Binfield Memorial Hall (1919 - 1982)

 

Pre-history:

The Binfield Working Men's Club existed before the Memorial Hall, built on a piece of land at the corner of Terrace Road and Forest Road, forming part of the estate of Binfield Place. In 1906 the Club was leased by Robert Caswall, the owner of Binfield Place, to Rev. Hubert Seymour Arkwright Rector of Binfield,. John Jones Farmer, and William Minchin Corn Merchant, at a yearly rent of £26.12s.0d.

By March 1916 Robert Caswall was dead and his heirs Misses Edith and Dorothy Caswall were considering selling the whole estate. The current Rector, Ref. R A C Bevan organised the purchase of the Club which was conveyed in April 1918 to three trustees., Henry Wiggett of Allanbay, Captain William Luard of Binfield Manor and Captain Thomas Minchin, (The trustees later leased the Club to John Jones (Butcher) and William Minchin at a yearly rent of £10.)

The Rector raised the money for the purchase of the Club by approaching "a few parishioners" who gave £531. of which £346.14s. had been used to buy the Club premises. In January 1919 he called a parish meeting to consider the question of a suitable memorial to those inhabitants of the village who had served in the forces during the Great War. Suggestions were made for a recreation ground to be purchased but the main suggestion was the erection of a Village Hall adjacent to the Club, to be built on land (100ft. by 100ft.) which the owner, Dr G B Courtney, had offered to give for the purpose. A lady promised substantial financial help for the provision of bathrooms.

Construction:

During February 1919 a General Committee was elected with Captain Luard as Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer and Rev. Bevan as Chairman, and this is turn elected an Executive Committee to raise funds in the village and draw up plans for a hall to seat 300 with ancillary rooms and expected to cost about £2,000. The Committee also tried to obtain a captured German machine-gun to be placed in the Hall. The Committees assumed responsibility for the balance of the funds donated for purchase of the Club and three trustees of the Club were members of both Committees.

By May an architect, N T Salmon, had been chosen by competition and had submitted plans which would cost £3,300. But money given and promised to date plus the balance form the Club fund amounted to £1,320, of which £109 was to be spent on repairs to the Club. It was decided to hold a Parish Meeting followed by a house-to-house collection.

The house-to-house collection appears to have raised less than £40 and it was decided to scrap the plans and substitute the extension of the big room of the Club to form a recreation room and library. Mrs Luard hoped that any additional room might be used for the entertainment of both sexes. Mr Wiggett offered a further gift of £300 to allow the extension to be 12ft longer. The architect proposed an extension of 49ft by 19ft (seating capacity 250) with a cloakroom 12ft square and a small front porch. Four local builders were asked to tender, the lowest being £1,570.12s.8d. However it was found on enquiry that the principal of the winning firm had been a Conscientious Objector; the architect apologised for having asked the firm to tender and the contract was awarded to W Payne & Co at £1,674 (September 1919).

The hall land was conveyed in August 1919 from DR Courtney to Wiggett, Luard and Minchin - the same trustees as the Club. The original plan included a connecting door between the new hall and the Club billiard room, but it was decided during building to block this off to avoid the two buildings being treated as one for rating purposes.

There was much discussion as to the name of the hall and as to what or whom was being commemorated and it was formally agreed that the hall was "a War Memorial for those who have served and as a Thank offering for the satisfactory conclusion of hostilities," and should be known as the Memorial Hall.

In March 1920 a committee of seven was appointed for the management and letting of the hall (Secretary Mr J Jones), and it was formally opened on 26th April by Mr Wiggett (the Committee having failed to obtain the services of a General famous in the Great War) followed by a musical programme by Mrs Vlasto's Choral Class.

It was still proving difficult to raise the full amount of money required; by July 1920 a total of £2,154 had been collected of which £1,944 had been given by sixteen families, including £400 from the Wiggetts, £370 from the Luards and £380 from the Vlastos. By January 1921, £452 had been spent on the purchase and repair of the Club and £1,975 on the construction of the Hall. The original General Committee was formally dissolved in January 1923.

Between the wars:

The hall was run by a management committee, normally elected each year at a public meeting in January called by the trustees. The trustees of the Hall and Club were the same but the management was separate; Captain Luard ceased to be a trustee before 1926 and Major Maurice Simonds (of Fines Bailiwick) became the third trustee before 1934.

The hall was connected to main drainage in 1928 and it was proposed in 1926 that two dressing-rooms should be added; a building fund was started. The additions were started in 1933, at a cost of £223, together with improvements in ventilation.