The wisteria in full bloom outside the Old Mortuary

Four generations of community

One of the wonderful things about Time & Talents is that many of the older people we work with, now in their 90s, remember T&T from when they were children. They remember things like playing in the roof playground of our old buildings down by the docks, or learning to sew with older women at a local group. Others were helped to learn to read, or to escape poverty. This multi-generational connection – where three or four generations have been part of our community – is one of the things that connects us to the wider ‘Settlement’ movement of the late 19th century, much like nearby Bede House, Pembroke House, and Toynbee Hall across the river.

How it began

Time & Talents originated in 1887 in the drawing rooms of Victorian society. A group of women – who deplored the narrow, over-protected lives of many young girls expected to be merely decorative and obedient – set about challenging this wasteful status quo. Their ambition was to help girls of leisure and education to use their ‘Time and Talents’ in the service of others.

After a peripatetic early existence, in 1899 Time & Talents settled at 187 Bermondsey Street, where it was to remain until 1962 with a clubroom for “healthy recreation”, singing, basketwork, knitting and sewing. In 1913 a hostel was developed to house factory girls who were subjected to severe overcrowding at home. For many of these young women, it was their first opportunity to have a room of their own. In 1931 Dockhead House opened in Abbey Street, with club rooms, a library, and a large hall with a stage.

During the Second World War the ‘West End Ladies’ at Time & Talents showed themselves to be resilient and courageous, providing shelter for people bombed out of their homes, while continuing to run the clubs and recreational groups.

After the war, the introduction of the welfare state meant that many settlements such as Time & Talents had to change the emphasis of their charitable work, and gradually the older settlement buildings were relinquished. In 1980 Time & Talents moved to the Old Mortuary in Rotherhithe, and this historic building continues to house our lively and bustling community centre.

T&T today - and tomorrow

We’re very proud of our history, and of our establishment by early feminists. We have evolved into a very different organisation today, but what remains the same is our belief that volunteers can make a real difference, and that everyone in the community has something to offer.