WESTON-SUB-EDGE VILLAGE HALL HISTORY
We start this story in 1930 when, in many respects, Weston had more facilities than those available today. In addition to the Seagrave Arms and Church, residents had the benefit of a Post Office and store (at what is now known as Popfosters) and located opposite the church, the village primary school. On the Evesham road, there was the railway station, with resident Station Master and staff of one Porter/Signalman.
At the turn of the century, a cobbler operated from one of the cottages in The Row, and the village blacksmith traded from what is now aptly named Forge House, located next to the wood-yard. It is possible that these men were still trading in 1930 - the village midwife was certainly practising as she didn’t retire until 1934.
One of the most notable differences would have been the lesser number of dwellings. For example, a traveller coming into the village from Aston on the Stratford Road, would have first encountered ‘Latimers’ on the right, followed by the Seagrave Arms on the left. Similarly, going up Church Street, the first house to be reached would have been The Manor, followed by Manor Farm and then nothing on either side of the road until the Post Office (Popfosters).
Opposite the Post Office was located the Reading Room. Built on a parcel of land provided by Lord Harrowby, it served for many years as a place for meetings and a centre for discussion of village affairs. However this building was sold in 1926 and it seems likely that this prompted a search for an alternative venue for village activities.
The Vicar at that time was Canon Grice Hutchinson, who lived in some style in the Old Rectory, now known as Canonbourne. Coming to Weston in 1924, he would have held a position of some standing in the community. As such it is not surprising that Miss Katherine McCulloch, then living at the Manor, asked him to handle her offer to the village of some land and buildings, all for use as a village hall.
In those pre-internet days, news of this offer would presumably have been conveyed by word of mouth. Perhaps the Reverend enjoyed a pint at the Seagrave Arms. Maybe he announced it from the pulpit during one of his sermons. In any event, a public meeting was held in the school on Thursday 24th April 1930, to decide upon the way forward.
Next month we will follow the development of the Hall from 1930 to 1939 and World War Two.
Published in ‘The Messenger’ June 2019
WESTON-SUB-EDGE VILLAGE HALL HISTORY
PART TWO – 1930 to 1939
We pick up the story this month with the public meeting held in the school on Thursday 24th April 1930 to consider the generous offer from Miss Katherine McCulloch to donate some land and buildings for use as a village hall, following the loss of the Reading Room. There are no recorded details of what needed to be done, but converting farm buildings could not have been a straightforward task. However, Miss McCulloch came prepared with architects drawings showing how she saw the buildings being developed and her gift was gratefully accepted.
Established as a registered Charity under the terms of a Trust Deed dated 29th December 1930, development and management of the Hall was put in the hands of a Committee of dedicated villagers, who set about raising the necessary funds. The WSE branch of the British Legion handed over the proceeds of £166.15.2 from their ‘village hall fund’, a fete was held in the grounds of the Rectory that raised a further £84.13.2, and the Carnegie Trust made a donation of £80. This was topped up by an interest free loan of £120 obtained from the National Council of Social Services (NCSS) and Lloyds Bank in Evesham were persuaded to grant a £200 overdraft.
It is apparent that good progress was made on the upgrading work, as at the Committee meeting in April 1931, the employment of a caretaker was recorded to cope with the regular use of the Hall. Thereafter a stage was constructed at the far end of the hall (where the bar is now located) and by the time ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ was performed in 1937, there is also reference to curtains and stage lighting.
Tragically, Miss McCulloch did not live to see this production as she passed away on 19th December 1936. By then her wish that the hall be known as the ‘Hall of Friendship’ had been recognised,
With dark clouds gathering over Europe, the 9th AGM on 25th January 1939 saw the hall in regular use by affiliated organisations that extended to the Parish Council, Parochial Church Council, Mothers Union, Women’s Institute, Wolf Cubs, Girl Guides and the Brownies. Other lettings for the previous year included twenty whist drives, four concerts, and two weddings. The finances were in sound order with the loan from the NCSS having been fully repaid by 1935, and the bank overdraft reduced to a mere £5.0s.0d.
Next month we will discover how the Hall was affected by World War 2.
Published in ‘The Messenger ’July 2019
WESTON-SUB-EDGE VILLAGE HALL HISTORY
PART THREE - THE WAR YEARS
The start of 1939 saw the ‘Hall of Friendship’ in regular use by the various village organisations. Routine matters continued to occupy the attention of the committee: the draughtiness of the hall, the inadequacy of the heating system, and the general condition of the various structures. At least balancing the books had become less of a worry as a summer fete had raised a sum in excess of £60, leaving the accounts with a credit balance of £29.8.9d.
The declaration of War on 3rd September 1939 had minimal initial impact on the Hall, other than the erection of a notice advising, ‘All who enter the Hall are requested to bring their gas masks’. It was also agreed to allow free use of the Hall for ARP activities, but for some reason, normal charges were to apply to Gas Lectures. Fire buckets and sand were purchased and the ‘small dressing room’ (wherever that was ) was to remain as a First Aid post for the duration of hostilities.
However, everything changed on 25th October 1939, when the Hall and associated buildings were requisitioned by the Military for use as a canteen and recreation room. Use of the Hall by the village ceased but the committee continued to keep an eye on the building, with concern soon expressed about the condition of the floor. On the plus side, the military sought approval to carry out some extensions to an outbuilding, a decision apparently associated with the use of the Guide Room as a canteen run by the YMCA.
At the committee meeting in the Rectory on 21st November 1941 much indignation is recorded at the loss of some curtains and the hall piano, which had been ‘borrowed’ and moved to the nearby aerodrome. Construction of ‘RAF Honeybourne’ began in early 1940, and in addition to the main runways and hangers (some of which still exist) there were a number of remote sites, including the WAAF communal facilities and sleeping quarters on the site of what is now Dovers View. Established as an Operational Training Unit, the airfield quickly built up and by 1944 had a strength of some 2,250 RAF and WAAF personnel.
In addition to the Hall, the Seagrave Arms was a popular watering hole, as was ‘Smokey Joe’s – a small hut set in the rear garden of what is now Endon House, where airmen (and women!) could buy a cup of tea (in a jam jar) and toast with dripping or jam, all for a few pence.
Next month, we look at the post war years.
Published in ‘The Messenger’ September 2019
WESTON-SUB-EDGE VILLAGE HALL HISTORY
PART FOUR – THE POST WAR YEARS
It took some time for the Hall and outbuildings to be fully derequisitioned and it wasn’t until May 1946 that they were handed back to the village. The ‘very satisfactory’ sum of £145.16.00 was negotiated with the Army Claims Officer as compensation for the damage and wear and tear since 1939. In addition, the piano and curtains had been recovered from the airfield, although the curtains required cleaning and £16 had to be spent on repairing and re-tuning the piano.
The following years saw the Hall in regular use, but with increased concern being shown over the condition of the main building. The detached Guide Room seems to have become an attraction to the youth of the area, for what is recorded as ‘unofficial social activities’.
During the latter months of 1961, Committee meetings were enlivened by discussions into the possibility of constructing a swimming pool in the orchard. Although supported by what was claimed to be a ‘substantial body of village opinion’, it was soon realised that even if the capital cost could be met, there was then the on-going responsibility of maintenance and a full time attendant during opening hours, not to mention the likely limitation of use due to inclement weather. All those in favour were invited to form a ‘swimming club’ and present detailed and fully costed proposals. Needless to say, the idea fell by the wayside.
By 1965, the condition of the main stone built hall had become urgent, and its replacement with a new ‘social centre’ was proposed, but received with mixed views. Following protracted debate, often described as far from friendly, it was eventually agreed to sell a parcel of land fronting the Evesham Road for the construction of two houses. This produced a net return of £1,816 but still just a fraction of the potential cost of the new building.
Using the funds then secured, Messrs Pyments, Builders from Chipping Campden, were engaged to deal with the sagging roof and bulging stone walls to the Hall, whilst further design work and fund raising took place. However by the time the scheme had been settled upon and the necessary approvals secured, the grants previously offered by the Local Authority and Department of Education and Science had been reduced as a result of financial pressure (what’s new?)
Nevertheless, J Sutton, builders from Badsey started work on 10 May 1969. Somehow the village managed to raise a total of approximately £12,000 for the new extension and adaptions to the old hall. The opening ceremony took place on Saturday 21st March 1970.
Next month - Discovery of buried treasure.
Published in ‘The Messenger’ October 2019
WESTON-SUB-EDGE VILLAGE HALL HISTORY
PART FIVE – BURIED TREASURE
Following the opening of the Hall extension, there was some debate as to what to do with the old stone building. On 20 April 1970 it was finally agreed it could be taken over by the newly formed Friendship Club, who promptly set about refurbishing the building, including removing the former stage and replacing it with a bar. However there remained the problem of toilets which were now located at the far end of the New Hall.
To resolve this and to further enhance the facilities, in October 1979 the Friendship Club tabled a proposal to install a first floor in the old building to provide a games room and additional toilets. The Club clarified that this was effectively a ‘donation’ to the Hall, with the estimated cost of some £20,000 being fully funded by the Club with the aid of a Brewery loan. Upon this basis, approval was granted. Tenders were sought based upon Architect’s drawings and work started on 12th July 1981.
One of the first operations was to excavate the foundations for the stanchions supporting the mid-span of the new floor. A length of lead piping, ten inches long and two and a half inches in diameter, was dug out from the pit for the central post, and initially just thrown on the spoil heap in the car park. It was only when the pipe was picked up the next day for removal that it was found to be sealed at both ends with something inside that rattled. When one end was forced open, out tumbled 307 silver and 2 gold coins. With the coins was a faded piece of parchment which declared, ‘Ye hoard is £18’, a considerable sum when buried.
The Coroner’s Inquest ruled the hoard to be ‘treasure trove’, with the finder (the builder) therefore entitled to the sale valuation of £5,926. Weston Parish, being the owner of the land and buildings, was awarded the lead container and piece of parchment. These were donated to the Corinium Museum in Cirencester who also bought the coins, where they are all on permanent display.
The date of the latest coin was 1642, the year that saw the start of the Civil War. Perhaps it was this that prompted someone to deliberately hide their wealth. The location of the pipe, buried two feet deep, and in the centre of the building, certainly suggests a hiding place relatively easy to locate, but by whom, and why did he not return? If only we knew.
Next month – Up to the present time.
Published in ‘The Messenger’ November 2019
WESTON-SUB-EDGE VILLAGE HALL HISTORY
PART SIX – UP TO THE PRESENT
Not long after the excitement of the discovery of the hoard of coins in 1981, and the disappointment at not getting any share of their value, the Hall committee were faced with a major repair of the flat felt roof to the new extension. Fund raising schemes were put into action but a source of a significant sum suddenly appeared.
After the sale of the plot of land to help fund the new extension, an additional car-park was constructed on the left hand side of the stream. For some reason (most probably related to limited funds) the surfacing didn’t go right up to the revised boundary, but left a patch of untreated ground immediately next to what had become the rear gardens of the two houses built on the sold off plot.
This area had been cultivated by the occupants of the two houses, upon the basis that they acquired no right of ownership. The two owners, with fortuitous timing, offered to buy their respective halves of what had been christened by Hall Secretary, Major Webb, as the ‘Occupied Territory’. Given that they also agreed to meet our legal costs, the Hall Council were delighted to accept, and after complying with the strict requirements of the Trust Deed, including a vote in favour at the required village meeting, the sale went ahead. Together with other funds raised for the purpose, the roof was duly re-laid; let us hope that the more modern material will have a longer life than the original.
Whilst all this had been going on, the newly formed Weston Bowls Club joined the Hall as an affiliated organisation. After a period of using the new hall for short mat bowls, they put forward a plan to convert what remained of the orchard into an outdoor bowling green. Permission was granted upon the basis that no cost would fall on the Hall itself.
It is only necessary to look at the final result to appreciate just how much effort went into removing the trees, levelling the land, shoring up the bank of the stream which runs close to the northern boundary, laying the turf and creating what is now a County standard rink.
The new Hall extension incorporated showers for the village football club. These were located between the ladies and gents toilets, but after a few years the club unfortunately disbanded. When relevant legislation came into force, the redundant showers were removed and a disabled toilet installed in their place, together with a Hall Clerks office and store. Since then, the insulation level of the hall has been improved with double glazed windows, together with a false ceiling between the exposed timber clad roof trusses.
Next month – The future.
Published in ‘The Messenger’ December 2019
WESTON-SUB-EDGE VILLAGE HALL HISTORY
PART SEVEN - THE FUTURE
Over the past six issues of the Messenger, I have tried to paint a picture of how the village hall came into being and how it has been adapted over the years to provide the facilities we enjoy today.
The events picked out are those which were landmarks in the development of the Hall, but underlying everything has been the continued enthusiasm, dedication and sheer determination of successive generations of villagers. Invariably hampered by a lack of funds, they persevered and it is easy to forget that they started with what was essentially a range of farm buildings.
Changing with the times has, and will remain, a constant challenge. In Part Six, I mentioned the replacement of the redundant showers in the hall extension with a disabled toilet. One other more subtle change has been the dropping of the name ‘Hall of Friendship.’ Although not required by the Trust Deed, this name was a specific request of the donor, Miss McCulloch, and remained in use until quite recently. So, why the change to just ‘Village Hall’?
The answer is the internet. Bookings from outside the village are a vital part of Hall income, and it became essential to ensure that should anyone ‘Google’ a village hall in this area, they would be presented with details of our hall.
So, what of the future of the village hall? Maintenance has to be top of the list for what is now a Grade II Listed building. While grant aid is sometimes available, hall bookings will never generate the necessary income, and fund raising continues to be essential. Even if you don’t use the facilities, as the current generation living in the village we all have a responsibility to keep this asset in good order and your contribution to the 100 Club is vital to this. Supporting Hall functions, such as the Rural Cinema and the Village Bar provides reliable and recurring income.
The Hall Committee is always looking for new members and anyone able to offer their services should contact the Hall Chairman, Bill Carruthers.
My primary sources have been the Hall records, together with the excellent book on the history of the village written and published by the late Doris Court. Details of Honeybourne Airfield came from ‘Angry Skies across the Vale’, written and also published by Brian Kedward.
However my plea for further information has produced a response, and next month I will be returning to the topic of the Reading Room, whose closure does not, after all, appear to have been the catalyst for the creation of the current village hall. Thereafter, I will be looking at the life and times of our generous benefactress, Miss Katherine McCulloch.
Published in ‘The Messenger’ January 2020
WESTON–SUB-EDGE VILLAGE HALL HISTORY
PART EIGHT – THE READING ROOM (AGAIN)
In response to my request for further information Mrs Rosemary Robbins has kindly provided me with details of the history of the Reading Room, or ‘Barndown’ as it is now called.
The November 1895 issue of the ‘Weston-sub-Edge Monthly’ announced that the Reading Room was:
“now open for the use of the men and working lads of the village and it is hoped that all will do their best to keep good order, and as much quiet as possible. Lads who do not go to work are not allowed to use the room. The Reading Room is also open on Sunday evenings during winter for the men’s Bible Class and it is hoped that all who can will attend.”
From this we learn that The Messenger is not the first regular village publication. The restriction which limited the use of the building to men only also reminds us of the social status of women in those days, but it is interesting to speculate that the eventual demise of the Reading Room was, in part, due to the rise of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
For whatever reason, the Reading Room eventually fell into disuse and was sold by its owner, the Earl of Harrowby, in February 1931 for the sum of £107 to Mr E Hartwell, whose family still run the timber merchants in the village. They converted the structure into its present form in April of the same year and sold it in August to Mr T E Robbins for the sum of £365.
From that time until 1966 it was used by the Robbins family as a farm workers cottage. The last tenant stayed after his retirement for 20 years until 1986 when he could no longer manage the stairs and moved into a bungalow in Mickleton. With no further requirement for use in connection with the farm, John and Rosemary Robbins decided to keep it in the family and offer it as a holiday cottage, a facility which continues to this day.
In my first article on the Village Hall, I stated that the Reading Room was sold off in 1926. I took this date from Doris Court’s book on the village, but it is now clear that the sale was a few years later in 1931. By this time Miss McCulloch had already donated the barn for use as a village hall, and perhaps this new facility speeded the demise of the Reading Room, rather than succeeding it as a village meeting place. If only we knew!
Next month I will reveal more about the life and times of Miss McCullock, the Hall’s generous benefactress.
Published in ‘The Messenger’ February 2020
WESTON-SUB-EDGE VILLAGE HALL HISTORY
PART NINE – Miss McCulloch
No history of the Village Hall would be complete without details of its benefactress, Miss Katherine McCulloch.
Her Obituary, published in The Evesham Journal on 26 December 1936, tells us that Miss McCulloch arrived in Weston-sub-Edge in 1923, and lived at The Manor until she moved to a nursing home in Stoke Bishop, Bristol, where she passed away on 19th December 1936, at the age of 62. Tribute is paid to her keen interest in local children as Governor of the village school, and as a Girl Guide District Commissioner. She is also recorded as being the ‘lady bountiful’ of the parish.
It is believed she was born in 1874 at Heidleberg, Victoria, Australia and christened Katherine Vans Agnew McCulloch. Her father, William McCulloch, was born in 1832 in Wigtonshire, Scotland. The young William emigrated in 1852 to Victoria, Australia to try his luck at the Mount Alexander goldfields. Having some success, he turned to storekeeping. After returning to Scotland in 1860, he married Catherine Vans Agnew in 1861.
The couple then returned to Australia where William set up in Victoria as a carrier, transporting huge quantities of wool to the port at Melbourne. He then jointly founded the Melbourne Omnibus Company and subsequently a paddle steamer business; the McCulloch Carrying Company became the largest of its kind in Australia. From 1870, William diversified into in property and then stud cattle, sheep and horses imported from Europe. At the same time he forged a political career that began at Melbourne City Council, culminating as Minister of Defence in Prime Minister John Turner’s first administration.
William McCulloch was a staunch member of the Australian Church, and was known as accessible, genial, warm hearted and always associated with integrity, honesty, probity and was ‘charitable to a fault’. Given this background, it is reasonable to assume that Katherine had a privileged upbringing and arrived in England with the benefit of a good education and well off, as her purchase of The Manor demonstrates. She also clearly inherited her father’s philanthropic approach and the Village Hall stands as a permanent memorial to her, in addition to her gravestone in the churchyard.
However, a number of questions are still unanswered. Her emigration to England could well have been influenced by her father, but why did Miss McCulloch settle in Weston-sub-Edge and why did she come to own the barn and surrounding plot that has become the village hall? The village obviously had some attraction to her sister, Mrs Marion Cliff, who took over The Manor. Mrs Cliff’s daughter, Miss Molly Cliff, also lived in Meon Cottage until her death.
I am indebted to my friend and ‘ace’ researcher, Dr Giselle Jakobs, for the information on the McCulloch family. Next month I will try and tidy up a few loose ends.
Published in ‘The Messenger’ March 2020
VILLAGE HALL HISTORY
PART TEN – LOOSE ENDS
The village hall Deeds confirm that the site which became the hall was, in 1903, owned by the Smith family of Saintbury. Thereafter it changed hands several times before being purchased in 1924 by one William Baker Driver of Stratton, near Cirencester. He subsequently sold to Miss McCulloch in December 1925. By now, the purchase also included ‘Vetchy Furlong’, an area of some 39 acres located just past the houses on the north side of Stratford Road.
The land and buildings that now comprise the hall were, at the time of the donation in 1930, tenanted as a ‘small holding’ by Fred Cole and his wife Lizzie, assisted by Lizzie’s father and mother, the Bowlds. Miss McCulloch was obliged to move the Coles (apparently much against their will) to another small farm, presumably located somewhere on Vetchy Furlong.
I am indebted to Dinah Tillier, Patrick Webb’s daughter, for looking back through her father’s papers for any details relating to the village hall. From these we learn that the original hall had a high stage at the far end end (where the bar is now located) and at right angles to the main building (where the kitchen and bar store are now located) was a dressing room, kitchen and ladies lavatory. When theatricals were performed, the dressing room was for ladies only, for in those days it was unheard of for both sexes to change in the same room, with men having to use the Guide room where there was also a ‘Gents’. The Guide room had been converted from an open barn situated along the rear boundary and located to the right of the stream and behind what is now the new hall extension. Further details of this structure remain elusive and if any-one can elaborate further, do please get in touch.
The old hall building was almost certainly built originally as the coach house to what is now called ‘Latimers’. The entrance for the horse-drawn coaches would have been through a doorway where the windows facing the car-park are now located. While the wall connecting the hall to ‘Latimers’ appears to verify the link between the two, Patrick’s memoirs confirm otherwise. It transpires that Captain Webb, Patrick’s father, commissioned this wall in 1931 to a design by an old naval colleague of his, who was also an Architect.
Captain Webb’s papers also explain an intriguing addendum to the Hall Deeds referring to the sale of a small parcel of land to them by Miss McCulloch in December 1927. Located on the opposite side of the stream and comprising “20 perches or thereabouts”, it was christened by the Webb family ‘beehive island’, following the installation of beehives obtained from a Mr Stanley of Honeybourne.
Published in ‘The Messenger’ April 2020