Good evening and thank you for inviting me to speak about Harold Bailey and Christ Church Parish Hall in New Malden, and my attempts to get its heritage value recognized. It’s a story involving vicars, big families, architecture education, golf courses, local government, glaring conflicts of interest, minor royalty, and baffling modern-day planning officials.
How did I become interested in Christ Church Hall and Harold Bailey? Well, the story starts in Cambridge Avenue in New Malden, where I’ve lived for nearly 20 years and most days walk along it to its Coombe Road end.
Something about the Church Hall on the corner of Cambridge Avenue and Coombe Road intrigued me. For a start it is in quite a different architectural style to the Victorian Gothic of Christ Church itself. Also it has a very prominent foundation stone. Quite soon I got to know its interior – as a polling station, and as the home for the 1stNew Malden Brownie Pack which my daughter attended.
Then in 2016 I realised that Christ Church was building a new modern Church Hall next door to the church. It occurred to me that Christ Church might not need two church halls, so this prompted me to find out a bit more about the old Church Hall – who designed it, and what its story was.
I contacted the Maldens and Coombe Heritage Society to find out if someone might know something about the Church Hall. I soon learnt from Robin Gill that the architect was Harold Bailey. Bailey is not very well known nowadays; there are no books or articles about him as far as I know, but he was a local architect and politician to whom I believe we owe much of the way New Malden and Coombe looks even today.
From Robin I learnt Harold Bailey’s dates of birth and death – 1872 to 1930. Then I discovered that there was an obituary in the Surrey Comet , which was a mine of information:
- For 15 years he was a member of Malden District Council, and its chairman for two “difficult and anxious years” during the First World War
- His extensive architectural knowledge was helpful to the Council, as he was a recognised authority on town planning and estate development
- He was keenly interested in church architecture
- He was an authority on the design of golf courses, and a keen and capable golfer.
So how did Harold Bailey come to be in New Malden?
Harold Bailey was born on 12 August 1872 at Panton in Lincolnshire where his father Anthony Bailey, was curate. Anthony Bailey later became vicar of St Oswald’s Church, East Stoke, Nottinghamshire. Harold was the eighth of eleven children by his father’s second wife, Ann Holden. Harold also had three half-brothers from his father’s first marriage to Emma Chilton.
In St Oswald’s Church there are two Bailey memorials. First is a memorial tablet to two of his half-brothers, Herbert and Gerard Bailey who both died fairly young. Thenthere is an impressive stained glass window to commemorate the Rev. Anthony Bailey who died in 1908, installed by his wife and children. It is based on William Holman Hunt’s famous painting, “The Light of the World” (1853). One of the places “Light of the World” is said to have been painted is Worcester Park Farm, not far from Old Malden. It is interesting to speculate how much of a hand Harold Bailey may have had in the complex design of his father’s window, full as it is with religious and heraldic devices.
Back to Harold. In the library of the RIBA I found a copy of Harold Bailey’s Fellowship application of 1904, which was another mine of information about his early career. In 1889 at 17 he started by being articled to Ernest Turner. Turner was a very successful and internationally well-known architect who specialised in public health design. No doubt expertise in public health design at a time when improving sanitation was so important would have been of great usefulness for Bailey’s subsequent career in developing the new residential roads for New Malden and Coombe.
From 1892 to 1894, when Bailey passed his qualifying exam, he became assistant to George Alfred Hall, who was also based in London. According to Hall’s obituary, he “designed a great deal of work of a varied nature”.
Bailey was also attending the Architectural Association (AA) as a student from 1889-96. In those days you became an architect by being apprenticed to an established architect, as Bailey was. The AA was founded in 1847 because the apprenticeship route was not seen as a proper training for an increasingly technical profession requiring high ethical standards. The AA was the first independent architecture school in the UK, and is now one of the most prestigious in the world.
While at the AA, we come across the first evidence of Bailey’s design work. Bailey did a spirited design of a charioteer for the programme of the AA’s 1892 annual Soirée, “The Princess’ Idea”, a key event in the AA’s social calendar. The design is inscribed “Wanted – £50,000 to the British College of Architecture”. I have not been able to find out what this alludes to, but I do know that “The Princess’ Idea” was based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera of 1884, “Princess Ida”, itself derived from Tennyson’s poem “The Princess”.
This poem was written in response to the founding in 1847 of Queen’s College, London, the first college of women’s higher education. It is about Princess Ida who was betrothed in infancy to Prince Hilarion. But she has forsworn men and founded a women’s university, Castle Adamant. In the AA version, Prince Hilarion becomes an architect, and Castle Adamant a Ladies’ College of Architecture. It was highly relevant because female students were not then admitted to the AA. The question was raised in the following year, 1893, but surprisingly it was not until 25 years later in 1918 that women were finally admitted.
Bailey completed his studies and passed his qualifying exam in 1894. He returned to the north moving to Hull where his mother came from. Perhaps through some family friends or connexions, from 1894-97 Bailey became managing clerk to the largest architectural practice in East Yorkshire, Smith, Brodrick and Lowther. During this period he became an Associate of the RIBA, in 1895.
At the time Smith, Brodrick and Lowther was the only firm in Hull designing churches – given Harold Bailey’s interest in churches this seems a fitting start to his career. However after Lowther joined the firm in the early 1890s according to Pevsner they designed “some of Hull’s more striking late Victorian pubs in a mixture of Gothic and Jacobean displaying a riot of terracotta and faience”. An example might be the Punch Hotel in Hull built in 1895-96, and perhaps Bailey worked on it while with Smith, Brodrick and Lowther.
In 1897 Bailey struck out on his own with independent practice at Newark-on-Trent, near his parents’ home at East Stoke 4 miles away. Perhaps this was determined by his becoming Estate Agent for Ashwell and Stoke for Sir Henry Bromley of Stoke Hall, next door to his father’s church.
In the 7 years Bailey practiced from Newark he designed a very varied mix of projects – factories, hotels, houses, farmhouses, stables, church restorations and additions. Here are a couple of examples of his work of this period found on EBay. Also in his Newark period Bailey became married and 2 of his 4 children were born there.
During this time Bailey was also doing work in London and in 1904 he set up a partnership with Douglas Wood which was to last ten years. What prompted this change?
I don’t know for sure, maybe a lack of work in Newark or the death of Sir Henry Bromley in 1904. What brought Bailey to Kingston is clearer – he had secured appointment as advising architect to the Duke of Cambridge Estate, at Coombe, Kingston – a role Bailey held until his death.
Recently I discovered a surprising family connection which may have helped to facilitate Harold Bailey’s appointment. Sir Adolphus FitzGeorge, the Duke of Cambridge’s 2ndson, married Sophia Jane Holden, the niece of Ann Holden, who was Harold Bailey’s mother – so Harold Bailey was a cousin by marriage to Sir Adolphus, and first cousin to their daughter Olga.
With this social and professional position behind him, from 1905 Bailey quickly became established in the New Malden/Coombe area as a successful architect and pillar of the local community.
From his Fellowship application his residence was still Newark but it would be London “after next June” i.e. from July 1905, and he was building his own house in Coombe, on Traps Lane, the house now called “Gatesford Lodge”. Bailey called it “Culloden”, a slightly odd name recalling as it does the last pitched battle on British soil. However it was perhaps a compliment to his employers’ father because one of the titles of the Duke of Cambridge was “Baron Culloden”.
On the 1911 Ordnance Survey map, “Culloden” is shown as one of the few houses on Traps Lane, and there is an entry in the Census of the same year recording that Bailey and his family were living there. It now seems to be divided into flats. Bailey subsequently moved to a house off George Road, Coombe, called “Stoke”, probably after his father’s parish.
Apart from Bailey’s work already mentioned, during these years we get a flavour of what Bailey designed (with his partners) from the work he exhibited at the Royal Academy summer exhibitions recorded in their catalogues, and published in the magazine The Builder: here is a list of Bailey’s known works.
There can be little doubt that his work was far more extensive than this, and a comprehensive analysis of the records of the Maldens and Coombe Urban District Council would provide a fuller picture of the work of Bailey’s firm, but it would be a considerable undertaking.
Since 1894 the Maldens (‘Old’ Malden and ‘New’ Malden) together with Coombe had its own Urban District Council based in New Malden, with its own Council Offices and Fire Station. Soon after moving to New Malden/Coombe, Bailey became involved in local government as an elected member. He was first elected to the Maldens and Coombe Urban District Council as the representative for Coombe Ward in 1906, retaining his seat until his retirement in 1921.
Bailey served on many committees, including the Finance and Establishment, Fire Brigade, Housing and Town Planning, Law and Parliament, and Public Health Committees. He was especially active on the Building Committee which he chaired. As mentioned, during World War I he became Chairman of the Council from 1915-17. So he could have been a very influential member.
Bailey was not merely a member of the Council; in January 1913 he offered his professional services to the Council in an honorary capacity to design the extension of the municipal buildings in New Malden to house a new council chamber. Apparently most of the design work was carried out at Bailey’s home, Culloden. Sadly the council chamber was demolished in the 1980s, and the remains of the Municipal Building became a Waitrose.
In the early era of council housing, Bailey was appointed as architect to the Council’s scheme for 158 houses at Mount Pleasant, New Malden, because he was recognised by the Council as an authority on town planning and estate development.
Nowadays following the “Nolan Principles” of public life, wearing multiple hats while serving on the Building Committee, as both architect and agent for the Coombe Estate, would be regarded as a clear conflict of interest. At the time such circumstances seem to have been regarded with far less scruples; but often it must have been curious.
For example, to pick one instance at random, on 12 June 1911 while his partnership’s plans on behalf of the Coombe Estate for a new road and sewer “to be known as Coombe Hill Road” were being considered by the Building Committee Bailey was chairing, they interviewed his partner, Douglas Wood. Equally surprising is that it took several attempts before Bailey and Wood’s plans for Coombe Hill Road were approved, which was not until August 1912.
Perhaps Bailey’s overlapping interests were well enough known to be taken as read in a more innocent age, and the public benefit of Bailey’s architectural knowledge to the Council at a time of extraordinary development may have been regarded as out-weighing any personal advantage.
Golf courses are now very much part of the character of Coombe and New Malden; we have no less than three. It seems Bailey made a direct contribution to their development. By the time of his death, he was regarded locally as an authority upon the design of golf courses. It was through his role as agent for the Coombe Estate that he first seems to have become involved.
In the early years of the 20thcentury the 2ndDuke of Cambridge and two of his sons had decided to convert an unsightly gravel pit between George Road and Warren Road into a golf course as a commercial enterprise for the Coombe Estate. This was to be Coombe Wood Golf Club, and Bailey became its first secretary.
Bailey’s obituary also states that he designed the Coombe Hill Golf Club House, but no records survive. However as has already been mentioned, a design for the Coombe Hill Golf Club House by Bailey and Wood was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1914.
With Guilford Dudley, who had become Bailey’s partner (until about 1926), he went on to design the clubhouse for Malden Golf Club. Land for the new course was purchased from the Coombe Estate. Construction of the clubhouse began in May 1925 and was completed in February 1926, costing just under £5,000. In May 1926 the new golf course was opened by Col. Sir Augustus FitzGeorge (3rdand youngest son of the Duke of Cambridge), and later that year the clubhouse’s design was exhibited at the Royal Academy, and with the plans, were published in The Builder.
Apparently Bailey was asked to design the club house so that it could be converted into a private dwelling if the need ever arose, so a Georgian style was chosen. Despite being damaged by a serious fire in 1982, the Malden Golf Club house survives although much altered.
Mention should also be made of Bailey’s only work to be mentioned and receive praise in Pevsner’s “Buildings of England”, “Coombe Pines”, Warren Cutting (1912). This was commissioned by Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge (1839-1924), in his time regarded as one of Britain’s most distinguished admirals. Pevsner’s verdict on Coombe Pines was that it was “one of the best of the inter-war houses, freely grouped and very dignified”. Unfortunately Coombe Pines was demolished in 2014 and I have not been able to find any photographs of it.
We now come to Christ Church Hall which was one of Bailey’s final works. It was built in 1927 and opened in 1928. It is one of the few buildings designed by Bailey still existing more or less in its original form. Despite being somewhat overshadowed by its next-door neighbour, the GPO Telephone Exchange building of 1937 , with Christ Church itself the Church Hall forms a distinctive entrance ‘gateway’ to Cambridge Avenue.
It is not known how Bailey came to be appointed the architect for the Church Hall. Bailey does not seem to have been a member of Christ Church’s congregation. Instead it seems he used to attend St John the Baptist Church, Kingston Vale. Possibly this was because he had moved to “Stoke”, off George Road in Coombe. Or perhaps because his employers, the FitzGeorges, probably attended St John the Baptist, as other members of the Royal Family living in Richmond Park did from time to time.
The Church Hall was proposed and built at a time when New Malden’s civic pride was at its zenith. New Malden did not exist until the arrival of its railway station in 1846, and then developed rapidly as a residential area. Christ Church itself was started in 1866, and was extended in 1877 and 1893 to accommodate an increasing congregation.
Planning for a Parochial Hall for Christ Church had actually begun in 1913 under the leadership of the then vicar, the Rev. Challacombe, and the land was purchased from the Coombe Estate in October 1914. However with the outbreak of the First World War the scheme was put on hold, and was not resumed until 1918. An appeal for £2,500 had been launched in June 1914. The appeal leaflet suggested that:
“In a rapidly growing district like New Malden it is probable that there will be increasing demand for a suitable building in which concerts, entertainments and club meetings, of a public as well as private character, may be held, and the building will be available for these purposes in addition to those connected with Church Work.”
It took nearly twelve years to reach the required sum. After considerable community effort and fundraising, £6,203 was raised, about £383,000 today.
For the initial design Bailey proposed a bold building with two prominent Dutch gables, to be built with “dull coloured” bricks similar to those used for the Council Building Extension, which he had also designed. The original design as envisaged in the appeal leaflet consisted of an “L” shaped building with the main hall forming the main limb of the “L”, and entered from Coombe Road. A side entrance on Cambridge Avenue gave separate access to a library and committee room, with a kitchen. Above the library and committee room was a gymnasium accessible from an outside staircase, with a club room over the stage and dressing rooms.
Perhaps for cost reasons, the final design of Christ Church Hall which I found in the Surrey History Centre was substantially different. It is rectangular and smaller, and the orientation was changed; the main entrance is from Cambridge Avenue. On the ground floor there is a small hall and two classrooms, a committee room, men’s toilets, a kitchen, and a boiler room. The first floor is taken up with the large hall (seating 400) with a maple floor, and off the landing, the ladies’ toilet. At the main hall’s eastern end it has a raised stage with access stairs from the hall floor on the north side. Rather surprisingly in the wing on that side behind the stage there is a spiral staircase, cleverly designed to enable the rooms downstairs to be used as dressing rooms.
Christ Church Hall was built by the local firm of C. H. King and Son. Externally, it is a two storey, five bay building of purple brick with the details picked out in red brick. The brickwork is of a high quality and is well constructed and detailed. The corners of the building are of red brick with alternate Portland stone quoins. The roof is of grey slate, with a centrally placed white timber ventilation cupola with a domed top.
The central three bays of the building project forwards, and the middle bay with the entrance door projects further. On either side are two bull’s eye windows framed with red brick, a feature Bailey had used at Malden Golf Clubhouse. The entrance bay is surmounted by a Dutch gable. This recalls the Dutch gables on the 1914 design on the Cambridge Avenue and Coombe Road elevations.
It is also possible that the design of Christ Church Hall has a reference to the Dukes of Cambridge. As we know, the land the Church Hall was built on was purchased from the Coombe Estate, and the Dutch gable may be a ‘nod’ to the Royal Cambridge Asylum for Soldiers’ Widows (1852) which was off Cambridge Road, Kingston/Norbiton. This was a memorial to Prince Adolphus Duke of Cambridge, a large brick building in an Elizabethan style. Today only a Lodge survives but the Dutch gables of this are quite possibly recalled in that of the Church Hall.
Another local example of a Dutch gable design was Coombe Warren House, coincidentally demolished in 1926 which Bailey would have been well aware of in his Coombe Estate role. Perhaps Bailey was also trying to commemorate this well-known local house. Some idea can be derived from Coombe Warren’s surviving Lodge, on Coombe Lane West.
Set into the side wall facing Coombe Road in a pedimented frame of moulded red brick with a terracotta sill, is the very prominent foundation stone commemorating its laying by Frederick G. Penny, the Member of Parliament for Kingston, on 23 July 1927.Penny was MP for Kingston upon Thames from 1922 until 1937 on being elevated to the Peerage.
He had a fairly distinguished political career mostly serving from 1926-37 as a Conservative Party Whip, responsible for organising his party’s contribution to Parliamentary business and voting discipline. From 1938 to 1946 he was Honorary Treasurer of the Conservative Party.
In 1929 Penny had been knighted, in 1933 became a Baronet, then a Peer in 1937 as Baron Marchwood, and was finally elevated to become the 1st Viscount Marchwood in 1945.
As far as I know the only other memorial or commemoration in the Kingston area of its once important MP is the stained-glass window in the Kingston Museum. This commemorates the confirmation of Kingston’s Royal Borough status by George V in 1927, which was unveiled by Penny.
The ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone was quite an occasion and was reported in the Surrey Comet. When the stone was laid by Mr Penny, a bible was placed beneath the commemoration stone and is presumably still there. Bailey was present and gave Mr Penny a silver mounted ebony mallet to tap the stone in place. The fly leaf of the Bible was inscribed with biblical texts and the names of the Church Hall committee members, the architect, and builder.
On completion, the new Church Hall was declared open at another ceremony in January 1928 by the Bishop of Southwark. The total cost of construction and land purchase was over £4,318, which included the fees of Bailey and the Quantity Surveyor of nearly £269. The architect, Bailey, the builder and quantity surveyor were all thanked, and the evening was completed by a concert of instrumental and piano music with songs.
Christ Church Hall was built at a time of increasing unemployment and major industrial unrest (the National Strike happened in May 1926). In this national context, Christ Church Hall represented an optimistic commitment to the future. It was intended to provide “an attractive architectural feature of the parish”, as the 1914 appeal leaflet suggested, and as a civic amenity. Over the years it has successfully served that purpose until its recent replacement by the new state of the art Church Hall next to Christ Church.
Bailey’s Christ Church Hall was to be his last public building. Sadly after a short illness Bailey died in November 1930 just under two years after its opening. His funeral service was held at St John’s, Kingston Vale, and he was buried in Kingston Cemetery.
An architect who straddled the Victorian and Edwardian eras, Bailey may not have been as notable as his more illustrious peers, indeed he is now almost unknown, but his contribution to the development of New Malden and Coombe is considerable. He designed houses both for “the few” around Coombe, and “the many” at Mount Pleasant and Kingston Vale.
He also contributed public buildings, notably Christ Church Hall and Malden Golf Clubhouse, which are both still with us. As is the enduring urban fabric of the area through his road design and golf course work. Thus much of the character of New Malden and Coombe we probably owe to Bailey, and his avowed aim to establish “the reputation of the area”.
Latest events, and my attempts to have Christ Church Hall’s heritage status formally recognized
During my research, I heard that the intention was to sell the old Church Hall as it was no longer needed by Christ Church. I thought it would be a pity and a loss to New Malden’s built heritage if the old Church Hall was to be demolished to make way for a block of flats or ‘executive’ housing, its likely fate. The old Victorian Christ Church Vicarage had gone that way, sold to a developer to provide the enabling funding for the new Church Hall.
So I thought about seeking some official recognition of the Church Hall’s heritage status. I contacted the Council’s then conservation architect, Elisabetta Tonazzi, who was very enthusiastic and agreed it deserved local listed status, or ‘Building of Townscape Merit’ as it is called. After all, Christ Church itself is a BTM. However the Council has no clear procedure for how buildings are considered for BTM status.
I wrote a submission showing how the Church Hall fulfilled the BTM criteria, and it was all set to be considered by the Maldens and Coombe Neighbourhood Committee in March 2018 – or so I thought.
The last I heard from Elisabetta at the end of January 2018 was that she hoped to have everything ready for the Committee meeting on 14 March. Unfortunately Elisabetta’s contract was not renewed and she left the Council at the end of February. It seems she did not have time to arrange for the Church Hall to go on the agenda, and her colleagues did not pick it up, so it was not considered.
I asked for it to be put on the agenda for the next meeting of the Neighbourhood Committee but was told that “an independent heritage assessment by a heritage specialist” would be required. As the Council no longer had a conservation architect, they could not carry out a heritage assessment. One would have to be commissioned and it was not a priority for the Council. But they suggested that I would be very welcome to commission a heritage assessment – i.e. that I should pay for one – which I thought was a bit of a cheek in the circumstances.
After pressing them again, I received the bizarre assurance that although Christ Church Hall did not have BTM status, they would regard it as “protected as non-designated heritage asset”, and that it had “the same level of protection as if it was on the local list, it is just not displayed on the heritage map”.
What sort of protection does a non-designated heritage asset have you might wonder. Not a lot. Only heritage assets with statutory listed status enjoy any real legal protection, so I was baffled by this assertion.
Dissatisfied by this, I decided to try for statutory listed building status. Unfortunately church halls are not on Historic England’s list of ‘strategic priorities’, and having had a preliminary correspondence with HE’s listing team, the prospects did not look promising. Nevertheless I decided to go ahead with a listed building application.
What galvanised me was the knowledge that in August Christ Church Hall was put on the market, “offered with the benefit of pre-application advice, an exciting residential re-development and/or conversion opportunity or retention in its existing uses”.
This also prompted a separate campaign to try to retain the Church Hall as a community venue, and a petition was set up on Change.Org in September]. As it seemed to receive enough signatures to be considered by a full Council meeting, it had a preliminary airing at the Malden and Coombes Neighbourhood Committee in October. However the petition may be invalid as not all the signatures were from people in the borough.
So in November I submitted my application for listed building status – here are the reasons I used . I alerted my local councillors to my application and I received a supportive message from the chair of the Neighbourhood Committee, Councillor Simon James. Sadly I heard a few weeks ago that HE had decided not to recommend Christ Church Hall for statutory listed status as it did not fulfil the criteria for listing. However they did conclude that although they could not recommend it for statutory listing, “it has clear local interest”.
On the strength of this I have gone back to the Council to suggest that HE’s assessment report should be treated as the ‘independent heritage assessment’ for the purposes of an application for BTM status, and I have offered to update my BTM submission to accompany it. I await their reply.
In the meantime I heard that a planning application had been submitted by Childcare and Learning Group Ltd, a commercial operator of children’s nurseries, perhaps prior to completing the purchase of the Church Hall. The application seeks to modify the Church Hall’s existing permitted use as a children’s nursery by increasing the number of children from 50 to 70, a 40% increase, and its hours of operation from 3¾ hours to 11 hours, a 210% increase.
On one level the re-use of the Church Hall as a children’s nursery again after 8 years, and the creation of up to 18 jobs, are much to be welcomed. However the Cambridge Avenue/Coombe Road junction next to the Church Hall is very busy, congested and consequently dangerous. In 2015 a child was killed next to the nearby pedestrian crossing, and since then the entrance to Cambridge Avenue has been narrowed and the crossing widened. So I have many concerns. Whether the Council will agree to the extension in numbers and hours remains to be seen. It may be considered at the next Neighbourhood Committee meeting on 20 March, so maybe we shall see then.
That brings us up to date, and concludes my talk this evening – thank you.