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Toynbee Hall is a building in Spitalfields and is in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, in the East End of London, and is the home of a charity of the same name. It works to bridge the gap between people of all social and financial backgrounds, with a focus on working towards a future without poverty.

Toynbee Hall
General information
Architectural styleGothic
AddressCommercial Street
Town or cityLondon
Coordinates51°30′58″N 0°4′21″W / 51.51611°N 0.07250°W / 51.51611; -0.07250
Construction started1884
Design and construction
ArchitectElijah Hoole

It was the first university-affiliated institution of the worldwide Settlement movement; a reformist social agenda that strove to get the rich and poor to live more closely together in an interdependent community.[1] Founded by Canon Samuel Barnett and his wife Henrietta in 1884 on Commercial Street, it was named in memory of their friend and fellow reformer, Oxford historian Arnold Toynbee, who had died the previous year. Built specifically for the charity as a centre for social reform, it remains just as active today.



The building was designed by Elijah Hoole in Tudor-gothic style. It was designated a Grade II listed building in 1973.[2][3] It was adjacent to the church of St Jude, Whitechapel (demolished in 1927), and was on the site of a disused industrial school.[4]

It was built as the first university settlement house of the settlement movement. Students from Oxford and Cambridge University lived there, to undertake social work in the deprived areas of the East End.[5] By 1900 there were over 100 settlements in the United States and across the UK,[6] and in 1911 the leaders of the social settlement movement founded the National Federation of Settlements.[7]

Current activityEdit

Today, Toynbee Hall provides a range of programmes and activities, broadly broken down into: youth, the elderly, financial inclusion, debt, advice, free legal advice and community engagement.

Each year over 400 volunteers help to deliver the charity’s services.

In 2007 the Toynbee Studios opened in part of the building offering dance and media studios and a theatre.



Chair of TrusteesEdit

Notable associated peopleEdit

  • Toynbee residents included RH Tawney and Clement Attlee
  • William Beveridge began his career by working as Sub-Warden at Toynbee Hall from 1903 to 1905
  • Visitors to Toynbee Hall included Lenin and Guglielmo Marconi
  • Lionel Ellis (1885–1970), the military historian, was an Associate Warden of Toynbee Hall after the Second World War.[22] Between the two World Wars, he had been General Secretary of the National Council of Social Service and then Secretary of the National Fitness Council.
  • John Profumo dedicated much of his time to the Hall from the 1960s onwards after the Profumo Affair forced him out of politics
  • Jane Addams visited Toynbee Hall, which inspired her establishment of Hull House in Chicago
  • Sir Nicolas Bratza, was a volunteer at Toynbee Hall's Free Legal Advice Centre in the 1970s. He went on to become the President of the European Court of Human Rights from November 2011 to October 2012. In 2014, Sir Nicolas became an Ambassador for Toynbee Hall
  • Marie-Jeanne Bassot visited Hull House, which inspired her establishment of "la Résidence sociale" in Levallois-Perret (France)

Associated organisationsEdit


  1. ^ Chapin, Henry Dwight (28 October 1894). "WORK FOR THE POOR IN LONDON". New York Times. p. 20. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  2. ^ Toynbee Hall: The First Hundred Years by A. Briggs and A. Macartney, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1984, p. 1
  3. ^ ‹The template Images of England is being considered for merging.›  Historic England. "Details from image database (205906)". Images of England. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  4. ^ Stewart Angas Weaver (1997). The Hammonds: A Marriage in History. Stanford University Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-8047-3242-0.
  5. ^ Article in the 'University Review' 919050, quoted in H. O. Barnett, op. cit., p.311
  6. ^ National Federation of Settlements accessed 10 July 2013
  7. ^ Social Welfare History website.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Koven, Seth. "Barnett, Samuel Augustus". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/30612.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  9. ^ Hope Hay Hewison (1989). Hedge of Wild Almonds: South Africa, the Pro-Boers & the Quaker Conscience, 1890–1910. James Currey Publishers. p. 373. ISBN 978-0-85255-031-1.
  10. ^ The Annual Monitor for 1919-20 being an obituary of members of the Society of Friends, Headley Bros, 1920 p 168-177
  11. ^ Briggs, Asa. "Mallon, James Joseph". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34846.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  12. ^ Stanley Brice Frost (1 May 1984). McGill University: For the Advancement of Learning, Volume II, 1895–1971. McGill-Queen's Press – MQUP. pp. 209 note 14. ISBN 978-0-7735-6094-9.
  13. ^ Moonman, Eric (6 September 2004). "Obituary: Walter Birmingham". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  14. ^ Who Was Who, Oxford Index
  15. ^ Gerald Grace (17 June 2013). Education and the City: Theory, History and Contemporary Practice. Routledge. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-135-66876-1.
  16. ^ Washbrook, David. "Elliott, Charles Alfred". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33004.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  17. ^ Katherine Bentley Beauman (15 September 1996). Women and the Settlement Movement. The Radcliffe Press. pp. 199–. ISBN 978-1-86064-129-9.
  18. ^ Toynbee Hall: the first hundred years, p. 155
  19. ^ Heffer, Simon. "Profumo, John Dennis". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/97107.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  20. ^, Board of Directors. Archived 7 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^, Trustees.
  22. ^ Social Service: A Quarterly Review, Volumes 27–28 (1953), p. 1: "For the Well-Being of Mankind, Lionel F. Ellis, c.v.o., c.b.e., d.s.o. Associate Warden, Toynbee Hall".


External linksEdit

Coordinates: 51°30′58″N 0°4′21″W / 51.51611°N 0.07250°W / 51.51611; -0.07250