Monday, September 17, 2007

Open House London - Mary Ward Settlement

I have passed this building many times and always wondered about it. It is built in the arts and crafts style and was purpose-built as a settlement house. This was a popular social movement at the end of the 19th century, and the goal was to have middle-class professionals living in a house in the middle of a lower-class community in order to learn first-hand about neighborhood needs and share their skills. Mary Ward, the founder of this house, also opened the first school for disabled children next door to this house and started, in effect, the first neighborhood play center for children in the very large auditorium upstairs. Settlement houses no longer exist in the U.K. I've included a picture of the text above the residents' entrance, and it provides some insight as to why recruitment of people to live there was a challenge! The house looks modest from the outside, but inside has some very beautiful rooms, a glass-roofed gym, and a large auditorium. Each fireplace was designed by a different architect and is unique. It has been the headquarters for the national social workers' organization, but is being changed into a conference center.

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