T.O.P.W.C. (Teddington Old Peoples’ Welfare Committee) was formed in 1946; founder members being Mr. Arthur Forrow, Mr. Arthur Higgins and Miss Edna Read. Representatives of churches, various organisations and others interested in the welfare of the elderly formed the rest of the committee. In those days the elderly had no access to a welfare state, and the committee held jumble sales and other modest fundraising events to fund necessities such as fuel and food.
Built in 1911, Elleray Hall (named after a house which stood on the site) had been a parish hall connected with St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church. It was first used exclusively for the elderly through T.O.P.W.C. in 1950, when a distribution of off-ration sweets was made available to them. This was a most welcome concession in those luxury-starved days.
In 1952 it became an engineering works until that firm moved to Twickenham. The committee had felt for a long time that there was a need for a meeting place of its own and accepted the Borough Council’s offer for the T.O.P.W.C. to run a Day Centre on its behalf. Immense structural alterations, floor strengthening and redecoration were required to bring the building to a suitable condition. This took from 1969 to 1974, with inflation increasing the original estimate from £6,000 to £28000. A great deal of fundraising and generous donations made by the late Sister Edna Black and the Independent Order of Foresters complimented the Council’s grant towards completion, and it was leased to T.O.P.W.C. for a peppercorn rent.
A publicity campaign followed and in September 1973 the first refreshments were served; with the Hall opening for half days during the week. By December, full operations had commenced, with midday meals costing 10 pence and drinks 2 to 3 pence. Monthly jumble sales helped to keep finances in the black.
The official opening of the day centre was held in 1974 by then Mayor, Cllr.T.A.Bligh. The first organiser was Mrs. Ann Ascroft, appointed in May 1973 when the membership was 622 (although at the time there were fewer day Centres). Early in 1975 the husband and wife team of Mr and Mrs Edwards succeeded Mrs. Ascroft.
The centre had become so popular that an extension was built in 1976, for the membership of 544. Mr. Higgins died in 1977 and Mrs. Hilda Oliver succeeded Mr and Mrs Edwards as organiser. The Wednesday shop, which was established by Miss Freda Barber, still flourishes today as the bargain shop (now held on Tuesdays). Another fundraiser was STOP (Supporter of Teddington Older People), the brainchild of Mr. George Dunn, subscribers to which paid a minimum of £1 annually.
In 1977/8, complete redecoration of the hall was undertaken by Community Service Volunteers. The ‘Bookshop on the Bridge’ was established, and the first St. George’s Procession and Fair were held. This continued until 1988 when the expense of mounting it made such deep inroads into the profit that it became uneconomic. In 1979 the new lounge extension was begun, and officially opened on 15 March 1980 by the then Mayor, the late Cllr.J.L.Hargreaves, who died in 1992. His wife Mary was also present at the opening. Around that time, a two-course meal cost 26 pence and all drinks 5 pence each.
In 1982 an assistant organiser, Mrs. Christine MacKie, was appointed and only retired in 1988 after 16 years dedicated service. Also in that year, the garden was landscaped thanks to funds provided by Teddington Round Table and ten years later scented shrubs were added. Today the garden is maintained by dedicated volunteers and regularly receives awards in the annual Richmond in Bloom Competition. In 2017 we received a Silver Gilt award.
The ‘Bookshop on the Bridge’ closed for redevelopment of the area in 1983, depriving us of this very remunerative source of finance.
In 1988, thirty new tables were donated and in 1990 T.O.P.W.C. purchased new chairs to complete the major refurbishment of the hall. New co-ordinated stage and window curtains with P.V.C. tablecloths greatly enhanced the Centre. That same year a survey of Borough Day Centres disclosed that Elleray Hall not only came out as above-average in all respects, but top for Meals, Staff, and Consultation, Help and Advice for members.
Also in 1990 it was becoming apparent that we needed even larger premises to meet all the needs of the members, so a further extension was planned, completed in 1993 with the generous help of Hampton Fuel Allotment Charity and the transfer of funds following the dissolution of Teddington Home Nursing Welfare Fund. This provides an Activities Room, large Quiet Room, television lounge and hairdressing salon. The large carpeted stage is still used frequently for entertainment of many kinds.