Friends Past Events

10th May 2018
Visit to St Dunstan’s Church, Cheam

Juliet Chaplin, Deputy Director of Music at St Dunstan’s and Friend of Whitehall, pointed out interesting features in the church and commented about the history of the building.  Juliet then opened the Lumley Chapel for the group to visit and mentioned some of the more unusual aspects of the chapel.

Cheam Charter Fair – Saturday.
On 12th May, 2018the Friends had a stand in Park Road, selling a variety of merchandise, toys, ceramics and jewellery.  Valerie King and Trish Carey, our two ladies who manned the stand, took nearly £100, which considering the competition was excellent.

The Friends secretary was outside Whitehall enticing the passers-by to become ‘Friends’ and members of the Heritage Department were in the front garden attracting a lot of interest selling quality goods and promoting Whitehall.  A very successful fair.

Cake Decorating 14th June 2018
Joan Kimber demonstrated the art of cake decorating, from preparing a cake ready for icing, to using templates to create leaves for a flower.  Facilities in Cheam Library were very restricted, so well done Joan, for managing so well.
Tea, coffee and biscuits were served, and it proved an interesting and relaxing afternoon.

Friends of Whitehall 40th Birthday Party 23rd June
A lovely celebration in all respects. Nearly 60 guests, including one of the early curators, enjoyed wine and refreshments in the tea room and on the newly constructed terrace. From the terrace, guests admired the garden which, in conjunction with the Heritage Department, was recently planned and planted by the Friends, led by our new Chairman Paul Gibbins. Paul has worked hard in the garden over the last three months and continues to do so. He was assisted by a Heritage volunteer, a few Friends and his wife Jennifer.

Our thanks to all those who helped to organise the party with a special thank you to Christine Emery for baking and decorating our 40th anniversary cake. The entertainment was provided by Emily Clair and ‘Tea for Bears’, playing in the background for the evening, an excellent group, highly recommended.


40 years Ago12th July 2018
Sixteen Friends attended the July monthly meeting in Cheam Library to watch the film that had been compiled by Paul Gibbins showing the crowds of people thronging Cheam Broadway at the opening of Whitehall in 1978.  Friends had fun identifying people they recognised in the film.  Comments were made about how young people looked!  A very good afternoon.


18th July  2018 – Cheam Library
Annual General Meeting
On a very warm summer evening over 30 people gathered in Cheam Library for the Friends Annual General Meeting.  We welcomed the Mayor of Sutton, Councillor Steve Cook who chaired the meeting.

Elections for the Friends Executive Committee were held, and we are pleased to announce that Paul Gibbins, formerly Vice-Chairman, was elected to the role of Chairman.  Valary Murphy was welcomed to the committee as Vice-Chairman, Adam Bailey was re-elected as Treasurer and Catherine Harding was elected as a member of the committee, replacing our long serving member, Audrey Piddington.  Colin Quemby’s appointment as Independent Examiner was unanimously approved by the meeting.

Following the elections and the Treasurer’s report, the Mayor spoke about the two charities he is supporting during his mayoral year, Home Start which provides support and friendship for families and The Kidney Fund which supports kidney research projects.

This was the last AGM that David Aldous-Cook attended as Chairman, as he has retired after 8 years. Paul Gibbins paid tribute to David for his calm and relaxed approach to all situations, his warmth and friendliness and his boundless energy and noted it would be almost an impossible act to follow.  Paul also thanked David’s wife Julia for the support she had given to David in his role as Chairman.  David and Julia were presented with tokens of our appreciation.

David thanked the Friends and said he would still help the Friends whenever he could but would not be sorry that he does not need to attend any more meetings.

After the meeting, Friends were invited to stay and enjoy light refreshments.

Visit to St Dunstan’s Church, Cheam
On Thursday 10th May 2018,Friends met in Cheam Library and then Juliet Chaplin, Deputy Director of Music at St Dunstan’s and Friend of Whitehall, escorted us to St Dunstan’s Church for a tour of the church. After the visit we returned to the library for tea and biscuits.

Cheam Village Charter Fair
On Saturday 12th May The Friends of Whitehall had a stall at the traditional Cheam Charter Fair, which is said to date from 1259.  Park Lane became a pedestrian area for the morning with space for an abundance of items and activities. Lots to see and lots to do for all the family.  .

The Heritage ‘pop-up’ stall was also be on hand to give out information about Whitehall.

Whitehall Sneak Preview

On 8th February 2018, the second Thursday in the month when we normally have a talk or a chat, a group of Friends assembled in the library to be escorted by Catherine Pell, a member of the Heritage Department, to Whitehall for our first opportunity to view the new refurbishment. The work executed by Durtnells Ltd established 1591 started in January 2017 and was finished within a year.

On the left of the original Tudor building, a new gallery and improved facilities have been installed with a well-designed ramp in the Victorian kitchen to allow easy movement for wheelchairs. The small kitchen has become a short corridor into the tea room, the ‘Still Room’, undecorated and unused until now, is the kitchen. On the right of the building a lift has been installed and another staircase constructed, allowing easier access for all.

When visitors venture to the first floor, they find large rooms to be used for education, exhibitions and meetings. The whole refurbishment gives an excellent impression and we now await the interior designers to complete the transformation.


On Thursday 19th March nineteen ‘Friends ’met at the Grumpy Mole, Cheam, to partake of a cream tea, consisting of scrumptious scones with jam and of course cream, with a choice of teas or coffee.

A convivial afternoon of chat and laughter, an event requested to be repeated in the future.


Due to unforeseen circumstances at Victoria Station, only a small group of Friends were able to join Eleanor Jackson’s highly stimulating tour of the V&A and to share her enthusiasm and great knowledge of the museum and its collections. Eleanor highlighted the details of a selection of her favourite objects including sculpture, casts, ceramics and furniture across a number of galleries. She also explained the development of the building itself which provided the world’s first ever museum “refreshment” rooms, one of them designed in 1868 by the relatively unknown William Morris.

Easter Fair

“The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow”

That old saying came true on 17th March when the Friends held their Easter Fair in the Parochial Rooms. The stallholders soldiered on despite the weather and visitors came to find a warm welcome inside. The cake makers stocked the cake stall to overflowing, thank you all.

The gift stall reached the usual target, the two ladies putting in a lot of work before and on the day.  The catering department kept everybody warm with refreshments, and the raffle offered four prizes donated by Friends.

Our thanks to all Friends that participated, donated and visited, making it another successful day.

See you all at the Mistletoe Market.

12th April – Cheam Library:  A-Z of Croydon
Michael Gilbert presented an illustrated talk on Croydon.  Sadly, there were only 10 of us present to enjoy his talk and this was commented on by the speaker.

Michael told his story alphabetically, so we started with the airport and its history of early aviation with Imperial Airways and went on to the Zeppelin dropping bombs in WW2.

As Michael continued his story, we learned about, Will Hay,
David Lean, Malcolm Muggeridge and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor who lived in Croydon; brick and bell making and mills on the river Wandle; the coming of fresh water to the town and the 1st gas and electricity works.  Many people remembered the old Kennards and Grants department stores.

We all spent an enjoyable hour on a dull and gloomy day.

2nd December 2017

Mistletoe Market

This event, one of our major fund raisers, took place in the Cheam Parochial Rooms on a very chilly day!  The outside was as usual garlanded with bunting and this year balloons were an additional eye catcher.

The ’Friends’ stalls were supported by other professional stallholders with a varied selection of merchandise, from cheeses, Christmas decorations, decorative flower pots, jewellery and gifts galore.

The Heritage department were present with the ‘Pop-Up’ creating interest in the refurbishment of Whitehall, and the future reopening.

Thank you to our cake makers who again excelled and where would we be without them?  The two ’Friends’ on the fancy good stall once again took over £100.  The Raffle was also a success thanks to donations, the first prize of a hamper was won by a local Councillor, one of our ardent supporters.

Our ‘Friends’ in the back room serving refreshments were kept busy with hot drinks etc. all day, trust they will be at our Easter Fair.

A big thank you to the team of thirteen volunteer ’Friends’ and to the customers who made it a profitable day for Whitehall funds.



9th November 2017 – Talk by Mike Evans of the British Association of Friends of Museums.

Twenty members and friends, some of whom are also Friends of Nonsuch, found the description of the creation and work of BAfM most interesting. It was a group in Barcelona that wanted to meet others in the 1930s which led to the formation of the World Association. Mike Evans co-ordinates Friends’ groups for the British Association of Friends of Museums in the South East of England.

BAfM offers support and help to groups on all aspects of these organisations including production of newsletters(colourful and informative Journals), a handbook, advice on insurance, guidance on grants an d ideas on activities run by other Friends’ groups. Awards are made to volunteers who contribute to the success of their local group whether their museum is owned by their Local Authority or a separate charity.

Mike Evans was particularly in favour of arousing the interest of schools, preferably when pupils are just entering secondary level, and told us how Maidstone pupils are encouraged to study for their curriculum by visiting the local museum. He commended making use of the expertise of the young people to publicise the museum on social media.

30th October 2017 – A Walk Around the Lesser Known Corners of the City of London.

Valary Murphy, London City Guide and Friend of Whitehall, began the walk close to the Monument marking the Great Fire of London in 166. The fire started near pudding Lane – Pudding in fact referring to offal from the butchers’ trade rather than baking.

Passing through narrow Lovat Lane, the rather plain exterior of St Mary at Hill contrasted with the lovely wide-open space and beautiful dome within the church.

From Mincing Lane, ‘mincing’ being a corruption of the word ‘mychens’ used to denote nuns, we turned into Minster Court to view three large horse sculptures, nicknamed Stirling, Dollar and Yen standing in front of the London Underwriters’ Centre. We also visited the public sculpture in Fen Court commemorating the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807. The sculpture consists of 17 columns of sugar cane inscribed with the words of the poem ‘The Guilt of Cain’.

As we walked, Valary pointed out the curious figure of a woman on many buildings and explained that the figure, known as the ‘Mercer’s Maiden’ was to show that the property had belonged to the Worshipful Company of Mercers.

Our walk took us to the outside of the Jamaica Wine House in Cornhill, where the first coffee house in London was located and where Samuel Pepys visited in 1660. Passing other places of interest on our way, we finished the morning at the Royal Exchange founded by Sir Thomas Gresham.

14th September 2017 -Cheam Library – National Garden Scheme.

Thirty-one Friends assembled for a talk by Margaret Arnott, Volunteer Assistant Surrey County Organiser for the National Garden Scheme.

The story of the NGS started in 1859 when William Rathbone, a Liverpool merchant and philanthropist, engaged Mary Robinson to nurse his sick wife. When Mrs Rathbone died, William continued to employ Mary and encouraged her to go into the poorest areas of Liverpool to try to relieve suffering and teach the basic rules of health. Although Mary found the work almost unbearable, she eventually realised the difference she could make and decided not to return to private nursing.

William Rathbone then extended his idea by dividing parts of Liverpool into districts, and with advice from Florence Nightingale, provided nursing staff for each district. This was the beginning of District Nursing which, within a few years, spread throughout the UK.

To fund pensions for retiring nurses, gardens were opened to the public at a shilling admission, thus forming a pension pot. This system evolved into the establishment of the National Garden Scheme in 1927, and with the advent in 1948 of the National Health Service, donations from the National Garden Scheme were then directed to major charities.

Towards the end of the talk, Margaret showed illustrations of some of the beautiful gardens that are opened to the public during the year. A most interesting afternoon.

13th July 2017 – Cheam Library – The Great Unwatched: Wit and Wisdom on the Wireless.

In his second talk to the Friends. Bob Sinfield recalled his early interest in ‘the wireless’ when he would listen to a large valve radio with mysterious sounding stations on the dial such as Hilversum, Athlone and Normandy. Bob’s lively talk included amusing anecdotes and interactions with the audience about programmes and presenters over the years.

One of the first commercial radio stations was the United Biscuit Network which broadcast to the company’s factories around the country and became the training ground for many radio presenters. Bob’s talk was well received by a full house of Friends and guests.

5th June 2017 – Alison Weir – Eleanor of Aquitaine – St Dunstan’s School, Anne Boleyn’s Walk.

As something different for the Friends’ Birthday celebration this year, an evening talk was arranged to take place at St Dunstan’s School Hall in Cheam. Publicity officer, Trish Carey, worked hard to publicise the event and on the day over 60 people came to hear local historical author, Alison Weir, talk about Eleanor of Aquitaine.

There was a good mix of local residents and Friends who enjoyed the fact-filled talk. One lucky visitor went home with a prize for the best question put to Alison and another visitor, picked at random wen t home to a copy of Alison’s latest book ‘Anne Boleyn – A King’s Obsession’. Very appropriate as the school is in Anne Boleyns Walk.

Saturday 20th May 2017 – CHEAM VILLAGE CHARTER FAIR.

In spite of the prospect of rain, the weather was kind, and visitors and Friends were able to stroll around the stalls in the dry to look at the diverse range of items for sale. The Friends of Whitehall stall was in Park Road, in the driveway of one of our members who provided those manning the stall with welcome cups of coffee during the morning. The Heritage department was also on hand with their pop-up Whitehall publicity stall.

11th May 2017 – Exhibitions 1862 – 1924

Michael Gilbert’s talk covered the growth of exhibitions to promote industry and culture during the 10th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Many of the exhibition halls built during this period are still familiar to us today, Alexandra Palace, Olympia, Ears Court and White City. In 1908 the Olympics were held in Britain and the marathon was run from Windsor Castle to the great stadium built in White City, setting the standard length of marathons to this day.

In 1924 the British Empire Exhibition opened at Wembley, with fifteen miles of streets, and included a reproduction of the Niagara Falls, a garden contained 100,000 tulips and the popular Amusement Park promoted by Billy Butlin.