The History of Collingbourne Kingston Village Hall

At about the time of the Great War, it seems that the Y.M.C.A occupied a wooden building on land adjoining the railway, identified today as the small parcel of grazing on the other side of the road from the present Village Hall entrance. A few years after the Armistice it was purchased by the community and served successfully as the village hall, though always referred to as ‘The Hut’. This was the era of socials, amateur dramatics, talent shows, ballroom and country dancing and indoor sports to pass long oil lamp lit winter evenings. It also, no doubt saw prize winning vegetables and jams, Harvest homes and Council meetings as it does today. Having the luxury of running water it seems, in addition, to have been the place where the village girls had their introduction to laundry and washday duties as part of their housework lessons at school. Tragically , all this came to an end one day in February 1936 when sparks from a railway engine in the halt next door set fire to the place and burnt it to the ground.

By generous gift of Mr Alfred May, the land owner, arrangements were reached to allow the hall to be rebuilt on a new site in Ham Meadow,with essentially the structure we see today, and the adjoining recreation grounds. A constitution was drawn up, trustees appointed and the first new Village Hall Committee, their guest the Marquis of Ailesbury and the Village at large, celebrated the opening of the new Hall with much ceremony and community singing in November 1937. It cost in total just under £1000, all of which, and a little more, was raised by Village collections and gifts from benefactors.

Today, the building still serves the community well and is the home or base for a variety of regular group activities including The Woman’s Institute, Beavers and Brownies, and table tennis. It also provides a venue for visiting theatre troupes, residents’ meetings, a monthly quiz night, the Harvest Supper and Village fetes and social events. It is available for private hire.

Its day to day running and management are the responsibility of a committee of volunteers and representatives of the user groups. As is the way with these things much of their effort is directed towards fund raising in order to keep the place in good repair and the ever increasing costs involved in insurance, health and safety measures and equipment heating and lighting etc. It is important to acknowledge the generosity of spirit the Parish Council shows towards the Hall in its moral and financial support, stating it to be an essential asset to the continuing well being of the community. Similar recognition being given by the previous District Council in their grant help given to aid major projects and refurbishment.

In past decades requests were often made for the provision of an equipped children’s playground in the village, the Village Hall ground being the obvious location, being seen to be available and convenient to all three settlements. Much debated by successive councils and committees the stumbling blocks were always who would be liable for the not inconsiderable public liability insurance premiums and the fact that the letting arrangements for the hire of the Hall included the use of the ground, meaning that any playground would be unavailable for use when ever the hall was in use. Thanks to the determination of a group of young mothers and others who took it on as a millennium project, and the acceptance of the insurance provision by the Parish Council, a fully equipped separate play area has, at last, been added to the Village’s facilities.

Information about booking the Hall and other matters are displayed in the notice cabinet by the main door.

It seems appropriate to conclude with an extract from one of the speeches given all those years ago at the grand opening:

“This Hall, what does it mean to us? It means, I hope, that it is going to be the centre of social interest, the centre where, as village folk, we can really work together, whatever the purpose may be. If it does not mean that we are going to work together, if it does not draw us together and make us happy whatever is taking place then, in spite of the nice colourings and beautiful building, it is a failure. We must work together in this Village to make this Hall a success from every point of view. It is so easy in village life to criticise but we must work together. We have got to make efforts to pay for its upkeep and we have got to see that it is a success socially.”