The Old Village Hall

This stood on the ground opposite the Buck car-park now occupied by No 44 Dereham RoadOriginally this was the Men’s Reading Room provided by Lord Ailwyn for the men of the village to have somewhere to spend their evenings other than The Buck, a necessity when you realise that quite a few of the cottages were one up one down with families of eight, ten or in one case thirteen children.

Where is a man to sit after he has finished a day’s work?

I am so far unable to find out when it was built but The Reading Room pre dates the formation of the Parish Council who’s first meeting took place in the there on December 15th 1894 and I believe the hall was enlarged in the early 1900’s to enable social evenings to be held.

Then in 1926 Lady Ailwyn had an extension built to accommodate the newly formed Honingham Women’s Institute, unfortunately in doing so she commandeered a part of the Men’s room and so instigated a “feud” this lasted for some years.

Although the hall was actually one undivided “T” shaped building, a partition was made to divide it. The Men’s room had one secretary and caretaker and the WI room had its own secretary and caretaker, if any one else in the village wished to hire the whole room for example, a dance or whist drive they were forced to approach both secretaries separately before any plans could be made.

This was partly settled on the sale of the Estate in 1935 and the new owner Mr Crundall gifting the hall to the overall care of the Parish Council,

The Parish Council minutes from December 19th 1935 state:

“The Village Hall is now the property of Honingham Parish Council”

Old arguments began to be forgotten, old adversaries died, the partition gave way to a curtain and it was seen to be sensible to only have one caretaker, secretary and committee, but it took till 1963 before an official village hall management committee was formed under directions from Norfolk Council and the Charity’s commission.

In 1935 the heating was by tall cast iron coke stoves, there was a kitchen but of course no water, a bucket had to be brought from the pump to make the tea and no one had thought of a inside toilet.

The hall was slowly updated, the coke stoves gave way to oil central heating, water came to the kitchen sink and an inside flushing toilet for the ladies, but by the 1970s the hall was past its best and would have needed a lot of money to keep it going, as somebody remarked “The only thing keeping this thing standing are the woodworm linking arms”

The village started a concentrated fund raise, it took several years but with the help of council grants and donations, not only money but materials, also craftsmen’s and villagers time and efforts, everything culminated in achieving the new hall.

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The side photo shows the building originally housing the ladies bucket toilet just outside the kitchen door (it become the boiler house after the update)

Erica Smith 2012

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