Our history

Our history

Toynbee Hall was created in 1884 by Samuel Barnett, a Church of England vicar, and his wife Henrietta, in response to a growing realisation that enduring social change would not be achieved through the existing individualised and piecemeal approaches.

The radical vision was to create a place for future leaders to live and work as volunteers in London’s East End, bringing them face to face with poverty, and giving them the opportunity to develop practical solutions that they could take with them into national life. Many of the individuals that came to Toynbee Hall as young men and women – including Clement Attlee and William Beveridge – went on to bring about radical social change and maintain a lifelong connection with Toynbee Hall.

Today, Britain is facing another crisis of poverty as new economic, social and demographic trends undermine established solutions. It is as important as ever for Toynbee Hall to continue to identify emerging needs, pilot new responses and persuade local and national leaders to adopt them.

We have been a catalyst for social reform in the UK for 130 years, and continue to create new ways to help those who find themselves in poverty today – whatever their age or background. But we can’t do it alone. You can help us continue to support the communities and individuals who need us.

New permanent exhibition coming soon

After 4 years, the regeneration is nearly complete and we are thrilled to soon be opening a new permanent exhibition, Toynbee Hall: a powerhouse for social change. Hear the stories of social action form the world’s first university settlement.