A RESTORATION fund is being launched to help pay for urgently needed repairs to the historic home of Croydon's Labour and trade union movement.
Ruskin House, in Coombe Road, which is 300 years old this year, has been hit over the past three years by a succession of thieves ripping lead from the roof.
The Ruskin House committee now faces repair bills of thousands of pounds to put the building back into shape.
Roy Aird, president of Ruskin House, said the fund would be launched formally in the near future, allowing people to make donations.
Mr Aird explained that when the lead had been taken, the thieves had caused a lot of damage to the brickwork.
The front wall also needs extensive restoration.
He said: "The repair work is expensive and we don't have the reserves to carry it all out.
"We are not yet at a point where we have to think about closing but if we don't carry out the repairs it could eventually happen."
Work on some of the building repairs will start on Monday.
The restoration fund will receive an initial bonus this week when it benefits from the proceeds of this year's Folk and Blues Festival.
The festival takes place tomorrow in the garden of Ruskin House from noon until 11pm.
There will be live music all day from a variety of folk and blues singers, backed up by a Russian children's choir and a Scottish pipe band.
There will also be licensed bars and barbecue and, for children, a bouncy castle and face painting.
Admission is £3 on the door with accompanied children under 16 getting in free.
Garry Davis, from the Folk and Blues Club and a member of the Ruskin House committee, said: "The club committee was unanimous in agreeing that money raised at the festival should go the restoration fund. We have got to get moving on the repairs."
Last year the festival raised more than £1,000 for the Royal Marsden cancer charity.
Originally known as Coombe Hill House, Ruskin House is an example of an imposing Georgian townhouse.
Among a long list of previous owners has been the Italian Consul General, Baron Robert Amadeus Heath between 1851 and 1880. It later became the home of Croydon Mayor, Alderman William Lillico but was put up for auction in 1930 when it turned into Coombe Hill House preparatory school for boys.
It remained as a school until 1966 when it was bought and transformed into the Labour and trade union headquarters and renamed Ruskin House. The HQ was opened by Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, in 1967.