John Howard

When Howard had again settled at Cardington, he resumed his benevolent schemes of local improvement. It appears that the vicinity of Bedford, and Cardington especially, was inhabited by a very poor population, liable to frequent visitations of distress from the fluctuations of the only manufacture which yielded them employment - that of lace; as well as generally from the unhealthy and marshy nature of the soil, rendering agues prevalent. Mr. Howard's first care with respect to those to whom he was attached as landlord, was to improve their dwellings. At different times,' says his biographer, Mr. Brown, he pulled down all the cottages on his estate, and rebuilt them in a neat but simple style, paying particular attention to their preservation, as much as possible, from the dampness of the soil. Others which were not his property before, he purchased, and reerected upon the same plan; adding to the number of the whole by building several new ones in different parts of the village. To each of these he allotted a piece of garden-ground, sufficient to supply the family of its occupier with potatoes and other vegetables; and generally ornamented them in front with a small fore-court, fenced off from the road by neat white palings, enclosing a bed or two of simple flowers, with here and there a shrub, or an evergreen; thus imparting to these habitations of the poor, with their white fronts and thatched roofs, that air of neatness and comfort so strikingly characteristic of everything in which he engaged.' These comfort able habitations, which he let at a rent of twenty or thirty shillings a year,' says another biographer, Dr. Aikin, 'he peopled with the most industrious and sober tenants he could find; and over them he exercised the superintendence of master and father combined. He was careful to furnish them with employment, to assist them in sickness and distress, and to educate their children.' In consequence of these exertions of Mr. Howard, aided and seconded by those of his friend and relative, Samuel Whitbread, Esq., who possessed property in the same neighborhood, Cardington, which seemed at one time to contain the abodes of poverty and wretchedness, soon became one of the neatest villages in the kingdom - exhibiting all the pleasing appearances of competence and content, the natural rewards of industry and virtue.' Industry and cleanliness were the two virtues which. Mr. Howard sought by all means to naturalize among the villagers of Cardington. It was his custom to visit the houses of his tenants now and then, conversing with them on the state of their affairs. During such visits he was particular in requesting them to keep their houses clean; and it was one of his standing advices that they should swill the floors well with water.' After talking with the children, he would tell them, at parting, to be good boys and girls, and keep their faces and hands clean.'

Among Mr. Howard's other benefactions to the locality of Cardington, he established schools for the education of the boys and girls of the neighborhood, in the rudiments of knowledge. Of these it was strictly required that they should regularly attend some place of worship on Sundays; whether the established church, or any other, was indifferent, provided it was a church at all. His anxiety on this point also led him to convert one of his cottages into a preaching station, where the neighboring clergymen of different pursuasions, or occasionally a clergyman from a distance passing through the village, might officiate to such as chose to attend; and very rarely was the little congregation without at least one sermon a week. Mr. Howard, when at Cardington, was invariably present at these meetings. His regular place of worship was the Old Meeting-house at Bedford, of which the Rev. Mr. Symonds was pastor for 1766 to 1772. In the latter year, however, when Mr. Symonds declared his adherence to the theological tenets of the Baptists, Mr. Howard seceded along with a considerable part of the congregation, and established a new meeting-house. The truth is, however, that, with all his piety, and indeed on account of the very strength and sincerity of it, the theological differences of sects occupied very little space in his attention, and did not in the least affect his schemes of philanthropy; and though a dissenter of a particular denomination himself, dissenters of all other denominations, as well as members of the established church, were equally the objects of his respect and his benevolent solicitude.