A side street off busy Bethnal Green Road is home to a Victorian building that is undergoing refurbishment, and next month is a chance to go inside and have a look.
This is Oxford House, opened in 1884 as a ‘settlement house’, a new mode of philanthropy and volunteering that brought university graduates to live amongst the poorer communities, seeking to uplift their lives through social action.
The original settlement was housed in a disused day school (now demolished), and the house that exists today was designed and built in 1889 by architect Arthur Blomfield, who also designed the Royal College of Music.
Although still in use as a community center, it was recently put on the Buildings at Risk Register by Historic England due to the damage being caused by rainwater coming through a very old roof.
Thanks to a fundraising campaign, and a funding grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, large scale works are underway to refurbish the building and open up more of it to the public.
The refurbishment includes the restoration of the original chapel and a new roof-top walkway offering views across this part of East London.
As part of the Heritage Lottery Fund funding, they are offering “hard hat” tours of the renovation works to National Lottery ticket holders. The tours are free, and you just need to have a paper, or digital copy of a Lottery ticket, and to reserve a date and time here.