It was built at the height of the “Temperance Movement” in order to provide an alternative to pubs bars and other alcohol based entertainment venues. The Temperance Movement started in the 1800s and there are still several other buildings in London with similar architectural features.
The word “Teetotalism” was born out of the Temperance Movement. In the US the Temperance Movement climaxed in the Prohibition Act of the 1920s. The Salvation Army was one of the prime movers of the Movement in the UK.
The buildings often used the same decorative materials that pubs used, such as tiled facades and stained glass windows, to create the congenial atmosphere of a public house without the pitfalls of available alcohol. Temperance Billiard Halls Ltd initially targeted the suburbs of south London, where many new pubs had been built in the late C19, as well as north-west England where the firm originated.
By the beginning of WWI, billiards halls had been built across London, by both Temperance Billiard Halls Ltd and Lucania Temperance Billiard Halls Ltd, the two principal firms in operation. By 1939 there were over 50 temperance billiard halls in London.
However after WWII, billiards declined in popularity as did, at a much speedier pace, the Temperance movement. Many halls were converted to snooker or bingo halls and ironically public houses.
- This building was one of 50 or so built in London during the Temperance Movement (1800s-1900s). Other surviving buildings can be found for example in Fulham, Brixton, and Chelsea.
- Built: 1910 – at the height of the Temperance Movement in the UK
- Architect: Norman Evans
- Builder: Temperance Billiard Halls Ltd. (TBHL)
- TBHL Also Built: 17 billiard halls from 1906-1911 whilst Norman Evans was company architect, in London and Manchester.
- TBHL’s London Billiard Halls: Clapham, Balham and Fulham and there were hall and shop complexes in Lewisham and Wandsworth
- London Billiard Hall Scene. By 1939 there were over 50 Temperance billiard halls in London, although few of those built subsequent to Evans’ tenure as Company Architect matched his in distinctiveness or architectural quality.
- The site the building now sits on in Lewisham had formerly been occupied by a detached house in large grounds called Greenway Place. This was demolished and the temperance billiard hall, which was originally known as the Gild Hall, was built in its place. The original plans for the Gild Hall survive and show a building boasting a café / lounge, a large hall with fifteen billiard tables, a lobby, and four shops facing Lewisham High Street.
Historic photographs in Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre reveal the appearance of the original cafe / lounge which had a stained glass bow window at its southern end, a small platform and proscenium (presumably for bands and other entertainment) at the northern end, a fountain in the centre of the hall, tables and chairs and two small domed booths with Art Nouveau stained glass, possibly for purchasing refreshments.