Oxford Archaeology was asked by Premier Inn to look at Riley’s Snooker Hall in Lambeth ahead of conversion of the site to a hotel. The building was constructed in c 1909 as a temperance billiard hall, and was one of a series built in London and Manchester by the Temperance Billiard Hall Company.

Our task was to look for evidence of the original façade and produce drawings of what we believed to be the original design of the elevation. Architects would then incorporate the drawings into the plans of the new hotel.

Unfortunately, the building was clad in metal sheeting and the interior covered with indeterminate detritus. The original fascia shown on a 1960s’ elevation drawing, meanwhile, had been removed, along with the columns and capitals between the windows.

However, above the front stood a fine cupola with moulded heads, and inside were the remains of nouveau/deco stained glass. And when the boards that covered the concrete piers were peeled back, the original decorative tiles were revealed. The removal of the plywood boards and modern sheeting also revealed a narrow strip of mosaic floor, as well as glass block walls to the lower part of the front elevation.

The investigation, which allowed Premier Inn to discharge its planning conditions and move ahead with the development, showed that the building fitted into the standard house-style of the Temperance Billiard Hall Company. It also revealed how well hidden the history of a building can be.