Eton College Boys Club – Part 1

The Eton college mission arrived in Hackney Wick in 1880. At the time is was widely reported that “The boy problem” where each year the youth were sent out without aid, sympathy or help from the state, with only the church or private help available.

The “boy problem” was widely recognised on both sides of the Atlantic. London and New York was a hotbed of “gangy tendencies” which was regarded as a natural tendency of childhood to adolescence. So the issue was how to manage this “Tendency” and the solution was to change the anarchic clandestine gang into a well organised and highly visible club. To this day we constantly hear of the same issues that gang members require mentors, people to look up to and a place to belong.In 1880s New York philanthropists failed to manage the gangs, however here in London churches, colleges and schools began to set up clubs and the Eton college mission arrived in Hackney Wick in 1880. Eton college undertook to staff and pay for the Eton Mission before the more famous Oxford and Cambridge universities arrived in the mid 1880s.

Toynbee Hall in Commercial Street was started by Balliol College Oxford in 1884 where Pierre de Coubertain the founder of the modern day Olympics visited on several occasions in the 1880s as part of his research to improve educational practises.

“The moral force of a gentleman’s company did as much if not more than practical and financial help”.

The Eton Mission was the size of the Eton college playing fields and was located in between Hackney Marsh and the North London railway. The area at this time was described as being of “the very poorest class”.The Eton mission boys club was located in Mallard Street and was described as a “rough boys club” so in 1883 a more gentler club was formed from the mission Sunday school and setup in nearby Selwyn Street and both clubs eventually merged to form the Eton Mission boys club.

Old Etonian EMS Pilkington wrote “I have searched Moggs guide to London and have set of for Victoria Park station”.
Many of the Etonian students who came to Hackney Wick lived in nearby Polver street accommodation….part to coming shortly.

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