News from Played in Britain

Open House London - Played in Britain recommends

August 28 2009

Around 700 buildings and just two days to see them. So where should Played in Britain readers go on the weekend of September 19–20? For your convenience we have picked out the ones we think will be of interest, including the 1930s gem the Pioneer Health Centre in Peckham, with its iconic swimming pool and diving stage

Note that some venues need to be booked in advance and take place only at specific times. Also, we have not included some venues where there is no longer any availability.

Bromley: Chislehurst Golf Club, Camden Place

Now an exclusive golf club, but the home of Napoleon III from 1870-80. A good example of an important house sustained by its sporting use.

Camden: German Gymnasium, King's Cross

Built by the German Gymnastics Society in 1864–5 and the only survivor of a trio of gymnasiums built during the same period in Liverpool and Birmingham. Played an important role in Britain's early Olympian movement and now sits alongside a rejuvenated St Pancras station.

Camden: Freemasons Arms, Downshire Hill, Hampstead – London's skittles alley

Your chance to watch and then play Old English Skittles at the last pub alley in London, from 2-10pm on Saturday, September 19. Learn the mystery of how to hurl a cheese and score a floorer, as featured in Played in the Pub. Signed copies of the book will be available at the alley.

Cheese hurling

A great way to finish off your Saturday perambulations – hurling a cheese at the Freemasons Arms in Hampstead, home of London's last remaining pub skittle alley. The basement alley stays open until 10.00pm.

Enfield: Lee Valley Athletics Centre

A thoroughly modern, naturally lit indoor athletics building where, hopefully, the seeds of track and field history are being sown. This is another high quality sports building by David Morley Architects, whose other works at Brunel University and Regents Park are featured below.

Greenwich: Eltham Lodge, Royal Blackheath Golf Club

Yet another superb, Grade I listed house (originating in 1664) sustained by a golf club, in this case the Royal Blackheath, which claims to be the oldest golf club in the world, having formed in at least 1745 and possibly as early as 1603. The club moved to Eltham Lodge when it merged with Eltham Golf Club in 1923. Hopefully the club museum will also be open to visitors for the weekend.

Greenwich: Greenwich Yacht Club

A striking contemporary timber and aluminium yacht club, designed by architects Frankl + Luty and opened in 2000. Worth visiting also for its stunning views of the river, the O2 Dome and Thames Barrier. While you are in the area you might also wish to pop into the David Beckham indoor football academy, said to be largest indoor facility of its kind in Europe. No great beauty but impressive all the same and a good example of how sport contributes to urban regeneration.

Hammersmith & Fulham: Hurlingham Club

Famous as a venue for polo, this is an 18th century mansion which, since 1869, has been home to arguably London's most exclusive sports club. Beautiful house and 42 acres of grounds on the banks of the Thames, with bowling greens, croquet lawns, tennis courts and its own cricket ground. How the other half play! And yet it's only a short walk from Putney Bridge tube station.

Hillingdon: Indoor Athletics Centre, Brunel University

Another excellent modern sports building by David Morley Architects with a particulary elegant roof stucture.

Lambeth: Brockwell Lido, Brockwell Park

Familiar to readers of Liquid Assets this classic Grade II listed London County Council lido, opened in 1937, is well worth revisiting to see the recent refurbishment and extension by Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects.

Newham: London Regatta Centre

Helping to set the new trend for challenging riverside and watersport architecture, this angular boathouse, by Ian Ritchie architects, opened in 1999 and serves as a base for events organised by the Royal Albert Dock Trust. It overlooks the finishing line of a newly extended, Olympic standard 2,000 metre rowing course.

Southwark: The Pioneer Health Centre, Peckham

Described by Walter Gropius as 'an oasis of glass in a desert of brick' this Grade II* listed Modernist building by Sir E Owen Williams is of interest to sports historians because of its central swimming pool and the experimental ethos of its founders, as featured in Great Lengths. Because the centre is now occupied by private flats, Open House is a great opportunity to peak inside and relive the optimism of its 1930s social and medical pioneers. Highly recommended.


Open House weekend offers a rare opportunity to see the swimming pool at the heart of Owen Williams' 1935 Pioneer Health Centre in Peckham, now a private residential estate. For more on this unique building, see Great Lengths.

Wandsworth: National Tennis Centre, Roehampton

We might not produce many decent tennis players but no-one can blame the facilities. Open House offers a great chance to look around the NationalTennis Centre, designed by Hopkins Architects and opened in 2007.

Wandsworth: Tooting Bec Lido

Opened in 1906 and rebuilt in 1936, this colourful, parkland lido is breathtakingly massive, said to be the largest outdoor pool in Europe. While you are there look out for Tooting Bec regular Janet Smith, author of Liquid Assets.

Westminster: The Hub - Regent's Park Sports Pavilion

Another innovative sports building by David Morley architects, the Hub, opened in 2005, is a welcome departure from the usual pavilion design, being a circular glass and steel building, partially submerged and covered by sloping turf, yet still offering all round views of the park.

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