Ancestry UK

John Benn Hostel and Milner Hall Home Stepney, London

In 1885, Barnardo's bought a row of eleven houses on Bower Street, a road backing on to its main Stepney Causeway complex. The houses were demolished and a large new block was constructed on the site, connected to the Stepney Causeway boys' home by a bridge. As well as additional dormitory accommodation, the new building contained new workshops, school rooms, a chapel, library, and swimming pool.

In 1927, the Bower Street premises were sold to the recently formed London East End Hostel Association who operated it as a hostel for 85 boys or, as they described it, a 'home and educational centre for working lads who are without parents or whose background is undesirable and for boys transferred to London from the distressed areas.' The Association also used part of the building as a community centre for local residents, known as Milner Hall.

John Benn Hostel, Stepney - dormitory, c.1929. © Peter Higginbotham

John Benn Hostel, Stepney - boys at supper, c.1929. © Peter Higginbotham

John Benn Hostel, Stepney - recreation room, c.1929. © Peter Higginbotham

John Benn Hostel, Stepney - gymnasium, c.1929. © Peter Higginbotham

John Benn Hostel, Stepney - boxing match, c.1929. © Peter Higginbotham

Barnardo's bought the property back from the Association in 1949 and used it until the organisation left Stepney Causeway in 1969.

The building no longer survives.

The Hostel Association also operated King George's House hostel on Stockwell Road, Lambeth.


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  • Barnardo, Syrie Louise, and Marchant, James Memoirs of the Late Dr Barnardo (Hodder & Stoughton, 1907)
  • Batt, J.H. Dr. Barnardo: The Foster-Father of "Nobody's Children" (S.W. Partridge, 1904)
  • Bready, J. Wesley Doctor Barnardo (Allen & Unwin, 1930)
  • Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain's Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
  • Rose, June For the Sake of the Children: Inside Dr. Barnardo's: 120 years of caring for children (Hodder & Stoughton, 1987)
  • Wagner, Gillian Barnardo (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1979)