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The Adult School Hall, Croydon

A Grade II Listed Building in Croydon, London

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Latitude: 51.3702 / 51°22'12"N

Longitude: -0.0972 / 0°5'50"W

OS Eastings: 532545

OS Northings: 165179

OS Grid: TQ325651

Mapcode National: GBR GX.J4S

Mapcode Global: VHGRL.8TGG

Entry Name: The Adult School Hall, Croydon

Listing Date: 5 July 2006

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1391697

English Heritage Legacy ID: 496216

Location: Croydon, London, CR0

County: London

District: Croydon

Electoral Ward/Division: Fairfield

Built-Up Area: Croydon

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Croydon St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 13/05/2019


The Adult School Hall, Croydon

(Formerly listed as The Society of Friends Hall)



Adult education hall. 1908 with minor late-C20 alterations. William Curtis Green, paid for by Theodore Crossfield for the Society of Friends.
MATERIALS: Yellow stock brick with brown pantile roofs, timber casement and plastic replacement windows.
PLAN: Rectangular building with aisles aligned north-south. Attached to north end via colonnade with pantile roof is the Croydon Quaker Meeting House of 1956, which is listed separately (List Entry Number 1462284).

EXTERIOR: The building is defined externally by deep sweeping roof, A-framed and set low to cover the aisles. At clerestory level is a continuous run of small-paned hopper glazing, six eight-paned windows in each bay, under a dormer roof, replaced late-C20 but in sympathetic style; original timber casements at ground floor. The south end has deep hipped roof porch with timber bracing; steps down to original entrance, and steps up to gallery inside. The ground level has been built up at this end and the east wall altered slightly to accommodate this; early-C21 garage to south end barely touches and is not of any interest. The main entrance has double timber doors with triangular cut out glazing lights under wide segmental arch with vertical and horizontal flat brick tiles. Above this is diamond shaped stone plaque indicating the opening date of 1908, and the motto 'Caritas Vero Aedificat CAS' ('charity edifieth' I Corinithians 8:1). To north and south ends, a tall five-part window under segmental arches, that to south sympathetically replaced, that to north original.

INTERIOR: Largely one open space, defined by the striking timber roof - the appearance is somewhat of an aeroplane hangar or a medieval barn. The structure comprises scissor braced trusses with passing braces from the ridge to the aisle plate and long raking struts to the arcade posts. There is a short tie across the aisle and a short raking strut in each bay. The boarded ceiling structure has raking struts and slender purlins. Clerestory lights at midpoint of the gambrel profile roof provide generous and atmospheric light into the space. At the south end is an original gallery with latticed balustrade, now with a later brick wall to enclose the gallery into a room, although the roof and the gable window remain exposed. There are double doors to the base of these, in line with those of the main entrance. Flanking doors that lead to the toilets and the stairs to the gallery do not appear in the original photograph, but they seem to have been added soon after. There are two small interventions fitted into the southernmost bays: to the east, an enclosed brick vestibule that allows the side door to serve as the main entrance now, and to the west, a one room kitchen. Original platform to the north end with flanking lobbies. The walls are exposed brick interspersed with small sections of flat brick tiles. The shallow segmental arches over original openings are of flat brick tiles.

HISTORY: The Adult School Hall was built to the designs of William Curtis Green (1875-1960) and it opened in 1908, the same year the design of the building was exhibited at the Royal Academy. The commission was gained through Curtis Green's wife, who was part of the Quaker Crossfield family. Theodore Crossfield paid for the hall, which was owned by the Society of Friends. The hall was built to serve the needs of the Adult School Movement, in which Quakers were a guiding force. In 1908 the movement was at the peak of its popularity, the Croydon branch having nearly 1000 members. The hall was to seat about 900 people, and accommodated school classes, lectures, social meetings, and community uses. It now adjoins the later Friends Meeting House, designed 1956 by Hubert Lidbetter replacing an earlier meeting house.
Curtis Green further developed the hall's roof design at his inter-war churches, but none seems to be as dramatic as the 1908 hall. A familial roof is seen at the near-by Grade II Church of St. George, Waddon from 1932, but this does not rely on timber alone. It has also been pointed out that the hall's roof structure is reminiscent of Albert Richardson's Church of the Holy Cross, Greenford, which is listed Grade II*. This 1939 church has a timber framed interior that resembles a Medieval tythe barn, also with clerestory lights, and Richardson may have been looking to Curtis Green's churches for design inspiration. The Croydon design can thus be shown to have been influential.
The building was also important in terms of Curtis Green's overall work: It is interesting to note that Green's obituary in the RIBA Journal for June 1960 singles out 'the Adult School Hall at Croydon' for special mention. Green's own nomination papers for Fellowship of the RIBA, made in 1909, also include what he describes as 'a public hall in Croydon to seat 1000 persons, for G. T. Crosfield Esquire.' He selected this building for exhibition at the Royal Academy, and for his FRIBA submission, both clear signs of the importance he attached to the project.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: This Adult School Hall designed by William Curtis Green for the Society of Friends was built in 1908 to serve the Croydon Branch of the Adult School Movement. The exterior is a discrete and sympathetic barn-like structure with deep pantile roof and clerestory lights. However, the interior is where the main special interest lies. Here, the open aisled hall has a remarkable timber roof structure, comprising a series of scissor trusses that altogether resembles an aisled medieval barn. The timbers are bolted rather than pegged, but otherwise the exposed structure and high level of craftsmanship is an honest and striking work in the Arts and Crafts idiom. There is a poignant connection between the honest construction of the roof structure and the Quaker tradition, expressed clearly in the detail of the materials and construction, as well as the space it creates inside. The structure is remarkably complete and still retains the drama of the original design, which was published at the time and which Curtis Green himself considered an important work of his long career. The Adult School Hall has group value with the attached Quaker Meeting House of 1956 by Hubert Lidbetter.

SOURCES: The Builder March 22 1912 pp 323-326.
The British Architect January 15 1909 pp 38-39.
Cherry B. and Pevsner, N. Buildings of England London:2 South. p.211.
Weaver, Lawrence. Village Halls and Clubs. London: Country Life. 1920.
Grey, Stuart. Edwardian Architecture: A Biographical Dictionary.

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