Anerley Town Hall

Anerley Town Hall has been a centre of social gathering and celebration for over a hundred years. Popular belief is that Petula Clark and Julie Andrews appeared on its stage in their youth. Certainly the stage and hall has seen many concerts, piano recitals, pantomimes, plays and dinner dances over the years.

The entrance hall and various rooms have traces of late Victorian art nouveau and William Morris-style influences in the friezes and ceilings. The entire building is a beautiful example of late Victorian grandeur and aspiration. British civic buildings of this period have a similarity in design with a clock tower, gabled roof and ornate interiors.

We see similar architectural sobriety in the splendid Old Police Station building, built during the same decade, the 1870s. This sobriety suggests that the Town Hall was originally intended for much sober purposes and indeed it was. It was originally known as the Anerley Vestry Hall. Such ambitious architecture in the Penge area developed after the transfer of the Crystal Palace to Penge Place on Penge Common in 1854. For a while, Penge became a fashionable place to live.

 

Anerley Vestry Hall was built in 1878 at a cost of £4,341 for the conduct of public business for the area. Originally a Vestry was a secular and ecclesiastical group which met, often in secret, to oversee local problems. Its views and opinions sometimes resulted in political clashes with the government, especially regarding the administration of the Poor Law and the Workhouses. In 1855, Anerley Vestry was well-enough considered to have six members elected to the Lewisham District Board of Works. A Vestry’s function changed over the years in the Victorian era and became more orthodox with a public building as its headquarters. On its board of guardians, a Vestry might contain ‘an inspector of public nuisance’, a medical officer, and ‘a foreman of the roads’ among other roles. Penge was then part of Lewisham and the parish of St Paul’s.

Anerley Vestry Hall became Anerley Town Hall in 1900 when Penge Urban District Council was formed by the London Government Act of 1899.

The building was enlarged in 1899 at a cost of £3,229. Offices, a council chamber, committee rooms, and a public hall were added. A petty sessional court was opened in 1925 and was used by the Penge Council until 1965 when the area became part of the new Borough of Bromley.

From its inclusion in the parish of Battersea until 1855, the boundaries of Penge have changed throughout the years, being variously in Kent, Sussex or London, and the Anerley Town Hall’s function has reflected this.

No longer representing civic and ecclesiastical use, this magnificent building has become a social and creative hub for the area and can be hired for various uses. After some years housing the Penge Library, it is now managed by the Crystal Place Community Development Trust.  For further details of their activities see link cpcdt.org.uk