Mansfield House was part of the settlement project that emerged in Newham in the late nineteenth century. The project provided a range of different services and activities to help local members of the community, and the work became renowned in the region.
In 1884 Frederick William Newland, an Oxford graduate and Congregational Church Minister, began a ministry in Canning Town and helped to establish Mansfield House. He invited pairs of students to work with him for two weeks at a time during their holidays, and created a link between Canning Town and Oxford University. It took its name from Mansfield Theological College where many of the students had come from. It was based in Plaistow and helped provide community and social support.
On the 21 May 1890 there was the opening of the Mansfield Settlement in former shops at 143-147 Barking Road. The project developed into a large, thriving, male orientated institution working in welfare, sporting, social, educational and political fields, and had a close connection to the Canning Town Women’s Settlement. A range of buildings were used by the organisation in order to provide services to the community.
The project provided a range of services at a time when state provision was non-existent, including a Sick Benefit Society, where workers could subscribe and claim sick benefits if they became too ill to work. Clubs were run for children every night and dinners were readily provided. In 1903, the Settlement took over Wave Lodging House at 234 Victoria Dock Road and became a home for working men and offered basic service to local sailors.
Services continued up until the war but declined throughout it. In 1920 war residents returned to Mansfield House and by 1921 training courses were put in place. In 1931, Fairbairn Hall – home to Fairbairn Men’s and Boys clubs – was one of the properties owned by the settlement and was opened by the Duke and Duchess of York. By 1938 Fairbairn Boys and Men’s Club had over 5,000 members.
However, the introduction of the Second World War brought disruption and financial difficulties. Less people were using the services – especially the Boys and Men’s Club – and although at certain stages it looked like the Settlement would recover, the time came when it was no longer considered financially viable. In 2000 Mansfield House merged with Aston Charities to become Aston-Mansfield, a charity which is still influential in Newham today and helps to reach out to a number of citizens locally.
Image: Gardening at Mansfield House, Courtesy of Newham Archives