Herring, George (DNB12)

HERRING, GEORGE (1832–1906), philanthropist, born in 1832 of obscure parentage, is said to have begun working life as a carver in a boiled beef shop on Ludgate Hill (The Times, 3 Nov. 1906), but this statement has been denied. By judicious betting on horse-races he soon added to his income. He then became, in a small way at first, and in a very large way later, a turf commission agent. In 1855, during his early days on the turf, he was an important witness against William Palmer [q. v.], a betting man, who was convicted of poisoning another betting man, John Parsons Cook. At Tattersall's and at the Victoria Club Herring became known as a man of strict integrity, and was entrusted with the business of many leading speculators, who included the twelfth earl of Westmorland, Sir Joseph Hawley, and the duke of Beaufort. For a short time Herring owned racehorses. In 1874 Shallow, his best horse, was a winner of the Surrey Stakes, Goodwood Corinthian Plate, Brighton Club Stakes, and Lewes Autumn Handicap, four races out of ten for which he ran. Although remaining a lover of the turf and interesting himself in athletics, Herring soon left the business of a commission agent for large financial operations in the City of London, where in association with Henry Louis Bischoffsheim he made a fortune. He was chairman of the City of London Electric Lighting Company, and was connected with many similar undertakings. His powers of calculation were exceptionally rapid and accurate.

Of somewhat rough exterior and simple habits. Herring devoted his riches in his last years to varied philanthropic purposes. From 1899 till his death he guaranteed to contribute to the London Sunday Hospital Fund either 10,000l. in each year or 25l. per cent, of the amount collected in the churches. In 1899, 1900, and 1901 the fund, exercising its option, took 10,000l. annually; in 1902, 11,575l.; in 1903, 12,302l.; in 1904, 11,926l.; in 1905, 12,400l.; in 1906, 11,275l. The form of the benefaction spurred subscribers' generosity. He supported a 'Haven of Rest,' almshouses for aged people at Maidenhead, where he had a house; he started with Mr. Howard Morley the Twentieth Century Club at Notting Hill for ladies earning their own livelihood, and was a generous benefactor to the North-west London Hospital at Camden Town, of which he was treasurer. In 1887 he first discussed with 'General' Booth the 'Back to the Land Scheme,' an original plan of the Salvation Army for relieving the unemployed. In 1905 he proposed to place 100,000l. in the hands of the Salvation Army for the purpose of settling poor people on neglected land in the United Kingdom, in establishing them as petty cultivators, and supporting them and their families until the land should become productive; the advance to be paid back by the settlers, and then to be given by the Salvation Army to King Edward's Hospital Fund in twenty-five annual instalments. Herring defended the scheme with eagerness when it was criticised as impracticable (The Times, 13 Feb. 1906), and it was put into operation. The sum actually received from Herring was 40,000l. under a codicil to his will. With this an estate was purchased at Boxted, Essex, comprising about fifty holdings, which was visited and approved by Herring not long before his death. The entire control of the scheme was, in accordance with a decision of the court of chancery, vested in the Salvation Army, with 'General' Booth as sole trustee (The Times, 19-20 Dec. 1907).

Herring, who lived in much retirement, and deprecated public recognition of his generosity, died on 2 Nov. 1906 at his Bedfordshire residence, Putteridge Park, Luton, after an operation for appendicitis. He also had residences at 1 Hamilton Place, Piccadilly, and Bridge House, Maidenhead. The urn containing his remains, which were cremated at Woking, was buried under the sundial at the Haven of Rest Almshouses at Maidenhead. His estate was sworn for probate at 1,371,152l. 18s. 8d. gross. After legacies to his brother William, to other relatives, friends, and charities, the residue was left to the Hospital Sunday Fund, which benefited to the extent of about 750,000l. The bequests to charities under the will reached a total of about 900,000l. (The Times, 10 May 1907).

On 15 June 1908 a marble bust of Herring, by Mr. George Wade, presented by the Metropolitan Sunday Hospital Fund as residuary legatees under his will, was placed in the Mansion House. On a brass plate beneath the bust is inscribed a letter received in 1905 by Herring from King Edward VII, who warmly commended Herring's disinterested philanthropy.

[The Times, 3 Nov. 1906, 16 June 1908; Sporting Life, 3 Nov. 1906; Who's Who, 1907.]

C. W.