This film is part of Free

The Centre

St Mary's Road in Peckham, London, is the location for a bold social experiment.

1947 22 mins


If you lived near St Mary's Road, Peckham, in the 1930s and 40s you might well have made use of the groundbreaking Pioneer Health Centre. From a well-stocked library, swimming-pool, two-storey gym, darts and snooker clubs, ballroom, cafe, theatre and creche, the Centre's vast range of recreational facilities catered for everyone. The only stipulations were the 5d a week membership fee and the requirement for members to undergo periodical medical examinations by the team of in-house doctors.

The Centre, which was made by Paul Rotha, one of the leading lights of the British Documentary Movement, charts the experience of newly signed-up members Mr and Mrs Jones and their son, Johnny. While Mr Jones joins the Centre's darts club and masters his dance steps, Mrs Jones doesn't integrate quite so readily. George Scott Williamson and Innes Hope Pearse, the husband-and wife team who founded The Pioneer Health Centre, were biologists whose objective to improve and monitor the physical, mental and social health of the local community. The Pioneer Health Centre closed in 1950 and today the building is an apartment block. This government film is a public record, preserved and presented by the BFI National Archive on behalf of The National Archives, home to more than 1,000 years of British history.