Tucked opposite the better-known Fairfield Halls is one of Croydon's most interesting buildings, the Adult School Hall. This functional, and rather lovely, piece of Arts and Craft architecture was built in 1908, attached to the Quaker meeting house.
While the meeting house had to be replaced after a land mine destroyed it in 1940, the Hall survives as witness to an important piece of social history. It was created to accommodate local members of the Adult School Movement, who numbered almost a thousand in Croydon at the time.
This movement had begun at the end of the eighteenth century, providing adult education for non-conformists whose religion emphasised direct access to the Bible - and thus the skills to read it. Quaker efforts in the mid-nineteenth century broadened the curriculum, increasing their appeal, and added activities such as book clubs and saving banks. Membership was at its peak when the Croydon hall was built; it would soon decline with the coming of the First World War. After the War, adult schools never really recovered as their emphasis on bible study lost its appeal and secular alternatives such as the Workers' Education Association developed.
The architect, William Curtis Green, had built several power stations; future commissions would include the Wolseley showrooms in Piccadilly, the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane and a number of banks. One of his final commissions was New Scotland Yard. He later served as president of the Architectural Association and vice-president of RIBA. The inclusion of the Adult School Hall in this varied portfolio was due to his wife, who was a member of the prominent Quaker family, the Crosfields, which paid for the building.
Curtis Green's stated aim of using modern innovations while being rooted in tradition is combined with a Quaker emphasis upon simplicity and honesty. As a result, there is no elaborate decoration or fancy embellishment; but the effect is both characterful and impressive. The building surely deserves its Grade II listing.
The loss of the meeting house in 1940 saw the adult school pressed into service to replace it until the new hall was completed in 1957. Since then, it has mainly been used for functions and events.