Roy Shepard shares some fascinating memories of Stanley Halls of an idyllic childhood in South Norwood and yes, a Stanley link with Dr Livingstone……
The first time that I went to Stanley Halls was probably about 1951 at the age of four and a half.
I started to attend a small, mixed private primary school – the Park School – which was situated at the then large Victorian property which stood two doors up from from the corner of the road that leads down to South Norwood Lake from the junction of Auckland Road with Lancaster Road. The school used the Stanley Halls for their P.E. sessions and we had a very bronzed, rather tall woman with bare feet, who wore khaki shorts and a short-sleeved top. She had short grey hair. I used to wonder how she didn’t get splinters in her feet from the wooden floor!
The playing fields were at that time a derelict 9-hole golf course which, before the Second World War, was constructed by the then South Norwood Sports and Social Club. The club was based in or near the Waterside Centre, by the gates to the South Norwood Lake. The golf course had been utilised as an anti-aircraft emplacement and the concrete and steel constructions had ruined the course permanently.
Miss Ashe’s school used to stage their drama productions in the theatre at the Stanley Halls and Ann, appeared as Alice in “Alice Through the Looking Glass”. Much later, as a member of the amateur dramatic group run by the local St. John’s Youth Club, my sister took a leading part in a play called “Rain on the Just” and appeared opposite a chap called David Williams.
I have attended dances and socials at the Stanley Halls and I have been with my late mother to the Victorian Music Hall staged by the Croydon Stagers. I have also seen other people’s plays there. I was living in Upper Norwood at the time at number 22, High View Close, off Auckland Road.
One of my most vivid impressions of Stanley Halls was of the art gallery of rather quaint bucolic scenes of cattle grazing, rivers and trees. The marble pillars and Victorian decoration, especially the brass/copper flowers in vases on the roof edge and the cartouches, (profile plaster reliefs) of members of the Stanley family which adorned the right side flank wall, were lovely.
The whole building is redolent of a bygone age and with the Station Road Clock Tower presented to Mr and Mrs Stanley to commemorate their Golden Wedding Anniversary it stands as a memorial of a time when South Norwood was such a different place. Not better, just different.
The surrounding area was replete with small and medium sized shops selling everything from fishing tackle for anglers at South Norwood Lake, to shops selling meat, fish, bread, groceries, ironmongery, menswear, discs, flowers, confectionery, newspapers, books, magazines, model construction kits, stamps and cigarette cards for collectors, an estate agency and a chemist’s. There was also a private library run by a Mrs. Withy.
Willam Stanley lived at Cumberlow Lodge, which was a secure unit for unusual offenders. That of course was after the Stanleys were dead and gone!
The family were related to Henry Morton Stanley, the American explorer who famously “found” David Livingstone in the heart of Africa. He wrote a book entitled “How I Found Livingstone” which was a bestseller. “Dr. Livingstone I presume” were his famous words on meeting with the explorer/missionary. That is the reason why our telephone exchange prior to Subscriber Trunk Dialling was Livingstone.
The Stanley family manufactured mathematical, navigational, and all manner of precision instruments for Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s Civil and Government Services which, with the British Empire at the time was an enormous department of state. The factory was next to Norwood Junction railway station.
William Stanley was a very clever entrepreneur and was a local benefactor. I think that he would most certainly have approved of what SPI is trying to do as it is a truly community enhancing project.
It has been a great pleasure writing this.