Daily Prayer At Saint Laika’s

* Octavia Hill *


Give us, 0 Lord, a humble spirit, that we may never presume upon your mercy, but live always as those who have been much forgiven. Make us tender and compassionate towards those who are overtaken by temptation, considering ourselves, how we have fallen in times past and may fall yet again. Make us watchful and sober-minded, looking ever unto you for grace to stand upright and to persevere unto the end. Amen.

( Dean Vaughan 1816-1907 )


You sons of men, with joy record the various wonders of the Lord
and let his power and goodness sound through all your tribes, the earth around.

Let the high heavens your songs invite; those spacious fields of brilliant light,
where sun and moon and planets roll, and stars, that glow from pole to pole.

See earth in verdant robes arrayed, its herbs and flowers, its fruit and shade;
peopled with life of various forms, fishes and fowls, and beasts and worms.

View the broad sea’s majestic plains and think how wide its maker reigns;
that band remotest nations joins and on each wave his goodness shines.

But O! that brighter world above, where lives and reigns incarnate love!
God’s only son in flesh arrayed, for man a bleeding victim made.

Thither, my soul, with rapture soar: there in the land of praise adore:
this theme demands an angel’s lay, demands an undeclining day.

( Philip Doddridge, 1702-1751 )

MEDITATION by Tim Madsen

Octavia Hill: an iron sceptre twined with roses

Today Saint Laika’s remembers Octavia Hill, a British social reformer of the late nineteenth century, who established a network of homes for the poor and a system which prompted the poor to better themselves by hard work, personal responsibility and regular visitation by one of her social workers. She was also a tireless campaigner for open spaces for the poor: parks and woodlands. In her own words, “Places to sit in, places to play in, places to stroll in and places to spend a day in.”

Just two years after her birth in 1838, her father suffered both financial and mental collapse. Her mother’s father helped settle the family in a home and took over some of the parental roles from her father. He was Doctor Thomas Southwood Smith, a medical doctor with a passion for sanitary reform in hospitals and social reform in early Victorian London.

From age fourteen, Octavia was engaged in work aimed at social reform. In 1865, with the help of John Ruskin who had befriended her, she began, with his philanthropic help, the first of her housing operations. By 1874 she had over fifteen housing tracts with about three thousand clients. She based her system on the collection of weekly rent, which involved a personal visit from her or one of her staff of social workers to get to know the tenants and treat them as individuals. She spoke on many occasions against impersonal government bureaucracy.

Throughout the 1800’s her influence grew and spread to continental Europe and North America.

An American colleague described her as “ruling over a little kingdom of three thousand loving subjects with an iron sceptre twined with roses.”

In 1907 the British Parliament passed the "National Trust Act," which provided for the preservation of the open spaces she had longed for, together with wildlife habitats and historic buildings.

Octavia died of cancer on the thirteenth of August, 1912.

The Octavia Hill Society keeps her life, her work and her philosophy alive today.

Scripture. In the forty-first psalm, verses one and two, we read:

Happy are those who consider the poor;* the LORD delivers them in the day of trouble. The LORD protects them and keeps them alive; they are called happy in the land.


We pray...

... for peace in the world.

... for the homeless and for those who are struggling to find an affordable place to live; for victims of unscrupulous landlords and economic ideologies which do not take into account the welfare and happiness of people.

... that the governments of the world, at both national and local level, may pursue just housing policies that put people before profit.

... for all who work to preserve open spaces for everybody to enjoy and the buildings and places which are the heritage of the people.

... that we may be responsible stewards of the earth and good tenants of God's creation; that we may be good neighbours showing God's love within the communities we live in.

... for the left-handed people of the world. DETAILS

... for those killed or injured in an explosion at an arms depot in the village of Sarmada, northern Syria, on Sunday; for all who fell victim to the wars of the world over the weekend. DETAILS

... for those killed or injured when a bus carrying football fans overturned between the Ecuadorean towns of Cuenca and Guayaquil DETAILS; for those who are missing and feared dead after a helicopter they were travelling in had a "hard landing" in the mountains of Tajikistan DETAILS; for all who were involved in accidents whilst travelling over the weekend.

... for those killed or injured in a fire at a hospital in New Taipei City, Taiwan, early on Monday. DETAILS

... for the success of the Parker Solar Probe's journey to the sun. DETAILS

... for those who have died recently and for those who mourn their passing.

... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.

... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.

... for ourselves.


Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.


From "Space for the People" by Octavia Hill (Macmillan's Magazine, August 1875):

There are a few fields just north of this parish of Marylebone which indeed first put it into my head to write this article, though the thoughts contained in it have long been before me. These fields have been our constant resort for years: they are within an easy walk for most of us, and a twopenny train takes the less vigorous within a few yards of the little white gate by which they are entered. They are the nearest fields on our side of London; and there on a summer Sunday or Saturday evening you might see hundreds of working people, who have walked up there from the populous and very poor neighbourhood of Lisson Grove and Portland Town. Fathers, with a little girl by each hand, the mother with the baby, sturdy little boys and merry little girls-as they entered the small, white gate, you might see them spread over the green open space like a stream that has just escaped from between rocks. They sit down on the grass; the baby grabs at the daisies, the tiny children toddle about or tumble on the soft grass, the mother’s arms are rested, and there she sits till it is time to return; or perhaps they go on up to Hampstead Heath, to which these fields lead, which many could not reach, if these acres were covered with villas, instead of affording a welcome rest.

Acres of villas!

Yes, at last, the fields will be built over, if they cannot be saved. They are now like a green hilly peninsula or headland, stretching out into the sea of houses; the nearest fields I know to London anywhere: certainly the nearest on our side. The houses have crept round their feet, and left them till now for us. I knew them many years ago, when I used to walk out of London alone; and since then I have been there, as I say, with dozens of parties of the poor. There the May still grows; there thousands of buttercups. crown the slope with gold: there, best of all, as you when houses are built all round; for far away the view stretches over blue distances to the ridge where Windsor stands. As you come home, yes, as your children’s children come home, if you will save the fields from being built over now, will be seen from them the great sun going down, with all his clouds about him, or the fair space of cloudless summer sky, London lying hushed below you, even London hushed for you for a few minutes, so far it lies beneath, though you will be in it in a short ten minutes.

These fields may be bought now, or they may be built over: which is it to be?

It is a bad thing trying to see other people’s duties: they alone can judge what they are. I can only hope that various people will take the question into consideration. I don’t know absolutely that the fields of which I have written are the cheapest to be had, nor that there may not be others nearer to dense centres of population. I happen to know the special beauties of these, and their value to our side of London, and to be personally very fond of them, which somewhat disqualifies me from judging of their relative value. I would not, therefore, plead for these fields in contradistinction to others, though they have their special beauty. What I wish to urge, and I have only introduced a practical example now vividly in my own mind as most strongly bringing home the fact, is the immense value to the education and reformation of our poorest people of some space near their homes, or within a reasonable distance of them. We all need space; unless we have it we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently. Our lives in London are over-crowded, over-excited, over-strained. This is true of all classes; we all want quiet; we all want beauty for the refreshment of our souls. Sometimes we think of it as a luxury, but when God made the world, He made it very beautiful, and meant that we should live amongst its beauties, and that they should speak peace to us in our daily lives.


Lord God, your son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the world. Help us, like your servant Octavia Hill, to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help, to the honour and glory of your holy name; through Jesus Christ, our saviour and lord. Amen.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.


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