“An institution of social service”: The Oxford and St George’s Club

To mark St George’s Day we take a look at our sources relating to the Oxford and St George’s Club which form part of the MS 132 Henriques papers.

Jewish Settlement Annual Summer Camp, 1927 [MS132 AJ 220/2/3 f.1]

Jewish Settlement Annual Summer Camp, 1927 [MS132 AJ 220/2/3 f.1]

The Oxford and St George’s Club, was a Jewish youth and community centre formed by Sir Basil Henriques in the East End of London, with the aim of providing a service for local Jews of all ages.

Son of David Quizano and Agnes C. Henriques, Sir Basil Lucas Henriques, CBE, was born on 17 October 1890 in London. After completing secondary school education at Harrow, he went on to study at Oxford University, where he built his interest in philanthropy from learning about the activities of Christian groups in addressing poverty in the East End.

Portrait of Basil Henriques, May 1906 [MS 132 AJ220/2/f1]

Portrait of Basil Henriques, May 1906 [MS 132 AJ220/2/f1]

During the beginnings of the 20th century, there was a high population of Jews in the East End of London. Living conditions were of a low standard, with crowded families living in poor quality housing without a bath or inside toilet. After working at Toynbee Hall in 1913, which was an institution that provided legal advice and English lessons to the underprivileged, Basil decided to create a similar institution that would provide organised activities for young Jewish boys.

The Jewish Settlement boys’ football team, 1923-4 [MS132 AJ220/2/4 f.3]

The Jewish Settlement boys’ football team, 1923-4 [MS132 AJ220/2/4 f.3]

Based in a disused hostel on 125 Cannon Street Road, the Oxford and St George’s Club began in 1914 with a membership of 25 boys. The Club got its name from Basil’s alma mata, and the name of the area of East London that the Club was based in. A year later, a self-taught artist and Basil’s future wife, Rose Loewe, founded an equivalent club for girls at the same hostel. 

Girls in the library of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3.

Girls in the library of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3.]

 As well as being social, the Clubs provided educational activities such as religion classes, and taught sports, ballet, acting, physical education, and first aid. In doing this the Clubs prepared children for  pursuing careers. Activities also included the Annual Summer Camps, where several Jewish children were taken for a holiday, which were often held at Highdown near Goring by Sea. “For hundreds of Settlement children, the summer time is the happy time of Camp” (from a draft of a proposed Settlement letter written by Harold F. Reinhart, MS 132 AJ220/3/5 folder 4).

Through the generosity of Viscount Bearsted, adjoining houses were acquired in Betts Street after the war was over. Old Boys Clubs and Girls Clubs were started, along with Scouts, Cubs and a Synagogue founded between 1919 and 1926.

In 1929 the Clubs moved to new premises in Berners Street following the gift of £50,000 (which later rose to £65,000) provided by Mr Bernard Baron. The Bernhard Baron St George’s Settlement building opened in 1930, providing spaces for public worship, administrative offices, the infant welfare centre, the play centre, and accommodation. There was also a roller skating rink, gymnasium, library, and model laundry and kitchen.

Programme for the opening of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 30 June 1930 [MS 132 AJ 195/8/1 f.2]

Programme for the opening of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930 [MS 132 AJ 195/8/1 f.2]

To give an idea of what a typical day was like at the Club, here is a quote from a St George’s Settlement Children’s Fund leaflet (MS 132 AJ220/3/5 folder 4):

“Soon he was in a room crowded with boys, rapt in excitement over a game of ping pong. It was an inter-House match, and on its result depended the winning of the cup, which each month was awarded to the House which had won the most points by entering the greatest number of fellows in the various classes held in the Club. A class for which you had to change into kit counted two points – gym., P.T., running, boxing or football, whilst the others- debates, chess, general information, literature, dramatic or drawing – counted one point for the House.”

The Henriques papers provide a wealth of information on the Oxford and St George’s Club and its development through time. Documents include correspondence, pamphlets, reports and an extensive collection of photographs.

Boys boxing in the roof playground of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3]

Boys boxing in the roof playground of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3]

After Basil Henrique’s death in 1961, Berner Street was renamed Henriques Street to commemorate his tireless efforts in setting up the Club. The Settlement premises were sold in 1973 and the clubs moved to Totteridge in North London.

Due to decline in membership, the activities of the Settlement have ceased and it is now a grant making organisation.

More information about the organisation can be found here: http://www.oxfordandstgeorges.com/index.html

 

 

 

 

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