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The values that ISH holds close to its heart can be traced back almost a century, when the social centre Student Movement House opened in London in memory of students who died in the First World War. It aimed to promote international understanding and friendship by providing London’s international students with companionship and social facilities. The house, in Russell Square, became part of the fabric of London student life - by 1944, it had 1200 members from 54 countries.
Enter Mary Trevelyan, who becomes Warden of Student Movement House. There would be no International Students House without her commitment, perseverance and devotion to her students. After spending a year in India and Sri Lanka, she returned to London to find work.
"In London I noticed groups of Indians on the streets looking lost in the wintry rain, snow and bitter winds. I had intended to return to the musical profession but began to wonder if I might be able to do something to help these young men, since I had spent such a happy year in their country. And this, though I did not know it at the time, was the beginning of the end as far as my own musical future was concerned. I have never regretted this change of direction."
Mary Trevelyan becomes Adviser to Overseas Students for the University of London. During this time, and following visits to International Houses in New York, Berkeley and Chicago, she realised the need to further international friendship and understanding.
"I had dreamed dreams during my travels of the great new international house which we would set up in London, my dreams being influenced by my time in America.”
She wanted to prevent international students’ loneliness; create an atmosphere where they could study and carry away positive memories of Britain and its people; promote international friendship and understanding between overseas students; and introduce overseas students to the widest cross-section of British society possible. “I soon came to the conclusion that the freedom of a large non-residential club was likely to be of more use to a greater number of students than would be a large residential hostel."
Mary Trevelyan becomes founder of The Goats Club for international students in London, set up to achieve her dream of providing international students with a way and place to meet each other and experience as much of British society as possible. The first meeting was on October 24th 1956 and was attended by 65 students.
It’s a strange name for a club - we know. The story goes that Mary wanted something memorable, not ‘Overseas Students Club’ or ‘International Students Centre’. Stuck for ideas, she was told by an African student that “without people like you we should all be lost goats.” The name stuck, and here we are.
International Students Trust is formed thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of the Hon. Patrick Wills, the British Council and the Dulverton Trust. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was very interested in Mary’s work and kept updated regularly. The Trust was registered as a charity with the Queen Mother as patron. Its aims were and remain:
To help students achieve the academic and personal aims that had brought them to the UK
To provide the best possible opportunities for overseas students to experience the many facets of life in the UK and to give them a deeper understanding of the British
To give British students an opportunity to broaden their horizons through friendship with people from widely differing backgrounds and cultures
By these means to make an effective contribution to international relations
With the support of the Queen Mother and founding Chairman Lord Grafton, the Trust partnered with the Crown Estate to rebuild historic Park Crescent East for educational purposes.
International Students House is officially opened by the Queen Mother on May 4th.
In her opening speech, she declared "We hope that International Students House will provide opportunities at an international level for many of our young leaders of tomorrow and that as successive generations of students come and go, it may make a vital contribution to peace among the nations in the years to come. Many people have given their time and their money to the planning of the House; now it is up to you, the first members, to bring it to life. I think we can in confidence leave it in your hands to establish a tradition of friendship which will spread to the four corners of the earth."
Within a year, over 100 nationalities had been represented within ISH and its range of activities and members grew steadily.
A row of Nash houses in York Terrace East, a short walk from GPS, are rebuilt to provide more accommodation. Governor Sir Robert Birley describes the Regent’s Park location as “the best site in London.” This second house is later named Mary Trevelyan Hall.
Mary Trevelyan Hall opens to residents.
The original International Students Trust is split into two parallel charities. International Students House owns and operates the residences and activities for international students; International Students Trust becomes the managing body for the business activity required to fund the charity.
The residence at Great Portland Street is extended when 1-2 Park Crescent Mews is bought and connected to the main building. This new addition is named Wills House, after the Hon. Patrick Wills - Chairman, Governor and co-founder of the Trust.
ISH recognises the growing need to accommodate postgraduate students and their families. Following a merger with Wandsworth Student Housing Association, ISH opens Blain House in Balham, providing 12 one and two-bedroom self-contained flats. This brings ISH’s total number of flats to 56 and allows it to offer over 700 affordable beds for students in London.
The sale of Mary Trevelyan Hall is agreed. The funds from this will go towards significantly increasing the number of scholarships available, improving the existing buildings and creating a new hall in London to increase the number of students ISH can provide for.