Looking at Buildings

, printed from the Looking at Buildings website on Saturday 24th August 2019

Settlement Houses

Commercial Street [1], 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 [2] manor house with some agreeable, if undistinguished, additions in recent decades. Tudor-styleGlossary Term [3] four bayGlossary Term [4] red-brick facade with burnt end diapering to the brickwork, stone dressingsGlossary Term [5], 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 [6] character, screened by warehouses to the street and entered through an arched opening at the baseGlossary Term [7] of a tall gatehouse with mullionGlossary Term [8] windows and orielGlossary Term [9] 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 [10] 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 [11] hall and points at the changing emphasis from manorial residence to a 20th century community centre.

Derbyshire Street [12], 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 [13] 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.

Victoria Park Square [14]. Extensions in 1889 added a chapel to the face of the building.

Old Ford Road [15], 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 [16] screenGlossary Term [17] and panels of stained glass by Powell's and Heaton, Butler and Bayne. It is a small but delightful space.

London, St Margaret's House, Old Ford Road

Last updated: Monday, 26th January 2009