Icons of Toynbee Hall: John Profumo

Stories

John Profumo CBE (1915-2006) was a politician and social worker who resigned from the Macmillan government following a scandal in 1963 and devoted the last forty years of his life to voluntary work supporting numerous projects at Toynbee Hall. To learn more about his relationship at Toynbee Hall download this booklet.

By Callum Scowen

Extract:

Jack Profumo quietly began work at Toynbee Hall in 1964, helping to raise its profile and increase charitable income. It became his second vocation, and in 1975 he was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Ingenious, charismatic, and compassionate, he worked tirelessly for many causes at Toynbee Hall until the week prior to his death in March 2006, aged ninety-one.

Profumo’s early days at Toynbee Hall are the subject of hyperbole and myth. Contrary to tales of cleaning toilets and peeling potatoes, Profumo quickly took on responsibility at Toynbee Hall. In August 1964, mere weeks after arriving at the Settlement, it was noted that “Mr Profumo would be prepared to run’ a committee dealing with day to day problems linked to the staging of a high profile Royal Premiere to benefit the charity”. Toynbee Hall’s warden, Walter Birmingham, went further, in 1965 saying ‘without him (Jack), we should never have got anywhere’ and the journalist Oliver Pritchett went as far as to say ‘he is essentially deputy warden’. By this point, in December 1965, Profumo was already heavily involved in Toynbee Hall’s work, particularly focused on fundraising.