Purley Literary Society History

Purley Lit: interesting  landmarks


1901 Founded by Purley Congregational Church as a mutual improvement society.  Had discussions, debates, musical evenings, manuscript magazine evenings, recitations, and gave practice in public speaking or ‘Elocution’.  Ladies invited to be members.


1902 Subscription one shilling.  The Syllabus (programme) 2d.


1907 Lecture on ‘Mahomet, the Man and his Religion


1913 Debate on Women’s Suffrage and lecture on ‘The Emancipation of the  Sweated Woman Worker’.


1914 Topics included: German philosophy, Russian literature, and Hungarian life.


1915 Suspended “in regard to the state of public affairs”.


1920 Mock First Meeting (as in AD 1950) of Purley Town Council, Mayor and Corporation.


1927 Play: Lorna Doone, a romance of Exmoor.


1937 Miss Vera Brittain – Why I Wrote the Testament of Youth.


1939 April  Society suspended again.


1946 Minutes for April 1939 “read, confirmed and signed”.


1947 Turned down a speaker from the United Nations.


1949 Speakers’ fees: 225 guineas


1950’s Lectures from outside speakers now the norm, including Constance Spry, Odette Churchill, Lady Violet Bonham-Carter and the Flying Doctor.


1960’s Members coming from Addiscombe, Balcombe, Chipstead, Croydon, Kingswood and Thornton Heath as well as locally.


1974 Radio programme Any Questions was Purley Lit meeting at the end of November, held in the URC church, with questions from members. Panel: David Jacobs (chair), Malcolm Muggeridge, Enoch Powell, Anna Raeburn, Lord Longford.


1980’s The society offered “a real bargain, live entertainment through the winter for only £4 … a winter tonic”. Several of the speakers were “virtually unknown and yet many of the best evenings came from them” according to the minutes.


1990’s Emphasis away from celebrity names and towards a balanced programme on a range of topics and local specialists such as

            Sir Bernard Ingham on No 10, Ian Currie on the weather, and the

            Coloma Girls’ School Choir. Continuing support for various charities.


2011 Took part in Purley Festival with special summer meeting on Birds of Prey (flying round the church hall).