Toynbee Hole

It has been several months since I have been for a walk around the Brick Lane area so this 'hole' on Wentworth Street, as the result of the demolition of much of the Toynbee Hall estate was quite a dramatic surprise to me.

Toynbee Hall was the creation of Samuel and Henrietta Barnett, who between them and Octavia Hill managed to create housing and services for the poor of Whitechapel in Victorian England. Toynbee Hall (1883) was a 'university settlement' which was designed to house students from Oxford and Cambridge who would live and work in the area supporting educational and social welfare schemes for the residents. A famous alumni of their programme was Clement Atlee, who as Prime Minister after the Second World War was responsible for introducing much of Britain's welfare state.

In later years the site expanded to include much social housing. This first started in 1887 with the building you see on the left of the frame, College Buildings. This is now Grade II listed (unlike the more modern housing which has been demolished) and the designs for the multistory development being built includes the incorporation of the delicate Arts and Crafts facade.

Much of the modern estate had not very much to recommend it and I am sure there will be mixed views about the glass and steel structure which will line Wentworth Street and Commercial Street. However, I will be sad to see one of the more lyrical views at the corner of Gunthorpe Street disappear. 

I have harboured the fantasy for years that if one steps through the door of this shop you will be transported to another kingdom based on your dreams. A bit like an urban Narnia. I only hope the cobbled street will remain as it is one of the few in the area.