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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
Hanwell Community Centre
This is where Charlie Chaplin once went to school
Location: Westcott Crescent, London, W7 1PD
Description: This grand Grade 2 listed building was a poor law school, built in 1856 for the children of destitute families and orphans as a place to live and learn. Its most famous pupil was legendary comedian Charlie Chaplin.
The School closed in 1935 and the Hanwell Community Association moved into the building in 1938 and has leased the building ever since becoming a Municipal Community Centre in 1942 to serve the people of the London Borough of Ealing and the surrounding area.
Chaplin lived at the school from June 1896 (aged 6) until January 1898, while his mother was unwell.
After a few weeks in the Lambeth workhouse, Charlie was transferred with his brother here to the Central London District School in a horse-drawn bakery van. In his autobiography Chaplin recalls that on Saturday afternoon, the bath-house was reserved for the infants who were bathed by older girls he suffered the ignominy of receiving an all-over wash with a face-cloth from a fourteen year-old.
When he reached the age of seven he moved to the older boys department and recounted the story of a boy of fourteen trying to escape from the school by climbing on to the roof and defying staff by throwing missiles and horse-chestnuts at them as they climbed after him. For such offences there were regular Friday morning punishment sessions in the gymnasium where all the boys lined up on three sides of a square. For minor offences, a boy was laid face down across a long desk, feet strapped, while his shirt was pulled out over his head. Captain Hindrum, a retired Navy man, then gave him from three to six hefty strokes with a four-foot cane. Recipients would cry appallingly or even faint and afterwards had to be carried away to recover. For more serious offences, birch was used after three strokes, a boy needed to be taken to the surgery for treatment. Chaplin himself once received three strokes with the cane, apparently for an offence he did not commit.
The community centre was used as the location for the gym sequence in the 2000 hit film Billy Elliot starring Jamie Bell.
The building is also steeped in rock music history - it was here that Deep Purple Mk2 began their rehearsals and wrote much of their hard rock masterpiece Deep Purple In Rock.
Bassist Roger Glover said It was always available, it was cheap, and it was close to where we were all living at the time, Ian Paice remembers. It was the only place we could find where we could make a lot of noise.
The Who rock band also rehearsed here prior to their 1969 US Tour. Pete Townsend's parents lived around the corner.
There are also some old stories of the building being haunted.