighter future
The Choristers regularly enjoyed treats brought by Maria when she came to the Cathedral to worship. For more than fifty years, she made autumn visits to other choral foundations, calling on each at least once in three years, noting the names of the Choristers in her diary and presenting to each boy with a book, a purse, and a new shilling.
Maria’s lifelong efforts were crowned at the age of ninety, when she was shown the new St Paul's Choir school in Carter Lane.
Today, the St Paul’s Choristers enjoy a first-class education and board, with amazing opportunities to travel and sing around the country and abroad. The Chorister Trust supports them with scholarships, to help make becoming a Chorister more accessible. Read more about what it’s like being a Chorister today.