Reference NumberP/MUN
Alternative Reference NumberSTE/608-614
TitlePapers of Denys Munby relating to the Stepney Reconstruction Group
DescriptionFiles, notes, pamphlets, cuttings, etc. Accumulated material relating to surveys carried out by the Stepney Reconstruction Group
Extent50 items
AdminHistoryDenys Lawrence Munby (1919-1976) was an economist with a deep, responsible concern for the poor and underprivileged. He was educated at Dragon School, Rugby and Wadham College, Oxford. Munby arrived in East London in 1940 at the behest of Father Groser of the church of St. George-in-the-East and was soon commissioned by J. J. Mallon, the Warden of Toynbee Hall (The Universities' Settlement in East London) at Whitechapel to do research on the changing structure of industry and employment in East London. The Stepney Reconstruction Group, of which Munby acted as Secretary, had been set up under the auspices of Toynbee Hall in 1941. The Group was established as a research group to examine the past development and present tendencies in the Borough of Stepney and to consider the needs which would emerge after the War and the opportunities for the development of a new Stepney. Among the members of the Stepney Reconstruction Group at various times were Clement Attlee, Miriam Moses, Father John Groser, Edith Ramsay and Basil Henriques. The architect and designer Erno Goldfinger also attended two meetings of the Group in 1942; Goldfinger, who would go on to design Balfron Tower in Poplar, offered technical advice to the Group's housing sub-committee (see P/MUN/5/1).

In 1943 the Group prepared an exhibition, "Living in Cities" at Toynbee Hall which attempted to illustrate the problems that would be faced in building a new Stepney. In 1945 the group published a pamphlet, "Living in Stepney" which examined the history, present problems and future of the borough, especially in relation to the proposed London Plan. The well-illustrated booklet sold out quickly. Munby went on to write the widely-acclaimed "Industry and Planning in Stepney" published in 1951 as a report presented to the Stepney Reconstruction Group. It is a highly-detailed study which drew heavily on the survey work in both housing and industry undertaken by Munby and the Group (material relating to these surveys is well represented in the papers). The book demonstrated that some of the conclusions of Abercrombie's London Plan were founded on only a sketchy knowledge of the social and industrial circumstances of Stepney. Munby was also critical of the Plan's preference for flats rather than houses, prophesising that at the end of the twentieth century Stepney would still be a sub-standard area and that the opportunity of wiping out "the stigma of the East End" would have been irrevocably lost. "Future generations will say we have lost our opportunities".

Munby was Lecturer in Political Economy at Aberdeen University from 1949-1958 and subsequently Reader in Economics and the Organisation of Transport, Oxford, and Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College. He was a Christian economist and acted as consultant to at the World Council of Churches Assembly at Evanston in 1954 and for seven years served as Vice-Chairman of the Church and Society Department of the World Council, based at Geneva. From 1962 he was also a member of the Board of Social Responsibility of the Church of England. He died in April 1976 in Istanbul from severe head injuries after an assault. He had been on holiday looking at architecture and art treasures. In addition to his work on Stepney, his publications included: "Christianity and Economic Problems" (1956), "God and the Rich Society" (1961) and "The Idea of a Secular Society" (Riddell Lectures, 1963).

September 2000
CustodialHistoryThe papers were donated by Lionel M. Munby (Denys Munby's literary executor) in June 1976. They were originally catalogued as part of the "Stepney Manuscripts" series as STE/608-614. this expanded and revised catalogue has been compiled by Carol Hutchinson in 2000.The former catalogue numbers are shown as accession numbers but the new P/MUN references should be used when ordering items.
RelatedMaterialCorrespondence of the Stepney Reconstruction Group, with evidence submitted to the Ministry of Health Central Housing Advisory Committee Subcommittee on Design of Dwellings, and papers concerning the County of London Plan of the London County Council for post-war reconstruction can be found among the papers of Father St John Beverley Groser at Lambeth Palace Library (ref: MS 3428 ff.72-110).

See also the papers of Edith Ramsay (P/RAM).

Other deposits of Denys Munby's personal papers are held at:
- Manchester University Library: papers relating to religious affairs 1948-1972
- London School of Economics Archives and Special Collections: correspondence with the editors of the Economic Journal 1953-1955
(ref: RES/6/1/341)
- Cambridge University Library: economic and religious correspondence and papers 1946-1974 (ref: MS Add. 9563/265-282)
Access StatusOpen
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