Skip Content

Our History

Canon Samuel & Henrietta Barnett

Toynbee Hall was created in 1884 by Samuel Barnett, a Church of England vicar, and his wife Henrietta, in response to a growing realisation that enduring social change would not be achieved through the existing individualised and piecemeal approaches.

The radical vision was to create a place for future leaders to live and work as volunteers in London’s East End, bringing them face to face with poverty, and giving them the opportunity to develop practical solutions that they could take with them into national life.  Many of the individuals that came to Toynbee Hall as young men and women – including Clement Attlee and William Beveridge – went on to bring about radical social change and maintain a lifelong connection with Toynbee Hall.

Today, Britain is facing another crisis of poverty as new economic, social and demographic trends undermine established solutions. It is as important as ever for Toynbee Hall to continue to identify emerging needs, pilot new responses and persuade local and national leaders to adopt them.

We have been a catalyst for social reform in the UK for 130 years, and continue to create new ways to help those who find themselves in poverty today – whatever their age or background. But we can’t do it alone. You can help us continue to support the communities and individuals who need us.

Support Our Work

Icons of Toynbee Hall

Many famous and influential people have been involved with Toynbee Hall. We have recently started researching into their history in a little more detail. Please download our "Icons" booklets to find out more.

Pierre de Coubertin

William Beveridge

Samuel Barnett 

Henrietta Barnett

Arnold Toynbee


The Buildings of Toynbee Hall

Find out more about our Grade II listed Halls and the surrounging buildings where our icons have lived and worked, inspiring some of their greatest acheivements.

The Buildings of Toynbee Hall