Monday, 7 December 2009

The William Morris Hall

A centenary celebration for a building
The William Morris Hall
Somers Road E17

Tuppence a brick (old money)

On 13 December 1909 artist and socialist Walter Crane opened the William Morris Hall: bringing to joyous conclusion six years of fundraising, preparation and hard voluntary labour.

In 1903 the brothers Ben and Charles Buck started the idea of a home for the socialist, radical and trade union people of Walthamstow. Funded by workers buying a brick for 2d (old money), sponsored bike rides and social events, the collective organisations of the Social Democratic Federation, Walthamstow Socialist League, the William Morris Club, the Clarion Cyclists, the trades council, anarchists, suffragettes and many more, the hall was built by volunteer craftsmen on Sunday mornings on squatted land.

The William Morris Hall for the 30 years was the centre of political and cultural life in the town. Amongst the many speakers who came over the years were: dock worker’s leader, Ben Tillet, the Countess of Warwick, H M Hyndman, Will Thorne, new Labour MP for West Ham South (1906), Sylvia Pankhurst, George Bernard Shaw, Victor Grayson, lion tamer, adventurer, folk hero, firebrand independent socialist MP and Walthamstow’s own Val McEntee. From day one it housed the Socialist Sunday School, where over a hundred children each week come together in secular fellowship to learn the socialist 10 commandments.

In the early 1920s the William Morris Brass Band and the William Morris Orchestra were formed. One for street marching and open air meetings, the other for concerts and dancing. The Hall had its own choir. In 1923 Charles Buck started a theatre group; performing plays by Ibsen and Shaw.

The building is a now home to the Limes Community and Children’s Centre. The inside has changed but most of the bricks are the same. I want to celebrate it’s 100 years with words and music. The pioneers who campaigned for a fairer, different world did it with verse and song, as well as marches and struggle. Let’s celebrate the building, the Buck brothers and countless others, but most of all let’s celebrate our past into the future.

Please bring banners

Sunday 13 December
William Morris Hall, Somers Road Walthamstow E17
Assemble at 2 pm
Music and words, then walk to Ye Olde Rose and Crown for more celebration

Please contact Roger Huddle if you want to be involved:

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