The Friends of Whitehall, an independent registered charity, was formed 40 years ago to encourage Sutton Borough to open Whitehall to the public. Following the Friends involvement, and local community pressure, the building was opened on Saturday 18th June 1978, when the ribbon across the front door was cut by councillor Marjorie Grimes, the Chair of Sutton’s Leisure & Recreation Committee, accompanied by borough librarian Roy Smith – the prime mover in getting Whitehall opened as an attraction.
Since the house opened it has welcomed thousands of visitors of all ages, and The Friends of Whitehall has raised many thousands of pounds towards the house’s running costs and purchased many of the items now on display within the house, and in 2012 this amounted to over £9.000.00 towards gardening, floodlighting, decorations and the annual grant.
The Friends have, over the years, laid out and continue to maintain both the front and back gardens. They have acted as stewards and serve in the Tea Room; baked home-made cakes and biscuits; dressed in various historical attire at fairs and special events – such as the Tudor Fairs when children are able to talk to Henry VIII or Elizabeth I or at the Oak Apple Day when Charles II, Nell Gwynne and Pepys are there to entertain visitors – young and old alike!
In addition to all this activity, the Friends of Whitehall raise funds for many special projects. These have included funding the return of six Victorian Jacobean-style chairs for the Parlour (recovered in needlepoint by a group of Friends), a set of antique tools (of the type used to construct a house like Whitehall), display boards and case and may historic prints of Whitehall and Dr Syntax.
The Friends have also shared the costs of the renovation of the Roy Smith Gallery, the School Master’s Bedroom in the attic and the Tea Room Kitchen. Thanks to donations/legacies received over the years the Friends were able to restore the tea room clock and arrange for floodlighting the front of Whitehall.
Over the years the Friends have organised many events for Whitehall, including Easter Fairs, Valentine Fairs, Jumble Sales and other special days.
The Friends volunteer gardeners were also responsible for garden improvements, the herb garden and the lawn edges were re-turfed, and the dead silver birch tree removed. Two benches were donated and the Friends purchased two tables to go with them.
However, while Whitehall was closed in 2016 for a 2-year repair and refurbishment project, the garden fell into disrepair. In preparation for the re-opening of Whitehall in 2018, Friends’ volunteer gardeners, led by Paul Gibbins, once again set to and designed and planted the garden. The Friends also donated and installed three new benches for the garden for visitors to sit and enjoy the restored garden.
Whitehall re-opened in June 2018 and the interior of the building has a new look. Each room has a different theme with information boards providing the background to Whitehall’s history and the local community. One of the upstairs rooms, which can now be reached by a lift, will feature temporary exhibitions.
If you would like to join the Friends of Whitehall and play your part in protecting this important historic building and qualify for a reduction on Museum shop prices, reduced tea room prices and discounted tickets to Heritage talks and Friends’ events plus quarterly Newsletters, please let us know by sending us your name and address by using the contact form on this website. An application form will be sent to you. Annual membership costs just £7 or £12 for families. If you are already a Friend and would like to become more involved use the contact form to request information on volunteering.