Looking back at the history of Maidenhead Town Hall

Looking back at the history of Maidenhead Town Hall

The Queen and Prince Philip at Maidenhead Town Hall in 1962

Despite being the central hub of Maidenhead council business, the town hall is perhaps best known by many for playing a hospital in a hit 20th century film franchise.

"They only used the outside of it," remembers Richard Poad, chairman of the nearby Maidenhead Heritage Centre, in Park Street.

"The fact that the town hall was used in the Carry On films is it's most famous claim to fame, I suppose."

Richard recalled fond scenes where a doctor driving a Rolls Royce would be seen driving up to the town hall entrance.

"As he gets out of his car there are blood-curdling screams coming from the building, and he says 'they've started early this morning'," he added. 

The franchise - which included stars like Barbara Windsor and Kenneth Williams - ran from the late 1950s on and off until the late 1970s. Another was made in 1992.

The town hall also became a university for a later film in the series. 

The Advertiser captured a shot of stars Elke Sommer, Donald Hewlett and Kenneth Williams (below) taking a break from filming in 1975. 

It all started on a sunny day on June 25, 1962 when Maidenhead Town Hall was officially opened, by none other than Her Majesty The Queen and husband Prince Philip, who passed away earlier this month.

Large crowds lined St Ives Road in the hope of catching a glimpse of the monarch and the Duke on their tour of East Berkshire, as they made their way inside the new building which would go on to become the civic heart of Maidenhead.

"It is part of a civic identity of the Royal Borough," Richard added. "It was a Victorian-type mansion."

Crowds line the streets ahead of the Queen's arrival to open Maidenhead Town Hall on June 25, 1962

The Maidenhead Advertiser, which was released on the Friday after the Queen's visit, was dominated by the news and went with the headline 'The Queen Comes To Tea' for its front page.

"It was so arranged that almost everyone had an excellent view," the reporter at the time wrote.

The Queen said in a speech that she was 'very pleased' to be in Maidenhead to open the town hall, adding that the building was a 'symbol' of the council's 'determination to make Maidenhead an enviable urban centre'. 

Richard added that the town hall has brought with it benefits for the arts sector in Maidenhead, with the introduction of the Desborough Theatre.

"Pre-pandemic it is still used as a performance space by the local drama societies who can't afford Norden Farm or for whom Norden Farm is too small," he said.

Sir Nicolaus Pevsner was a German-British architectural historian, and in 1966, he had a few choice words to say about the town hall, contrary to what the Queen had said about it some four years prior.

"He found it weak and neo-Georgian," Richard said. "I do not think that anybody would describe it as an architecturally extinguished building, but that is a personal view."

Maidenhead Town Hall has been in the news a lot recently with the council reviewing the future of the space. 

This is not the first time that the future of the town hall has been up in the air, with a report in the Advertiser on May 24, 2002 explaining how spin doctors had been hired by the council as it looked at potentially demolishing the building. 

These plans were eventually thrown out with the help of the 'Carry On Fan Club'. 

Lots is still to be discussed regarding the latest chapter in the story of Maidenhead Town Hall. No decisions will be concrete after Thursday's meeting and it is uncertain as to whether the building will be turned into a community asset, sold, or pulled down if the council feels that it no longer meets its needs. 

Most recently it has acted as a vaccination centre, a small irony following its appearance as a hospital in the Carry On films.

And although the architecture is one of personal opinion, Maidenhead Town Hall is a small fragment of the old Maidenhead amidst a plethora of change happening in the town. 

"Maidenhead is undergoing revolution, not evolution," Richard concluded.

Editor's Picks

Most read

Top Articles