Girls' Friendly Society Hostel


Current StatusNow St. Mungo's
Address29 Francis Street, City of Westminster
Building Date and Architect1914 by RS Ayling
DesignationListed Grade II in 2008
National Grid ReferenceTQ2929378933

View the full listing on the National Heritage List for England

The Girls' Friendly Society (GFS) was founded in 1875 to offer support for young lower-middle class women who were new to urban life. In 1912 the society planned a much larger hostel near Victoria Station. The architect was RS Ayling who had already designed several hostels for working women in Pimlico.

This striking Wrennaissance style hostel accommodated about 80 girls as well as the offices of the London Diocesan GFS. Turning a corner with a grand entrance bay, Ayling's design nodded to the polychromy of the nearby Westminster Cathedral and featured vibrant red brick and Portland stone quoins with carving by HC Fehr in the stone door case.

The design of the side ranges is derived from the terraced houses of late 17th century London, with rubbed brick surrounds to timber sash windows, projecting string course painted white, prominent stone dentil cornice and dormer windows in the attic mansards.

Inside, there is a stained glass window in one of the second floor communal rooms with the pious commandment 'KEEP INNOCENCY' in a scroll below a dove. The hostel featured a separate exterior door for outside members to patronise it as a restaurant, and a waiting room where girls who came into town as new passengers on the early morning workmen's trains could wait in safety and comfort for their working day to begin.  

The hostel was not a charitable foundation, and the Society hoped for dividends comparable to those achieved by investors in other similar hostels. There was, however, a strong moral flavour to this enterprise and when the Bishop of London opened the building in 1914 he commented  that 'when a girl came to London to earn her living she was confronted with loneliness and with moral dangers ... Where was she to find friends and that quiet religious influence which would be her mainstay in time of temptation?' That hostel would answer the need. This building was listed for its architectural quality and the historic interest of the foundation.