The late 19th century was a time of social deprivation and
great hardship for many children. The Reverend George
Staite summed up the inhumanity of the era in a letter to
the Liverpool Mercury in 1881: “…whilst we have a
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, can we
not do something to prevent cruelty to children?”
However, social attitudes made a very clear distinction
between the public and private lives of Victorians. Even
the famous reformer Lord Shaftesbury said to Staite: “The
evils you state are enormous and indisputable, but they
are of so private, internal and domestic a nature as to be
beyond the reach of legislation.”
Liverpool banker, Thomas Agnew, on a trip to New York in
1881, visited the New York Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Children. He was so impressed by the charity,
that on his return he set up a similar venture in Liverpool
in 1883, the Liverpool Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Children.
Following the creation of the Liverpool Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (LSPCC). Other towns and cities began to follow Liverpool’s example, leading in 1884 to the founding of the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (London SPCC) by Lord Shaftesbury, Reverend Edward Rudolf and Reverend Benjamin Waugh. After five years of campaigning by the London SPCC, Parliament passed the first ever UK law to protect children from abuse and neglect in 1889. The London SPCC was renamed the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1889, because by then it had branches across Great Britain and Ireland.
The NSPCC was granted its Royal Charter in 1895, when Queen Victoria became its first Royal Patron. It did not change its title to "Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children" or similar, as the name NSPCC was already well established, and to avoid confusion with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), which had already existed for more than fifty years.
The Liverpool Society was based at a building in Islington Square, which still stands to this day
Today, the NSPCC works in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Channel Islands. Children 1st – formerly the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children – is the NSPCC's equivalent in Scotland. The NSPCC's organisation in the Republic of Ireland was taken up by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), founded in 1956 as a replacement for the NSPCC. The NSPCC is the only UK charity which has been granted statutory powers under the Children Act 1989, allowing it to apply for care and supervision orders for children at risk.
For more information on the work of the NSPCC today visit