Our history

Pembroke House was founded over 130 years ago by students from Pembroke College, Cambridge. They were convinced that growing inequality and deprivation in inner cities demanded a radical response.

Pembroke House in 18xx
Pembroke House has been based in Walworth since 1885

They took a big problem and started small: taking up residency in Walworth, South London, in a house with space for social and educational activities and a small chapel for public worship (now the Parish Church of St Christopher’s, Walworth).

Joining others in a movement of ‘settlement houses’ across London and further afield – from Toynbee Hall in East London to Hull House in Chicago – they searched for practical solutions that brought people together across traditional divides.

The settlement houses provided space for the whole community to use and shape – where new friendships and bonds of solidarity could lead to bold attempts to build a better neighbourhood.

In this common endeavour, everyone had as much to learn and gain as they had to give.

Settlements like Pembroke House have had a profound impact, inspiring the architects of the modern welfare state in the UK, such as Clement Attlee and William Beveridge.

Further afield, settlements became important sites for political co-operation in the US, where leaders like Jane Addams, the ‘mother of social work’, brought together immigrants, trade unionists and women’s groups to agitate for political reform.

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Walworth Living Room

The Walworth Living Room is a space for our community. Come to say hello!

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