The date is 18th January 1947 and it’s the Balham Cycling Club Prize Presentation and Gala Dance. It not only marks the first big post-war get together of members but also forms part of the club’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Pictured are those that have been demobilised over the last 20 months, with older members who had kept the club running between 1939-1945.
Diary of a dairy room
The members and guests are all pictured at the Express Rooms, St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction. This is the Express Hall, set back from St Johns Hill. Today it’s the DNA club (see pics below). You can still see the entrance and the rooms above the shops but the doors have recently closed on the building’s latest incarnation.
The Bartlett School of Architecture Survey of London publication from 2013 provides the best and most succinct history of the building:
“The warehouse-like building has operated as an entertainment venue since the 1880s. It began as a billiard-table factory, erected by a Lambeth builder, William Read, in 1874–5. In 1889 it was largely rebuilt to include a public hall at the rear (Crichton Hall), used for dances, meetings and lectures, with a billiard hall and workshops on the floors above, and a pair of single-storey shops extending forward to align with Francis & Co.’s new premises next door.
“By 1907 Crichton Hall had become Arding & Hobbs’s second-hand furniture department, and the top floor its workshops for repairing carpets and making soft furnishings. The billiard hall was then still operating in between, but by 1925 it was a banqueting hall.
“In 1933 the site was acquired by Express Dairies for whom the architects William Woodward & Sons altered the buildings to approximately their current form, opening up the rear of the western shop to make a tearoom for the sale ‘of light refreshments and dairy produce’, and converting the banqueting hall into ‘Express Hall’, a dining and dance hall with sprung maple floor. Surviving woodwork and coloured glass date from this time.
“After several years of semi-dereliction, the buildings were converted in the mid 1970s as a masonic hall, nightclub, dance and exercise hall, and amusement arcade, and given the name Wessex House.”
And then the DNA club came and went.
Why the Express Hall? Express Dairies were in the area because the milk train wagons were unloaded, loaded and dispatched at Clapham Junction to either the United Dairies creamery and bottling plant at Vauxhall or the Express Dairies creamery at Morden.
Do you remember any of the riders or are you related to any of them? Do you have any pics or memorabilia you could share? Email me at email@example.com, drop me a line in the box below or add a comment on the BCC Facebook page. I would love to hear from you.
A big thank you to blog reader Les Humphreys who sent me a copy of the Gala Dinner menu and the photo. Les was friends with Ken Smith who was a member of Balham CC in number capacities from the 20s through to the 50s. Les wrote an article on Ken Smith in the Ottawa Citizen following his passing in 2013.
Details on the Express Rooms can be found in the Battersea volume of the London Architecture Report from the Bartlett School of Architecture
For the inside track on Clapham Junction and milk trains go to the Torrington Milk Train web page – it’s what the internet was invented for.
Train picture image is owned by Ben Brooksbank and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.