Fundraiser concert for Ruskin House 11 April


 Ruskin House is the headquarters of the Croydon’s Trade Union, Labour and Co-operative movements hosting a range of meetings and social activities including two folk clubs, as well as having office space for rent. The building is Grade II listed Georgian which is in need of a lot of repair and modernisation work, which is why this fund-raising event is being held.

Originally established in 1912, its continued existence represents a major achievement of the Croydon Labour movement. The first Ruskin House was set up in The Railway Temperance Hotel which the local trade unions purchased. Financial support also came from Mrs Ada King-Lewis, a  temperance  advocate and member of the Croydon United Temperance Council. The Hotel stood on the corner of St. Michael’s and Station Rds. Its opening was announced in the first issue of the Croydon Pioneer, the movement’s local newspaper. This was in the period of economic depression, hardship, strike waves and lock-outs of workers by employers in what is known as ‘The Great Unrest’. Although not strong enough to have more than a handful of Labour Councillors elected, the purchase of the building and setting up a newspaper represent the strength and self-confidence of the Croydon movement.

It quickly became a hive of activity with meetings of the trade unions, the Labour Party and friendly societies. The latter were important mutual collective self-help organisations providing sick, death and widows benefits for workers. The benefit schemes run by them and the trade unions had become linked with the National Insurance scheme brought in by the social reforming Liberal Government in 1911.

By 1918 the building was full to capacity with meetings and activities. Even though the First World War had severely damaged the labour movement through the slaughter and disablement of so many of its members  and the economy was in a bad state, the movement was strong enough in 1919 to buy a house ‘Netherton’ on the corner of Poplar Walk and Wellesley Rd. The Labour Party had enough income in the 1920s to have a full-time member  of staff working in it. The 1930s and 1940s saw whist drives, social, dances, political rallies and meetings. The Ruskin Repertory Theatre was based in the building. It was during the 1940s that it abandoned its temperance allegiance and started selling alcohol.

Ruskin House had to move in the 1960s to Coombe Rd because ‘Netherton’ was to be demolished as part of Croydon’s reconstruction.  The building is Georgian, and as Coombe Hill House had in the past been the home of an Italian vice-consul and a private preparatory school.


About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy, housing and environment issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly. I am a member of the Love Norbury Residents Associations Planning & Transport Committees, and Chair of Nobury Community Land Trust. I write for Croydon Citizen at I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and edit the North East Popular Politics database. History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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