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Tanworth in Arden Village Hall History
Molly Barratt has lived in the village all her life. Using her skills as an archivist she has written the following history of Tanworth village hall from its foundation in 1927 to 1968. Mrs Barratt has donated this to the Village Hall and has agreed to allow it to be displayed on the Village Hall Website.
TANWORTH VILLAGE HALL: THE EARLY YEARS
THE OPENING IN 1927 & EARLIER HISTORY
Our Village Hall was built for Mr Andrew G Hoseason in 1927 and given by him ‘to the people of Tanworth for all time’ in memory of his wife, Mrs Eliza Hoseason. Portraits of the donor and his wife still hang on the wall of the main room of the Hall, and there is an inscription recording his gift above the door of what was originally the main entrance to the building facing Bates Lane. These origins are well known therefore to most if not all of the regular users of the Hall. But there is a lot more to be learnt about its building and management, and about its donor and its contribution to the social life of the village. Such information comes mainly from our splendid collection of parish magazines. These are almost complete from 1906 except for the period January 1941 to August 1953 when in all 84 numbers are missing mainly for the period of the Second World War Only four numbers are missing before that period and seven after that. I have only read these magazines from cover to cover for the period 1906 to 1953, and my account here of the uses to which the Hall has been put covers only its first 25 years, although a few subjects are continued into the next 50 years; these continuations are mainly based on information derived from the Village Hall committee’s first minute book of 1927 to 1985.
The Hall was formally declared open on Saturday, 29 October 1927, by Mrs Crawford (daughter of Lord Moncrieff, vicar of Tanworth from 1885 until his death in 1913). The occasion is reported at great length in the Stratford Herald of 4 November 1927 under the heading ‘Opening of a beautiful building’. This ‘beautiful building’ is described there as:
‘Elizabethan in style, the side of the building is half-timbered, and presents a charming appearance … The main room is a delightfully spacious hall, lofty, of good shape, pleasingly decorated, and adaptable to many purposes. At one end is a portable stage, and, leading, from the hall, are a cloak-room and a kitchen, all of which are equipped with every modern convenience.’
The architect employed by Mr Hoseason was one Mr George Bernard Cox FRIBA. He was present at the opening and said ‘he felt in realising Mr Hose son’s idea of a memorial to his late wife he had no ordinary task. He hoped that the result was in harmony with the charming village.’ Mr Hoseason then thanked not only the architect but also the local builder, George Woodcock, who had carried out the architect’s plans, and Thomas Barratt, who had ‘executed the plumbing work’. Mr Hoseason had given the site and the building, but many or perhaps all of the fittings and equipment had been given by other parishioners. The items selected from ‘a long list of contributors’ for mention by the Stratford Herald begin with £100 given by the late Lady Moncrieff (she had died on 23 November of the previous year) ‘to be expended on the stage’, and include a piano, 150 chairs, tables, ‘lighting plant’ and fittings, china, teaspoons, a clock and a visitors’ book’.
An unnamed speaker at the opening referred to the occasion as a red-letter day in the history of Tanworth. ‘Heretofore this extensive village of more or less thriving institutions has had but one place wherein to stage plays and hold dances, whist drives and meetings – the village school.’ The school at that date was just the brick building of 1875 close to the road comprising three classrooms for ‘infants, juniors and seniors’ as we knew them in my Tanworth school days of 1928-34.
PARISH MAGAZINE SCHOOL EVENTS 1906 – 1922
The first 20 years of the magazines contain numerous accounts of events held at the school which must have filled the largest room there to over capacity. In only the second surviving number (February 1906) there is a long account of the annual tea party and dance held at the school on 2 January from 2pm to 7pm by the Hon Mrs Moncrieff, the vicar’s wife, for the Sunday School children, over 80 in number, 13 members of Miss Gladys Moncrieff’s Girls Club, and the young ladies of the choir, to which mothers of the children and ‘many of the neighbours’ were also invited, making a total of about 130 guests. Dancing was kept up vigorously the whole time except when the children’s tea took place. Only a week before that the ‘9th Annual Soiree of the Tanworth-in-Arden choir’ had been held there, an event at which there were about 90 present, with dancing which was kept up till 3am. There were over 100 present at a whist drive held he the school on 4 December 1914 which raised £7.15.6 for the Ben Ian Refugees Fund, and about 140 present at a similar whist drive held in October 1918 for St Dunstan’s Hostel for Blinded Soldiers which raised £18. A social committee formed at the beginning of the first World War mainly apparently to raise funds to send ‘comforts’ to all the men from the parish serving in the forces held annual concerts in the school I December from 1914 to 1918 at least. Most of the entertainment was usually provided by one Mr George Worrall rather than from within the village. At the concert of 14 December 1917 Mr Worrall’s ‘Pierrot Troupe gave a ‘very excellent evening’s entertainment’ to an audience ‘which gelled the Schools to overflowing’.
At the previous year’s concert 6th December 1916 there was ‘a crowded audience’.
It would seem, however, that it was not until after the war, with the revival of more social activities, and the setting up of new organisations, that the need for some better venue for Public entertainment really began to be recognised. A new Girls Club of which Mrs Wilson, the vicar’s wife, was President was begun in October 1919 for girls aged 14 and upwards. That autumn they had sewing meetings making garments to be sent to the Birmingham Medical Mission, a dancing class in the school on alternate Fridays in November and December, and on New Year’s Eve they held a well attended Fancy Dress Dance. By February 1920 they were rehearsing for ‘an Easter entertainment’. The magazine for that month goes on: ‘The chief difficulty at present is to find a convenient meeting place, and the Club is using every opportunity to hasten the erection of the sorely needed Public Hall’. The Girls Club sewing meetings were actually held in ‘Mrs Summer’s tea room although their dancing and concerts took place in the school like almost everything else. Mrs Ann H Summers appears in trade directories from 1904 to 1932 as a ‘refurbishment contractor’. She was the wife of Alfred Summers, millwright, and her tea room was in the house now known as The Old House. (The Summers family had begun as blacksmiths there in the 1810’s, extending their work premises to the whole area now occupied by Tanworth Garage when their principal business became millwrighting. In January 1925 the magazine reported` that there was now a small contingent of Boy Scouts meeting au Mrs Summer’s Room on Monday evenings, but the March number warned that ‘if the movement grows as we sincerely trust it will, then we shall have to try and find more extensive quarters. (After the Village Hall was built the Girls Club continued to hold their sewing meetings in the Tea Room. Mrs Ursula Garfield (nee Kitching) has lived in Tanworth all her life, and she was member of the Club sewing there in the early 1930’s.)
1922 Women’s Institute
A Tanworth branch of the Women’s Institute was founded in the autumn 1922, and by the end of 1923 already had 133 members having met 44 times that year. The magazine of Janua92 1924 reported that at recent exhibitions of handicrafts held at Hampton-in-Arden and Warwick the Tanworth members won 18 awards at the former and the latter 16 certificates and 2 special prizes. At Warwick 6,000 articles were on show from 58 institutes’ and ‘it is gratifying to know Tanworth-in-Arden were twelfth on the list of awards in their first year’s exhibition’. But, the report concludes, ‘It is a matter of regret that they have not a more suitable room in which to hold their meetings and handicrafts classes’.
MR & MRS HOSEASON – THE HALL’S BENEFACTORS
Mr and, until her death in 1916, Mrs Hoseason will have been very well aware of this need. At the time of his death in December 1945 at the age of 93 Mr Hoseason was managing director of Absolom, Crocker & Co, tea merchants, and he had worked for them for nearly 77 years, still transacting some official business until four weeks before his death. He lived in Birmingham for more than half of that working life but moved to Tanworth in 1908 when he built the house now known as Shenstone off Bates Lane in place of his weekend bungalow there. Until his death he always gave his address just as ‘The Bungalow’, rather an understatement for that 11 acre property. The death of Mrs Hoseason on 17 September 1916 at the age of 59 was said to have caused a large blank in our village life. If anything was to be done for the benefit of the parish she was ever ready to lend a generous and helping hand. In August 1913 she had promised to take the place of Lady Moncrieff (who left the vicarage after her husband’s death that year) as secretary for the Tanworth branch of the Midland Counties Needlework Guild which organised the making of garments to be distributed to ‘many deserving charities’. In November 1914 members of the Needlework Guild were entertained to tea at the Bungalow by Mrs Hoseason to inspect the 112 garments sent by Tanworth members that year. In the summer of 1914 a Nursing Association to secure the services of a ‘cottage nurse’ was formed, and Mrs Hoseason was immediately made treasurer of the organisation. She had to collect annual subscriptions ranging from 2/- a year from cottagers to 5/- from tradesmen and small farmers and ‘about 10/- from others’; and we ply payments of those amounts when the nurse was engaged to nurse a pat in in a subscriber’s home.
Mr Hoseason’s first memorial to his wife was the stained glass window in the north aisle of the church dedicated on 28 March 1918. It is easy to see why the provision of a public hall was felt to be such a fitting further memorial to Mrs Hoseason and why designing it for that purpose was described by the architect as ‘no ordinary task’. It seems very unlikely that Mr Hoseason had decided on the project by at least 1924. That year he bought from Earl Amherst, one of the largest landowners in Tanworth parish, Cank Farm, a property of nearly 35 acres, and 11.5 acres known at that time as ‘Vicarage land’ though not part of the vicarage glebe. This latter property comprised three fields extending from the vicarage along the north side of Bates Lane as far as what has since become the Muntz Institute and included the house now know as The Whale’s Jawbone. He paid £2,600 for these two properties conveyed in him on 24 September 1924.
As part of the opening ceremony Mr Hoseason handed the deeds of the Hall to Mrs Crawford who gave them to the vicar, Dr Robert W Wilson. Dr Wilson ‘in expressing the thanks of the village’ said that the title deeds handed to him ‘conveyed the property and the appurtenances the (whatever that meant!) to the people of Tanworth for all time’. Those title deeds which should have included the conveyance to Mr Hoseason of 1924, or a copy of it, appear to have been lost, and the present custodians of the Village Hall cite as their original title to it a trust deed dated 1 December 1927, that is a month after the opening ceremony. By that deed Mr Hoseason conveyed the site of 1,165 square yards taken from the ‘Vicarage land’ ‘together with the Hall and buildings erected thereon and now known or intended to be known as “The Tanworth-in-Arden Village Hall”’ to four named trustees The deed directed that the management and control of the Trust should be vested in a committee of persons elected as directed there, and it specified that any new trustees should be appointed by Mr Hoseason during his life, and after his death by the surviving trustees or the personal representatives of the last surviving trustee. The original trustees were Mr Hoseason himself, the vicar Dr Wilson, Captain Douglas Gerald Muntz of Umberslade and Dr Frederick Sanger of Far Leys, the village ‘physician and surgeon’. The Hall was to be ‘for the use of persons resident in the village and parish of Tanworth-in-Arden, and within such exenterate (if any) outside the said village and parish as the said committee shall from time to time determine, and [for the use of persons who] shall be sober and industrious and of good character but without regard to their political or religious opinion’. A limitation on the use of the Hall of which everyone was aware for many years was clause 3 of the deed stating that ‘No intoxicating drink shall be sold or consumed on the said premises, and if a breach of this condition be made the premises shall be closed from the time of such breech for the period of six months, and the persons or person offending shall be permanently excluded from the premises’. Much less publicised are presumably easier to comply with was the next clause ‘No betting or gambling shall be permitted to take place on the premises.’
FIRST COMMITTEE MEETING
The deed states that the first committee of management shall be nominated by Mr Hoseason, but that had already happened before the opening ceremony. It was announced there that the first chairman of the committee was to be Mr Cyril Owen, described as a great friend of Mr Hoseason’s, then living at Wood End. He was still chairman in June 1943 but had moved to Greenacres, Lapworth, by 1932, and had died before the next recorded committee meeting which was not until 3 May 1945. Mr Bertram Hoult, who had lived at Ladbrook Park since at least 1928 when he first came to Tanworth, succeeded Mr Owen as chairman in 1945. He had moved away from Tanworth briefly during the war but was back living at The Beechy by 1945. He remained chairman until his death in July 1952, and then he was succeeded by the vicar, the Rev Dudley W Lee. Canon Lee also continued as chairman until his death in January 1964. Mr Percy Hickin, a younger son of Mr Tom and Mrs Fanny (of whom more below) Hickin of Ox stalls Farm was the first secretary of the committee and served until he was ‘serving with His Majesty’s forces’ at the AGM of 27 April 1940. At that meeting Mr T A Barratt agreed to combine the offices of treasurer (which he had held since 1930) and secretary ‘for the time being’. Percy Hickin was briefly back as secretary at a meeting of 12 October 1946 but was succeeded by Henry Chattaway at the next AGM of 1 February 1947. Mr Chattaway served until the AGM of October 1964.
WOMEN’S INSTITUTE FUND RAISNIG 1927
Mr Hoseason had given the building and furnishings, fittings and other equipment had been provided, but a regular income for maintenance of the building and for payments such as a caretakers wages and insurance was needed immediately. The Women’s Institute appears to have been very active in fund raising for the Hall from its first conception. On 18 December 1925 they held a concert and provided all the performers (unlike the wartime concerts mentioned above). This was said to be a great success, a record number of 150 tickets for reserved seats being sold be on the day. (That surely must have again filled the school ‘to overflowing’ as did the Christmas concert of 10 years earlier). The proceeds amounting to about were to be used in aid of the Village Hall. The first accounts of the Hall covering the 14 months from its opening until 31 December 1928 show a total income of £322.9.0 of which £131.19.7 came from ‘Women’s Institute Fund’ and a separate £13.14.0 just ‘per Women’s Institute’.
One suspects that Mrs Fanny Hickin who had lived in the village since 1903 was very much involved in that Women’s Institute fund raising. When she died in 1959 at the age of 93 an obituary in the Stratford Herald of 12 June described her as ‘a founder member of the Women’s Institute, a member of the Parochial Church Council, and a prime-mover in the provision of Tanworth Village Hall’. She was an original member of the Hall committee and was still attending committee meetings in 1954 (at the age of 88). It was she who first suggested to the committee in 1928 that a sale of work be held in aid of Hall funds, and she organised such sales in the spring or summer for twenty-two years from 1928 to 1950. The sales of 1929 and 1930 were followed by a concert in the evening, and the last ones of 1948 and 1949 were followed by a dance, events organised by others, but in most of the intervening years the sale often described as ‘a sale of work and rummage’, seems to have been the only event of that day. The last one of 1949 was described as ‘Mrs Hickin’s Rummage Sale &c’. The sale of June 1936 was ‘as usual a great success’ and that of June 1942 brought in £40.2.8 for Hall funds, ‘a larger sum than usual’. The last reference in the magazines to Mrs Hickin’s fund raising efforts was not for the Hall, but to a whist drive she organised on 1st June 1951 (when she would have been 85) to finish paying the costs of work on the village green. The green had been presented to the village in 1949 by Flowers Brewery who had always owned it as part of the Inn property, and the Parish Council had then tidied it up and returfed it at a considerable cost.
Another important source of income for the Village Hall committee was of course the hire of the Hall which was most often for social events. At their first meeting of 4 November 1927 the committee fixed fees for this at £1 for its use from 7pm – 11pm and 2/6 for every additional hour; anyone from outside the parish was to pay 50% extra. At that same meeting Mr and Mrs Fred Goode were appointed as the first caretakers at a salary of £20 per annum. (Fred Goode was Mr Hoseason’s gardener and lived conveniently near in the village at the house now known as Oak Cottage). It was not until June 1959 that there was any reference to putting up hiring fees in the committee’s minutes, but a wider range of slightly higher rates must have been introduced before then. At that meeting the charge for hiring the Hall for ‘Whist Drives, Concerts etc) was increased from 30/- to 45/- and the cost of hiring the large room for meetings was increased from £1 to 30/- and the small room for meetings was increased from 5/- to 10/-; and the cost of hiring for weddings became £3.
USING THE HALL FROM 1928-1933
The Hall was very quickly put into use for a variety of organised entertainments, concerts, dances, whist drives and ‘socials’ (a mixture of sketches, musical performances, games and dancing). From 1928 and throughout the 30’s there was probably more laid on for everyone’s amusement in Tanworth, especially in the winter, than in any other decade of the 20th century. The Hall committee appointed an Entertainment [sub]committee at their second meeting of 15 November 1927 and agreed there to engage the ‘Old Regalians Musical Comedy Co’ to provide a concert on 26 November (just four weeks after the opening) at a fee of four guineas, the price of admission to be 2/6, 2/- and 1/-. They also at that meeting approved applications from Mrs Crawford for the hire of the Hall for a concert to follow a fortnight later on 9 December, and from Mr F Davies, the school headmaster, for a children’s concert on 16 December and a children’s Christmas party on 22 December. The magazine of January 1928 confirms that all these events successfully took place. A large audience, ‘the Hall being practically full, thoroughly enjoyed the delectable variety menu’ of the Regalians, ‘hailing from King’s Heath’. The Hon. Mrs Crawford’s concert ‘was provided by local talent’ and comprised sketches and songs performed to ‘a full house and an appreciative audience’. The school children just another week later carried out ‘a very good programme consisting of carols, a play called ‘The Land of Nursery Rhyme’ and a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which ‘reflected great credit on Mr and Mrs Davies and their colleagues, and on all the performers’.
At a meeting of 10 May 1929 the entertainment committee approved the formation of a Dramatic Society which should have use of the Hall free of charge for rehearsals provided that profits are paid over the Hall. The October 1929 magazine stated that that Society had at last come into being; members were to pay minimum annual subscription of of 1/- to the Secretary, the new headmaster, Mr Ward, who was evidently the principal organiser. Various people would be invited to read plays, with the idea of selecting the most suitable for production. In fact the Society never apparently got as far as a production; there are no later references to it in the magazine and Mr Ward resigned from the Village Hall committee at its next AGM of 12 February 1930. He left Tanworth School for Brailes at Easter 1934 and in his last years here he was involved in the activities of the church’s social committee rather than those in the aid of the Village Hall.
1929 seems to have been the last year in which help from professional entertainers was needed to put on concerts. The October 1929 magazine announced that through the kind offices of the Hall committee ‘Chairman, Mr Owen, a Mr William Squires had promised to pay a visit on 11 October for the start of ‘the concert season’, but there was to be ‘a strong supporting programme by local ladies and gentlemen’. After the event Mr Owen’s contributor was described as ‘Mr Graham Squires of “Aerbut Pearks” fame’. Throughout the 1930’s the principal organiser of concerts and Christmas pantomimes (which began in February 1931) was Miss Hoseason who was also a popular performer at those events. Miss Hoseason came from Ireland in 1924 to live with and care for her uncle, Mr Hoseason, and was adopted by him. Her mother was the sister of Mrs Hoseason who had married into the Donaghy family of Co Larne. In Tanworth she was known at first popularly as Miss Donaghy or just Miss Don, and more officially as Miss Hoseason-Donaghy, but later just as Miss Hoseason. She returned to Ireland after Mr Hoseason’s death at the end of 1945, but continued to receive the Tanworth parish magazine there until she died in 1997. Mrs Hickin’s annual sale of work of 13 Jun 1929 was followed in the evening by a ‘local concert’ and the first reference to Miss Hoseason-Donaghy in the magazines is to that evening when she contributed three charming songs, and was encored’. At the concert of 11 October mentioned above ‘Miss Hoseason-Donaghy, always a warm favourite, delighted the audience with her Irish songs’. She was brought on to the Village Hall committee at the AGM of 1930 at which Mr Ward resigned and on their behalf she was soon ‘compiling a suitable programme’ for a concert to follow Mrs Hickin’s annual sale of work of 7 May 1931. At a committee meeting of 18 September ‘31 ‘the question of the arrangements and compilation of the programme for the concert to be held on 2 October was discussed and the matter was left in the hands of Miss Hoseason-Donaghy’. At the next committee meeting of 3 October that year what was already being referred to as ‘the annual Christmas Pantomime’ was discussed and the production of that was left in the hands of Miss Hoseason-Dlxaghy and Miss Collins with a small sub-committee. By Christmas 1934 at least the pantomimes were being organised by Miss Hoseason and Miss Wakelin (of Wakeley Cottage), and they were continued until 1938 always producing at least a little income for the Hall.
Not all the concerts were in aid of Hall funds; the magazine of January 1933 under the heading ‘The concerts for the hospitals in Birmingham referred to two concerts arranged so well by Miss Hoseason-Donaghy which had raised £52. 6s a splendid result! and then prints a letter of thanks to Mr Hoseason from The Taylor Memorial Home of Rest for a cheque of £35 raised by a concert held on 8 December 193(D (During the interval at that concert Mr Cyril Owen on behalf of the Hal committee presented Mr Hoseason with an easy chair on the occasion of his 80th birthday ‘and voiced the feelings which were in the minds of all of gratitude to him for his generosity to the parish during many years’). The Stratford Herald obituary mentions that Mr Hoseason took a particular interest in the Taylor Memorial Home of Sparkhill, Birmingham for cancer research, and not only subscribed himself but solicited donations for its upkeep. Each year he organised a concert in the village to raise money for the funds. No doubt it was Miss Hoseason who was organising the performances at those concerts. A concert of 29 October 1937 was described as the 7th annual concert for the Taylor Home. After the next concert of 28 October 1938 (which was ‘splendidly supported and most enjoyable’) Mr Hoseason received a letter from the Honorary Secretary of the Home in which she said, ‘Thank you very much for the cheque for £50. This brings the amount raised at Tanworth during the last eight years to £340. I think it is a wonderful amount to have been raised by such a small village’.
Whist drives and dances, either together or separately, were soon much more frequent events in the Hall than concerts and pantomimes, but the first whist drive and dance mentioned in the magazine did not take place until 13 January 1928, nearly two months after the first concert. This event was organised by the Girls Club for their own funds and, as so often, the magazine reports that ‘a very enjoyable evening was spent’.
At their meeting of 29″March 1928 the entertainment committee approved an application by Mr E Jones to hire the Hall for his weekly dance through the month of April, and at a meeting of 27 April a similar application by Mr Jones for Saturday evenings in May was granted. On 20th December 1928 a Christmas party for the school children could be held in the Hall ‘thanks to generous donations, and the proceeds of a Whist Drive and Dance kindly organised by Mr E Johns. Mrs Ursula Garfield tells me that this Mr E Jones will have been Ernest Jones, the eldest of three brothers living in a cottage at Trapps Green. He and his younger brothers, Harry and Charlie Jones, were all very keen dancers and they also all took a very active part in cricket which was being played on the Bell Field at that time.
It would seem that the weekly dances had begun before April 1928 and they evidently continued for some time. At a committee meeting of 18 September 1929 there was what appears to have been a general application by Mr Johns for the hire of the Hall on Saturday evenings indefinitely for the weekly dance, and his application was granted subject to one month’s invoicing in advance. They did not go on much longer, though, for at a meeting 1stFebruary 1930 the committee decided to hold a series of whist drives in support of the Hall funds in place of ‘the former Saturday evening dances’. At a meeting of May 1930 the Secretary was already reporting a profit of £25.14.6 from Saturday evening whist drives ‘this being mainly due to the whole of the prizes being given’. These were evidently held fortnightly and had added £56.6s.6d to Hall funds by February 1931. By the AGM of February 1932 however there was complaint of lack of support of the Saturday evening whist drives which had caused a decline of £34 in the income received from this source in 1931. Saturday evening dances reappear later in 1932. A committee meeting of 16 June 1932 ‘opened with a discussion on the Saturday evening dances run by Messrs Jones and Mr Brumbill , Mr A G Hoseason relating his interview with the local constable. This seems to refer to some kind of undesirable behaviour at tea dances as it caused the committee to resolve ‘that the Hall be closed for Saturday evening dances and only be let when the proceeds were to be devoted to public profit’. They then, though, went on to resolve that during the coming winter a whist drive and dance for the benefit of the Hall be held on concurrent Saturday evenings throughout the season, admission to the dances being by ticket’, and ‘to be run by the entertainment committee. This decision was repeated at the next meeting on 17 September and that ‘concurment’ meant whist drives and dances on alternate Saturdays is confirmed by the statement that the first of the series was to be a dance on 1 October. The price of admission was to be 1/- for the dances, and the secretary was instructed to proceed with the printing of tickets for those immediately. In October 1933 the committee were told that the White Heather Orchestra upon being approached and agreed to attend dances at a reduced price of £1.5s.0d and so it was agreed the dances be held that season on alternate Saturday evenings as previously.
There are no references in the magazines or the Hall Committee’s minutes to regular whist drives or dances later in the 1930’s, but I think my grandmother (Mrs Sarah Saunders) who died suddenly in December 1937 was very often going to whist drives, which she very much enjoyed, later than 1932. Certainly there are also whist drives and dances held on special occasions, or in aid of other good causes, throughout the 1930’s. Mr Hoseason annually entertained current and past members of the Women’s Institute to tea in the Village Hall followed a whist drive in October (the month of the original opening of the Hall).
In 1932 this was referred to as his ‘Annual Party’ suggesting that that was not its first year, and it continued until at least 1935.
The church fetes in aid of church funds which were begun by Canon Lee in 1931, his first full year here as vicar, finished with a dance in the evening each year from 1932 to 1934, with a concert in 1936, with both a concert and a dance in 1938, and back to just a dance in 1939. There were no fetes in 1935 or 1937 because there were elaborate celebrations for the Jubilee of King George V and the Coronation of George VI in those years just at the time of year at which the fete was usually held.
A rather different type of dance to the weekly or fortnightly events described above was first introduced in 1931 in aid of Hall funds. This was first referred to as an Invitation Dance or a Subscription Dance but later as a Select Dance. One reason that it was ‘select’ was no doubt that the price of admission by ticket for the first of these held on 27 November 1931 was fixed at 5/- for a single ticket and 9/- for a double, to include refreshments (compared with the 1/- charged for fortnightly dances). The principal organisers were at first Mr Edwin Hunt, junior, and throughout the l930’s Mr Hoult who usually acted as MC. In 1935 this was referred to at a Hall committee meeting as the Annual Dance to be held on 15 March that year, but in 1936 there were at least two such dances held in March and November, and by the winter of 1938-39 the proposed dates were 4 November, 6 January and 17 February. The first of these was to be in aid of the Church Tower Fund but the other two were for Hall funds as usual. My two chief childhood memories of the Village Hall in the 1930’s are of performing in one at least of Miss Hoseason’s pantomimes as a fairy, and of watching from the back bedroom window of the Corner Cottage (now known as Corner House) well dressed ticket holders arriving for ‘Mr Hoult’s dances’ where my sisters and I were so interested in the long dresses. (Ursula Garfield tells me, though, that she always wore a long dress to any dance in the Village Hall before the war, even to one following a whist drive). The other excitement of Mr Hoult’s dances was that at the end of the interval our father, who was always there helping, would bring us any of the Henley Tudor Dairy ice cream which was left over from the free refreshments.
By 1931 at least the church has a social committee which was contributing to the public entertainments available at the Hall. The first social evening they organised was held in October 1931 and it was ‘an unqualified success’ with about 80 present including a large number of the younger members of the Church. The vicar explained, though, in the magazine of September 1932 that these socials were intended for church people and their friends, and were not to be regarded merely as an ‘extra dance’ each month at a cheaper cost. They continued during the winter months until the start of Lent for two more years, but in October 1935 the church was considering whether it was generally desired to have the monthly socials that winter as last year they had not been well attended. However another was eventually arranged for 13 January 1936 and that was so well attended and enjoyed by the 60 odd people who came that another was immediately arranged for 25 February when a programme of games and dances would be carried out with some competitions. There are no further references to socials being held in the magazine and it seems that the church no longer had a social committee by 1938. In his letter of August that year the vicar wrote, ‘I hope we can arrange to have again some kind of socials which used to be so popular when first started in 1931. To run them successfully I do need some help from those willing to share in the organising of them. I shall be very glad if any will offer.’ Evidently this appeal was not successful; sufficient help was not forthcoming.
In the winter of 1931-2 when the socials began there had also been at least two debates organised for the social committee by the schoolmaster, Mr Ward. At the first of these on 17 February 1932 about 40 people met in the Hall to debate ‘that the missionary work of the Church was worthy of the support of all Christian people’ and decided in favour of the motion with 21 in favour and 7 against (quite a number having to leave before voting took place). At a similar occasion on 16 March that year it was decided that ‘Free Education was not a mistake’ after a ‘very interesting debate’. There were similar debates during the next winter, beginning with one held on 22 November 1932 when the subject (according to the magazine) ‘was difficult and unusual: “That our Lord was a Socialist”. The debate was in every way conducted reverently … The motion was carried by a considerable majority’. The next debate on 17 January 1933 was probably conducted less reverently – the subject was that ‘Woman and not Man is the ruler of the World’, and that motion was carried by 28 votes to 6. Debates continued to be held monthly until April that year but these two years’ programmes appear to have been all we had of such debates. The magazine of December 1934 announced that one had been arranged for 14 January 1935 on the subject ‘That the League of Nations is justified in using military force to maintain peace’; Mr Theodore Sanger would lead the opposers of the motion, but proposers had still to be found. They evidently never were found as there is no report that that debate did take place, and no reports of any later ones.
KING GEORGE V JUBILEE 1935
The biggest events held in the Hall in the 1930’s, in which the whole community was fully involved, were the celebrations of the silver jubilee of King George V on 6 May 1935 and the coronation of George VI on 12 May 1937. Mr Tertius Burman as chairman of the Parish Council called a parish meeting to be held in the Hall on 11 March 1935 to make plans for the Jubilee, and a committee chaired by Captain Muntz was appointed both to organise the day’s events and to raise money to pay for it all. Mr Hoult was made both treasurer and principal organiser of the whole programme with Mrs Hickin in charge of catering arrangements, Mr Benson, the school headmaster, responsible for sports for children and adults to be held at the Muntz Institute Field in the afternoon, and Mr George Woodcock the organiser of a bonfire in the Institute Field in the evening. Canon Lee writing in the magazine of June 1935 wished that ‘an abler pen than his could be called upon to record impressions of the local celebrations of the Jubilee and to do justice to the enthusiasm shown locally’. The day began with a church service which followed the form of service being held in St Paul’s Cathedral at the same time, for which the church was filled to overflowing with extra seats having to be brought in. Between 12.30 and 2.30 pm more than 360 sat down to a free luncheon at ‘gaily decorated tables’ in the Hall prepared by Mrs Hickin and her band of helpers. In the course of the recent building work on the Hall a photograph was found of those tables laid for that lunch, and one wonders how many sittings they needed. The 360, though, perhaps included the children; the details of the arrangements given in the May magazine did say that children would be supplied with food in bags. In the afternoon there was ‘a well arranged sports programme’. Lady Bowater of Brackenfield, Pool Head Lane, presented prizes to the winners there, and told of her visit to London with her late husband, Sir William Bowater, when they were present in St Paul’s at the coronation of George V. The children’s tea then took place in the Hall, and there each child was given a Jubilee medal as a souvenir of the occasion provided by Captain Fray of Aspley House. Then came tea for adults and, it was said, nearly 500 people in all were given tea. Messrs Dunnett & Co arranged a ‘wireless receiving set’ in the Hall so that the King’s speech at 8 pm could be heard there. By that time the Jubilee Dance was beginning; that went on until midnight but with a break at 10 pm to see the bonfire, and fireworks provided by Mr George Perry, at the Muntz Institute.
The Village Hall committee do not seem to have been directly involved in any of this; their minutes merely record a resolution ‘that the Hall be placed at the disposal of the Parish for Jubilee Day free of charge’, although with second thoughts that a charge of 10/- be made to cover the cost of ‘lighting, etc’ for the dance in the evening. The magazine account concludes: ‘None of us will ever forget the day which surely was one of the happiest in the long history of the parish’. The Jubilee committee had appealed to everyone for money to be sent to Mr Hoult to ensure the success of the proposed plans, and two lists of subscribers to the Jubilee Celebration Fund were published by Mr Hoult, the first in the May 1935 magazine and the second on a loose sheet circulated with the June magazine. These lists are striking evidence of the involvement of the whole community. Altogether 165 subscribers are named and a further 4 occur just as ‘anonymous’ contributing a total of £119.8.8. Captain Muntz headed the first list with £5; there are only 5 others contributing between £2 and £3.3.0., one of them anonymous; all the rest are contributions of £1.1.0. or less including 37 giving a shilling and 22 (including one anonymous) giving less than a shilling. The fund had also received £7.3.7. profit from a dance held on 12 April, and £3.7.8. from other miscellanea making a total of £130.19.11. The second list finishes with a list of 24 names of persons who also ‘kindly gave provisions etc’. This helps to explain how at the end of that day there was a balance in hand in the fund.
A Jubilee Committee meeting of 3 July heard that the Parish Council had accepted the care of the portion of the village green on which the War Memorial stood. At Mr Hoult’s suggestion they decided that some of the balance in the fund should be used to enclose the ‘Memorial Green’ with posts and chains, and also the plant a privet hedge round the memorial itself. Later, at a suitable time, two trees were to be planted as permanent memorials of the Jubilee, one at the Village Hall if approved and the other on the Muntz Institute field. The November magazine reported that the improvements to the Memorial Green were now in course of construction, and that copper beech Jubilee trees were to be planted at the Muntz grounds and the Village Hall by Captain Muntz and Mr Hoseason on 11 November, after a short service at the War Memorial. It had been noted from the newspapers that November 11 was the day on which it had been arranged in many places to plant Jubilee memorial trees. The December magazine reported that the trees were duly planted as planned on Armistice Day, and that ‘Mr Hoseason sent a telegram to His Majesty the King, informing him of the ceremony and a reply was received late in the evening’. The privet hedge is still there, but not either of the copper beech trees; we only know the fate of the one at the Village Hall. A Hall AGM of 18 February 1975 was told that ‘the copper beech and evergreen trees at the side of the Hall fronting Bates Lane were, due to growth, becoming too close together and in danger of dying’. The next AGM of 17 February 1976 were told advice from Stratford Council had been sought and they had recommended that the copper beech should be removed to allow more room for growth of the evergreen trees, and this work had been carried out. One wonders if everyone had forgotten that the 40 year old copper beech was intended to be a ‘permanent’ memorial of George V’s jubilee when that action was taken.
CORONATION 12th MAY 1937
The coronation festivities of 12 May 1937 were very similar to those of the Jubilee of 1935. A first meeting was held on 4 November 1936 when the discussion was of plans for the coronation of Edward VIII ‘still some months ahead’. Just over a month later, on 11 December, Edward VIII abdicated and became the Duke of Windsor, but those plans continued without direct mention of the fact that they were now the coronation of George VI. The meeting of 4 November had re-elected all the members and officers of the Jubilee committee. The magazine of March 1937 published a proposed programme of events for the day, and said that an appeal for funds was being made by Mr Hoult, again the treasurer, ‘and it is hoped, the response will be generous as in 1935’. There were two additions mentioned; members of the Women’s Institute had ‘kindly made themselves responsible for the decorations of the village, and they will thus carry out a work that was not attempted in 1935’ and ‘if funds allow, and the necessary equipment can be secured’ the church will be floodlit. The magazine of May 1937 reported that the fund for the festivities had ‘mounted up’ but was ‘still a good deal short of the amount given for the Jubilee’. There had however been a ‘most generous offer’ from Mr Leonard Gibbs (of Broad Lane) to bear the full cost of floodlighting the church and war memorial
12 May 1937 again began with a church service at 11.30am ‘splendidly attended’. Lunch was then served in the Village Hall and in all about 400 guests were provided for. Sports on the Recreation Field arranged by Mr Benson followed and occupied the time till nearly 6pm when the children’s tea was held in the Hall. At that tea coronation mugs were used which the children afterwards took away in memory of the day. The children were also given Coronation medals, provided again by Major (as he was now known) and Mrs Fray. After the children’s tea the adults ‘were provided for’; the organisers lost count of the number of people who had tea but it ran into hundreds again. A large group of the Women’s Institute helpers on this day were photographed centred round Mr Hoseason outside the original main entrance to the Hall probably around teatime (several of them are wearing the same brightly patterned aprons, presumably provided for the occasion). Mrs Amy Millman (nee Bradburn), the youngest Institute member in the photograph, has one of these photographs; the WI themselves have another in their own records showing nearly the same group, but not including Miss Hoseason who in Mrs Millman’s photograph is in the centre with her uncle. For the dance in the evening the Hall was packed with people, ‘many standing at the back, eight or nine deep’. The King’s speech was listened to by all those who were in the Hall at the time, broadcasting arrangements for it again being made by Messrs Dunnett Bros. A very successful bonfire was again provided by Mr Woodcock, and fireworks by Mr George Perry. Someone, almost certainly the vicar, wrote in the June magazine: ‘A united village made the day happy and successful. When all pull together the result is bound to be a happy one and we hope we shall always do that in Tanworth’. Again there was a surplus in the fund at the end of the day, but perhaps less than in 1935, and this time committee decided to allocate one third of this to Village Hall funds and two thirds to an Organ Repairs Fund then recently begun.
VILLAGE HALL EXTENSION
At a committee meeting of 5 April 1935 Mr Edwin Hunt mentioned ‘the inconvenience of the Hall with regard to the service of refreshments’ and suggested that an extension be made in the form of a refreshment room. The matter was ‘left in abeyance’ until the AGM of 12 March 1937 when it was decided that such a room should be erected and Mr Woodcock be asked for a plan and specification and estimate. At a committee meeting of 12 April 1937 (only a month later) Mr Hoult submitted a plan for a wooden erection on brick or concrete pillars 22 feet by 12 feet, and a specification and estimate from Mr Woodcock and Son for this, for an additional entrance thereto from kitchen with lobby, and for an additional entrance from Bates Lane to the present entrance. These three estimates of £60.10.0., £7.10.0. and £13.5.0. were accepted; it was agreed Messrs Woodcock and Son should also be asked to quote for the provision of adequate lighting over this additional entrance, and Mr Hoult and Mr T A Barratt be empowered to purchase a suitable lamp ‘according to their own discretion’.
A committee meeting of 20 August 1937 was told of difficulties arising with the County Surveyor and Architect concerning the extension and of additional cost to be incurred for timbers and roof covering but it was already known that it would be formally opened on 20 October that year, the 10th anniversary of the original opening. At that meeting it was decided that Mr Hoseason should be invited to be present and that an enlarged photograph of him be hung in the Hall and presented to him that evening. At first it was agreed that there should be a whist drive and dance at that opening celebration, but the October magazine announced that the 7th Annual Concert for the Taylor Memorial Home arranged by Mr and Miss Hoseason would take place that evening. The ‘New Dressing Room’ would be opened by Mr Hoseason, probably at the interval during the concert. The December magazine reports that in the interval of the concert Miss Hoseason declared the new room open in the absence through illness of Mr Hoseason. The portrait which still hangs in the Hall was presented to the Hall committee by Mr Hoult and Mrs Hickin as their chairman, Mr Owen, was also unable to be present. Miss Hoseason thanked everyone concerned for the gift which, she said, would give Mr Hoseason so very much pleasure. Mr Hoult and Mrs Hickin spoke of the regard all had for the donor of the Hall and wished him a speedy recovery. The report concluded: ‘The new room will be a great convenience to those who use the Hall for small meetings and also as a dressing room when plays and concerts are given. And, as we said last month, the new entrance gate and porch are pleasing and useful additions also’. This extension had been paid for entirely out of current income; the Hall AGM of 8 March 1938 heard that at the end of 1937 there was a balance in hand of £107.17.5. ‘which was considered highly satisfactory after taking into consideration the outlay of £123.15.5. on the cost of the new Refreshment Room’.
MUNTZ PLAYING FIELD
Another notable event in the life of the village in the 1930’s was the creation of the Muntz playing field, or recreation ground as it was often called at first, and the building of the Muntz Institute. On 14 October 1933 Captain Muntz opened the Institute and Playing Field which he had ‘so generously provided for the use of parishioners’ as a memorial to his late parents, Mr and Mrs Frederick Ernest Muntz, and his late brothers. The new Institute comprised rooms to be ‘set aside for boys’ and men’s clubs; a room for the girls if required, and kitchen; changing rooms with facilities for washing after games’ and ‘it was also meant to serve as a pavilion for those who play games on the field’. Mr Muntz said it was his intention to furnish the rooms and to present a ping-pong table for the use of the young people; and Miss Muntz had promised to add a billiard room to the building in the near future. A management committee for the Institute had been formed by at least September 1932 and it was to be financed partly by the subscriptions of those who used the facilities who were at first referred to as ‘members’ of the Institute. The subscription was to be 4/- a year for adults and 2/- for juniors under 18 years of age. The committee hoped also to enrol many honorary members for subscriptions of 10/6 a year ‘or more’. The account of the opening concludes: ‘We feel Tanworth is very fortunate in now having facilities for social activities as good as any village in England, for the advantages of the Village Hall are now supplemented by advantages for the clubs and games of the young people so well provided by the New Institute’. By the end of 1933 the Institute was more ready for use. On 16 December between 70 and 80 visitors were given ‘a cheery welcome’ there by Captain and Mrs Muntz and the management committee with ‘blazing open fires and quite brilliant electric lighting’, the whole evening ‘a successful and happy send-off to the newest village venture’. The ‘members’ were congratulated on becoming ‘the virtual possessors of a handsome suite of furnished rooms, attached to a four acre playing field, at a cost to the users of about a penny a week’.
While the village now had these additional ‘facilities for social activities’ and much more to offer young people, there were now two buildings needing funding, and needing persons willing to serve on their committees and care for their upkeep. Very soon such persons are found working for both halls. The magazine of February 1934 reported that two whist drives and dances organised by ‘Messrs Barratt and Hickin’ (who were at that date the treasurer and secretary of the Village Hall) had been held in the Hall in December 1933 and January 1934 in aid of the Muntz Institute, and had raised £12.12.4 for it. A magazine obituary of Mr Hoult who died in July 1952 says ‘He will chiefly be remembered for his interest in and work for the Muntz Institute and Playing Field and the Village Hall’. Much of his work for the Hall in the 1930’s had been recorded here, and he was chairman of its committee from 1945 until his death. The obituary before mentioning these services says that ‘he acted as hon. Treasurer of the Institute for a number of years and did much to help its survival in the difficult years of the war and afterwards’. The financing and upkeep of the Institute was soon presenting problems which cannot be followed here.
There was evidently a reduction in the number of social functions held at the Hall during the war, but because of the big gaps in our collection of parish magazines from 1941 to 1953 mentioned above we do not have so detailed a picture of life here during those years as we have for the 1930’s. The Village Hall minute book shows that their committee were meeting less often. AGM’s were held annually in the early spring from 1929 to 1940 but then not again until 1 February 1947. The committee started with two meetings in November 1927 and four in 1928 in addition to the AGM, but thereafter it was either 2 or 3 a year until 1937; there was just one meeting in October 1938, then no more till two in 1941, in February and October; then again none in 1942 or 1944 and just one each year in 1943 and 1945 to 1947. Only in 1948 are we back to a regular either 2 or 3 meetings a year in addition to the AGM. At the AGM of 27 April 1940 Mr Hoult reported that ‘owing to the difficulties of catering and the uncertainty of air raids it would not be possible to run the Select Dances’. It was evidently expected at first that the Hall would be used as a wartime extra schoolroom for evacuees, but at that meeting of April 1940 it was reported that the Birmingham Education Committee had decided not to use the Hall as a schoolroom owing to a large number of the evacuated children having returned to Birmingham.
The first reference to a wartime dance in the few magazines we have is to a ‘Young People’s Dance’ held on 10 July 1942 which was ‘very well patronised and successful’. The May 1944 magazine announced both a whist drive and dance to be held on 12 May in aid of ‘our local Comforts Fund for those serving in the Forces’ and a dance arranged by the Youth Organisation for the following week, 19 May, in aid of HMS Verity Comforts Fund. Similarly there is just one reference to a whist drive in 1942, in the November number, ‘Mrs Watson’s Whist Drive for the Red Cross’ which raised £13 and was presumably held in the Hall, and then no others until no less than three more are mentioned occurring close together very soon after the end of the war. The December 1945 magazine reports a Forces Comforts whist drive arranged by Mrs Baylis Burman at the Hall on 9 November which was a great success, a sum of £56.1.0. being raised; and says Mrs Burman has offered to arrange another whist drive in January to help church funds. The same magazine announces that a Youth Club whist drive will be held in the Hall on 14 December for Youth Club funds, tickets 2/- each.
The one function which would seem to have been a regular monthly occurrence from at least 1942 until 1946 in summer as well as winter is meetings of a ‘Discussion Group’. Like the debates of 1932-33 these were, at least at first, organised for the church, and it was always weighty matters which were being discussed. They are mentioned in nearly every one of the magazines we have for those years. The first meeting mentioned is one of 1 July 1942 addressed by Mr Usborne who spoke on ‘the Social System and especially in relation to after war conditions’. Many took part in the discussion which followed. At the next meeting on 12 August Mr Hocken of Danzey would speak on ‘The place of religion in our individual and national life’. On 14 October 1942 one Mr Lawes read a paper on ‘Science and human progress’ which ‘was very interesting and informative and a good discussion followed in which many took part’. At the next meeting on 18 November Mr W S A Taylor would speak on ‘Whither Mankind’. In February 1943 Mr Fletcher spoke to a large meeting on the Beveridge Report. ‘Many took part in an excellent discussion. A resolution was passed in favour of the Report and sent to our Member of Parliament, Sir John Mellor’. On 10 November Mr Trevor David was to speak on ‘The Electrical Age’, and on 19 September Mr Harold Shore gave a paper on ‘The Conditions of Peace’. It is evident from the last reference to this Group that the meetings had been organised by Mr Tipler of Ashcroft, Vicarage Hill. The May 1946 magazine said there would be no meeting that month ‘but it is very much hoped that Mr Tipler’s health will improve so that he is able once more to organise the meetings for us and preside. He is greatly missed when as lately he has had to be absent’. That appears, however, to have been the end of the Discussion Group’s meetings.
In the last years of the war and the first post-war years there was a Youth Club (called a Youth Organisation in the first magazine reference to it of May 1944). They organised at least a few dances and whist drives in the Hall but their regular meetings were at the Muntz Institute. At first, when they largely organised themselves, several of those most involved (including myself until I left home in September 1945) were ‘youths’ in their early twenties rather than their teens. In the magazine of September 1950 the vicar in commenting on the school having to say farewell to Basil Hicks, who had taught there for a year, adds that ‘the Youth Club also has lost his keen leadership’. By then the average age of members was several years less than it was when the Club started. In that same magazine of September 1950 Canon Lee wrote ‘The Youth Club which was so flourishing some time ago seems to have once again closed down for lack of leadership’. Again in the magazine of August 1953 he wrote ‘It would be splendid if someone could be found to revive the Youth Club. What is lacking here is organisations for the boys and girls. I also wish we could revive the Girl Guides, as well as organise a Boys Club. What we seem to lack so much are leaders.
The other new organisation which survived for much longer and which regularly made use of both buildings was a dramatic society as it was first called, very soon, by at least 1949, to be known as the Tanworth Players. The first reference in the magazines we have for 1942-52 is a statement in a magazine of October 1948 that the Dramatic Society was hoping to present a play in November which would not interfere with plans for a nativity play to be given in church around Christmas time. There are however no references to this in the November and December 1948 magazines. That may have been the play ‘Wasn’t it Odd’ which was eventually performed in the Hall on 19 and 20 March. The next surviving magazine of May 1949 gives an enthusiastic account of that and congratulates the promoters and all those responsible, adding: ‘A very poor account of the play found its way into one of our local weekly papers (not the “Herald”) with which we can only express our disagreement’. It is evident from that account that this was not the Dramatic Society’s first production; the magazine reports that ‘the company showed a good deal of improvement in this production, and we are sure will improve further, especially as they will have the help of classes this summer’. In the summer of 1950 there was to be a further chance for the Players to improve their skills. A course of ten ‘lectures in Speech Training, Stage Movement and Gesture’ was to be held in the school on Monday evenings beginning on 8 May, the fee for the course being 5/-. In March 1952 the players were being congratulated on their recent success at the Birmingham and District Drama League competition in early February in which they were placed second with the play ‘The Black Sheep’. The acting of Mrs Roland Taylor (of Wayside) was mentioned by the adjudicator as being the outstanding individual performance of the Festival. The Players performed of course in the Hall, but they often met and planned their programmes and held their first rehearsals in the Muntz Institute.
The Hall committee, at a meeting of 7 December 1955, were told that a letter had been received from the Players’ secretary suggesting certain alterations to the stage, and permission was given to them to make the alterations at their own expense. Whether they did do something at that date is not clear, but evidently they had more ambitious plans for the stage by 1958. Mr Robert Bristow representing the Players outlined to the committee at a meeting held on 18 February 1958 a scheme the Players had in mind ‘re alterations to front of stage’. The committee inspected the plans and after some discussion agreed to pay for these alterations. Mr Bristow promised to give an estimate and report. It would appear that the cost was eventually shared; at their next meeting of 23 April 1958 the committee decided that a sum of £20 be granted ‘towards the cost of the proposed alteration’. But at a committee meeting of 14 January 1959 ‘owing to the financial position of the Hall’ Mr Bristow representing the Players thought that they would waive the £20 at their next meeting; nevertheless the next Hall committee meeting of 17 June 1959 agreed that the £20 promised at a previous meeting be paid.
SCHOOL MEALS 1940s
A quite different use for the Hall which began during the war and continued for nearly thirty years was the provision there of school meals. A committee meeting of 8 February 1941 heard that Warwickshire Education Committee had applied to use part of the Hall for this purpose. The Hall committee agreed to allow the use of the ‘dressing room’ added to the Hall in 1937 for £30 a year on condition the Education Committee installed ‘such apparatus as necessary’ and paid for all electricity consumed. A draft agreement was only considered on 25 October that year, but the Hall committee did then authorise their treasurer to sign it on their behalf subject to some amendments, including the insertion of a clause ‘to keep children under control and not to play on turf’.
For most of the 1940’s the meals were cooked on the premises. At the AGM of 1 February 1947 the attention of the committee was ‘drawn to the inconvenience caused by the hiring of the Hall for the schoolchildren’s meals in view of the preparation and cooking, and it was suggested that a letter be sent to the Education Committee asking that, if possible, alternative accommodation be obtained, failing which an increased rental be charged equal to a total amount of £52 per annum’. Arrangements, however, evidently continued unchanged for two more school years. On 21 July 1949 Mrs Gwen David, as headmistress, was invited to an extraordinary meeting of the Hall committee which included two school managers, the vicar and Mr Tom Barratt. Mrs David ‘briefly outlined the desire for the use of the large room for school dinners stating this was more convenient’. It was first proposed that the large room be available on a monthly basis the committee having power to cancel at any time should a complaint arise, but this was amended by a proposal that the school managers should ‘inform the Warwick authorities that school dinners be brought to the Hall cooked, a suitable floor covering be provided by them and an increase of £25 rental per year’. Warwick evidently agreed to do this, and from then until the late 1960’s cooked meals were always delivered to the Hall. For the next three winters, though, the children ate them in a large cold room. At a meeting held on 8 August 1952 a letter received from the County Education Officer was read asking if the Hall could be heated for school meals. The committee agreed that permission should be granted for the heating of the Hall on condition the Education Committee supply the necessary fuel as the present allocation now supplied to the Hall would not guarantee daily heating’s. For a long time an orderly file of children walking from the school to the Hall could be seen every weekday in term time at midday. At an AGM of 16 October 1968 it was suggested that the floor of the main Hall needed sanding, but that was left on the table for the time being as there was every likelihood of the Hall being vacated by the school for meals in the near future. It was soon after that that hot meals began to be delivered direct to the school and served there. Quite soon, though, the use of the Hall on weekday mornings was tied up again. An AGM of 14 November 1971 was told that a booking had been confirmed for the use of the Hall, mornings only, by a Play School. This was to be a regular booking for three terms a year.
CORONATION OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II
The most memorable event for which the Hall was used in the early post-war years was the celebration of the present Queen’s coronation on 2 June 1953. The arrangements were similar to those of the Jubilee and Coronation of 1935 and 1937. The day again began with church services but these had to be much earlier than in 1935 and 1937. There was a celebration of Holy Communion at 7.30am at which there were 30 communicants followed by ‘a very well attended’ short service of prayer and thanksgiving at 9.15am. Then, the central event of the day, the ‘large number’ of parishioners who did not yet have their own television sets watched the procession to Westminster Abbey and the service in the Abbey from 10.15am to 2pm on television provided in the Hall by Mr Dunnett (who had provided just wireless in 1935 and 1937 on which the evening speeches of the Queen’s grandfather and father had been heard in the Hall). There was a procession of children in fancy dress from the school to the Muntz Institute in the afternoon, followed by children’s sports, and a bonfire in the evening, there, as in 1937. There was ‘a grand tea’ for all the children of the parish in the Hall, with coronation mugs given to all those who attended. At 6.30pm there was a supper for all old-age pensioners provided by the Women’s Institute in the Hall, and those unable to be present were given the meal in their own homes. About 50 sat down to that meal which, even if more elaborate, was perhaps easier to provide than the lunches served to more than 360 in 1935 and to about 400 in 1937. The day finished with a dance in the Hall for which the music was again provided by Mr Dunnett. The Tanworth Players had provided ‘splendid decorations’ at the Hall, and they performed a ‘Pageant of History’ written by one of their members, Mrs Robert Bolton, on the following Friday and Saturday evenings, 5 and 6 June, which was ‘a great success’.
2 June was an exceptionally cold day for that time of year and there was some rain, but the magazine reports that ‘in spite of these handicaps the day was a very happy day locally and we feel sure will long be remembered by those who took part’. We have in the parish records a photograph given by the Revd John H Jones which he called ‘The Coronation Feast’ showing tables laid for the pensioners’ supper and loaded with food, and also showing the Tanworth Players’ ‘splendid decorations’. The funds to pay for these celebrations had again been collected by an appeal to all residents. The March 1953 magazine said that at least £200 would be needed, and collectors would call from house to house ‘to invite subscriptions’. Mr Leslie Seccombe of The Grange acted as treasurer of the fund which finally amounted to £260. At the end of the day there was a balance in hand of approximately £75. This was given towards the cost of installing Birmingham water into the Alms Houses and the provision of sinks and ‘indoor sanitation’ there. The September 1953 magazine reported that that work would be completed by the time that magazine was in readers’ hands, and called the contribution from the Coronation festivities ‘a substantial gift’.
Although this account of the uses to which the Hall was put in its early years will not be continued any further, by way of epilogue the account of its management will be continued into the 1960’s for a better understanding of its present position. At a committee meeting of 8 August 1952 it was pointed out that the vicar, still the Revd D W Lee (who had just become chairman of the committee on the death of Mr Hoult) was the only surviving trustee of the Hall. That had already been the situation for five years ever since Captain Muntz died on 30 July 1947. Mr Hoseason himself had died on 27 December 1945, and Doctor Sanger in May 1937. The committee felt that the number should be made up to the original four, but ‘as this needed careful consideration it was decided to leave this for the time being’. That ‘time being’ was more than another year. At a meeting of 9 December 1953 the vicar said he had ‘interviewed’ Messrs Leslie Seccombe, C L Chatwin (a solicitor, of Browns Green) and J A Garland (of Thurlestone, Vicarage Hill) ‘with regard to their being trustees’ and ‘these gentlemen said that they would be pleased to accept this office’. Usually at least one of these three, and often two, attended committee meetings from then onwards; and Mr Chatwin and Mr Garland played leading parts in the lengthy business of obtaining a new scheme of management for the Hall.
At a meeting of 21 March 1956 the committee were told that a letter had been received from the Parish Council requesting them to consider the possibility of allowing ‘intoxicating drink’ at weddings and such functions held in the Hall. The committee felt they could not grant this concession which was forbidden by clause 3 of their original trust deed. At their next meeting of 13 June they heard that the Parish Council were still querying this ruling and Mr Chatwin (a trustee and a solicitor) promised to have a word with Mr Lodder (the well known Henley solicitor) and to obtain the Hall deeds from the Bank and make copies of the same. At the next meeting of 19 September 1956 Mr Chatwin informed the committee that he had made a copy of the deeds and stated that to have any of the rules of the Hall altered would mean contacting the Charity Commissioners in London. The committee felt that Miss Hoseason should be contacted to see if she had any objection to any alteration, ‘especially as there seemed some desire for allowing intoxicating drink in the Hall for weddings, etc’. At the next meeting of 29 November the chairman said he had received a letter from Miss Hoseason in which she stated she had no objection to alteration of the deeds ‘if this was to benefit the village’. The committee were also told however that at a recent meeting of the Parish Council a letter had been sent to them by the Charity Commissioners referring to clause 3 of the Charitable Trust Deed. After a lengthy discussion the secretary was instructed to write to the Parish Council ‘to the effect that the trustees and committee of the Village Hall protest most strongly [about] the impertinent interference of the Parish Council in Village Hall functions’. The secretary wrote this letter promptly on 6 December, and at the next Hall committee meeting of 25 March 1957 read a letter dated 14 December which he had received in reply. ‘The Parish Council denied having sent a letter to the Charity Commissioners regarding the allowing of intoxicating drink in the Village Hall’. After more discussion the committee felt that they had been misinformed and agreed another letter be sent to the Parish Council ‘expressing regret at being so misinformed’. At that meeting they also decided that ‘having sought the advice of two solicitors no further action should be taken with reference to alteration of the Hall deeds’.
This subject then appears to have been dropped for more than three years. There were no more committee meetings in 1957, but another eight were held between 18 February 1958 and 10 February 1960 at none of which was there any mention, at least in the minutes, of the Hall deeds (the reference is always to ‘deeds’ although it was in fact just one trust deed which was being considered). At a meeting of 1 June however ‘the committee discussed at some length the future of the Hall’ and it was proposed that Mr Garland (the only trustee present apart from the vicar acting as chairman) ‘consult the other trustees regarding the inquiry of the deeds re weddings, etc’. At the next meeting of 18 October Mr Garland was absent because he was ill but he had written to the secretary informing him that the ‘matter of the trust deed inquiry into the alteration of the consuming of alcohol in the Hall was still being pursued but [he] had not heard of anything definite’. Mr Garland had died before the next committee meeting of 27 February 1961. Mr Chatwin spoke at some length there explaining the procedure necessary to obtain an alteration to the deed, and the matter was left in his hands to do as he thought fit with the committee giving him their full support. Mr Chatwin was not at the next committee meeting of 17 October, but Canon Lee had received a letter from him ‘about the alteration of deeds regarding the consuming of alcohol in the Hall’; and the matter was still receiving his attention. He was again not at the next committee meeting of 10 July 1962 but Canon Lee had again received information from him as a result of which the committee resolved that the ‘deeds’ should ‘be amended to include the model deed laid down for village halls’ and the Hall should be vested ‘in the Official Custodian for Charities instead of local trustees as formerly’.
There was no further committee meeting until 29 May 1963 but by then the new scheme of management ‘made by the Minister of Education under section 18 of the Charities Act 1960’ had evidently been drawn up, though it was not sealed until 2 September 1963; that is, seven years after Mr Chatwin had first investigated the possibility of change. The minutes of that meeting merely stated that Mr Seccombe (acting as chairman in the absence of the vicar) ‘briefly read out a copy of the charity trust deed of the hall’. At the next committee meeting of 29 January 1964 Mr Seccombe was again acting as chairman, Canon Lee having resigned as vicar at the end of 1963 and to everyone’s great sorrow and dismay died on 9 January 1964. Mr Seccombe said he had been in contact with Mr Chatwin and called for a public meeting to be held in the Hall on 26 February. There must have been considerable interest for approximately 50 members of the public were present at that ‘First Public Meeting of the Village Hall’. It would seem that, at least to most people, the whole point of the new scheme was that the ban on the consumption of alcohol, especially at wedding receptions, was now to be lifted. Mr Chatwin giving an ‘explanation’ of the new trust deed at that meeting listed first (according to the secretary writing the minutes) ‘that alcohol could now be consumed in the Hall at Weddings etc’. There was of course no such positive statement in the new scheme; it merely superseded the original trust deed of 1927 which contained the troublesome clause 3 forbidding alcohol, and now gave a new committee of management appointed by new rules authority to ‘make and alter rules and regulations for the conduct of their business … in particular with reference to … the terms and conditions upon which the Village Hall may be used …’. The new committee of management was to consist of five members to be elected each year at an Annual General Meeting, ‘representative’ members to be nominated by each of the main village organisations, and two further members to be co-opted by the committee. Eight persons were proposed there for the five elected places on the committee, and so there was an election, more evidence of public interest. The scheme laid down that an Annual General Meeting should be held in September each year, or as soon as practicable thereafter, and so what was called ‘the second AGM of the Village Hall’ was held on 21 October 1964 attended by about 30 members of the public; they elected Mr Harold Shore as chairman and re-elected the committee appointed at the ‘First Public Meeting’ of February en bloc for another twelve months.
MERGING OF MANAGEMENT COMMITTEES
At the next AGM held on 20 October 1965 Mr Shore read correspondence he had received from Mr Chatwin concerning the possibility of the Village Hall and the Muntz Institute ‘being under one management committee under one constitution’. After some lengthy discussion it was proposed that at least 12 months ‘should elapse before any decision [was] taken in this direction’, but Mr Shore promised that the two committees would meet and go into the matter. The next AGM of 19 October 1966, at which there were again 30 members of the public present, was called ‘The Fourth Annual General Meeting of the Village Hall and Muntz Recreation Trust’. They were told that the committees of the two Halls had held four meetings during the year ‘which had proved satisfactory’. A proposal there that the two halls be amalgamated under one trust deed was carried by 17 votes to 6. The next AGM of both institutions held on 16 October 1967, with again approximately 30 members of the public present, were told, however, that Mr Shore had corresponded with Messrs Wragge, solicitors, ‘with a view to this amalgamation’ but Messrs Wragge did not advise this for the time being.
There do not seem to have been any further attempts to provide another new constitution amalgamating the management of the two Halls in a single trust although they have always since 1966 held a joint AGM. The first committee meeting of the year was always called an Annual General Meeting from 1928 to 1948 although there was never any suggestion of the public being invited to attend. Thereafter all meetings to 1963 are just called committee meetings although the first meeting of the year continued to have a report from the treasurer on the previous year’s accounts as did the AGM’s of 1928-48. The last committee meeting recorded in the Hall’s first minute book is the one of 29 May 1963 referred to above which made arrangements for the new scheme of management to be ‘explained’ and a new committee to be appointed under that scheme at the ‘First Public Meeting’ of the Hall. Thereafter the minute book records only AGM’s, just of the Village Hall in 1964 and 1965, and then jointly for the two Halls from 1966 to 1985. The second to ninth meetings of 1964 to 1971 were held in October or November but the tenth was not held until 9 January 1973, and all the later meetings recorded in this minute book from the 11th in 1974 to the 22nd in 1985 were held at the beginning of the year, between January and March. To 1974 these were described as meetings of ‘the Village Hall and Muntz Recreation Trust’ but from the 12th meeting of 18 February 1975 they became known as meetings of ‘the Muntz Institute and Village Hall Trusts’. This change of title was probably accidental and does not seem to indicate any change in the respective amounts of attention given to the affairs of the two institutions. The minute book records in addition to these annual meetings just two other public meetings 24 January 1968 and 1 July 1969 both concerned with building work needed ‘to bring the Hall more into line with modern requirements’ and the fund raising that involved. The brief minutes give very little information about that work however, and it is not being investigated here, though the costs involved will no doubt be of interest to all those involved in the present fund raising for more work. The second public meeting of 1969 was told that planning permission had been obtained and that the Department of Education had offered a grant of £3,740 towards an estimate expenditure of £7,790 subject to certain (unspecified) conditions, and that meeting resolved the scheme should be ‘proceeded with’.
The 7th AGM of 22 October 1969 ‘suggested’ that the work should start in the early spring of 1970, some £1,500 still being needed. The AGM of 7 November 1971 was given a figure of cost ‘to date’ (which must have been very near to a final figure) of £8,576. This included a payment of £947 to Jim Snell, an architect living in the village; all the building work of 1970-71 was, as in 1935, carried out by Messrs Woodcock and Son. This was of course the last major work done on the Hall before the very recent re-roofing and other renovations. On the 29th of October this year we shall be able to celebrate 75 years of care of this ‘beautiful building’ given ‘to the people of Tanworth for all time’.