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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Bingo! Another slice of Wandsworth Road's history is about to disappear in a cloud of dust

Just a hundred yards west of the former Tearooms des Artistes, there was another hub of social life on the Wandsworth Road,  Rileys Snooker Hall, just opposite the Baptist Chapel on the corner of
As it was: Riley's snooker
hall in the Wandsworth Road,
complete with lovely cladding
Victoria Rise.

This place was always regarded as one of the ugliest buildings in a street that was not exactly beautiful.
And yet, once the demolition team got to work, they began to uncover details that made you stop and look and think - hang on, what the hell was that place?

According to a fellow blogger  this surprisingly large building was almost certainly a Temperance Hall.

Once the hideous facade had been pulled away (I always thought of it as corrugated iron, but it is actually some sort of plastic cladding), you see this elaborate stucco work, all very garish and mock-exotic. Surely this is all a bit much for what was supposed to be a former Temperance Hall?

No - a little more research soon turned up a load of information on the Temperance and Billiard Hall movement of the early 20th century. The images on this site are of buildings very similar in design to the one on Wandsworth Road which is now on the brink of demolition.

It's clear several very similar buildings were erected across south London in the early 20th Century. Maybe they were designed to be alluring enough to tempt wayward souls away from the pubs and gin palaces. Once inside they'd get a nice game of billiards and a glass of ginger beer, or a tea. And maybe a pamphlet or two?

Oddly enough, Rileys always seemed quite a sleazy place. I'm pretty sure I remember seeing Bingo Nights advertised there - I can remember discussing this with a friend who wanted to go along as she wanted to film it. Like an idiot I never went inside. You can sewe from the outside it was a big space - there's a second hall behind the first, and they appear to be interconnected.

In recent years,  I think - I am sure I remember this - it sometimes ran club nights, which would  be policed by massive bouncers wearing lots of gold chains. Can't imagine there was an awful lot of temperance in the air inside - just walking past you almost swooned in the exhalations of after-shave.

I knew this area had been famously teetotal - even poor Graham Greene noticed this when he had to cross Clapham Common to buy beer for his visiting guest, Julian Maclaren Ross, from the Windmill pub. It seems the heavily disapproving temperance  mood of the Clapham Sect - for all the good they did in parliament in  pushing through abolition - had a deep and lasting impact on the social fabric.

Ayway, the Temperance Halls, for all their worthiness, could not resist a distinctly racy, kiss-me-quick architectural details. Look at the photos below of the poor old building, before it is pulverised. Beneath that hideous facade lurked a bit of dandy, a man or girl about town with its exotic curves and curlicues.

Love it. Now it's on the way out - and I am sure the Travelogue (is that the right name?) that replaces it will be haunted by all manner of randy but alcohol free ghosts.

The Wandsworth Road itself is changing very fast, but at least two of its very well hidden treasures should be safe from the developers of Nine Elms. The Larkhall Estate close to Wandswroth Road  overground station, with its deeply shaded quadrangle gardens and steep pitched roofing -  is grade 2 listed - while ornate and flamboyant interior decoration of Khadambi Asalache's 575 Wandsworth Road is now in the hands of the National Trust.

Seems it was built around 1909 by the Temperance Billiard Halls movement, here in SW8 along with others in Lewisham, etc.

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