By the late nineteen twenties, a number of families were moving into Shirley and the need was felt for a new Parish Hall to help develop a community spirit. The old Village Building was too small for the growing population and gone were the days when dances and other social events could be organised in the Village School. While Shirley people would be asked to contribute to the cost, the project was initially funded by the generosity of the people of Croydon in much the same way as Shirley Parish Church had been built seventy years earlier although the methods used were somewhat different.
In 1927 the Public Halls in Croydon were booked for a Grand Bazaar and the then Vicar of Shirley, the Revd. Gordon Charles Rawlins approached many local prominent people in Croydon for their support. In addition, the Vicar persuaded the proprietor of the Davis Theatre, a grand scale cinema in Croydon, to make a “talkie picture” appealing for money for the Hall and this was included in every cinema “showing” for a week. The Directors of Kennards (now Debenhams ) organised a grand competition and displayed prizes in the store including a cricket bat signed by England and South African Test players (insured for £300) and a complete bedroom suite valued at £20. The bazaar was held on two days in November and was opened by Miss Irene Vanbrugh a distinguished actress of the period. This was the first of many efforts organised during the next six years to raise funds, for whilst the Hall was built and opened on the 3rd December 1930, a debt remained of the total cost of £10,000 which included the furnishings.
The land on which the Hall was built was originally part of the grounds of Shirley Cottage (still standing but converted into flats just to the west of the Hall). The negotiations apparently were long and difficult but eventually, a settlement was reached. Mr David Bernhard of Windmill House, Shirley, gave the money necessary on condition that his friend Mr A. H. Jones should be the architect. The coach house and stables were adapted to provide cloakrooms, crush hall, kitchen and caretaker’s quarters with the main hall built behind. With its sprung maple floor for dancing, cinema projection room, stage and orchestra, it was considered one of the finest halls in Croydon.
Ever since the Hall was built it has been run and maintained by a small group of Trustees appointed periodically by the Vicar of Shirley. In 1987 surplus land at the rear was leased long-term to enable Rosewood Lodge to be built for sheltered housing.
The Hall continues to be used by a number of local organisations and for private and public social functions enriching the lives of the people of Shirley
[Adapted from Miss Nina Foster’s Book “Growth of a Parish”, printed by The Southern Publishing Company (Westminster Press Limited)].