‘Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the suffragist movement was gathering force, but women’s equality was still a blur in the distance.’

From 1878 Hoxton Hall was home to the Girl’s Guild for Good Life. The group was founded by Sarah Rae, who was the wife of the secretary of The Blue Ribbon Temperance Society, who ran the hall when she began. The club ran for many years, well into the mid twentieth century and had a substantial impact on the lives of local women. These clubs were popular in the latter half of the 19th century and were largely intended for working girls in an attempt to steer them away from ‘undesirable’ pastimes such as drinking and gambling. Classes such as cookery, dressmaking and elocution were on offer with a view to make them ‘good wives for working men’. Although now, we might view such clubs as offensive and perpetuating gender roles, at the time they were seen as progressive feminist work.

Although very little evidence survives of the group’s existence, there are a number of weekly meeting schedules outlining activities for Hoxton Hall, including Guild meetings, but the most substantial material we have is an annual report from 1942. We know detail about the Guild from a number of sources including the book, ‘The Soul Market’ by Olive Malvery who, as a middle-class student living in London became fascinated by working class life. She wrote the book about her experiences working in factories and visiting slums but most significantly, for us, about her friendship with Sarah Rae.

Hoxton Hall has a fully catalogued archive collection based at Hackney Archives in Dalston Library. This archive is accessible to the public during opening hours, with trained staff on hand to help. For how to get there and opening times please see here.

We also have a fully digitised archive available to view by appointment via Hoxton Hall

Discover more about Hoxton Hall’s unique history by downloading the Hoxton Hall Experience app and visiting us. This sensory journey will guide you around the building and immerse you in Hoxton Hall’s past through a combination of digital and live installation.

Hoxton Hall Experience>>

Arts based Heritage events and workshops take place throughout the year. Whether it’s taking part in arts and crafts family activities or dancing your socks off at a good old fashioned tea dance our heritage activities offer something for everyone and are designed to excite and engage the local community in the rich and varied history of the hall and its locality. Check out DO and SEE

Hoxton Hall: A short history of Hoxton Hall and its locality

Cload, P. (2008) Hoxton Hall 1983 to 2008 – A Personal History – The launch of Hoxton Hall as a Community Arts Centre

Available for purchase at Hoxton Hall reception