History of Bernays Hall

The Bernays Memorial Institute has been a familiar and well-loved landmark and focal point in Stanmore Village for over 140 years.

It was built as a memorial to Ernest Bernays, an undergraduate at New College, Oxford, who met a sudden and untimely death by drowning on 31st August 1870 whilst on holiday in Ireland. Ernest, the eldest son of Rev. Leopold Bernays (rector of Stanmore 1860-1883), was buried in the churchyard of St. John's the Evangelist, Great Stanmore on 6th September 1870. He was 22 years old.

An indenture dated 8th April 1871 records that part of the glebe land was sold by Leopold Bernays on behalf of the church commissioners for "the erection of any messuage or buildings to be used as a library or reading or lecture rooms" for the education and recreation of the inhabitants of the parish of Great Stanmore.

The Institute built on that land was designed and erected under the superintendence of architect J.T. Barker at a cost of £1,470. The contractors for the building were H. Lawford (brickwork), G. Kirby (carpentry) and J. Dorricot (plumbing). It was opened on 8th December 1871 by Lord George Hamilton of Bentley Priory.

The Institute is a fine example of a purpose-built parish hall: an ornate church-like building of red brick with Bath stone dressings, and with a clerestory inserted into a steeply sloping Welsh slate roof with ornamental hip and ridge tiles. Faience tiles built into the front elevation record, "ERNEST BERNAYS MEMORIAL INSTITUTE, AUG 31 1870".

In its early days it was used for bible classes for both men and boys, for the Band of Hope and the Church of England Temperance Society, and for dances, concerts and for that Victorian form of entertainment, the lantern lecture.

In 1991 The building was saved from demolition, as a result of local popular pressure and from further deterioration by the formation of a volunteer management group. In 1993 the building was added to the Local List of buildings of Architectural and Historic interest.

In 2009 the hall undertook a major refurbishment programme of both the inside and the outside. The main hall offers an excellent space for your function. The programme was completed in September 2009. Take a look at the Tour page to see more of the hall.

The Bernays Memorial Institute is one of the last three surviving old buildings in this part of Stanmore Village, appreciated by many local people as a memorial and because of its historical and architectural interest.