Isleworth Public Hall, South St, Isleworth, Middlesex

Published at My London on 22.10.10:

“…In 1855, several local gentlemen, including the vicar, the Reverend HWP Richards (see item about his younger son below) had felt it was desirable to have a reading room. True to form in those days, a committee was formed.

[Edith’s Streets: “Hartland Road
Mission opened in 1878 for parochial and charitable work by H. W. P. Richards, vicar of Isleworth 1855-88. In 1916 the mission was attached to the parish church. It was rebuilt in 1922 and part of the building was used as a church hall in 1958.”]

On October 1 that year, a reading room was established in Downton House, Lower Square. It had 352 books and was a great success. Thoughts were soon turning to a new building, but the finance and interest was not forthcoming.

However, in 1872, it was decided that a baths association should be formed and a small swimming pool with slipper baths was built at the rear of the reading room.

This opened in 1872 and closed seven years later through lack of support, only to open again later. The baths eventually closed for good when the new Isleworth Baths were opened in Twickenham Road in 1939.

It was decided that building a new reading room would be a fine way of celebrating Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in 1887.

Subscriptions were raised to help collect the necessary money and the public hall was opened on April 12, 1888, by Mr William Podger, a partner at the local Kidd’s Flour Mill, who laid a memorial stone.

[Edith’s Streets: “Church Street: There had been flour mills here since the 16th century. Samuel Kidd took over the rebuilt mill in the early 1800s and in 1846 added two steam engines. As Kidd’s Mill, it was bought by Rank in 1934 and immediately closed and then demolished in the 1940s.]

The Isleworth Society describes the building as a former private library (1863-1904), then a public library (1904-1936) and now a public hall for a range of activities.

The hall has had many diverse uses. It was a restaurant during the Second World War…It became a Grade II listed building in 1998.”

From the Historic England entry:

“This is a well-executed and colourfully-detailed example of a mid-C19 Reading Room which survives in a little-altered condition.

Reading Room, 1863; public hall added 1887-8, by S Woodbridge; C20 alterations. Yellow stock brick in English bond with coated Welsh slate roofs and brick stacks.

The 1863 block, at the front, is of 2 storeys, 3 x 1 bays, and is decoratively treated with a blue-brick plinth with off-sets; red brick to bands and to diaper-work between floors and to parapet; white herring-bone brick tympana to upper windows; and chamfered ashlar dressings to door, windows and verges. Windows, of 3 lights to ground floor and 2 Caernarvon-arched lights to 1st floor, have mullions, transoms and horizontal glazing bars. Entrance on left has flight of 4 stone steps, half-glazed double-doors and 3-pane over-light.

INTERIOR: 1863 block: entrance hall has colourful tessellated floor; marble Boer War memorial comprising decorative, classically-treated, corniced, plaque with pointed-arched recess inscribed with names;

wide cantilevered stone stair with open treads, decorative cast-iron balusters, panelled wooden newels and moulded wooden handrail. Panelled doors. Reading room, on ground floor, has dado rail and simply-moulded fireplace. Vestry Hall on 1st floor has bolection-moulded fireplace and waggon-vaulted roof with exposed rafters. 1887 block has panelled doors; simple fireplaces; back-stair with wooden balusters, alternately plain and moulded; 1st-floor hall with stage, dado rail, cornice, chamfered principal rafters and collars, under-boarded roof.

1st floor: panels flanking windows have blue-brick offset bases and stepped cogged heads; windows are set under pointed arches which rise above parapet into gablets with crested ridge tiles; continuous hoodmould. Parapet and raised verges with flat coping. Returns in same style, right return having a 3-light window to each floor and marble date stone recording the building of the extension; left return one 2-light window to 1st floor.

The 1887 rear block is of 2 tall storeys and 4 bays and is linked to the front block by a lower bay with entrance at each side. The 1887 work is plainer. Openings have segmental red-brick arches. The windows are large 4-pane sashes, paired on the ground-floor. On the left (west) side, 2 doors take the place of windows, and give direct access to meeting rooms; two corbelled lateral stacks. Roof half-hipped to rear.”

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