By Jo Till
Opened in 1884, Toynbee Hall was the first Settlement scheme in the world. Most of the early residents were Oxbridge graduates. Barnett encouraged them to make use of their skills and knowledge by getting involved in social and educational work in the local community. In turn, he hoped the ‘settlers’ would also learn from their East End neighbours. Barnett believed that everyone should have access to education, literature, art and music. From its earliest days, Toynbee Hall ran lectures and classes and hosted concerts and art exhibitions which were open to local residents. As Barnett put it
what is good enough for the University is good enough for East London.
Barnett was a shy and modest man who looked older than his years. He was an unlikely pioneer. But he become a respected public figure and, by the time he died in 1913, his influence extended well beyond the doors of Toynbee Hall. By that point there were more than 400 Settlements established across America. Today there are Settlements all over the world, from London to Tokyo. But his legacy lives on most clearly in the work still done by Toynbee Hall and its staff and volunteers. To find out more about Samuel Barnett’s life and work read the full booklet here.