A boys club had been formed in Canning Town some years earlier in connection with the Mansfield Settlement. The original club premises consisted of six cottages, 310 to 316 Barking Road. These were, however, in a very poor state and it was decided to pull them down and rebuild on the site. Passmore Edwards offered £5000 for the building of the club premises.
Students at Mansfield College, Oxford founded the Mansfield House University settlement in Canning Town in 1889. Like the Bloomsbury Settlement, Mansfield House provided educational and many welfare services, such as a sickness benefit society and the ‘poor man’s lawyer’, free legal aid. As part of the development a Boy’s Club was started in a row of tumble down cottages and in 1890 it was decided to build a new club on the site. An approach to Passmore Edwards resulted in an offer of £5000 towards the final cost of £7,800. Designed by H C Lander, ARIBA, the club was opened by Mr Choate, the America Ambassador in July 1900.
Constructed in red brick with terracotta dressings, the three-storey building provided a wide range of facilities. On the ground floor was a clubroom with refreshments area, and a large hall, known as the Passmore Edwards Hall, which doubled as a gymnasium. In the half basement were slipper baths and showers. On the first floor were classrooms and games room and on the top floor a billiard room and workshops.
The club gained a wide reputation for sporting achievement, with some members going on to become international sportsmen, representing England at the Olympic games.
Though the Boy’s Club escaped serious damage during the Second World War, by the 1980s the settlement entered a period of decline and with the buildings in need of expensive repair a decision was taken to sell them. The work of the Mansfield Settlement, however, combined with the Aston Charities Trust, continues. The former Passmore Edwards building, now restored, remains a local landmark and reminder of a former age.