100 years ago, in 1921 Chitterne’s first Village Hall was erected, and 50 years ago in 1971 the second Village Hall was opened. For those of you new to the village: the present village hall is the third.
After the end of the Great War the village community felt they lacked a social centre where all the family could go and enjoy themselves. There were two pubs of course but they were strictly for adults, and the school was available after lessons had finished for the day, and yet they didn’t quite fit the bill. Consequently various villagers put up the cost of purchasing an ex-military wooden hut to be erected and used as a village hall.
The Hut, as it came to be known, stood on a piece of ground in Bidden Lane owned by Jimmy Feltham. The Hut committee paid him £5 a year rent for the ground, but Jimmy donated £5 a year to the Hut funds in return, so in effect it was free. After his death the site became the property of the parish council as per his will.
For fifty years the hut was used by the village as the social hub, and representatives from each village organisation were on the committee. In the second world war the hut was requisitioned as a billet for soldiers for a time, and later used as a centre for many soldiers in the area. The frequent wartime dances held there took a toll on the furniture and fittings, and by 1948 urgent repairs were needed.
The Chairman of the Hut Committee, Ernest Moores, sent a leaflet to every house outlining the desperate need, pleading for funds. Funds of course were forthcoming and the hut carried on being the social hub for many more years until the village school closed and a new opportunity arose for a different venue. The site of the old hut was sold by the parish council in 1976 and now forms the part of Well Cottage garden that fronts Bidden Lane.
More on the second village hall in the next blog. With grateful thanks to AK.