the latter part of the 19th century "Carlyle, Meredith, William
Morris, Tennyson, Mathew Arnold and a host of other profound intellects
were all alike alive to the troubles and injustices of the time. Oxford
men and others inspired mainly by the philosophy of T H Green were
starting the Settlement
movement. Not unnaturally these minds began to query the validity
of the hitherto accepted creeds. The distortion of social tradition
was called into question. How far was wealth providing benefit to
the community? How far was the religion of that time expressed so
as to meet the needs of a submerged people? Perhaps no book caused
greater discussion on the later subject than Mrs Humprey Ward's three
volumes of "Robert Elsmere". This book was eagerly bought
and read by thousands and thousands; for the authoress had well read
the significant symptoms of spiritual unrest in the country."
(History of the Mary Ward settlement 1891-1931-
Humprey Ward, wife of an Oxford Don and grand daughter of Thomas Arnold,
headmaster of Rugby School, was a woman of actions as well as ideals.
She had already established a settlement at University Hall, London
in 1891 and this success inspired her to seek funding for a purpose
built centre. Amongst those that she approached was Passmore Edwards
although he, at first, offered little more than encouragement saying
that he "had his hands full at present and was thus unable to
help". He was, however, soon to be persuaded and within 2 months
he had promised to support her proposals.
In March 1895 he wrote "You are quite at liberty to pledge me
to the extent of £7,000 and if you insist in calling it the
Passmore Edwards Settlement then I must insist on increasing my donation
the next few years he was to support her not only by sums of money
totalling over £12,000 but readily gave her advice on who else
to approach and took a close interest in the details of the site chosen
and the proposed contractual arrangements with the landowner, the
Duke of Bedford.
chosen site was in Tavistock Place and a competition for its design
was held and won by two young architects who had been residents at
the University Hall Settlement, Dunbar Smith and Cecil Brewer. Both
in their mid 20's this was their first major project and yet is a
major architectural achievement.