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Conference venue and location

Mary Ward House 

Mary Ward is remembered as an important and influential nineteenth century novelist, and has become increasingly acknowledged for her role in the development of social work and community outreach. She was later made a CBE, and, in 1919, was asked to become one of the country's very first female magistrates.

In 1888 Mary Ward published her novel Robert Elsmere. In this a church of England minister disillusioned with the church, moved to the east end of London and together with others she assisted various people in their difficulties. Together they formed a self-help group in which each member revealed their hidden strengths and abilities. In the novel one asks what they should call their enterprise and they decided it should be called a settlement. 

A settlement was a community in which young professionals would agree to spend a number of years living among a disadvantaged community to befriend and assist them with a transfer of knowledge, skills and general encouragement.  The novel met with tremendous success and resulted in widespread debate as to whether such utopia could be realised.  At the time there was widespread poverty. Children were abandoned in the street, which lead to the setup of Children’s Home. There were no schools generally, no means of education for the poor.  Bloomsbury, at that time, was on the margins of the abject poverty and squalor of Somers Town and the relative affluence of the ‘Bloomsbury set’.

Mary Ward was persuaded to try and realise the dream of the novel and she succeeded beyond her expectations. Many of the things we take for granted today were shaped by her vision and energy.  She pioneered free legal aid, the education of blind and disabled children. Through her innovative work with children showed how the most disturbed and traumatised could be rehabilitated fully and enjoy a happy life. 

One of the greatest surviving examples of the Victorian Era’s Arts and Crafts School of Architecture, the Mary Ward House serves as a physical symbol of the ideals which it was to espouse. The contract was won by Dunbar Smith and Cecil Brewer, two young architects who lived in the settlement themselves, and were well placed to grasp the building’s purpose. They proved a fitting choice, choosing to create an idealistic architectural response to the strains which mass industrialisation had placed upon the working class.

Considered a masterpiece of Victorian architecture, Mary Ward House stands today as an intriguing Grade I listed building, attracting international visitors and playing host to a wide variety of events within its storied interior spaces.

By 1929, Mary Ward House had become a dedicated women’s settlement. Social work continued during the 1930s and 1940s, with more and more attention being paid to the provision of adult education and training. A legal advice centre was subsequently opened during the 1940s to provide both legal assistance and financial advice to low income individuals.

 Find out more about the Mary Ward House Conference Centre



Mary Ward House 
5 - 7 Tavistock Place
London, WC1H 9SN
United Kingdom
0044 (0) 2073879681

By public transport

The closest London Underground station is Russell Square, which is a 5 minute walk away.

Please note, there is limited onsite parking at the venue for thos who need accessibility access.   


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