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oxford in bermondsey

A group of 'Oxford men' who had a significant impact on youth work, social policy more generally, and the church were drawn to Bermondsey by John Stansfeld ('The Doctor') in the first years of the twentieth century. They worked in a group of clubs later known as the Oxford and Bermondsey Club. One of those clubs -  Dockhead - was based in London Street (now know as Wolseley Street) in some derelict buildings bounded by Halfpenny and Farthing Alley, and next to The Ship Aground. A series of rundown and overcrowded courts ironically called Pleasant Row, Virginia Row and Pansy Row, and Wolseley Buildings were close by. The main club and residence was 600m away on Abbey Street.

Stansfeld chose Fratres as the motto for the work. It was in Barclay Baron's words 'the epitome of his oft-reiterated phrase "We are all brothers"' (1952: 34). It described both the ideal of the mission - and the way of working adopted by the residents and workers. The boys' clubs had a strong emphasis upon 'the lads making their own club'. This meant, for example, that it was they who regularly decorated and repaired the premises. They were also involved in the organization of activities and the life of the club. The club appears to have had a remarkable impact on both many of its members - and those who worked in it.

Those associated with the work included Alexander Paterson, now remembered as a prison reformer; Waldo McG. Eagar, a key figure in the establishment and development of the National Association of Boys' Clubs; Philip ('Tubby') Clayton, the founder of TocH; William Temple and Geoffrey Fisher (both, later, Archbishops of Canterbury), and Basil Henriques and Reg Goodwin who both became central figures in the boys' club movement (Goodwin also became leader of the Greater London Council).

 

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