Former Temperance Billiard Hall, 131-141, King’s Road, Chelsea

From Historic England entry:

“Reasons for Designation

  • special architectural interest of the former billiards hall for the eclectic detailing, characterful Queen Anne-style elevations and strong presence in the streetscape; * abundant surviving decoration on the hall including patterned tiles, plasterwork and stained glass; * a well-preserved example of one of the architecturally impressive early temperance billiard halls, now quite rare nationally; * one of the best halls designed by T G Somerford, architect to Temperance Billiards Halls Ltd; * the former motorcar garage is important as a surviving structure dating from the significant interwar period in the history of the motor car, when motoring transformed from leisure activity to widespread method of transportation; * a notable exception to the practice of adapting older buildings, Chelsea Garage is a purpose-built structure of distinct architectural quality; * the garage relates to attempts in the 1920s to encourage designs that were consciously vernacular or architecturally interesting, * it is a quirky and characterful reminder of the use of traditional building forms, here a medieval hall house, to ‘disguise’ very modern building types in the interwar period.

GV II Former temperance billiards hall, c1912-4, by T G Somerford for Temperance Billiards Halls Ltd. Altered in 1960s conversion to antiques centre and later when connected with adjoining former garage

HISTORY: T G Somerford was the second company architect to Temperance Billiard Halls Ltd. The firm was founded in Manchester in 1906 at the height of the temperance movement, perhaps in response to the success of the world convention on temperance held in London in the same year. Under its first architect, Norman Evans, the company built around seventeen billiard halls from 1906-1911.

The temperance movement aimed to combat alcoholism by building ‘dry’ recreational halls and hotels which rivalled the architecture of the opulent public houses of the late C19. 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, however, 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, though few are of comparable quality to the first tranche built before WWI. 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 public houses. The Kings Road hall, however, became an antiques market in the early 1960s just when the area was emerging as the hub of Swinging London.”

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