Bourne Hall

Bourne Hall
Bourne Hall in the early 21st Century
Copyright Image courtesy of the Manager Bourne Hall.

On Monday 9th February 1970 Bourne Hall was officially opened to the public. Five years earlier A.G. Sheppard Fidler & Associates were appointed architects with a brief for a combined library, museum and social centre. Bob Loren (FRIBA), the project architect, designed a circular building which was to be located in an existing public park complete with a lake and ornamental gardens which once formed Garbrand Hall.

Aerial photograph of  model of Bourne Hall
Aerial photograph of model of Bourne Hall
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

The world renowned local firm of WS Atkins & Partners acted as consulting engineers and another local firm D J Bendle & Partners acted as quantity surveyors to the project. The main contractor was William Willett (Contractors) Ltd of Clapham Common and building work started in November 1967 and was finished in January 1970.

Bourne Hall Construction Sequence - Click to enlarge
Bourne Hall Construction Sequence - Click image to enlarge
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Sited close to the centre of Ewell Village the radical design, vaguely reminiscent of a flying saucer, was both bold and dramatic. It made use of twenty precast concrete vertical ribs arranged in a circle, with their tops meeting at a 33ft. (10.6m) diameter concrete compression ring near the crown. The ring supports a translucent glass fibre domed roof light.

To support the main domed roof, and provide structural integrity, there is a 138ft (42.06m) diameter second ring of pre-stressed, post tensioned concrete at a height of 23ft (7.01m) above ground level. Apart from holding up the roof this ring forms the eaves and holds the gutters. Nine cables were used in the pre-stressing, each covers an arc of 120 degrees and consists of 6 x 0.06in (15mm) diameter strands and were anchored at every 40 degrees giving 3 cables per section, each tensioned to 40,000 lbf (1710kN).

Bourne Hall cross-section - Click to enlarge
Bourne Hall cross-section - Click image to enlarge
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

The roof is constructed of an interesting sandwich of materials, the outer layer is felt backed copper bonded to a layer of felt laid on screeded wood wool panels which were fixed to steel joists which span the gap between each rib. Each straight steel joist had to be carefully positioned to form a conical roof profile. This method of construction did away with the need for the more conventional method of nailing the copper onto wooden battens. As the roof line approaches the gutter level the wood wool panels were replaced by lightweight concrete sprayed on to expanded metal curved to the correct profile to act as formwork and reinforcement. It is thought that this is the first use of lightweight aggregate gunite (as this spray method is called) in the UK. The space between the roof sandwich and the suspended ceiling is used for the central area warm air heating and ventilation ducts.

Below gutter level is a split ring of various sized single storey rooms radiating outward from between the ribs. The rooms are constructed of 10ft tall slender reinforced concrete load bearing mullions with their roof resting on beams to columns in the corridor wall giving spans of 14ft (4.27m) to 33ft (10.6m). Externally the white concrete ribs and mullions were made to superior quality specifications and building was finished with aluminum windows above slate fronted panels.

Bourne Hall Plan - Click to enlarge
Bourne Hall Plan - Click image to enlarge
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

The whole building was based around multiples of 4 inch units which enabled many standard and modular parts to be used, which in turn greatly simplifying construction and keeping costs low - in total the building cost just £368,000! For this amount the local ratepayers got a building on three levels:-
  1. The basement holds the semi sunken 350 seat Main Hall (suitable for concerts, stage productions, dances, and film viewing) together with maintenance/service tunnels. The walls of the Main hall are made from 16" concrete to provide soundproofing.
  2. The ground floor houses the Main Foyer, the 5900sq.ft. Branch Library with Local History Centre and a café, together with a banqueting suite for 205 people (with kitchen and separate bar area), a small hall for 110 people, various committee room, offices, toilets and boiler room. The 42ft (12.8m) high by 5ft (1.52m) diameter chimney is separated from the main building to form a design feature.
  3. The mezzanine floor, which is formed by the roof of the Main Hall, overlooks the foyer and houses the museum and separate exhibition area. This level is reached by a wide spiral staircase. Disabled access was designed in from the start and access to all levels is provided by a small lift.

In 2015 Historic England gave Bourne Hall Library and Social Centre a Grade II listing. Their reasons for this designation was as follows:
Bourne Hall Library and Social Centre, of 1967-70 by A. G. Sheppard Fidler and Associates, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: a striking design, notable for its space-age flair and the generous, top-lit principal interior space; * Plan form: the circular layout is well-organised, legible and flexible; * Historic interest: as an ambitious example of the expansion of the library service and the integration of community facilities and disabled access.

For venue hire and more information please visit the Bourne Hall website or contact:-
Bourne Hall
Spring Street,
KT17 1UF
Telephone: 020 8393 9571
Fax: 020 8786 7265

Text by Peter Reed 2007
Updated March 2016