For more than 20 years dance nights, sporting events and rock concerts at Purley's Orchid Ballroom drew hundreds of party goers each week.

It opened on May 13, 1950, replacing the former ice rink which was previously on site, with a glittering ceremony. It quickly became one of the most popular venues in the borough.

Brian Roote, who has been researching the history of the Orchid, said: "For the next 10 years the Orchid became the place to spend one's Saturday evenings and every other Tuesday.

"As time wore on the big band era began to wane as costs soared and tastes changed, so attendances began to fall and in 1962 the business was taken over by one of the big names in entertainment, Mecca, who already ran the Lyceum in the Strand and the Locarno in Streatham, among many others.

"They announced a major refurbishment costing £100,000 that was meant to turn the Orchid into the finest ballroom in Europe."

By this time society had begun to change and complaints about drunkenness and rowdy behaviour started to dog the Orchid, prompting Mecca to improve its facilities to attract a better class of patron'.

The improvements included car parking, cloakrooms and the introduction of a dress code; ties for men and a no-trouser policy for girls.

The venue also started to host nights for the latest crazes of bingo and wrestling, while heats of Miss World and the BBC programme Come Dancing were also presented from the Orchid.

After the big band era the Orchid became a popular venue for up and coming bands, with groups such as The Who, The Troggs and The Hollies playing there.

The end of the 1960s signalled the end of the Orchid as a ballroom and it closed in 1973.

A year later a new venue called Tiffany's opened on its site and for the next 16 years it morphed into a succession of different nightclubs until 1990. The premises has since been used for a number of purposes and is now a fitness club.

Brian Roote's article detailing the full history of the Orchid Ballroom is to appear in the Bourne Society's publications Local History Records. To subscribe, contact the Bourne Society on: 01883 349 287.

  • Do you remember visiting the Orchid Ballroom or the site's former guise as ice rink? Contact Kerry McQueeney with your memories and pictures on 020 8254 5303 or email