Archives of Edwin Roberts

Junior Civil Service Christian Union

History from 1891 to 1914

Founded in 1891 as the Junior Civil Service Prayer Union by the Civil Service Prayer Union. The title was changed to Junior Civil Service Christian Union six years later.

From the begining, the Junior Union met at the YMCA in Exeter Hall
This drawing was reproduced in the 1899 Annual Report. Click on the picture for a history of the hall, which closed in 1907

"Needless to say this Union was very largely financed by interested members of the Senior union, which was also definitely represented on the Junior Committee" (1932 paper)

The evangelistic services already mentioned were continued: sometimes two were held in a year. So far as possible, every Boy Clerk in the different Offices in London had a personal invitation to a tea to be followed by an address by some well known evangelist [1932 phrase]. These included Bishop Taylor-Smith, Preb. Webb Peploe, Revd. F.S. Webster, Dr F.B. Meyer and Mr Reader Harris. Amongst those converted at these meetings was a boy clerk who later became an overseas missionary on the Civil Service Christian Union's "Missionary Roll of Honour". [1932 paper]

    "In 1891, the first conference was held, about thirty members being present. In 1892, they had their first Budget, which amounted to £7, and in 1893, they suffered their first great loss in the death of Sir Arthur Blackwood. In 1895, the Union first became its own publisher, and the Union Observer was founded under the Editorship of Mr Mansbridge. In 1897, they had their first summer Ramble, and the year 1898 saw their first wedding. (Laughter)

    In 1900, they started their first boarding house which had prospered to such an extent that the Boy Clerk's Friendly Society had now accommodation for over a thousand. In 1902, they first had one of their Union Members actively working in the Mission Field, and in 1903 the C.S. [Civil Service] Cadet Corps was formed. In 1905, the name of the Union Observer was changed to that of the Civil Service Observer. (V.P. Peacock 15.11.1911. Civil Service Observer p.249)

The Union Observer 1895-1905

Bound volumes of a monthly magazine produced mainly for copy clerks. At least some of the volumes were the property of Arthur E. Adeney, London Postal Service, General Post Office. Hon. Treasurer (- 1897 p.36 - ) and then Chairman. In 1899 he married Miss Sharman, sometimes missionary in Palestine. (1899 pp 119-120)

Union Observer Volume 1
Edited by
Albert Mansbridge, Education Department. London: The Junior Civil Service Prayer Union. No.1, January 1895 contained "A few Thoughts on Manliness" by Rev. W. Hay Aitken, M.A.

    " depicting a model man, I have been as if unconscious describing an ideal Christian..." (p.3)

Union Observer Volume 2

From 1.1.1896, the Union was The Junior Civil Service Christian Union.

    "The circulation of our Magazine has increased from about 580 in October, 1895, to about 680 at the present date. It does not yet, however, pay its way, and we would earnestly appeal for further support. The Magazine is the only means of directly reaching hundreds of our colleagues, and is therefore a very important branch of our work. In the beginning of the year Mr. Mansbridge retired from the post of Editor, which he had so ably filled, and Mr Hole very kindly came forward and carried on the work, until our present Editor, Mr A.V. Fullerton, finally accepted the post. Mr Fullerton has shown great energy in trying to improve the paper, in which effort he has been greatly helped at considerable cost of time and money by Mr V.P. Peacock. Mr E.W. Goodrich has continued to act as magazine Secretary, and has worked hard to increase the circulation" (Sixth Annual Report of the Junior Civil Service Christian Union. 17th November 1896. pp 139-140) [V.P. is Vernon P. Peacock]

    "Next followed the discussion on the question of the evening, viz, "The Union Observer".

    Mr W.A. Stephens argued that if our paper was meant merely to amuse and instruct its readers it was not worth the cost of labour and money it entailed, but if the principle object was to influence our colleagues and win them to Christ then no effort was too great to keep the paper afloat". (Sixth Annual Conference. 17th November 1896. p. 141)

Union Observer Volume 3 Edited by Mr A.V. Fullerton.

I believe this is the oldest surviving invitation

Union Observer Volume 4
Edited by Mr A.V. Fullerton.

Union Observer Volume 5
Edited by Mr A.V. Fullerton, who resigned at the end of the year. There was a note in the last edition hoping that if he could not be prevailed upon to continue, Vernon P. Peacock would succeed. He, however, had not the time. Mr J.M. Rusk was appointed Editor with Mr Hole as sub-Editor.

Union Observer Volume 6
Edited by Mr J.M. Rusk in a humorous style that caused controversy. A. Mansbridge, the founding Editor, was amongst those who protested against the "new humour".

The following is one of the earliest leaflets surviving in the archives. The topic of the Union Observer was a regular one at Annual General Meetings, and discussion was usually lively and well reported in the Union Observer itself.

Junior Civil Service Christian Union

Tenth Annual Conference
of Members
On Friday, 16th November, 1900

Programme - Refreshments, Music and Social Intercourse.
6 - Hymn 15, "Stand up, Stand up for Jesus"
Opening Prayer
Address of Welcome - Major Knox
6.20 - Secretary's Report. Treasurer's Report
Hymn 554, "Jesus, Saviour, Pilot me"
6.40 - Subject - "THE UNION OBSERVER"
Opener, Mr V.P. Peacock
Editor's reply
7.10 - Corner Solo,
Opener, Mr F.J. Foot
Hymn 19 (Christian Choir)
7.50 - Election of Officers
Family Prayer
8 - Hymn 494, "God be with you"


Union Observer Volume 7
Edited by Mr J.M. Rusk. J.M. Rusk resigned at the end of the year and was succeeded by Mr Vernon P. Peacock.

Union Observer Volume 8
Edited by Mr Vernon P. Peacock.

Union Observer Volume 9 [Missing]
A note left by Edwin Roberts stated he did not have this volume.

Union Observer Volume 10
Edited by Mr Vernon P. Peacock.

    "Mr V.P. Peacock...said he loved fun as he loved sunshine - for its own sake, and did not wish to exclude it". (27.11.1903 conference. 1904 p.8)

Federation of London Prayer Unions

"The inaugural meeting of the Federation of London Prayer Unions was held at the Mansion House on Friday March 25th, when the large hall was filled with representatives from the various Prayer Unions, including the Civil Service Prayer Union and the Savings Bank Christian Union.

A.A. Head, Esq., the Chairman of the Federation, explained the constitution, methods, objects and expectations of the Union, which included the revival and maintenance of true religion, the promotion of the true principles of Christian brotherhood, and the continual witness of the Christian life.

Rev. Preb. Webb Peploe delivered one of his powerful addresses, dwelling upon the special features of Paul's Epistle to the Romans.

Rev. Canon Girdlestone and the Lord Mayor of London also took part in the meeting, which was of a most inspiring character"

This became the Federation of London Christian Unions (Founded 1904)
See 1940 - 1947 - 1955 - 1957 (list) - 1959 - 1970 - 1972 (list) - 1976 - 1977 - 1979
In March 1979, David Rutter, offered to write a history of the Federation in view of its 75th Anniversary.


Union Observer Volume 11
Edited by Mr Vernon P. Peacock.

Discussion (and criticism) of the Union Observer was a regular part of the Annual Conference, usually the final item and very active. Replying on 25.11.1904, Vernon Peacock said that he was not worried that the Union Observer had a shortfall of £23. The services of the magazine to the Junior Christian Union were worth that.

    "If it were necessary to make the paper pay it could be done; but the object was to turn out the best possible paper for a penny"
He argued that the paper prepared the way for personal approaches from members to readers, to secure membership of the Union. In this way, it "brought in subscriptions". If the Union wanted more space in the magazine, it could have it - but would it fill the space? He defended the Chess Column as popular and said "to cut out the Cadet Column would be like excommunicating the Cadets". The scientific articles of Henry Proctor, M.S.B.A. (H.M. Stationery Office) had been "condemned" by one speaker. Vernon Peacock said they were "appreciated now in two hemispheres".
    "As to the paper failing in its aim, surely this was achieved if the Union alone of all organisations was able to publish a pure, readable, religious paper for the Junior Service"
In criticising the paper, Mr G. Dockerty had said that it was read by "nearly all the Junior Service", but only about 10% of them are in the Junior Christian Union. He wanted the paper to secure "another 1,000 members" by concentrating more on Union matters. (25.11.1904 conference. 1905 p.4)

The Union Observer changed its name in 1906 to one intended to emphasise its general appeal as a magazine for Civil Servants.

The Civil Service Observer. 1906-1919

Organ of The Junior Civil Service Christian Union and Post Office Total Abstinence Society

Civil Service Observer Volume 12
Edited by Vernon P. Peacock (mostly)

18.9.1906 Presentation to Mr. Peacock on his retirement as editor (p.254):

    We...desire to express our hearty appreciation of your services as Editor of the Union Observer (now the Civil Service Observer) during the years 1902 to 1906...We recognise that the enlargement of the Magazine and its increased circulation during this period were mainly due to your energy, devotion and self-denial..."

Civil Service Observer Volume 13
Edited by H.N. Bride (Patent Office)

May 1907: The Passing of Exeter Hall by Percy Howard.
full picture of Exeter Hall

Civil Service Observer Volume 14 (1908), Volume 15 (1909) and Volume 16 (1910) are all bound in one volume.
Edited by Mr H. Polman (Local Government Board).

It is no longer the organ of the Post Office Total Abstinence Society, but just: the organ of The Junior Civil Service Christian Union

Philip Elliot joined the Board of Education in Whitehall as a Second Division Clerk on 2.5.1910. He was not quite 18 years old and had left his parents' home in Leeds, and a strict Christian background, to work in London. There were several representatives of the Junior Civil Service Christian Union in the Board of Education at this time and, within days of Philip starting work, "a young man came round to my room offering for sale" the Civil Service Observer "and seeking to recruit members."

    "During the period 1910 to 1914 an elderly officer of the Junior Union, named W.H. Wood, of the Board of Trade, used to take us for Saturday afternoon rambles to Epping Forest, and other pleasant places that could be reached without great expense. We were all desperately poor in those days - boy clerks and assistant clerks living on starvation wages, and even a relatively well-off Second Division clerk, like myself, found making ends meet on £70 a year quite a problem. Mr Wood impressed himself on me as one of the most gracious, humble, Christlike men of God that it has ever been my good fortune to meet. What a fatherly interest he took in us young men. And how much I owe to him for what he was." (Service September 1977 p.4)

Copies of The Civil Service Observer from 1911 are unbound.

Civil Service Observer Volume 17
Edited by Mr H. Polman (Local Government Board).

All numbers. Green cover

Civil Service Observer Volume 18
Edited by Mr H. Polman (Local Government Board).

All numbers. Dark Green Art Paper cover

Civil Service Observer Volume 19
Edited by Mr H. Polman (Local Government Board).

All numbers. Dark Green Art Paper cover


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