In nineteenth century Britain, the industrial revolution created terrible urban poverty. The East End of London in particular grew quickly, becoming a place where people lived in overcrowded, badly-built housing and worked up to 18 hours a day manufacturing new commodities, such as matches and cheap clothing. Settlements started in response to this. Places like St Hilda’s East were set up in areas of poverty and brought people from better-off backgrounds to live and work there. St Hilda’s East was founded by former pupils of Cheltenham Ladies’ College and has an active link with the College and its Guild to this day.
St Hilda’s East has changed immensely since being established in 1889 as a settlement by the Guild of Cheltenham Ladies’ College. The pioneering Guild members who started our history over a century ago might not recognise the buildings now, and they would certainly be surprised by many of the changes to the surrounding area. But they would still recognise the aims of St Hilda’s East today: to combat deprivation and social exclusion through providing education and recreational provision along with social care — activities that enable and empower individuals.