Nineteenth century England, often called the age of reform, was a period of enormous political, social, and economic change. In the first two decades came an increase in the rate of transformation of the economy, the polity and society and a greater stir and movement in all spheres of public activity caused by more “rational and purposeful” control based upon measuring, counting and observing. Political, economic and governmental institutions developed modern structures and approaches. Charitable regulation reflected these trends. As part of a broader movement of inquiry, supervision and statutory reform, and in an effort to remedy the social evils of the time, the administration and abuse of charitable trusts became a part of a larger agenda of reform, leading to the creation at mid-century of a national Charity Commission which oversaw philanthropic organizations. The rationale for charitable reform was the hope, largely chimerical, to capture a supposedly huge corpus of charitable assets, a proportion of which were misspent, unspent or devoted to obsolete purposes, and to utilize them for modern needs such as education. In contrast to the past, charities were examined with a new thoroughness and scope. Publicity surrounding charitable scandals provided the impetus for Parliamentary reform. Chancery's inefficient hold of oversight of charities was loosened. At mid-century there was in place a permanent Charity Commission, though of questionable vigor and modest effectiveness.
James J. Fishman, Charity Scandals As A Catalyst of Legal Change and Literary Imagination in Nineteenth Century England, 2005 Mich. St. L. Rev. 369, http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/112/.