At the start of the First World War Crayford’s meagre housing stock was overwhelmed by the demand for accommodation by the hundreds of workers drafted in from all over the British Isles to work at Vickers. Empty buildings were taken over to provide lodgings including Crayford House and The British Workman complex in the High Street, now home to the Crayford Mosque.
The Rodney Hut was presented to the Young Men’s Christian Association for the use of munitions workers by Lady Rodney as a memorial to her son, Lieutenant William Rodney of the Rifle Brigade, killed in action in France in May 1915. The Hut was built on land given by Vickers between their factory and the River Cray about 100 metres downstream from Crayford Bridge. The opening ceremony, performed by Lady Rodney, took place on the 7th June 1915. Distinguished guests included Lady Grosvenor, Lady Randolph Churchill, General Sir Francis Lloyd, Sir Henry Chaplin, Sir Arthur Yapp, George Baker and Thomas North.
14th July 1915 Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria of Schleswig Holstein paid a visit to the Hut. The first work’s organisation to use the Hut was the newly formed Vickers Choral and Orchestral Society. The Hut became an important centre for recreation, entertainment and study. The Crayford branch of the Workers Education Association held lectures and study groups in the building. It was the birthplace of The British Drama League and the venue for live entertainment and film shows when the Princesses Theatre was burnt down in December 1916.