About Alford House
Alford House and Its Purpose
Its purpose is to promote the well-being, training, and recreation of the young people of Lambeth.
Mill Hill School Old Boys and other friends of the Club have sponsored Alford House since the death of Frank Briant in 1934. Also, under a Deed of Trust, they constituted the Governors of the Club.
Co-operation and the building
The buildings currently occupied by the Club were extensively damaged during the war and were formerly the Moffat Institute. They were given to the club by the London Congregational Union in 1949. They were repaired and converted to their present use and occupied by the Club in 1950.
Take the journey from 1884 to 1953
As written in 1953 (author unknown)
The Club started as the individual effort of the late Mr Frank Briant
who, as a young man living in Brixton, gathered around him a number
of boys who met under his leadership at the Schools in Newport Street
and called themselves the Beaufoy Institute. This was in 1884.
As the numbers increased and the boys grew up. A move was made about 1890 to
premises which Mr Briant bought, with the aid of his family and friends,
in Lambeth Walk and named Alford House after his mother. In time,
several other neighbouring houses were added and converted. The
emphasis was on the provision of decent conditions and facilities for
members to enjoy in their leisure time in contrast to the unsatisfactory
alternatives then offered in the neighbourhood. In the early days
efforts were made to help those who needed it to become literate.
In the course of time, Frank Briant came to be regarded as a friend and
leader in all manner of local affairs, which led to his service on the
London County Council (L.C.C.) and as a Liberal M.P. for North
Lambeth. Whilst primarily for men and for boys, who had a separate
part of the building as their club. The men’s club had their committee
which organised their activities, which included “self-help” societies.
The North Lambeth Loan Club, which was one body which stemmed
from these, is still in existence and meets at Alford House.
During the 1914-1918 War the club was the centre for local Red Cross
and other working parties, being visited by H.M. Queen Mary and
H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. Numbers of its members served in the War
and many gave their lives.
After the War the club carried on as before. Membership of the men’s
club, which did not necessarily mean regular attendance, was some
300, and of the boys’club about 80 to 100, who used the club
Under Mr. Briant, the caretakers acted as stewards, one on each side
of the club, and other leadership came from the men’s committee and,
on the boys’side, from a certain amount of voluntary help. Events were
mainly sporting and indoor games, and the expenses of running the
club were met partly by members’ contributions and special efforts and
partly by Mr. Briant and his connections.
It was about this time too that Frank Briant assisted Lord Arnold to
found and run the Arnold-Briant Camp at Deal, a pioneer summer
holiday camp for local people, particularly organised parties of school
children. This camp continued up to 1939 and since the second war
has developed into the South London Family Camp which has its
separate organisation, in which Alford House still plays a part.
Frank Briant died suddenly at the age of 70 in September 1934.
No precise arrangements had been made about Alford House, but he
had expressed a hope that the responsibility would be undertaken by
his friends from Mill Hill School with whom a connection had been kept
up since the early 1920’s.
It came about then that a governing body was formed by trust deed,
known as the Frank Briant Memorial Council, consisting of certain of Mr
Briant’s relations, and of a number of people sponsored by the Old
Millhillians Club. The men’s club committee remained, many of its
members giving valuable service at this difficult transitional stage.
Under the trust deed the Y.M.C.A became trustees for the building.
The question at this point was on what lines to direct the future work.
There was still a genuine need for a recreational club. At the same
time it was felt that, with the departure of the personality around whom
the club had moved over such a long period, a new view must
necessarily be taken.
As it happened, this mainly concerned the boys’ club where a number
of voluntary helpers were available. The Church hall on the opposite
side of Lambeth Walk was rented as a gymnasium, and a fund was
raised to convert the basement into changing rooms and a workshop,
weekend camping was revived and several other activities introduced
in an attempt to develop a balanced programme.
This pattern developed up to 1939. With the outbreak of war the scale
of voluntary help was greatly reduced, and the men’s club members
shrank as members took up national service jobs or moved elsewhere.
This was accentuated by evacuation and by the severe bomb damage
the neighbourhood sustained. The boys’ club numbers were kept up,
however, and they did good work in preserving the buildings from fire
damage. An Army cadet company was formed and ran until the end of
Going back in time, however – by 1942 the situation had become very
difficult as there was virtually no one available to keep the club open
regularly and conduct it properly. The council, therefore, took the step
of appointing Mr Bracey, late of Christ Church United Clubs, as fulltime
organiser for a six months period, with the object of making more
permanent arrangements in that time. It was then decided to
concentrate entirely on the boys’ club for the period of the war and the
whole building was made available to them. Later in 1942 Mr Norman
Freeman was appointed as full time leader and the club was added to
the list of those eligible for an annual grant from the L.C.C towards
salaries and maintenance.
In this way the club was able to keep open throughout the war but the
buildings were in poor shape afterwards, standing in a largely derelict
area. Essentially repairs were carried out and the club recovered its
vitality. Life in Lambeth had changed a good deal during the war and
there was no need for a large men’s club of the prewar type, although
an old members section was re-opened for those over 18.
Concentration was, therefore, on the youth work. From others’
experience elsewhere, it seemed advisable to have some mixed
activities and a small girls’ club was started. This was not really a
success as the premises were not suitable and no permanent leader
was available for the girls. Nevertheless it was an experiment which
had its eventual uses.
In these closing years in Lambeth Walk, the club had a steady
membership of about 200. Assistance from the voluntary helpers was
more difficult to obtain than before the war, this,apparently, being a
general experience. The premises were also beginning to show the
effect of age, but within these limitations a quite active programme was
carried on. H.R.H the Duke of Edinburgh visited Alford House in 1948
in the course of his tour of London Federation of Boys clubs.
From 1947 onwards, however, a serious problem had to be faced in
the order for compulsory acquisition issued by the London County
Council in respect of the club premises, which were to be demolished
as part of a general rebuilding scheme. No satisfactory alternative
building could be made available by the L.C.C who, in any case, were
not obliged to make such provision. There followed a period of intense
activity in the search for new premises which produced little until the
possibilities of the Moffat Institute in Aveline Street were brought up.
This building has been abandoned after it had been badly damaged in
the air-raids and has stood derelict for a number of years. The South
block (the old chapel) was only a roofless shell, and the North block
had no windows, doors, or fittings whilst the roof was partly off. The
main structure, however, was fairly sound.
Plans were prepared by the consultant architect to the National
Association of Boys Clubs, in collaboration with the executive
committee and with the warden, Mr Freeman, who undertook much of
the detailed work and thought behind the transfer. With these plans
support was sought for the scheme which involved considerable
expenditure on rebuilding and conversion.
To sum up the helpful co-operation received, the London
Congregational Union, in conjunction with the Moffat Trustees, agreed
to make a free gift of the land and of the buildings as they stood,
together with the benefit of any war damage claim, and the Ministry of
Education undertook a grant under the Social & Physical Training
With this support, together with the proceeds of sale of the old Lambeth
Walk premises and other grants and donations, it was possible to go
forward with work which was fortunately started in a short period of
1949 when licences were available for this type of building
It was actually necessary to start work some weeks before the freehold
was transferred. The North block was put in order first and this was
occupied in September 1950 when the old club closed down. Building
on the South block and the intermediate part was very such more
complicated, involving a lot of new work, including the insertion of a
new floor supported by steel work to carry the gymnasium.
Ultimately the official opening ceremony was performed by the Minister
of Education, the Rt. Hon. George Tomlinson, M.P, in July 1951 and
the club reopened in September 1951 with the whole of the new
building in occupation.
The land and buildings were vested in the Y.M.C.A as trustees under a
new trust deed, which laid the management of Alford House on a new body
governors, nominated in substantially the same way as before.
In approaching the question of the move, it had long been considered
what the function of Alford House should be its new home. Clearly, if
the effort and expense were to be justified, it must serve a genuine
need. The advisability of making provision for girls as well as boys was
agreed and a membership of 300 (including over 18’s) was considered
to be the target suitable for the premises. It has been found, in practice,
that the peak membership during a season is something over this
figure. Helpful co-operation with local and governmental bodies
showed other requirements which have led to the daytime use of the
club by the L.C.C. as a Maternity and Child Welfare Centre and for the
Welfare of the Blind; also of the gymnasium by the Beaufoy Schools.
Two old people’s clubs meet at Alford House during the week whilst the
hall is available for letting to local organisations on occasions.
For the club itself the policy is to attract and retain the interest of the
youth of the neighbourhood, particularly the less developed types not
otherwise covered by the youth organisations, and to offer them
facilities to develop mentally and physically within the framework of a
The club aims to maintain its affiliation with the national club movement
(N.A.B.C and N.A.G.C) to co-operate with the educational authorities
and to encourage the members to assume responsibility for their
affairs, where possible, under the leaders’ guidance.
After he had seen the move completed, the warden, Mr N.C. Freeman,
retired at the end of 1951 and was succeeded by the present warden,
Mr Cyril Belsham, who brings to the work experience gained with The
Essex local education authority.
The assistant warden is Mr David Faiers, now in his second year with
the club. The girls’ club leader (an appointment first made in 1951) is
Miss P.Cousins, who has recently joined the staff.
Those concerned with the progress of Alford House have pride in its
past, but they are conscious that the objects and problems of this work
are always current and that its importance lies in the present and in the