History of the Trust
The Virginia House Settlement, which occupied a range of buildings on Looe Street in Plymouth, was established by Lord and Lady Astor and was formally opened by Lord Astor in December 1925.
What are 'Settlements'?
The 'Settlements' of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (others include Toynbee Hall and Oxford House in London) were instrumental in shaping early welfare provision - in fact Virginia House Settlement was originally described as a 'welfare work centre'. These Settlements often offered labour exchanges, 'poor man's lawyer' and a variety of sports and social clubs and they offered vocational and professional training as well as more informal adult education.
The Virginia House Settlement
In 1918 the Astors bought the Victory House Boys and Girls' Club (or Victory Club) and in the mid-1920s they acquired the old Batter Street Congregational Chapel, 38 Looe Street. They converted these buildings and linked them together to form the original core of the Virginia House Settlement. Their vision was to create facilities for the local people and to give opportunities for training, employment, entertainment and socialising. The VHS’s facilities included a meeting room, gymnasium, billiard and social room, a library, music room and a dance hall. There were smaller rooms where cooking, carpentry, dressmaking and singing classes were held; writing classes were held in the library.
Many local people remember VHS with affection having been members of one of its many clubs and societies including the mothers' club, youth club, men’s club, soccer team, boxing club. There was also the World Order Group, set up by Lord Astor, which met to discuss international affairs. Outdoor activities, including football and canoeing and from 1941 to 1952 the Astors leased a building in Princetown where VHS members could take holidays.
The Virginia House Settlement was hugely popular: over one thousand local people were members.
Virginia House Settlement Today
In more recent years, the trust have sold a number of the buildings and invested the funds raised; it is the income from these investments that is used today to fund grants to local charities.
Since 2006, Virginia House Settlement has awarded nearly £250,000 in grants; we have also provided significant in-kind support to the local charity Friends and Families for Special Children, which uses our premises free of charge. So in the last eight years alone we have invested over £300,000 in charities that support the local people of Plymouth.
All images kindly provided from the collections of Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage) © Virginia House Settlement.