Not many people have heard of John Pound, unless of course they live in the Portsmouth area, but he was one of the people of Portsmouth who tried to influence the future of the city's poor.
John was the son of a dockyard worker........who fell into a dry dock in the city and severely injured his back, and in those days there were no orthopaedic surgeons so he became disabled, and became a shoe repairer in Portsmouth in 1818, but he did not make shoes.
His shop was also used as an educational establishment for the local poor children that the authorities had ignored. It was also his concern that his nephew who was disabled was educated as well.
He taught the three 'Rs' (reading, writing and arithmetic) also giving religious instruction, nature studies, practical skills including shoe repairing, cooking, mending of clothes and toy making as well. This was all without charge to his pupils or their families, and, more often than not, he had about forty children in his 'class' at one time.
Pound spent a lot of time roaming the streets and dockyards of Portsmouth enticing the children and young people to attend his 'school' and a lot of this was rewarded with a small reward of baked potatoes, as many of the children had had no proper food.
One day he befriended a boy who had badly disfigured feet and who would not attend school as he was being ridiculed for his deformity. He thus created an orthopaedic instrument that he had once seen and this is said to have cured the boys distortion.
From this John Pound made a pair of shoes to fit him and these became the forerunner of the first shoes to be made for medical purposes.
His shop was small and often his pupils sat on the steps of the shop or on the bench outside just to get some fresh air. He loaned clothing to the children which subsequently allowed them to attend Sunday school.
He was a friend of Lord Shaftesbury who used to take him in his carriage to the top of Portsdown Hills and relate to him all the news and gossip from London. He could not walk up the hill but could in fact walk down and when he returned to his shop the local people used to call to catch up on the London news. Lord Shaftesbury once advised him to 'Stick to the gutter' when he found that Pound was giving preference to the little 'blackguards' as he referred to them.
Pound was often seen roaming the quayside of the city and you can be sure there were a quantity of baked potatoes in his pockets. Some of these potatoes were probably baked by some of the girls to whom he taught how to cook basic food.
He was not only a nurse to his children but also a doctor as well and it is thought that he probably had his own 'surgery' in his shop. For the recreation side of things he made cricket bats, shuttlecocks and crossbows.
Thomas Guthrie made his work popular in the late 1840s hardly anyone had heard of him, let alone the sterling work he was doing to educate the poor. And soon John Pound had caught the imagination of the people.