Toynbee Hall and Housing


From Victorian model dwellings to ‘Streets in the Sky, Toynbee Hall has always been involved in tackling housing problems in the East End. As a Settlement it has always been a domestic space as well as a community hub. Over the years we have provided homes on site for staff, volunteers and local residents. But we have also tried to find wider solutions to the housing challenges faced by the local community, from developing social housing to town planning research.

By Alanna Gluck, Sahar Alamgir and Pau Pak Wan

Some early residents at Toynbee Hall  inspected local slum housing on behalf of the Sanitary Aid Committee. The  East London Tenants’ Protection Committee was also formed at Toynbee Hall in 1899. It defended East End slum-dwellers against unscrupulous landlords. In the interwar years Toynbee Hall tried to provide a more direct solution to the housing problems by renting some of its premises to local people. In later years, there was also purpose-built housing on site in post-war blocks like Sunley House.

Toynbee Hall was also engaged with post-war planning debates and commissioned its own research, which challenged government plans for East End reconstruction. In the 1970s we established the Toynbee Housing Association. It aimed to build decent affordable housing that would be fairly allocated to local people. Today, our newly redeveloped site includes 74 new homes, some of which are affordable and social housing.


To find out more about Toynbee Hall’s work to tackle housing problems in the East End download the full booklet here.