The Webb Memorial Trust
Closure of the Trust
After more than 70 years, the Webb Memorial Trust closed at the end of 2017. This followed a decision in 2010 to spend down the endowment of the Trust with the objective of leaving a legacy worthy of Beatrice Webb.
Five years of research have resulted in many initiatives and a book, Rethinking Poverty, which summarises the recent work of the Trust. Reports from individual areas of research can be viewed on the website under ‘Publications’.
Despite the closure, the work will continue as a follow-up project called Rethinking Poverty: The Webb Legacy. This will build on the work undertaken and develop work in response to the extensive reviews of the book, which – although positive – point out important areas for further work.
About the Webb Memorial Trust
The Webb Memorial Trust pursued the intellectual legacy of Beatrice Webb (1858-1943), who, together with her husband Sidney (1859-1947), embarked on a vigorous programme of social reform which influenced the development of the post-war welfare state. The Trust was formed in 1947 with the purpose of ‘the advancement of education and learning with respect to the history and problems of government and social policy’.
Beatrice Webb argued that poverty was not a result of moral failure but of structural causes that had solutions. Her 1909 publication of the Minority Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law sounded a radical call not just for the abolition of the workhouse but for its replacement with universal public services which reflect our common citizenship. Beatrice was among the founders of the London School of Economics and Political Science, a key member of the Fabian Society and founder of the New Statesman.
From 1987 the Webb Memorial Trust has funded a wide range of projects in the UK, helping to create a better informed debate about poverty, its causes and solutions.
How the Trust started
In 1947 the Trust purchased a large country house close to Holmbury St. Mary, near Dorking, in Surrey as a conference centre for the ‘advancement of education and learning with respect to the history and problems of government and social policy’.’ It was renamed Beatrice Webb House. From the 1950s through to the 1970s the house became an important base for education and discussion for bodies such as the Fabian Society and many trade unions.
However, with the continuing decline in demand for such a facility in the late seventies and eighties, changing requirements by users and the deteriorating fabric of the building, the Trust decided in 1986 to sell the house. The money realised from the sale provided the funds for the Trust’s activities until its closure.
The Webb Memorial Trust and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty
From 2013 to 2017, the Webb Memorial Trust provided the secretariat to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Poverty. The APPG on Poverty aims to increase understanding of poverty among parliamentarians and to seek all-party solutions, while drawing on external knowledge from professionals in the UK poverty sector and those with the expertise that comes with lived-experience.
During this period the APPG on Poverty explored several work streams:
- Children’s Voices – an exploration of the impact of poverty on children’s life chances
- Civil Society – the complementary role played by civil society groups, such as fairness commissions, in reducing poverty
- Working with Business – examining the role and responsibilities of business in reducing poverty
- Poverty Premium – practical responses to the dilemma that people living in poverty pay more for essential goods and services
- Housing – an exploration of the connection between housing circumstances and the experience of poverty
From 2018 the co-secretariat of the APPG on Poverty is The Equality Trust and CPAG.