Open House Festival

Stanley Arts

theatre, entertainment, community/cultural, mixed use, concert/performance space

William Ford Robinson Stanley, 1903

12 South Norwood Hill, SE25 6AB

A public hall, theatre and gallery in grand Edwardian style. Grade II listed, Stanley made fun of the Victorian style with grand ornamentation. It reflects Stanley's interest in science, the arts and public cultural improvement.

Getting there


Norwood Junction


75, 196, 197, 410, 130



Accessibility notes

Unfortunately not all areas of the building are step-free due to the historic nature of the building. We will be running one step-free tour which celebrates some of the highlights of the building.


Time Line

1867: William Ford Robinson Stanley moved to South Norwood
1902: Foundation stone of the Stanley Halls laid by Mrs Stanley
1903: Opening of the Main Hall on 2nd Feb. shortly followed by the opening of the Art Gallery
1904: 2nd phase of the Stanley Halls opened (Small Hall and Clocktower)
1907: Assembly Rooms and Manager’s residence added. Stanley Technical School opened
1909: Death of W. Stanley
1990: Stanley Halls listed at Grade II
1993: Blue plaque unveiled
2012: Bid for asset transfer from Croydon Council awarded to SPI
2015: 35 year Lease signed by SPI
2021: Rebranded to Stanley Arts

History of the Halls

The Stanley Halls were designed and built by William Ford Robinson Stanley: manufacturer of precision mathematical, optical and drawing instruments; traveller; philanthropist; patron of musicians, writers and Flinders Petrie: self-taught architect, engineer, inventor, author, playwright, artist and musician.

The building was described by Pevsner as “one of the most eccentric efforts anywhere at a do-it-yourself free-style”. It displays influences from a range of architectural styles and demonstrates Stanley’s talent for solving the practical problems presented by the site. Stanley recognized the need for a venue dedicated to the performing and visual arts since the available public rooms in South Norwood were already proving inadequate by the end of the 19th century. When the Stanley Halls opened, they provided increased opportunities for local young musicians such as William Hurlstone and Samuel Coleridge Taylor, and artists such as Lily Martin, to establish themselves: a tradition that continues today.

Tour of the Building

The Site comprises:
• Main Hall and Backstage Flat
• Art Gallery
• Assembly Rooms and Committee Room
• *Stanley Technical School
• *Small Hall
• Manager and Secretary’s House

* Now Part of the Harris Academy (not open)

Significant features

• Original Ticket Office
• Gentlemen’s Cloakroom
• Bust of Shakespeare
• Stained Glass windows

Art Gallery
• Designed to house Stanley’s Art Collection
• The lantern lights in the clerestory
• Used for refreshments from the first
• Picture rail & chair rail
• Roundels on ceiling
• Niches for busts of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra
• Photos of the Gallery and Main Hall in the early days, and 1920s publicity poster

Main Hall (Theatre)
• Sunburst and motto above the stage (mirrored glass)
• Stanley’s central heating and air conditioning system
• Electric windows
• German Clock with mottos
• Orchestra pit
• Specialist hinges on doors to the Gallery
• Fly doors to stage, & stage trap doors

Green Rooms
• Marble fireplaces
• Original wash basin in female Dressing Room

Fly Pit
• Scenery Trap
• Door to orchestra pit
• Orchestra pit access aperture
• Scenery doors
• Crawl space

Backstage Flat Living Room
• Cast iron fireplace

Backstage Flat Large Bedroom
• Cast iron fireplace with art nouveau tiles

Assembly Rooms
• Half tiled
• The roundel in the upper hall designed by Stanley, inspired by Michaelangelo’s tondi

Ladies & Gentleman’s Cloakrooms
• Borrowed light

Landing and Grand Staircase; Porch Entrance
• Stained glass windows
• Mosaic floor
• Marble stairs with ceramic risers & ceramic balusters
• Roundels created by Stanley from Michaelangelo’s Taddei Tondo & Pitti Tondo
• Art Nouveau tiles in the porch. Carved teak doors designed by Stanley

Upper Flat Bathroom
• Original wallpaper scraps revealed from 1907, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1970s

Upper Flat Small Bedroom
• Stained glass
• Cast iron fireplace
• Door giving access to the porch roof

• Pictures from Stanley’s own collection
• Papers and pictures concerning the use of the building since its opening
• Artefacts found in and around the Halls

Online presence


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