Lochaber Hall is a rather nondescript looking building, easy to ignore as one goes past, squeezed in between Edwardian and late Victorian housing; but on election days, like thousands of other halls, community centres, schools and other buildings it takes on great importance – it is a Polling Station.
It looks like a church hall because that is exactly what is was; it was built in 1910 as the church hall for Holy Trinity in Glenton Road – quarter of a mile away on the other side of Lee High Road. The Hall was built on some of the last bits of farming in the area – Manor Nursery, the nursery had been built as kitchen gardens around 1800 by the then owner of the Manor House, Sir Francis Baring, its collection of fruit trees was described in 1882 as ‘one of the best on this side of London’. Some of its boundary walls predate its current usage.
Its architect was Ernest Newton, who was to become President of the RIBA a few years later; he mainly focused on the more exclusive private homes in Bickley, Bromley and Chislehurst. He was associated with Art Workers Guild, which, with links to William Morris, promoted the ‘unity of all the arts’, denying the distinction between fine and applied art, such as architecture. Newton’s obituary in the February 1922 Architect’s Journal described him in glowing terms
“His eminence as an architect of unexcelled skill in a class of work that constitutes England’s chief or sole claim to supremacy – the capture and apt embodiment of the very spirit of the home…”
Lochaber Hall was given Grade II listing in 1973, its listing text describes it as a
One storey building with gable end to road. Multi-coloured stock brick. Wide, fairly high pitched, slated roof with overhanging eaves at sides and brick dentil cornice in gable. Also in gable large, four-light, square-headed window with brick arch in 2 planes and flanking brick pilasters. Angles of building emphasised by gabled buttresses breaking roof line. 5 side bays defined by buttresses with sloping step just below eaves. Projecting ground floor, with brick-quoined centre, has recessed porches at outer corners, with overhang resting on stout Doric columns.
Holy Trinity was bombed during WW2, it was covered here a few weeks ago in the blog and the only obvious link is now a dedication stone at the front of the Hall.
Other than its occasional use as a polling station, it is a well-used community resource with two halls. The smaller of the two is in extension at the back, the Jack Poole Annexe, is in memory of a former ‘caretaker’ of the Hall. Jack was a genuinely community spirited man, looking after the Hall but reporting any dumped rubbish, street lights out and the like – he badgered Lewisham Council until the problem was sorted out.
Jack used to live in my street and if he was still alive would have almost certainly have had a Labour Party poster displayed in his window – he always did whatever the election and he sometimes had ‘committee rooms’ there. I’ll undoubtedly think of him as I pass his house, it is still his in my mind, on my way to cast my vote.