Sydney John Russell was born in Woodford, Essex in 1906, the youngest of a family of eight. His father and elder brothers were all chartered accountants and it was intended that he should join the family firm. Following an unhappy couple of years in business, he commenced training for the Methodist ministry from where Muriel Lester plucked him in 1932. By this time Kingsley Hall was only three years old and consisted of two buildings, a timber-built hall and a recently opened nursery. The small staff, Christians of all denominations, were not salaried but received maintenance and a small weekly allowance. It was believed that this would ensure that those giving service would do so from a sense of vocation.
In the following years, led by SJR as Sydney Russell was fondly known, the Work grew tremendously and extensive building programmes were undertaken in 1938 and 1963 to provide more space. Kingsley Hall’s activities catered for people of all ages – “from the cradle to the grave”. An extensive educational and social programme formed the basis of an inter-denominational church and particular emphasis was put upon the needs of youth of all ages, older people and the disabled. However, Kingsley Hall was not introspective, but had a strong pacifist and international outlook.