Friday, November 27, 2009

Hatcham - Still No Action

Still no sign of any action at the Hatcham Liberal Club in New Cross (369 Queens Road), shamefully empty more than two years after it closed. For over 100 years it was a place for drinking, socialising, music and much else. In its last few years alone the hall out the back hosted Exploding cinema film nights, jazz nights, private parties and more - in fact I DJed there a couple of times myself.

I've mentioned before its earlier radical history, and a quick google search shows that all kinds of alternative and radical currents flowed through the place from when it opened in around 1880 to at least the time of the First World War. Annie Besant lectured on socialism there, as did George Bernard Shaw and the Fabian Sidney Webb ( on 'Socialism and Cooperation'). The latter owed his political career as a London County Councillor to the club - in an 1891 letter he stated that 'B T Hall of the Hatcham Club wants to propose me as LCC Candidate for Deptford'.

Shaw also records in his diary that on November 15 1887 there was a 'Debate on Vegetarianism at the Hatcham Liberal Club between Dr. Drysdale and W. S. Manning'. There were meetings on the Irish situation too. Remarkably The Brisbane Courier (27 February 1882) carried a report of a meeting there: 'Miss Helen Taylor, who has returned from a tour in Ireland, recently addressed the members of the Hatcham Liberal Club on the condition of the country... she asked were English working men prepared to send 50,000 soldiers to Ireland to force the Irish to emigrate and leave the land desolate? She did not believe two thirds - certainly not one-half - of the Irish could pay their rents... the police were the masters of the lives and liberties of the people in Ireland'.

On Sept. 29 1889, Colonel Henry S. Olcott, a leading member of the Theosophy Society lectured at the Hatcham Liberal Club - it was apparently lthe argest audience of the season.

On 21 Feb 1912 there was a meeting in support of women's suffrage there, chaired by CW Bowerman, MP with the main speaker, Mrs F Swannick.

Now - nothing (apart from the memory of its name carried far afield by Hatcham Social). Is it going to be left to crumble just because nobody can make money from buying it? The place is crying out to be an occupied social centre, come on people!

11 comments:

Ben said...

The frequent lights, open windows, vehicles parked outside etc. would suggest that it's certainly being occupied by *someone* at present...

Anonymous said...

this should be a community resource

Transpontine said...

Must admit I haven't been past there at night for a while so haven't noticed the lights. So maybe somebody is already squatting it - in which case do they want to open it up for any social events? If you're reading get in touch via email at top of blog.

Gary McQuiggin said...

I thought the same thing as I cycled past it last night. Would make a fantastic social centre. Have you payed the lift & hoist a visit?

Anonymous said...

why does the community always have to lose out

we are losing churh halls,pubs, community centres, youth clubs, political and working (mens) clubs

Infact anywhere people might meet to fight back at any level or just meet

their is no such thing as society --- Capitalism still steams ahead

Anonymous said...

I see the Conservative club in Forest hill has gone
while certainly no supporter of the Tories
it was a resource to some

Sue said...

There is a planning application lodged for this, involving demolition of some of the rear buildings for housing, and restoration of the front.

Transpontine said...

Thanks Sue, I notice that the planning applicant is Hatcham Liberal Club itself. My guess is that the club itself still exists as an organisation (a members club with no link to the political party), and since the building hasn't been sold it presumably still belongs to the remaining members. Not sure whether they are actually planning to redevelop the site or simply to enhance its chance of being sold by being able to say that planning is in place. And maybe, in relation to Ben's comment, somebody from the club is keeping an eye on the building rather than it being squatted.

Sue said...

I know the architect involved in this project as he's a local Green Party member and from what I understand the club's intention is very much to bring it back into community use.

Transpontine said...

That's good news.

Tommie said...

The building still seems empty... apart from some occasional building work?