Our History

We have a proud history of helping Scots for over 400 years

The Scots Box

The original Scots Box, and a copy made in 2011 to mark four centuries of existence. The box can still be found at our head offices on City Road, London.

The origins of ScotsCare can be traced back to the union of the crowns of Scotland and England in 1603, when James VI became James I of England and travelled south to reign from London. As a result, many Scots followed him to the capital to forge a living where many thrived and became successful. Inevitably some fared less well, and had the added difficulty of being ineligible for parish relief, a form of social security at the time, if they fell ill, orphaned, disabled or became infirm in their later years. This prompted a group of benevolent Scots merchants and craftsmen to meet regularly, and contribute to the ‘Scots Box’, creating a fund, or safety net, for their less fortunate compatriots to draw on.

The origins of ScotsCare can be traced back to the union of the crowns of Scotland and England in 1603, when James VI became James I of England and travelled south to reign from London. As a result, many Scots followed him to the capital to forge a living where many thrived and became successful. Inevitably some fared less well, and had the added difficulty of being ineligible for parish relief, a form of social security at the time, if they fell ill, orphaned, disabled or became infirm in their later years. This prompted a group of benevolent Scots merchants and craftsmen to meet regularly, and contribute to the ‘Scots Box’, creating a fund, or safety net, for their less fortunate compatriots to draw on.

The First Royal Charter

Brass Decoration on the Scots Box

The ‘Box Club’ continued to grow and give aid, gaining a more formal identity when it established itself as the Royal Scottish Corporation in 1611. One of its biggest challenges came in 1655, when the Corporation paid for the burial of over 300 Scots and nursed others during the Great Plague, nearly exhausting its reserves.

As the 17th century progressed, the Corporation grew as a focal point for Scottish nobles, merchants, ministers, lawyers, doctors and other professionals who wanted to help their poorer compatriots. Looking to expand, members signed a petition to the king, Charles II, and were successful when he awarded what was to become the first of three Royal Charters in 1665. This enabled the organisation to create a hospital and workhouse for poor Scots artisans which opened in 1673 in Blackfriars, on a plot of land that had been stripped by the Great Fire of 1666. This was the first ever national hospital and workhouse in London for an immigrant population.

The union of parliaments in 1707 brought a new wave of Scots to the capital, and the Corporation closed its workhouse hospital at this time, probably due to overcrowding. The charity continued, but perhaps due to tensions over Scottish independence and the Jacobite rebellions its activities dipped.

The ‘Box Club’ continued to grow and give aid, gaining a more formal identity when it established itself as the Royal Scottish Corporation in 1611. One of its biggest challenges came in 1655, when the Corporation paid for the burial of over 300 Scots and nursed others during the Great Plague, nearly exhausting its reserves.

As the 17th century progressed, the Corporation grew as a focal point for Scottish nobles, merchants, ministers, lawyers, doctors and other professionals who wanted to help their poorer compatriots. Looking to expand, members signed a petition to the king, Charles II, and were successful when he awarded what was to become the first of three Royal Charters in 1665. This enabled the organisation to create a hospital and workhouse for poor Scots artisans which opened in 1673 in Blackfriars, on a plot of land that had been stripped by the Great Fire of 1666. This was the first ever national hospital and workhouse in London for an immigrant population.

The union of parliaments in 1707 brought a new wave of Scots to the capital, and the Corporation closed its workhouse hospital at this time, probably due to overcrowding. The charity continued, but perhaps due to tensions over Scottish independence and the Jacobite rebellions its activities dipped.

Timeline

1603
Union of the crowns, many Scots follow James I to London. First meetings of the Scots Box group begin.
1611
Royal Scottish Corporation established.
1665
First Royal Charter. Over 300 Scots buried by the Corporation due to the Great Plague.
1673
Scottish hospital opened.
1676
Second Royal Charter granted.
1707
Union of Scottish and English parliaments. More Scots arrive in London.
1715, 1719, 1745

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Jacobite rebellions.
1775
Third Royal Charter granted.
1782
Crane Court premises bought.
1818
Kinloch Bequest established for poor and disabled Scots soldiers and sailors.
1862
Serious case of fraud discovered.
1877
Crane Court building burns down, archives lost.
1901
Queen Victoria dies, Edward VII becomes royal patron.
1914 - 18
‘Comforts’ sent to Scottish frontline troops in WWI.
1975
The Queen Mother opened the new charity headquarters in Covent Garden.
1978
First sheltered housing scheme for elderly opens.
2005
The Royal Scottish Corporation becomes known as ScotsCare.
2010
Charity moves to current offices, 22 City Road.
2011
ScotsCare celebrates over 400 years of supporting Scots.
2016
Current Chief Executive Shona Fleming appointed.
Present Day

Timeline

1603
Union of the crowns, many Scots follow James I to London. First meetings of the Scots Box group begin.
1611
Royal Scottish Corporation established.
1665
First Royal Charter. Over 300 Scots buried by the Corporation due to the Great Plague.
1673
Scottish hospital opened.
1676
Second Royal Charter granted.
1707
Union of Scottish and English parliaments. More Scots arrive in London.
1715, 1719, 1745

}



Jacobite rebellions.
1775
Third Royal Charter granted.
1782
Crane Court premises bought.
1818
Kinloch Bequest established for poor and disabled Scots soldiers and sailors.
1862
Serious case of fraud discovered.
1877
Crane Court building burns down, archives lost.
1901
Queen Victoria dies, Edward VII becomes royal patron.
1914 - 18
‘Comforts’ sent to Scottish frontline troops in WWI.
1975
The Queen Mother opened the new charity headquarters in Covent Garden.
1978
First sheltered housing scheme for elderly opens.
2005
The Royal Scottish Corporation becomes known as ScotsCare.
2010
Charity moves to current offices, 22 City Road.
2011
ScotsCare celebrates over 400 years of supporting Scots.
2016
Current Chief Executive Shona Fleming appointed.

Present Day

Growth and challenges

The charity’s former status was not regained until a third Royal Charter in 1775, and new leadership from James Graham, Marquis of Montrose in the 1780’s. Throughout this period and the 19th century the charity grew again, with leadership from mainly Scottish nobility, and patronage from incumbent kings and queens, including William IV and Edward VII.

In 1832, the charity was called upon in particular, when 3,780 people were recorded as receiving Corporation aid due to an outbreak of cholera in the city.

The charity incurred a setback in 1862, when it was discovered it had been the victim of a 15 year fraud. Another incident was a fire that ripped through its headquarters at Crane Court, by Fleet Street, in 1877 destroying all of its records and some valuable portrait paintings. Despite this the charity survived and thrived, through careful management and investments.

The Fetter Lane Premises

New premises

As a result of the fire a new premises was built at Fetter Lane, which the Corporation was to occupy until the charity moved to Covent Garden in 1974, near to where it all began. This headquarters was used until the move to its current site on City Road, near Old Street in 2010.

Prominent Scots, from the nobility, Scottish Churches, medicine, politics, business and the military continued to lead and benefit the Corporation with their varied expertise. Lord Joseph Lister, the founder of antiseptic surgery, for example, was the Corporation’s honorary surgeon from 1878-1912.

A religious contingent has also played a role in the guidance and governance of the organisation, with the Scottish Churches of St Columba’s Church, Knightsbridge and Crown Court Church, Covent Garden still providing honorary chaplains to this day.

Other ways to help

As well as helping in times of health crises and economic depression, the charity has also been there for the elderly and disabled poor through giving pensions, which still continues today in the form of grants. The charity has also provided sheltered housing at affordable rents for these pensioners since 1978.

Other instances of help have been grants to the ‘casual poor’, those that came against a temporary difficulty, such as the unemployed men helped in the early 20th century and young widows with dependent children who were helped in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A hostel for the homeless was run from 1976-79, and today ScotsCare’s sister charity, Borderline exists specifically to help homeless Scots in London.

The charity has also helped those emigrating abroad or returning to Scotland through paying for their travel or giving a network of help upon arrival. This continues in a way today, with ScotsCare paying for clients travel back to Scotland, should they wish to resettle in their homeland.

The charity has also helped with education, paying for the school fees of children throughout the 19th century, later with educational grants and today with school grants.

A helping hand for soldiers

The charity has history of supporting soldiers and their dependents. On the Home Front during the Great War the Corporation increased allowances for widows and their children from early 1916, as prices rose. Frontline troops and prisoners of war were sent gifts and those that returned wounded were visited through their recuperation. It also helped when demobilised soldiers returned from war, many finding themselves homeless and workless.

A distinct Corporation trust since 1818, the Kinloch Bequest helped disabled and other Scottish veterans of Victorian wars of empire as well as those of the Great War and beyond.

Another military charity, the St. Andrew’s Scottish Soldiers’ Fund, has also been managed by the Corporation since 1974. As ScotsCare, the charity continues to administer these two military charities for the benefit of Scotsmen and Scotswomen of all three services, wherever they be serving or living as veterans.

Notable supporters

JM Barrie

children’s author

Sir
Walter Scott

novelist, poet, playwright and historian

Robert Stevenson

famous lighthouse engineer

Lord Joseph Lister

founder of
anti-septic surgery

The
Queen
Mother

Queen Victoria

donated one hundred guineas annually for 63 years

Notable supporters

JM Barrie

children’s author

Sir
Walter Scott

novelist, poet, playwright and historian

Robert Stevenson

famous lighthouse engineer

Lord Joseph Lister

founder of
anti-septic surgery

The
Queen
Mother

Queen Victoria

donated one hundred guineas annually for 63 years

To the present day

In its modern form, the Royal Scottish Corporation, or ScotsCare as it’s been known since 2005, is still a lifeline for many. Our vision is to end the cycle of deprivation experienced by Scots, particularly children and families, working age adults and older people in London, through a range of financial, practical and emotional support. The charity believes that a combination of factors maintains disadvantage for clients, and as a result has adopted a holistic and needs led assessment process, through either direct services or referral to the required specialist help. The charity also organises social events and other activities, ensuring that Scots can come together and enjoy life in London a little bit more.

In the year 2018-19 the charity helped 1,014 ‘clients’, including 462 children and awarded 1019 grants. The charity is the oldest Scottish charity operating outside of Scotland, and it can be estimated that the organisation has supported around a million first- and second-generation Scots since it began as the Scots Box in 1603.

To request a more in depth booklet on the history of ScotsCare please contact communications@scotscare.com

To request a more in depth booklet on the history of ScotsCare please contact communications@scotscare.com