Wallington Town Hall
After the First World War, the population of Wallington increased rapidly and the local Urban District Council outgrew its various offices and so, in 1929, purchased an old house, Sunny Bank, in Woodcote Road and decided to commission a new Town Hall, to be built on Sunny Banks site.
Major (later Sir) William Mallinson, who lived at The Grange, one of the most influential local councillors, was a personal friend of award-winning architect Robert Atkinson who had lived locally from 1908 until 1925, and was instrumental in recommending Atkinson as the selected architect, rather than holding an open competition, as favoured by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Robert Atkinson was greatly in demand in the 1920s and 1930s for his work in the traditional classical style, although he was starting to be considered old-fashioned by fellow members of the Royal Institute of British Architects, who were excited by the new and fashionable International style pioneered by Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus.
Atkinson exhibited a perspective drawing of the front fade of his finished design, New Town Hall, Wallington, at the Royal Academy in 1934; the foundation stone was laid at the north-east corner in May 1934, and it was built by Messrs. Perry (Ealing) Ltd., being formally opened by the local Member of Parliament, Sir Richard Meller, on 21st September the following year.
The Council became a Borough in 1937, and the Town Hall was the hub of community life right up until the incorporation of Beddington and Wallington into the London Borough of Sutton in 1964, and even then, the Council Chamber was used for the new Councils meetings until 1977. Parts of the building continued to be used by other organisations such as the WRVS, the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths, and even now it is still a Driving Test Centre. In 1980 it was taken over and converted into a Crown Court. This involved the dividing of the Council chamber into two courts, one above the other, and the removal or blocking up of many original features; the conversion of the basement into cells, and erection of an external compound fence. The building ceased to be a Court in April 1999, and is now being converted for educational use.
The Town Hall is constructed in the traditional manner of brick and stone, with nine bays. The main roof has a central turret covered in copper, topped with a distinctive weather vane, which houses the clock with four gilded faces, made by Gillett and Johnson of Croydon, whose chimes have become synonymous with Wallington, aiding the commuter hurrying to the station.
The exterior is based on a modernised version of Georgian design, with multi-coloured brick and Portland stone. The porch of Portland stone forms a wide balcony at the level of the main Committee Rooms, protected by Art Deco style gilded iron rails. A large Coat-of-Arms of Beddington & Wallington Urban District Council forms a feature above the central window.
At the rear, the two wings have a courtyard in-between, designed as a Members€™ Terrace accessible directly from the Council Chamber through large glazed French windows. When the Town Hall was built, the Library behind it was also being planned (again designed by the same architect), with a formal Italianate garden intended to be laid out between the two buildings. Note the Coat-of-Arms of the Urban District Council of Beddington and Wallington and the County of Surrey, carved in Portland stone, on either side of the French windows.
The interior was designed in typical 1930s Art Deco style, with walnut panelling and high quality furnishings. The bronze plaque in the entrance hall, in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of King George V, was donated by the Chairman of the Urban District Council, Mr. George Purser, JP, and his friends.
The main staircase is imposing, with a double flight of stairs in black and white marble, and a handrail of penny bronze. Originally there were decorative brass figures of Industry and Peace, by Allan Howes, ARBS, on the newels, but unfortunately they vanished during the days when this building was used as a Crown Court. Note the ceiling of the Staircase Hall, which was originally coffered in green and gold.
Three Committee Rooms were originally at the head of the stairs, with two pairs of magnificent hardwood doors which could turn the whole area into one large room. Again, all the original furniture was walnut, with walls treated in pale green and yellow, a patterned rubber floor, and green velvet curtains at the huge windows overlooking the balcony.