Opened 1928. Kingsley Hall, named in memory of Muriel and Doris Lester's brother who died young, was the first purpose built community centre designed for the needs of local people. Over the years Kingsley Hall has, as well as providing practical services (rare in those days) to local people - children's clubs, women's groups, free legal advice, classes in subjects as varied as economic and law and birth control and woodwork. It had also given house room to a variety of groups and movements. The suffragette movement, the Jarrow marchers and even Gandhi stayed as guest during his participation in the 1931 Round Table Conference on the future of India. Today Kingsley Hall is home to the Gandhi Peace Foundation which was founded as a result of Richard Attenborough's film 'Gandhi'.

As well as being Christian socialists the Lester sisters had a strong commitment to pacifism. Naturally enough during the Second World War they tried to carry on the work of the centre with the help of conscientious objectors but met with hostility from the public.

In 1931 when Gandhi came to London to take part in the Round Table Conference on India's independence he chose to stay at Kingsley Hall preferring to be amongst working people rather than amongst the wealthy and famous. In memory of his ten weeks stay at Kingsley Hall he planted a tree in what is now a peace garden at the side of the house. The tree was destroyed by a bomb in World War Two. A new tree, planted at the initiative of Delhi Council by Victor Gollancz in 1963, now grows in its place.

George Lansbury
Round Table Conference