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News > School News > Carmel Hall - A History in Four Parts by School Archivist, Clive Bartram. Part 3: 1960-2008

Carmel Hall - A History in Four Parts by School Archivist, Clive Bartram. Part 3: 1960-2008

Carmel Hall has enjoyed four different vocations since it was founded back in 1824. Here, Clive Bartram examines the third chapter: Carmel Hall from 1960-2008

The third iteration of Carmel Hall was as a home for the Grosvenor Club. It is worth taking a little time to learn more about this club as it had already enjoyed a long and established life before “downsizing” in 1960 to its final resting place at Carmel Hall.

The Grosvenor Club was founded in 1872 by the Duke of Westminster as a place for his working staff, artisans and craftsmen to meet. It had its first home at 200 Buckingham Palace Road, which now lies underneath Victoria Coach station. This large and spacious address was able to accommodate the substantial number of men (and it was only men) who worked on the Grosvenor Estate, and in the 1880s it had around 1100 members. So, a far cry from its more modest numbers when it was housed at Carmel Hall.

Above: May 1873, a press cutting of a review of the opening. French lessons, drawing classes, not too much drink, and the formation of a cricket club. How enlightening!

We can take some time here to look at some of the founding principles of the club and what was laid on for its members. Below is a financial breakdown of costs from 1873. Notice the cost of the French lessons, and also the price of winding the clocks!

Indeed, the objectives of the club were quite forward-thinking as this article from the day, below, outlined. It was clear that the Duke wanted his workforce to be able to enjoy some of the comforts afforded to the upper classes. These aims remained the same throughout the club’s life and a copy of them was still attached to the noticeboard in Carmel Hall in 2008 when the club finally closed its doors for good.

After the Second World War, Grosvenor Club needed a new home. Destruction as a result of the doodlebug that landed in Semley Place expedited the situation - see the picture below taken in 1952. Victoria Coach station is on the right. The blue flags show places of interest. Notice the remains of St Michael’s Church School where Belgravia Police Station now stands and the Church of St Philips (the Russian church) next door to the Grosvenor Club.  All of this was to be knocked down soon after this photo was taken. Our faithful caretaker Gordon McNeil, now sadly no longer with us, related to me how as a child (and a member of the Westminster cubs too!) he used to spend many happy hours throwing stones through the windows of these derelict buildings and playing on the bombsites. He spent many a happy hour too (some years later) in the new Grosvenor Club in Carmel Hall and I remember having to go and fetch him during a Year 7 disco night as he was on duty and one of the invited boys had broken a window. He wasn’t best pleased having to be parted from an unfinished pint! This was the disco Daniel Radcliffe attended, but that story is for another time…

Above: St Michael’s Church School practising evacuation drills in 1939

So, the time was ripe for a move, as this newspaper article summarises:

Only 300 members by this time as you may notice.

I did find a most interesting artefact in the archives appertaining to this move.  An inventory of absolutely everything in the old Grosvenor Club and its estimated worth. As they were downsizing the need for grand pianos and the like was not so important. The sale of these items was used to pay for the move and refurbishment. Here is a little snippet of this document. (Rather clumsily photographed but you get the gist). A Broadwood grand piano with fluted legs. A hundred quid? That’s a steal!

The time spent at Carmel Hall went by without incident. The original lease cites the rent as £30 per annum with the lease running until 2037 and it contained some interesting clauses. “There shall be no illegal gaming and the premises shall not be used for anything immoral or for any purpose that that might injure the reputation of the neighbourhood”. Also… no children, no dogs, women allowed as associate members but with no vote(!) The club secretary was not expected to work Sundays or Wednesday evenings and all bar bills needed to be settled before leaving the establishment. Besides this I found little to interest me, aside from darts matches, bingo nights and the odd punch-up. Below is an architect’s drawing of the Hall from the early seventies during a refurbishment:

As the number of members dwindled, so the need for a working men’s club in this location became less and thus it was that in 2008 the club closed, some 136 years after it first opened.  The next chapter, then, covers the conversion of the by now rather dilapidated Carmel Hall into its present state as part of our wonderful school. That is for another time.

There is time for one last heart-warming story about the Grosvenor Club before we close this chapter. In November 1972, a Mr Thomas Warren passed away aged 83. He was a faithful member of the Club, loved by all, and his life was one to be celebrated. He had been a teacher at St Barnabas School for 44 years, and 31 years of that time had served as Headmaster. He had lived in the flat at the Old School House and had sung for years in St Barnabas Choir with a fine baritone voice. So, in some ways, much of Mr Warren’s life overlapped with our school’s present journey and it is a fitting way to end this look back at the third incarnation of Carmel Hall.  

By Clive Bartram, School Archivist

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