Settlement History

History of Mary Ward Settlement


The founder of Mary Ward Settlement was the best-selling Victorian novelist Mrs Humphry Ward, a member of the Arnold family. She had an enduring impact on public education through the pioneering work she initiated at the Settlement which now bears her name.
The Settlement Movement began in the early 1880s as a response to the urban poverty and social problems caused by industrialisation. Settlement Houses were established which offered social services to the urban poor and campaigned for social justice and equality.

The work continues today and Mary Ward Settlement belongs to the Settlement membership

Main Aims of the Mary Ward Settlement
Mary Ward’s declared aim was to give access for all to ‘the hundred pleasures and opportunities that fall mainly to the rich’.
She described this open access to education where people from all backgrounds work and learn alongside each other as “equalisation”.
The Settlement acted as a magnet to local people who paid their small annual membership fee not only to pursue intellectual interests and learn practical skills, but to be part of a social and community network that included interest groups such as music, debating and chess societies, and self-help groups like the coal club, boot club, and mother and toddler groups.
It was to be Mary Ward’s work with children at the Settlement that was to have the greatest influence on the educational system in the UK and beyond. She was responsible for initiating the Play Centre movement in England by providing care and activities for children after school and Vacation Schools.
The first school for physically handicapped children in England opened in 1899 at the Settlement.
For more information about Mary Ward and the history of the Settlement, click on the archive exhibition link below.
The Settlement’s archive is stored at the London Metropolitan Archive.

In 1921 after Mary Ward’s death the Settlement was renamed the Mary Ward Settlement.
In 1982 the Settlement moved from Tavistock Place to 42 Queen Square and in 2011 a second building was added at 10 Great Turnstile.
The new building houses additional classrooms and studios for the education Centre and also provides much needed office space for the Mary Ward Legal Centre.

Work of the Settlement today

Our aim remains the same as in the 1890s – “To promote public education and social service for the benefit of the community”. The Settlement still is – “A place for ideals, a place for enthusiasm”.