Clubland grew out of the former Walworth chapel, South London, during the ministry of the Rev. James Butterworth, appointed to Walworth in 1922. His response to the church's decline was to replace it by splendid new buildings as a centre for a wide range of activities, especially for young people. These included a theatre, gym and facilities for the creative arts. His vision was inspired by the conviction that only what was good enough for public school boys was good enough for the youth of the Walworth slums. The original premises were opened by Queen Mary, the Queen Mother, in May 1939, only to be destroyed by bombing in 1941. The rebuilt premises were opened by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in May 1964. They include a chapel designed by Sir Edward Maufe, the architect of Guildford Cathedral.
Butterworth had a flare for enlisting the support of royalty and such celebrities of the theatre and cinema as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Gracie Fields, Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Sybil Thorndyke, Richard Attenborough, John Mills and Charlton Heston. Michael Caine, a local boy whose first appearance on stage was at Clubland, represents the many who were given their first opportunity there.
By the 1950s the local population was changing radically and Walworth became predominantly immigrant. Clubland's role changed accordingly and it developed as a black church, counting among its members the family of the murdered Stephen Lawrence. In partnership with the West London Mission, the 'Big House' was established to meet the needs of rough sleepers and various organizations serving the local community are based on the premises.
See also Watson, Victor J.