Centenary party for historic house

Oxford Mail: Left to right: Elizabeth Peretz, George Smith and Teresa Smith outside Barnett House. Picture: OX68461 Cliff Hide Buy this photo Left to right: Elizabeth Peretz, George Smith and Teresa Smith outside Barnett House. Picture: OX68461 Cliff Hide

ONE HUNDRED years ago when it was founded in Oxford, it became known as the citizens’ house.

Now home to Oxford University’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention, Barnett House is celebrating its centenary tomorrow with a party.

The original Barnett House stood on the corner of Broad Street and Turl Street, then from 1936 until 1957 it was on Beaumont Street before it moved to its current location in Wellington Square.

Barnett House was founded in honour of late 19th century clergyman and social reformer Canon Samuel Barnett.

Following the canon’s death, a group of Oxford professors and reformers, led by Sidney Ball, founded Barnett House as a ‘citizens’ house’ – an institution intended as a centre for social action, social reform and social enquiry.

Its mission as a citizens’ house continued until 1957 when the university’s delegacy of social training, which had shared the premises and resources since 1946, took over and it became a university department.

Elizabeth Peretz, currently a research associate there, said that its history was well worth celebrating.

Mother-of-two Dr Peretz, from Jericho, has co-written a book about Barnett House with former heads of department George Smith and Teresa Smith.

The book is called Social enquiry, social reform and social action: 100 years of Barnett House, published by the department for £15.

Dr Peretz said: “We have been working on the book for about three years with the centenary in mind.

“We think Barnett House is a significant building and has been rather overlooked.

“People in the town and academics should be proud of it. Until 2004 social workers from across the world were trained there since 1913 – it had a very good department of social work for many years.”

In 2004 a mutual decision between the university and government to cut costs meant the course ended at Barnett House but others continued at Ruskin College and Oxford Brookes.

Today staff at the department teach multidisciplinary work across the social sciences.

The department now has about 36 members of academic staff from 12 countries, whose work ranges across issues including Aids orphans in South Africa, pensions in France, parenting in England and poverty in various regions of the world.

Historian Dr Peretz added: “Barnett House became a university department but a lot of the aims and missions were carried on. There is a lot of work being done today, work on social action and making people’s lives better, which is in the same spirit as back then and it makes me very proud to be associated with it.”

A tea party to mark the centenary will be held at Barnett House tomorrow at 4.30pm.

The department will be open to visitors from 2pm to 6pm.

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