Settlement Houses

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London, Toynbee Hall, Commercial Street

The economic and social crises in East London in the 1860s had an important effect on the activities of philanthropists and led to the establishment of one of the most enduring institutions in East London: the Settlement House.
Toynbee Hall, Commercial Street, was founded by Canon Samuel Barnett, vicar of St Jude's Whitechapel in memory of Arnold Toynbee, a young Oxford Historian who pioneered social work in East London. The original building of 1884-5 by Elijah Hoole survives only in part. It is set well back from the street behind gardens; rather like an ElizabethanGlossary Term manor house with some agreeable, if undistinguished, additions in recent decades. Tudor-styleGlossary Term four bayGlossary Term red-brick facade with burnt end diapering to the brickwork, stone dressingsGlossary Term, large mullioned windows with diamond leaded panes under a pair of steep kneelered gables and robust chimney stacks.

Before war damage, the Hall was set around a narrow quadrangle of secluded collegiateGlossary Term character, screened by warehouses to the street and entered through an arched opening at the baseGlossary Term of a tall gatehouse with mullionGlossary Term windows and orielGlossary Term window to the first floor. In the upper storey, rooms for residential workers, above a drawing room, meeting hall and a dining room decoratedGlossary Term by C.R Ashbee's art students. Of this only gilded plaster roundels survive, embellished with a motif of a tree formed from a stylised "T". Later additions are mixed but the resolutely modernist Toynbee Studios, of 1939 by Alister G. MacDonald, for theatre, music school and juvenile court, makes an unsentimental contrast to Hoole's neo-TudorGlossary Term hall and points at the changing emphasis from manorial residence to a 20th century community centre.

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London, Oxford House, Derbyshire Street

Oxford House in Derbyshire Street, Bethnal Green (1891-4 by Sir Arthur Blomfield shares the architectural language of Toynbee Hall in its reference to the domestic style of the 16th and early 17th centuries. Founded, also in 1884, by the staff and students of Keble and New Colleges, Oxford and with a more specifically Anglican religious focus to its work. Along with reading rooms, meeting hall and bedrooms for the resident workers, Blomfield also designed a small chapel in the roof, with neo-Jacobean furnishings, that has rcently been restored. Both settlements exemplify the belief that such institutions were essential to re-establishing the social relations between the classes which were perceived to have vanished with the onset of industrialisation and to have been eroded by impersonal charity.

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London, University House, Victoria Park Square

Contact between the middle class university students and the working class inhabitants of the East End districts was seen as an essential part of the Settlements work. However, existing clubs and societies were also promoted by the Settlements to further their work. University House was established in 1886 by Oxford House to have an entirely working class membership, partly as an effort to discourage working men from engaging in radical or left-wing political societies. It was housed in a late 17th century terrace in Victoria Park Square. Extensions in 1889 added a chapel to the face of the building.

St Margaret's House, the women's settlement attached to Oxford House, was established in a row of 1750s houses in Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green. Extensions were made to provide a wing of rooms for resident workers (their fittings still preserved)and a large assembly hall. As at Oxford House and University House, the chapel was a key element, designed by Paul Waterhouse, 1904, with a roodGlossary Term screenGlossary Term and panels of stained glass by Powell's and Heaton, Butler and Bayne. It is a small but delightful space.

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London, St Margaret's House, Old Ford Road


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