Ice cold reception led to rink romance
In 1931 Europe's largest ice rink opened in Purley and for almost 20 years hundreds of skaters flocked to the venue each week. Not only could visitors indulge in dance and speed skating, but the rink also hosted exhibitions, carnivals and ice pantomimes and international ice hockey believed to have been introduced to the Purley ice rink by Canadian soldiers stationed near Croydon during the war.
Heritage readers contacted the Croydon Guardian with their memories of the ice rink after we published a story about the Orchid Ballroom, which replaced the ice rink in 1950. The site later became a leisure centre in Purley High Street.
Joyce Daniels met her husband George at the ice rink in 1948. Grandfather of seven George, from Glen Gardens in Waddon, said: "I saw her and went over to ask if she wanted to skate around the rink with me. But I tripped over before I reached her. She looked at me as if I was a piece of dirt on the floor."
Joyce added: "I skated off with my friend and later he caught up with me and told me my skirt had come unzipped so I told him to mind his own business. "But we did get chatting in the end and went out a few times to the cinema. We didn't look back. Two years later we were married."
In August 2006 they had their 56th wedding anniversary and fondly remembered the Imperial. "We both loved skating," Joyce said, "I used to go every Saturday night and, if I had the money sometimes on a Sunday morning too. "My husband would go down with three of his friends and I would go with two of my girlfriends."
"In those days there were only a few things to do socially and ice skating was one of them. There were plenty of cinemas and dance halls but not many ice rinks. I think the nearest other ones were in Streatham and Guildford."
"It wasn't just somewhere you could skate, it was somewhere you could socialise and meet new people. Some friends of ours also got married after meeting at the Purley ice rink too." The Imperial ice rink was forced to close in 1950, the year that Joyce and George were married, because the pipes used for freezing needed replacing and the cost of steel for these was prohibitive so soon after the end of the war.
Joyce said: "We were all devastated and protested angrily about the closure. We had spent so much of our spare time there and were very sad to see it go. "Our group of friends all swore we would never go to the Orchid Ballroom, which was built in its place, but we did go once when curiosity got the better of us."