The settlement movement began in the nineteenth century out of the growing demand for social justice. Residential settlements were set up to enable people from more privileged backgrounds to live in deprived areas.
The first settlement was Toynbee Hall in the East End of London, set up by (Canon) Samuel and Henrietta Barnett, and named after their friend and fellow reformer, Oxford historian Arnold Toynbee. The Barnetts wrote in 1884, that if people from universities lived for a period amongst the city poor they could "do a little to remove the inequalities of life", sharing "their best with the poor and learn through feeling how they live"
More settlements were set up, mostly London-based. The Federation of Residential Settlements was formed in 1920. It was renamed the British Association of Settlements in 1967, and became the British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres in 1978. It merged with the Development Trusts Association in 2011 to form Locality