There was a contagion. The idea of missions in disadvantaged communities spread across Oxford, Cambridge and through the public schools.
The colleges and schools were primarily drawn to London. The Oxford colleges headed to the East End. The Cambridge colleges looked south of the river. The public school missions distributed across the capital.
The mission work led to adaptation. Oxford House, established by Keble College in Bethnal Green in 1884, developed clubs for clerks, artisans and unskilled working men, as well as the Webbe Institute, named after a famous cricketer and philanthropist, and serving local youngsters.
The Barnetts’ work at Toynbee led to non-conformist settlements that looked to send the Christian message in deeds not words. The most famous were Wesleyan Methodist Settlement in Bermondsey and the Congregational settlements in Canning Town and Walworth. Women’s settlements were established and run by women, although several emerged from work in missions and other settlements. Their focus tended to be different, for example on the needs of children -play centres- young girls -children’s holiday fund- and women -factory girls. They were an outlet for educated middle class women, as was the social work profession post-second world war.
The connections between rich academia and economically poor urban life are less evident today, although the Academy of Engineering, an academy sponsored by the South Bank University is a five-minute walk away from Pembroke House.
It was the students at Pembroke College that paid for the mission, and today alumni continue to contribute several thousand pounds annually to the continuing work of the settlement. Pembroke College’s contribution has always been negligible.