Eleanor’s Heritage Blog Part 1 – Welcome to the archive

Eleanor’s Heritage Blog Part 1 – Welcome to the archive

By Eleanor Sier, Heritage Learning and Participation Manager

In this new blog series, Eleanor Sier, Heritage Learning and Participation Manager at Toynbee Hall, will be giving us a whistle stop tour of the archive and an insight into her role.

When I started working for Toynbee Hall in May last year I was excited to learn more about Toynbee Hall’s history. I knew it was the first settlement house with an international influence. I knew that Clement Attlee and William Beveridge had lived here. But I had no idea how many fascinating stories I was going to discover and how many paths it would lead me down.

I regularly sit in the office squeaking with excitement when I receive an email from a relative of a resident, or I find a photograph I haven’t seen before. So to ensure that the colleagues who sit around me aren’t the only people who get to enjoy these discoveries with me, I am going to start writing a blog to capture the research I’m doing as it can’t all fit it into the physical and online exhibitions I’m putting together.

In this first post I thought I would share my favourite photo and favourite document from Toynbee Hall’s archive, now living at the London Metropolitan Archives. Both of these items are things that brought me joy when I discovered them.

The photograph is one I regularly use in presentations about our archives. It is a photograph of Toynbee Hall’s first residents, so is significant. Historians Asa Briggs and Helen Macartney use it in their book ‘Toynbee Hall’ (1984) and name all but one of the people in it. The main reason it gives me so much pleasure though, as I say in presentations, is that it looks like a Vanity Fair Hollywood issue front cover with everyone striking a pose. It makes me smile every time I look at it. We’ve been talking about trying to recreate it with staff when the Halls are restored.

My favourite document is simply minutes for a meeting of the American Friends of Toynbee Hall from 1953. The reason I like it so much is that it proves that Dr. Albert Einstein was a Vice President of the group. I would love to find out if there is anything in Dr. Einstein’s archive that relates to this group, especially if it could shed light on why he became involved. But the few searches I’vedone so far haven’t come up with anything. If anyone reading this blog is able to find out more, please let me know!

Minutes of a Special Meeting of the American Friends of Toynbee Hall, 1985. Copyright: Toynbee Hall archives, London Metropolitan Archives, City of London. Ref. no. LMA/4683/CEN/10/004

I hope this blog will prompt people to share their knowledge and memories of Toynbee Hall with me as the history is so huge I won’t be able to uncover it on my own! Contact me via archive@toynbeehall.org.uk


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