Village Hall History

The History of Slip End Village Hall

Education was, by and large back in the day run by religious organisations and it would appear that children’s education was cut short when they left school aged between ten to twelve years old to start work in order to earn money to supplement the family income.

Thus, by the turn of the century there were quite a number of adults, only semi-literate and it was to these people that the Quakers turned their attention, especially in the villages. They started the “adult school movement” and took it upon themselves to “amplify”, as they put it, the educational and social life of surrounding villages, where, because of their isolation from the larger towns, people were thrown very much on their own devices and had to create their own diversions. A trip to Hadley Woods, Kings Walden or Brickett Wood by horse drawn brake was the typical `day out’.

Schools had already been set up in Markyate, Redbourn, Sundon, Leagrave, Stopsley and Dunstable by taking over any old building, factory, stables, chapel or mansion; for it was the firmly held belief that a permanent building was necessary if the social life of a community was to flourish. According to Fred (Chick) Norris, the men of the Slip End used to walk to Luton on Sunday to attend the Adult School in Church Street and thus it wasn’t long before the Quakers decided to start a ‘School’ in Slip End and in 1906 a school was started using the Primary School in Front Street for its functions. About 180 men and women joined the ‘Adult School’ and it wasn’t very long before they had made up their minds to have their own building. They were urged on, no doubt, by Mr Latchmore a director of Barclays Bank and by Mr and Mrs Brown (connected with the Timber Merchants) who, according to Mrs Nichols of the Wardown Museum, were involved in Quaker work: their names are to be found among the original Trustees on the Trust Deed.

The Village Hall is an impressive building even by today’s standards and it must have been considered `out of this world’ in such a small community. The village people must have considered themselves lucky that there were no old second hand buildings to take over, as had happened in other places. There was the `Iron Room’ of course, but this belonged to the Church of England and rather than encroach on other religious orders, it seems to have been the intention to cater for those people who didn’t hold allegiance to the established church. If Slip End’s lot was to be improved a new building would be needed.Thus in 1906 the members started to raise funds and together with donations from friends and well wishers the Village Hall was built, to stand as a permanent memorial to their drive and industry. It has since been modernised and extended but perhaps it should be borne in mind that the life of the Hall encompassed two World Wars and the lean years in between. With the General Strike, the Wall Street Crash, the years of the 20’s and 30’s when not much money was available, the fabric of the hall had begun to deteriorate and facilities were not commensurate with modern standards.

From 1954 to 1957 the Bedfordshire County Council gradually withdrew their use of the Hall which meant a substantial loss of income and by 1959 the Trustees found that expenditure had overtaken income and the Hall was becoming unmanageable.

A Public meeting was called in March 1959 to explain the situation and ask for support. The Public confirmed that they wanted to retain the Hall and the meeting produced a resolution which asked the Parish Council to accept responsibility for the continued existence of the Village Hall. A Parish Councillor remarked (taken up by the Press) that, if the Trustees couldn’t raise £30 a year, then “nobody wants it, and if nobody wants it let’s get rid of it.” If this Parish Councillor had done his homework, he would have discovered that the Village Hall was a Registered Charity and had been vested with the Official Custodian for Charities in 1933.

Such perpetual Charities weren’t that easy to get rid of and would require the assent of the people of Slip End. His remarks however prompted Mr. S. Garner, Chairman of the Trustees, to send a brief history of the Village Hall to the Parish Council in 1960, asking for help to make the Village Hall again a viable proposition. The result was that the Parish Council made two grants 1960 and 1961 to try to keep things going. The Trustees were still managing the Hall and difficulties had still to be overcome. In 1963 it was decided to form a management committee of people other than Trustees to run the Hall in order to qualify for grant aid from other sources. They applied themselves wholeheartedly to the task, ran it on business lines, and from that day the Village Hall never looked back.

There were two more grants in 1963 and 1964 and the progress made was outstanding. Over the ensuing years improvements were made, so that the Hall has been transformed from an impressive building in 1909 to an equally impressive and modernised building today. It is a credit to the management committee, some of whom from 1963 are still there today, who have worked so hard over the years to bring about the transformation.

The land which now belongs to the Village Hall was purchased in 3 pieces:
1st Part 600 square yards on the 30th April 1908
2nd Part 136 square yards on the 25th June 1910
3rd Part 2 roods, 25 perches on the 9th September 1920
This last part was purchased to install three grass tennis courts and a bowling green, at a cost of £352. 14s. 4d which included trees, shelters, tennis posts and nets, lawn mower, garden shears, boundary posts and netting, clinkers for paths, labour, cartage, printing and stamps and sundries. The whole of the land amounts to 3 roads, 9 poles, 10 sq yards. The tennis courts were opened 20th May 1922. They fell into disuse after the war, and the nets were finally sold to Caddington Church by the Trustees in 1953.

A Brass Band was formed in 1906 and played around the local Villages in order to raise funds to build the new institute. Mr B. Baker of the Salvation Army taught the Bandsmen to play their instruments which they bought themselves. He taught them to read music and they practiced in the Village Hall on Sundays and Thursdays, and in Phyllis Betts Barn in Front Street before the Hall was built. Her brother Fred was a natural musician. He played Soprano Cornet and taught the cornet players. He also played the organ in the Church and died only 37 years old. The members of the band were:-

Cornets: Fred Betts, the Evans brothers, Hedley Toyer, Ernest Morris, Sidney (Sam) Arnold Trombones: Albert and Walter Gutteridge
Bass: Alf (Punch) Norris, George W. Edwards Euphonium: Jack Norris

Between Bass & Euphonium: Ebenezer Bonnick Sam Arnold, who at 93 died here in 1989, introduced some “fiddly bits” during practice session, whereupon Mr Baker stopped the band immediately and admonished him, “No composing if you please Sam!”. The band disintegrated at the onset of the 1914 -18 war.

At a meeting of the Trustees on 28th November 1922 it was noted that Fred Clark (secretary) was to take charge of the bowls and the Bowls Committee would comprise H. Abraham, R. Walker, F. Clark, Mrs Abrahams and Miss B. Wood.

Soon after the Village Hall was built a `Village Hall Club’ was formed and had a membership of 70 some of them quite elderly people, including the village school Headmaster Mr Lissaman. The original Trustees were:-
Mr. G.H. Latchmore, Edward Brown, Frederick Clark, Mrs Kathleen Mary Brown, Helen Amelia Brigg. In 1914 Mr & Mrs Brigg (Owners of Woodside Farm ) sold out to Harry Abraham and moved to Yorkshire.

In 1933 it was decided that since the Village Hall Trustees were located so far apart new Trustees should be enrolled. A new Trust Deed was prepared and signed on the 18th February 1933, drawn up by Mr Carnley. The new Trustees were: Major and Mrs Crawley Ross- Skinner, A. J. Cleaver, R. I. Dandy, L.G. Merchant, House Furnisher, W. Ogden, G. W. Edwards, P. B. Groom, I. H. Harling, Headmaster, I. Papworth, gardener, Mrs. H. Wiseman, housewife, T. G. Edridge, I. Harrison, hat manufacturer, G. W. R. Smith, bank clerk.

At a meeting of the Trustees on 8th March 1944, it was decided to send a letter to the following organisations, St. Andrew’s Church, the Methodist chapel, Pepperstock Baptist chapel, Woodside Baptist chapel, the W.V.S., N.F.S., Police and specials, Civil Defence, Children’s Party Funds, Adult School and the Food Production Club, asking them to send representatives to join the Trustees for the purpose of securing essential amenities and for the general welfare of the Hall. This working committee was to function under the Chairmanship of the Trustees.

During the years 1933 to 1953 the Hall was by and large managed solely by Mr Edwards and in 1953 new Trustees were appointed. They were: Lt. Colonel and Mrs Crawley Ross-Skinner, Rev Kenneth Ashworth, R. A. H. Eling, Headmaster, N. C. Brown, farmer, Woodside Farm, W. Austin, Parish Councillor and caterer, S. G. Cook, builder, W. D. Gilbert and Mrs C. R. Burgess.

Trustees were replaced from time to time and included Sidney Garner, Frederick Hawkings, George Porter, John Clark. The Hall was still making heavy weather with it’s management and eventually a management committee was formed as opposed to Trustees and it was this committee that finally brought the Hall to a manageable and modernised building:-

Thelma Edwards, Mabel Lee, Muriel Allsop, Dean Edwards, Bill Lee, Fred Quinton, John Horgan, Wally Allsop, Lionel Kramer and Reg Burton.

People have come and gone from this committee but the Hall is still well managed and a credit to all concerned.