SDC History Timeline
Sanderstead Dramatic Club is formed.
The club reforms after The Great War
Moved productions to the new Memorial Hall in Purley Oaks Road
Performance of the clubs first pantomime – Aladdin
The club closes with liabilities of £30
The club presents it’s first play after the Second World War
Two trains collide at South Croydon killing 32 people, including Mr W H Skeen, who was appearing in the play that night.
SDC enter it’s first play festival, winning first prize.
The club move into it’s new home, All Saints Hall
SDC start presenting summers plays again, at their former home, the Memorial Hall.
A PLAY WITH TWO INTERVALS
– for World Wars One and Two
It is now over one hundred years since a small group of enthusiasts met together in a house in Mayfield Road, Sanderstead, to discuss their favourite hobby – the theatre. The result of that meeting in 1907 was the formation of the Sanderstead Dramatic Club (SDC). Apart from short breaks to accommodate a couple of World Wars, the club has been running continuously ever since.
In those days, Sanderstead consisted of 342 houses, 8 farms and 1660 residents. Gas and electricity had reached the area the year before. Sanderstead Railway Station, which opened in 1884, provided a service of 21 trains to and from London each day. The first-class fare was 1/11d [10p] and the third class 11d[5p].
That first meeting was held at the home of Mr J L Verne, not the man who went around the world in 80 days, but nonetheless he moved fairly quickly. As President of the SDC, he searched the area for a suitable hall to stage plays. The nearest was St Michael’s in West Croydon (near the present bus station). It was there that Sanderstead Dramatic Club staged its first production – three one-act plays. The Croydon Advertiser of December 21, 1907 stated “This club is very much alive and has come to stay.”
SDC stayed closer to home for its next presentation, having found the newly-built church hall in St Augustine’s Avenue more convenient in every way. The opening production was ‘Facing The Music’. There were seven in the cast, doors opened at 7.30 and the play began at 8pm. The programme advised “carriages at 10.30.” A critic described it as “excellent”. A certain Miss Loveys, he said, showed that she was not just a pretty face and the staging was admirable.
The Great War in 1914 saw the Sanderstead Dramatic Club closed down for the duration and its leading men go to war. In 1919 the club re-formed and staged its first post-war play ‘The Headmaster.’ By 1922 it had moved its productions to the new Memorial Hall in Purley Oaks Road and had also made plans to build its own scenery workshop at the rear. The first play at the new location, in April 1922, was ‘Summer is a Coming In.’ SDC presented plays in that hall until 1956.
Among the actors who performed in the early 1920s was Laurier Lister, destined to become a leading London theatre manager and impresario. It is said that Basil Dean of ENSA fame also trod the boards with SDC at that time.
1932 is a significant year in the history of the club as it presented its very first pantomime – Aladdin. Of course, pantomime has become very much part of the SDC’s history and has provided the continuity that has enabled it to remain in existence to this day.
The Club’s impact on the community between the wars is evident from a programme of October 1937; printed alongside a timetable of local trains, “The Southern Railway Company has kindly consented to adopt a suggestion made by the club that an extra train should be run from Sanderstead Station to Selsdon at 10.54pm. This train is now running each weekday.”
At the time of the Munich Crisis in 1938, SDC was still at work. But a programme for October that year referred to “a time of great difficulty, with a day-to-day uncertainty as to whether our entire male cast would not be called up before the next rehearsal.”
On November 5, 1939, the club was closed down with liabilities of £30. With the war into its third month, no date was set for the next meeting which did not take place until June 1945. The club found the Memorial Hall had been used as a bomb damage repair depot and it was not until November, 1946, that it was able to present its first play. The SDC was in a healthy condition with no fewer than 400 members and was financially solvent.
Tragedy struck during the run of ‘Night Must Fall’ in October, 1947. Two trains collided at South Croydon, killing 32 people. Among them was a Mr W H Skeen, who was appearing in the Sanderstead play. His part in the two remaining performances were read by the producer.
In 1950, SDC entered its first play festival and won first prize for its staging of the one act play ‘Like An Evening Gone’. This was an original work by one of the club members, Mr Vernon Workman. The Vernon Workman Cup is still presented each year to the member making an outstanding contribution to the Club’s activities.
Club activities during these crowded days included an annual dinner dance, club nights, festivals, three shows a year plus the ever-popular pantomime. With a membership holding at around the 400 mark, there was never a shortage of talent for acting or the many backstage jobs that underpin any production. One club bulletin in the early 1950s pondered the effect on audiences of the new phenomenon of television but it was not taken seriously.
When All Saints Hall opened in 1956, it immediately became the club’s home base. The first play presented there was ‘Arms And The Man’ on Friday October 26 1956 and SDC have been performing their annual Pantomime there ever since – a fine and unbroken record of achievement.
In 2003, the decision was taken to find a more intimate venue for plays and it did not take long for the Club to decide to return to the Memorial Hall where SDC continue to present their Summer productions.
Sanderstead Dramatic Club has weathered some storms since those heady days of 1956 but is still very much in business.