John Innes’ 1899 beautiful Merton Hall escaped heavy WWII bombings unscathed,
but it is about to be flattened by Merton Council’s demolition squad.
Don’t demolish John Innes’ public legacy and sole remaining public hall.
The John Innes Society's Response
Why is Merton Hall important?
Merton Hall is a charming, ornate, structurally sound Victorian public hall which was commissioned by renowned philanthropist John Innes and executed by his first architect Henry Goodall Quartermain. Together Innes and Quartermain started the design and development of nearby Merton Park garden suburb.
The hall is a well-proportioned, balanced and carefully designed public building which does not deserve to be decimated and crushed.
Why Should the Hall be Saved?
Merton Hall is a fit-for-purpose, solid, Queen Anne style building, in good order which is used by the public daily. It does not merit demolition.
Merton Council itself has for years acknowledged its historic and architectural merit by making it a locally-listed building, and putting it on the local heritage trail.
Today, it plans to pull it apart.
The Council has allocated millions of pounds of public money to demolish and replace the main hall in its entirety, retaining only the front which will be blighted by a stitched-on extension made of glass, aluminium and stone cladding.
Instead of Merton Hall’s beautiful warm brickwork, buttresses, ornate porches and terracotta plaques, the Council plans a modern, bland, “black box” style warehouse design replacement that doesn’t respect Wimbledon’s heritage nor local distinctiveness. Green space with mature plants and wildlife will be ripped out.
If the demolition is not stopped, it could give a green light to “chip away” at John Innes’ distinctive Merton Park and other community assets as has already happened at nearby Merton Rush.
Loss of Heritage Asset
In 1898, John Innes' leafy and architecturally harmonious “garden suburb” Merton Park was now thriving. He decided it was time for the community to have a public hall for concerts and performances.
He was approached by the headmaster of Merton school to build a Masonic Lodge as it would strengthen local ties. John Innes agreed, and commissioned Quartermain to design a building that would satisfy the dual purposes of a Masonic Lodge and a public hall.
Merton Hall is the last jigsaw piece in his legacy to the public. Prominently positioned at 78 Kingston Road SW19, it is one of only two remaining public buildings built by Innes and Quartermain. The Boys’ Club across the road and the old Rutlish School were not so fortunate; they were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s.
The 1891 privately-owned Manor Club built for working men sits alongside Merton Hall. The two buildings complement each other and together tell the success story of John Innes’ sense of community, extreme public generosity and concern for the physical and mental wellbeing of the people.
Getting rid of Merton Hall is a diminution of John Innes’ legacy. He gave enormously to the area and his legacy should be respected and protected. To do otherwise would seem an act of ingratitude not only to Merton Hall but to all his community assets in the locality.
Loss of Freehold in Swap
The Council has agreed a “freehold swap” with Elim Pentecostal Church for the church's current industrial site on High Path.
The Hall will no longer be called Merton Hall, a title it has held for over 100 years. It will be named Elim Pentecostal Church serving a limited congregation. Elim will own the freehold in this “swap”, giving it the right to dispose of this heritage asset at any time in the future.
The wider community will lose Merton Hall as a public asset and a public hall - yet another blow to community life at a time of when social cohesion is much needed.
To this day, John Innes has looked after the community through his Merton Hall which daily embraces everyone. It is an inclusive venue, well-used for a broad variety of activities for all, as well as innumerable weddings, birthdays, christenings and performances.
The closure of Merton Hall and public asset transfer to privately-owned Elim Pentecostal Church will end John Innes’ legacy of inclusivity - regardless of creed and status.
We Call Upon Merton Council
1- To lead the way in respecting our dwindling heritage and planning law.
2- To shelve its plans for unnecessary demolition of a solid and fit-for-purpose building steeped in history and public legacy.
3- To find an alternative site for Elim Church or issue it with a compulsory purchase order (CPO)
We must save Merton Hall for generations to come; it is Merton’s heritage, a British asset to be celebrated, not destroyed.
Let us not forget: What heritage we easily demolish is lost forever and cannot be rebuilt.
Merton Hall planning application live until August 24th 2017 - later representations can be accepted
Planning.merton.gov.uk Application reference 17/P2668
Email firstname.lastname@example.org quoting 17/P2668 Merton Hall
List of Merton Locally Listed Buildings
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