Peldon Village Hall

In 1942, the Church of England School next to Peldon Church finally closed its doors and the few remaining pupils transferred to West Mersea School. Built in 1833 the school had for over 100 years played an important part in the local community offering an education to local children but also serving as a village meeting place.

In the years leading up to its closure, the School room had been well used by the community. It hosted evening meetings of Parish Council, Vestry, receptions, celebrations and presentations. There were concerts, whist drives, meetings of Girl Guides, Women's Conservative League, 5 Parishes Show and from 1942 the new Women's Institute. Performances were put on by the Peldon Dramatic Society formed in 1937. Blood donor sessions were held there, bread handed out to parishioners annually in accordance with the 17th century Comyns Charity and in 1933 at the instigation of the headmistress a branch library was opened within the school building.

Being such an important part of village life it is not surprising that in 1943, the newly redundant building was adopted as a Village Hall.

SCHOOL BECOMES VILLAGE HALL - The Church of England school, no longer needed as such, is to be known in future as the Village Hall, and a public meeting was held in the building on Friday Feb. 12th for the purpose of electing a committee to be responsible for upkeep, letting etc. The Rector (Rev J R Wilson, BA) who was in the chair, read the decision of the last meeting of the school managers at which it was proposed to hand over responsibility to the entertainments committee with the addition of representatives of other village organisations. There is a balance in hand of £7, together with stage properties, chairs and crockery. The chairman remarked that the school had served its purpose since the year 1833 and he felt that it must mean a great deal to former pupils. He suggested that good use could be made of the hall for clubs, debating societies etc. The entertainments committee of six was elected en bloc, namely: Mrs Golding, Mrs Wilson, Mrs Wooldridge, Mr and Mrs Osborne and Miss Joan Baldwin. The president of the Women's Institute, Mrs Gilmour, and a retiring school manager, Mr George Harvey, consented to serve, and an election by ballot of four others produced results as follows :-Mrs Harris, Miss M Golding, Mr E L Harvey and Mr Prior. Essex County Standard 20.2.1943

For over twenty years the old school building served Peldon well but it was old and dilapidated and it was decided a new building was needed.

This report from a Parish Council meeting indicates that the original plan was to build the hall on the south side of Lower Road next to Newholme (this would have been before the houses to the west of Newholme were built circa 1964).

PARISH MEETING Mr Starling, chairman of Peldon Parish Council said it was hoped that the land next to Newholme Bungalow would be acquired for the new village hall. Subject to planning permission being approved work on the new hall would begin as soon as the grant had been received. The kerbed footpath is to be continued from Burns Corner [was this Bunns Corner which is opposite the junction of St Ives Hill with Lower Road and Mersea Road?] to the end of the new council houses. It was also hoped that both footpaths would be put in good order with gates both top and bottom, and that the new village signs would shortly be erected.

The First Purpose-built Village Hall

After looking at several sites, finally, the decision was made to build the new hall on the site of the old village school. Following a campaign to raise funds, the original 1833 building was demolished using local building firm, Mays. Archie Moore, living next door in Peldon Hall Cottage bought 1000 of the old building's bricks for £10 and used them to build an extension at home!

Peldon old school being demolished c1965

The old school building being demolished to make way for a new village hall

Key to the funding was a legacy by Kay Gilmour who had lived in the village in Priest's House near the church. She had been a guiding force in the campaign for the new hall. Mrs Gilmour started the Women's Institute in 1942, standing as its first President, she was also the author of the history of the village, Peldon A Village In The Marshes, now held in Colchester Local Studies Library. Although the hall was not begun in her lifetime she bequeathed a large sum of money, £3,000, to help build the hall. (The final cost was nearer £9,000).

The Parish Council was central to the organisation of the building works, and a social committee was formed to arrange dances and fundraising events.

Finally, the old building demolished and the new building nearing completion, the Rector, Rev. Anthony Gough, announced in the parish news, 'St Mary's Messenger' that the new village hall would open in September 1965.

A management committee was set up and by June that year bookings were already being taken for the hall by Dr Preston of Malting Cottage, chairman of the village hall committee, and Mr Norman Brand of Peldon Crescent; a caretaker was also being advertised for.

On 4th September 1965, the then mayor of Colchester, Alderman S W Millard officially opened the hall. Peldon's rector, Rev. Anthony Gough blessed the hall, and Mrs Millard cut a ceremonial cake made by Mrs Peggy Komlosy. The opening did not go without a hitch however because the chairs failed to arrive and a set had to be borrowed from the army!

A 1966 article in the Essex County Standard detailed the battle to clear the ugly mass of earth, brick and weeds on land surrounding Peldon's new village hall.

When the village hall at Peldon was opened seven months ago it marked the end of a struggle of several years by the villagers to replace the old and decrepit hall with a new building.

EMPTY KITTY

But it also marked the end of their money. There was not a penny left to hire anybody to clean up the rest of the site. And that was the way things stayed for nearly six months until ... Archie Moore, ... Tim Holding ... and William Peek ... volunteered to do the work. They would, they said, clear and level the land at the side of the hall so it was neat, and they would lay out a garden at the front.

The article goes on to say this was the signal for other locals to pitch in, Donald Sawdon of Peldon Hall Farm lent a tractor, George McMichael of Haxells Farm offered equipment as did a local contractor Alan Bain. The landlord of The Plough, Albert Glendenning, offered to organise fund-raising raffles and other villagers all offered help.

With the site levelled and tidy, and flower beds and lawn in place, Mr Frumkin, an old friend of Kay Gilmour's, sent

'a small gift in remembrance of a dear and valued friend, the money to help towards the making of a garden at the hall to commemorate a friend who loved Peldon.'

This garden was planted by Yvonne Barbour who lived at Lanhams, Lodge Lane and ran a small garden nursery there. The planting was largely roses.

The one name inextricably linked with the village hall is that of Chris Moore. She agreed to be caretaker of the hall for £1 a week shortly after it opened. Chris was in charge of all the bookings, collecting the hire fees (nearly always paid in cash she recalls); she would pre-heat the hall on cold days, unlock and lock up, and with husband Archie's help, maintain the hall and grounds. She is still the principle key holder and receives telephone bookings for the hall over 50 years after she took the job on originally!

In the Parish News of June 1969 the hire rates are printed

1. Day Rate 7a.m - 7p.m Weekdays 15/- per hour
2. Night Rate 7p.m - 7 a.m weekdays 10/- per hour
3. Weekend Rates as Night Rates
4. Full Day Bookings 5 Guineas
Rates include heating and preheating when necessary

Again the hall was well-used by clubs and societies and regular annual events like the Peldon Players' Pantomime, The W.I. (later to become PAWS), the Highland Fling and the Summer Fete were held there. A library run by Ruth Hendy opened every Saturday morning and following the closure of the Post Office at The Nurseries on Lower Road, Phyllis Tuppenny ran a Post Office in the village hall's kitchen once a week in the 1970s. The hall was used as a Polling Station, for public meetings and by two local doctors' surgeries to hold weekly consultations. Being next to the church, the hall was also ideally situated to host wedding receptions.

Although the hall was opened in 1965, it was not until 1974 that the present legal structure was created with a conveyance of the land from the Parish Council to George Frederick Walker and John Reginald Starling, the original trustees. The Schedule to the Conveyance set out how the hall was to be run, naming the first members of the new management committee. The hall was first registered onto the Register of Charities on 1st June 1975.

Forty years after the halls' opening, in 2005, the anniversary was marked with a special Sixties gala night in the hall and an Art Show and teas during the afternoon with many invited who had played a role in the building of the hall. It was this occasion that prompted the chairman, Keith Banks, and treasurer, Bob Holmes to start thinking about whether Peldon would have a hall in another 40 years. Apart from the deteriorating condition of the building, it was also apparent that the old hall wasn't big enough for everything that went on there - the pantomime in particular.

Peldon'S first purpose-built village hall

Well before the hall made its fiftieth birthday, it became clear the fabric of the 1965 building was failing, parts of the flat roof were covered with tarpaulin and an ingenious method of using string and buckets put in place to catch the leaks when it rained. Neither did it offer the facilities that such an active and thriving community needed. It could neither be successfully patched up nor extended.

A Hall for the Twenty-First Century- Peldon and Wigboroughs Community Hall

In the words of Bob Holmes who was instrumental in pushing through the funding and building of the Peldon and Wigborough's Community Hall

Well, we did it! The new hall we've all dreamed about for several years is finally here, and although it's not yet fully kitted out, we open for business on Monday! Peldon and the Wigborough's Parish News October 2017

After a complicated and sometimes frustrating few years dealing with the usual bureaucracies including pleasing Historic England (the hall being next to Peldon's Grade 1 listed church St Mary's), and simplifying the original plan due to cost, the Village Hall Committee gained planning approval for the erection of a new hall. Following many ups and downs with funding, (Bob estimated that there were at least 15 unsuccessful applications to National funders) the finance was in place. Most of the funding came from our own county, Essex County Council, Abberton Reservoir and Colchester Borough Council and also from the immediate locality, donations, Buy a Brick, the Summer Jazz nights and auctions at Brick House Farm and the annual Peldon Players' Pantomime.

As Bob relates, the final piece of the jigsaw financially will come from the sale of Great Wigborough's old school building and former Coronation Hall.

But even with the successful grant applications, the donations and the fundraising, we'd still have not made the finishing line without the contribution that we now know will be coming from the sale of the old village hall site in Great Wigborough.

Peldon's Village Hall from 1965 was demolished in November 2016 - not a moment too soon, it was found the timber frame was rotten. The concrete slab was laid by Christmas, the steel frame went up in February 2017, the walls and roof were on around Easter and the fit-out was completed by June 23rd.

The opening ceremony of the Peldon and Wigboroughs Community Hall was on 2nd September 2017. Stroods, the contractors, completed the work on time and on the £600,000 budget.

Peldon and Wigboroughs Community Hall will not be a new legal entity but a renamed Peldon Village Hall with the same charity number and an amended governing document to enfranchise Wigborough residents.

All that one would expect from a hall in the twenty first century is there, a large fully-equipped hall suitable for concerts, dances, classes and clubs, badminton and table tennis. Every detail has been thought of; sound and audio-visual systems, stage lighting, curtains, security, fire and CCTV systems. There is a smaller meeting room, a well-fitted out kitchen, plenty of storage space and a smart new car park.

Peldon old school being demolished c1965

At the time of writing the Peldon Players have performed their first pantomime in the hall; existing societies and classes like PAWS and the Art Classes have continued to use the facilities while new clubs have started including a Garden Club, whose members designed and planted up the Community Garden adjacent to the hall in May 2018. One of the roses originally planted in the late sixties in memory of Kay Gilmour was lovingly potted up by Chris Moore before the builders came in. It now has pride of place in this new garden. Some of the garden's funding was donated in memory of Ken Ward, one of the 1974 trustees, and there are three commemorative trees in memory of PAWS ladies.

There's a Knit and Natter Club, monthly Coffee Mornings run by the hall management committee, table tennis, yoga, Pilates, fitness, ballroom dance, bridge, Games and Cards, quilting, badminton, Kids' Club, a six-weekly jazz club and private hires.

As Bob Holmes wrote

At the end of the day, it won't be the new management committee, nor the people running those activities, who will determine the success or otherwise of this great building. It will be down to the community, in the widest sense of the word - to make use of it in the many ways that will be on offer, and make it a success.

Elaine Barker
Peldon History Project.
June 2018

Thanks to Chris Moore, Bob Holmes, Steve Sharpe and Brian Jay

Author: Elaine Barker
June 2018
ID: PH01_VHL


This item is part of the Mersea Island Museum Collection. The information is accurate as far as is known, but the Museum does not accept responsibility for errors.