Beauchamp Lodge Settlement (BLS) is a registered charity and has been operating in London since 1938. Set up by the Hon. Diana Marr-Johnson to relieve poverty in the Paddington area, they have been working with local communities ever since to provide services, support and opportunities through a range of community development projects.

Diana Marr-Johnson had wanted to become a writer from an early age and in 1926 she applied to become a student at King’s College London. Accepted without the usual qualifications, she embarked on a two-year course in journalism and philosophy. After leaving, she began writing articles for magazines in Britain and America.

A turning point in her life came in 1938 when she and her husband went to live in Bayswater. As a prominent local figure she was asked to join Paddington Housing Council, an organisation involved in improving local housing.

She was shocked, however, when she began to visit some of the local houses and discovered the appalling conditions. Lack of sanitation and overcrowding was rife and when she saw a baby attacked by rats she decided to start a campaign.

Enlisting the help of Brendan Bracken, then MP for North Paddington, she addressed public meetings and raised funds. She took over an empty property in the Harrow Road and persuaded the owners to let her have it rent-free. Beauchamp Lodge, as it was named, became a meeting place for women to escape their surroundings. Membership was 2d per week.

It officially opened in 1940 at the height of the Blitz and soon doubled as a nursery, youth centre and a place for hot meals. Marr-Johnson worked long and arduous hours at the centre and eventually Bracken gave the club war-charity status. She also opened a depot at the back of the club to receive clothing for Blitz victims and she persuaded the authorities to find homeless families accommodation.

After the war Beauchamp Lodge Settlement continued to help the local poor. Situated next to Little Venice canal basin they came to set up the UK’s first community narrow boat project. This resulted in canal boat trips for the poor into the countryside around London.

Today the organisation has moved from Beauchamp Lodge itself and its efforts are concentrated on the activities of the Floating Classroom on the Grand Union and Regent’s Canals. From this purpose-built boat they teach a programme of hands-on science, environment and history lessons to schoolchildren from across London.

Beauchamp Lodge continues to function as a building caring for people’s needs,  housing the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education.

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