The Painswick Centre building was a gift to Painswick from Frances Sarah Williams. Mrs Williams had inherited family wealth created from the Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce business, in which first her father-in-law then her first husband had been partners. In 1906 she gave part of the land and the necessary funds to build what was then the Painswick Working Men’s Club and Institute, and is now The Painswick Centre.
It was opened in 1907 to great fanfare, designed by architect William Curtis Green who went on to design London landmarks such as the Dorchester Hotel, The Wolseley, and New Scotland Yard. The foundation stone, which was laid by Mrs Williams, was carved by the (now infamous) Arts & Crafts stonemason Eric Gill.
The Deed of Trust stated the Institute was 'for the general benefit, improvement, education and advantage of the inhabitants of the Ecclesiastical Parish of Painswick' (which includes the villages of Sheepscombe, Edge and Cranham). It was to be for everyone, regardless of 'race, religion, sect or creed'. The Institute (or 'Stute) comprised a large hall for concerts and plays, a billiards room and library, and a rifle range, which is now the Skittle Alley.
The Centre has been at the heart of the village for well over 100 years. During the Second World War it became a community canteen run by volunteers, and it has been the focal point of important celebrations since it was built, from Coronation parties to VE day to the Queen's Golden Jubilee.
Over the years many different clubs and societies have used the Centre as their base. The Working Men's Club called it home for over 90 years; in 1912 the Painswick Bowling Club was established at the green which was built by Mrs Williams a short while after the Centre was opened, and the club still play there today. The Painswick Players started putting on plays in the Beacon Hall in 1926 and continued for seven decades, and the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen held their renowned annual summer exhibition at the Centre between 1933 and 2013, as well as hosting a permanent gallery here in the 1990s.
In 2010 Art Couture Painswick (ACP) was established, an arts venture encouraging all ages to create wearable art, showcased in an annual festival around the village. The Centre provided an important hub for ACP, where they hosted workshops, opened a gallery and shop, curated cutting edge exhibitions and displayed the creative works of the body artists during the festivals.
In more recent years the Centre has put on cinema evenings with Wick-Flix, pop-up fish and chip nights, music gigs and art exhibitions, as well as remaining a multi-use space for the community, with rooms hosting sports clubs, societies, fitness classes, arts classes and workshops, talks and lectures... It remains a space for the community by the community, still true to Sarah Frances Williams' wishes.