Muriel and Doris Lester &
The Heritage of the Kingsley Hall Community Centres

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Henry Lester

Father & Grandfather were devout Baptists.


Father Henry's religion was love-centred, enlightened, and heavily influenced by Christian/Socialism.  Henry taught his children the importance of giving something back to the community in which they lived.  It was this teaching, by example, of sharing his wealth with others, that inspired his daughters to be pioneers in a hostile world.


The Lester family lived in great wealth and comfort in the Woodford Green area of Essex and it was only when the Lester sisters saw the slums and poverty of the East End from trains as they travelled into the City that they realised that not everyone had the same lifestyle and privilege that they had.

They asked their father if they could visit the East End and made many trips particularly to the Bow area where they made numerous friends amongst the people living there.

Wanting to help those who lived in such dire conditions, they asked their father if they could set up a premises from which they could give a helping hand. He bought them a terraced house in Bruce Road, Bow in 1912 which they called The Kingsley Rooms after the fifth child in the family, Kingsley Lester, the only boy, upon whom the whole family doted.


Includes input from Alex Stratton and Tony  Lucas

Muriel and Doris Lester were two of five children of Henry Edward Lester an eminent Victorian shipping engineer.

The Lester's Grandfather Henry had known poverty; he started work at the age of eight, as a bricklayer's labourer.  Their Father started work at the age of ten at the Thames Iron Works, he worked in Scott Russell's shipbuilding yard, when Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Eastern steamship was being built. T t was H E Lester’s company that built the barge which carried Cleopatra’s Needle to London when it was given as a gift to Queen Victoria!