The origins of Renew Counselling
WHCM was founded in the ethos of the Christian faith. Originally it was called the West Ham Central Mission and was the vision of a minister called Robert Rowntree Clifford who led a small Baptist Church in West Ham. He was joined by his sister Mary Clifford in 1904 and two Deaconesses; they devoted their whole lives to the work of the church and what became known as the ‘Mission’.
Responding to poverty and deprivation the Rowntree Cliffords initially turned their attention to the terrible living conditions in East London. Many families lived in slums and relied on the docks for work, yet the ship-building industry was at a standstill. There was poverty, lack of work and starvation amongst the poor. The mission provided shelter and food, as well as work which helped to restore people’s dignity. As reported in the first annual report of the West Ham Central Mission 1905:
‘Many had heard that we wanted 100 men to chop wood for six hours and at the end they would receive three shillings. Their haggard faces, their eager desire for a ticket and their respectful behaviour presented one of the saddest phases of life. The men wanted work, not charity. But if there’s no work, there must be relief for starving families.’
The Mission’s work continued throughout the First World War, and a hostel built on the Barking road and run by Miss Clifford, provided relief accommodation to people rendered homeless in East London as a result of a huge explosion at a munitions factory.
In December 1918 HRH Queen Mary paid a surprise visit to the Mission, her first of three. The Mission church was built during the 1920s and during the Second World War it was a major provider of social services including a soup kitchen, night-shelter and medical services.
The work of the Mission has changed over the years in response to the needs of the population it served. The Greenwoods estate in Stock provided care for young people through to the 70s when it became a therapeutic residential community for those suffering mental health distress. This closed in 1999 as a result in the changing emphasis in social care policy. For the future, the work would respond to the emotional and mental health needs of society through the provision of counselling. The Charity WHCM was created to enable the delivery of this work, with a new council of Trustees led by Brian Wilkinson.
In 2013 WHCM Counselling and Support changed its name to Renew Counselling to better reflect the work we do.
Renew now provides support through counselling particularly for those who cannot access or afford these services elsewhere. The founding faith and vision which inspired Robert Rowntree Clifford is still present and the reason why many work at Renew, as it now responds to the needs of communities across East London and Essex.
Renew’s therapeutic services are accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and we adhere to their ethical framework for the Counselling Professions 2018. Renew Counselling is a registered charity No 1084940 and a Company limited by guarantee, registered in England. Registered office: Sadlers House, 2 Legg Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1AH Company No. 4099810 TM The name, logotype and four squares graphic device are registered Trademarks (Reg No: 3015144) of Renew Counselling