Glyn Hall and the Ewell Adult School
The little green building with the corrugated iron roof behind the Curry House Restaurant in Cheam Road, near the centre of Ewell, is of interest, not only as a reminder of Margaret Glyn, but also for its association with one of Ewell’s oldest institutions, the Ewell Adult School. This was founded in 1911 as part of a national organisation started by the Quakers in 1798. The original aim was to provide basic education for people who had not been to school. The Schools also promoted Christian ethics and good fellowship, so that when free schooling became available to all, the Adult Schools still had a role to play, although the educational aspect turned from reading and writing toward extending people’s mental horizons by the study of literature and other aspects of life not given overmuch attention in the early free schools.
The Adult School movement reached its peak around 1900, when there were more than 30 schools in Surrey, and a national membership of something like 130,000. Today it would seem that many people rely on television for their extra-mural education, and the national membership is down to about 1,500. In the face of that decline, it is notable that the Ewell Adult School is still carrying on the tradition of promoting Friendship, Understanding and Knowledge. When first founded it met in the little hall in West Street that had been built for Mary Wallis; later it met in members’ homes, and from 1948 in Glyn Hall, then known as the Parochial Room, where it still holds its weekly meetings. The precise age of the building is not known; the evidence provided by old maps suggests a date between 1866 and 1894.
In her will, dated 14th April 1944, Margaret Glyn left ‘the Parochial Room at the rear of no.3 Cheam Road’ to her Trustees to be used for educational of other similar purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of Ewell and surrounding district. She also left ‘the piece of land known as the Pit Garden situate between the Cheam Road and the Ewell By-pass and the Reigate Road’ to her Trustees ‘to preserve as long as possible as a sanctuary for birds and wild flowers and to invite at their discretion such members of the public as they deem fit to visit the same’. Unfortunately, before her death in 1946, Margaret Glyn added a number of codicils to her will, making the conditions progressively more favourable to the musician and author Leigh Vaughan Henry, who was one of her executors and a trustee, and these codicils muddied the water so far as the intentions of the original will were concerned. As a result, there was a court case in 1954 in which the rights of Leigh Henry to the property were challenged by the other Executor and Trustee, a solicitor, Charles Fell. The judge found that the Pit Garden was not held on a valid charitable trust, and should form part of the residuary estate, and thus go to Leigh Henry. However, the Parochial Room should be vested in the official Trustees of Charity Lands. It was necessary to appoint local Trustees and, as a user of the Parochial Room, the Ewell Adult School was asked to put forward four members to administer the property for the School, provision being made for other suitable bodies also to use it (the NAS used to meet there). The Parochial Room, now Glyn Hall, is still administered in that way.
One of the original Trustees in 1954 was Mr. Leslie White: he is still serving, now in the capacity of Chairman of the Trustees. I am indebted to him for the information upon which this brief account is based.