This little beauty has just come onto our books for sale and it has quite a history behind it.
The Peckham Experiment took place between 1926 and 1950, initially generated by public concerns over the health of the working classes.
George Scott Williamson and his wife Innes Hope Pearse opened the Pioneer Health Centre in a working class London suburb – Peckham in South-East London, which was chosen because the area’s population represented a cross-section of the total populace of the nation as was available at the time – in a house in Queen’s Road SE15 in 1926.
Their aim was to study health as a medical condition in a manner comparable to studies of the natural history of disease. The first phase closed in 1929 and funding was then sought to build a larger, purpose-designed, centre. This re-opened in 1935 in a purpose-built Modern building in St Mary’s Road just off Queens Road SE15 (the Pioneer Centre), often quoted as an early example of how new architectural techniques could help further bold new social experiments.
Williamson and Pearse recruited 950 local families to be part of The Peckham Experiment. Paying the equivalent of 5 pence a week, they had access to a range of leisure activities such as physical exercise, swimming, games and workshops.
Members underwent a medical examination once a year, and they were monitored throughout the year as they participated in the Centre’s various events.
Central to Scott Williamson’s philosophy was the belief that left to themselves people would spontaneously begin to organize amongst themselves, and this actually happened, the members initiating a wide range of different sporting, social and cultural activities using the facilities offered by the Centre.
The Pioneer Centre was designed by Sir Owen Williams and moved away from the idea of traditional lines dominating medical buildings. Williams created a large open space using the latest structural techniques allowing the Centre’s doctors to properly observe the members. At the middle of the Centre a large swimming pool was covered by a glazed roof, which, along with large full height windows, allowed natural light to flood into the building. These windows could be fully opened to circulate fresh air into the apartments. The cork floors allowed people to move about barefoot comfortably, even in colder weathers.
The Centre went into a state of temporary disuse during the Second World War, but was restored to a condition fit for re-opening by the members themselves afterwards. In 1950, however, it finally closed, since its innovative approach was not accepted by the new National Health Service, and it proved impossible to obtain adequate funding from other sources to keep it going as an independent concern.
The buildings were later transferred to Southwark Council. The Council operated a leisure centre in the buildings (including the swimming pool), and they also provided educational facilities.
In the 1990s the remaining buildings were sold by the Council and converted into housing stock, but remain a Grade II Listed Building.
This occurred after the responsibility for adult education was significantly reduced and transferred from the local council to Southwark College. Replacement and more modern leisure facilities were provided at the Peckham Pulse Healthy Living Centre by Peckham Town Square.
On the market at offers in excess of £447,000 it’s an opportunity to acquire a real historical lifestyle property, the type rarely available in South East London.