Toynbee Hall

Toynbee Hall

Toynbee Hall: see Barnett, Samuel Augustus.
Toynbee Hall is the original university settlement house of the settlement movement. Founded in 1884 on Commercial Street, Whitechapel in the East End of London, it remains active today. A centre for social reform, Toynbee Hall was founded by Samuel and Henrietta Barnett, and named in memory of their friend and fellow reformer, Oxford historian Arnold Toynbee, who had died the previous year.


The original building was designed by the obscure Elijah Hoole in vicarage-gothic style.

The radical idea behind Toynbee Hall that became the basis for settlement houses throughout England and the United States (e.g. Hull House) was that graduates would undertake social work in the deprived areas of towns and cities and learn something of what it was like to experience poverty — in the words of Samuel Barnett, 'to learn as much as to teach; to receive as much to give'.

Current programmes

Today, Toynbee Hall provides a series of programmes for young people and families, adults, and older people, which aim to meet the needs of local people, improve conditions and enable communities to fulfil their potential.

The Young People and Families team aims to prevent young people from under-achieving, becoming involved in anti-social behaviour, or missing opportunities to meet their potential by engaging vulnerable young people in responsible and challenging activities that help them to develop their self-confidence, leadership and creative skills.

The Adult Advice and Education team coordinates projects that support adults experiencing social or financial exclusion through free and independent advice sessions and workshops, referrals and partnership working.

As one of the government’s pilot Link Age Plus Network Centres, Toynbee Hall works towards linking local services and opportunities for people aged over 50, including around debt, housing and health. The Older People team also provides a day care centre for isolated older people in the community.

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

On Toynbee Hall’s site the Barnett Research Centre houses a unique collection of socially important documents relating to the Settlement Movement and the history of social policy and social change nationally, internationally and in the East End of London. The Barnett Research Centre reference library and archive collection has over 4000 books and artifacts with many items dating back to the 19th century. The library is open to the public and is free to use.

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

Notable people and organisations associated with it


  • Briggs, A. and Macartney, A. (1984) Toynbee Hall. The first hundred years, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
  • Pimlott, J. A. R. (1935) Toynbee Hall. Fifty years of social progress 1884 - 1934, London: Dent.


External links

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