A trip down memory lane
The story of the Parish Hall from 1948 to 2011 by Mike Smith
On 1 March 1948 Mr Eric Sansom, the chairman of Shuttington Parish Council, called a meeting “to discuss the social needs of the parish”. He thought what was needed was a Parish Hall. He considered that “although it may not be possible to build within the next three years, we should certainly prepare a scheme and also start a Parish Hall Building Fund”. Mr George Cox, clerk to the Parish Council, was appointed secretary.
Within a week the first meeting of the “Planning Committee” had met and decided to approach Mr Harold Ridsdale, who was manager of the colliery in Alvecote, for advice on procedure and choosing a site.
By the middle of the month the committee were looking at possible sites along New Road and in the orchard of Stretton Farm. Mr J Harding offered to sell a site along New Road for £80.
The first recorded meeting which was not directly associated with the Parish Council was the Annual General Meeting for the Parish Hall was during April 1949 in the Wolferstan Arms. The names of thirty people are listed as the “Committee” with an “Executive Committee” consisting of Messrs Sansom, Phizacklea, Warham, Harding, Holloway, Cox and Mrs Gilman.
Against the advice of the National Council for Social Services, who thought the Parish Council should be the sole Trustee, the Hall Committee appointed four local trustees: William Phizacklea, Harold Ridsdale, Christopher Wilson and Eric Sansom.
At a meeting in July 1949, Mr Ridsdale brought news of another possible site near the church and he thought Tamworth District Council might sell the land for about £70. He also presented the Committee with a cheque for £50 towards the purchase price.
By November of 1950 a site for a hall had been purchased from Tamworth Rural District Council for the sum of £70. The site was situated at the top of Coronation Crescent, backing onto the churchyard. The area now contains a row of what were originally council houses and the “old folks bungalows”. The site was sold by Tamworth RDC on the understanding that it would be used solely for communal purposes and to this end they included a “constitution” in with the deeds to the site. This constitution still provides the legal framework by which the present Parish Hall Committee operates. The first paragraph of these rules states:
“The property hereby conveyed shall be held in trust for the purpose of physical and mental training and recreation and social moral and intellectual development through the medium of reading and recreation rooms library lectures classes recreations and entertainments or otherwise as may be found expedient for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Parish of Shuttington and its immediate vicinity without distinction of sex or of political religious or other opinions.
To what extent these wishes have been fulfilled is open to question!
An architect, Mr Holdam from Polesworth, reported to the Committee in 1951 that it was not possible to fit in a tennis court and a bowling green as well as a hall and car park. It was decided to concentrate on a hall which was to seat 200 people, have a stage and a ‘committee room’ “set above the front entrance”.
During these years the Hall Committee had become more of a ‘social committee’. The minutes of Committee meetings are often entirely given over to details about tickets, prizes, refreshments and advertising. Almost all its efforts were put into arranging dances, usually at Warton and whist drives and vegetable shows which were held in the Working Men’s Club.
Progress slowed. The site was fenced around in 1954. Wooden buildings were considered. The cheapest costing £2740 for the structure alone. The accounts show the Committee had only about £675 to spend! Mr Ridsdale visited Two Gates to inspect a wooden construction being used as a Nursery School, which was up for sale for £60. He considered it would be difficult to re-erect it satisfactorily.
In 1956 there was talk of providing a tennis court on the site but the following year potatoes were planted and there seems to have been problems with selling them when they arrived.
1958 saw the site divided into ‘allotments’ with a strip for use by the school. Two rows of barbed wire were strung along over the fence.
In 1961 no one would take on the job of secretary and Mr Cox stepped back in on a temporary basis.
By 1962 there was talk of selling the site. The reasons were not made clear in the minutes of meetings. Possibly managing the plot of land became too onerous and the cost of a hall too expensive. Before any sale could take place the constitution required that the committee hold a meeting of parishioners to vote on such a move. On 26 March 1964 a Public Meeting was held to gain consent. It was reported that “No person attended for the purpose of voting on the resolution”
The site was sold back to Tamworth Council at the end of 1964 for £1700.
The following year the Committee were looking at the possibility of purchasing part of the playing field along Newton Lane. The field had been acquired by Warwickshire County Council for the purpose of building a new school to replace the old one near the church. The County were not very encouraging about use of the field. At one stage they objected to the Youth Club playing football on it.
There followed a confused period when rumours of the school closing encouraged ideas that the school building might be used as a Parish Hall.
Then there was the possibility of a site in Church Lane.
When the Council Houses were built in Milner Drive there were plans for more houses to be built along Church Lane and down the hill opposite ‘The Wolferstan Arms’ Although the old cottages in Church Lane were knocked down, no new houses were built and the land remained derelict. It was this site that was sought for a Parish Hall.
Meetings became more irregular. There are no minutes between 1966 and 1969.
In 1969 the Committee were divided over waiting to see what would happen to the school in Shuttington or plan for a new hall on a site yet to be decided.
In 1970 there was a letter from the County Education Officer saying no firm decision had yet been made about Shuttington School. At that same meeting an adviser explained what help was available for Parish Halls, but he seemed to dwell mainly on problems and costs: just maintenance, he said, could be as much as £900 per annum. The Building Fund by now contained about £3500.
The next meeting was planned for September 1970, but there is no record of it being held.
The Shuttington and Alvecote Parish Hall Committee appears to have become moribund.
Then, at an Annual General Meeting of the Parish Council in March 1973, Mr Collinge-Hill proposed that a meeting be called to revive interest in the Village Hall project. Mr George Cox, who was Clerk to the Parish Council and secretary of the Village Hall Committee, said he would arrange such a meeting but warned that it would be no use approaching anyone for grant aid unless it could be proved the whole parish wanted a hall and showed the capability of maintaining it. The Village Hall Building Fund stood at £3723.
As a matter of interest, at the same meeting it was reported that Shuttington Church-yard had been closed to new burials by the Vicar, Revd Willis, and the Parish Council were desperate to find another suitable site.
That same year, the new secretary of the Hall project, Mr K S Cooley, set about finding a suitable site. He wrote to “Shuttington and Alvecote Social Club and Institute” which had premises on the corner of Main Road and New Road. (The site now has five houses standing behind a low wall) Cooley suggested an extension of the Club Room to form a Village Hall. The idea received short shrift: “the proposed suggestion of your committee is totally unacceptable” replied Mr B J Perry, secretary to the Working Men’s Club.
Mr Cooley also wrote to the Chief Education Officer asking if there was any chance of a hall being built on the Playing Field.
Eventually in 1976 a member of the Parish Council, Mr A Radbourne, met with a representative of Warwickshire Education Office who showed plans of the Playing Field which included provision for a school, village hall, play area and car park: “the original plans having been drawn up many years ago”. The proposed school would replace the old one in Shuttington and would cater for both parishes of Shuttington and Newton Regis. Later that year the County agreed to sell part of the field for £2750.
In 1977 it was at last confirmed that the old school was to be closed and once again time was taken into hoping that it would be turned into a Parish Hall. The Trustees of the school was the Rev. John Clarke Charity and the secretary, Major Wolferstan, indicated to the Parish Clerk that if the school closed, its use for community purposes would be favourably considered. It was not to be and the school was sold to be a private dwelling.
Warwickshire decided in 1979 to abandon plans for building a new school and put a value of £9000 on the whole Playing Field. North Warwickshire Borough Council now came upon the scene and offered a grant of £4000 to help the Parish Council purchase the whole field. The eventual agreement was a 15 year lease prior to purchase.
In February 1981 the trustees of the Village Hall Committee: Messrs Sansom, Wilson, Bull and Harding, attended a Parish Council meeting and agreed that the trusteeship should be handed over to the Parish Council. The Charity Commission subsequently would not allow this.
In 1982 the Parish Council were informed that the County were selling off spare mobile classrooms. Two were ordered, but after various promises and a long wait they never materialised. The Charity Commission stepped in again in 1984 and insisted that as the Village Hall Committee was a registered charity, any building they erected must be on land they owned.
In 1984 Mr Kurt Kovach, on the Parish Council, obtained a list of former Village Hall Committee members with a view to resurrecting things, a public meeting was arranged for 29 November. At this meeting a Committee with sixteen members was formed to push ahead with raising money towards building a hall. A questionnaire was circulated around the parish seeking the views of parishioners and a great deal of enthusiasm was recorded.
Money raising events were arranged with enthusiasm: barn dances and bingo sessions were held in the old barn at Stretton Farm, quizzes were popular, car rallies and garden fetes. Most memorable were the “Parish Fetes” held on the playing field, with children’s races, fancy dresses, marching bands, knobbly knees, tug of wars, bouncy castles, car boots and so on.
There are still four members of that original committee continuing to run the Hall at present: Kurt Kovach, Gary Clives, Ray Wood and Mike Smith. (Editor's note:2017 - new committee in place).
Some members of the Hall Committee felt that a hall built on the playing field would be too far out of the village. At this time the Working Men’s Club was closing down, and thought was given to using the Club site for the Hall. Unfortunately the Club had closed with considerable debts and these would have had to be paid off to obtain the site. The playing field site would eventually be obtained for nothing and there were thoughts of being able to sit outside the Hall on a hot summer day watching a local cricket match and sipping a gin and tonic! So the field was the chosen site.
At the Parish Council AGM of 1984 it was reported that plans for a proposed hall had been drawn up. Some very grand ideas, buildings large enough for indoor sports, were gradually reduced to suit the limited money available.
Things were gathering pace now. In 1988 the field was finally bought by the Parish Council and a “visibility splay” for the entrance to the field was purchased from Ralph Arnold for £76.60. (It cost an extra £297.68 in solicitors’ fees).
Planning permission was granted and funds available, including grants, stood at £60,000. A plot of land on which to build the Hall was transferred from the Parish Council to the Hall Committee.
There was a last minute hitch when complaints were made by people living in New Road who thought a hall would spoil their view, and so the proposed site was moved closer to the road.
A building contractor, Brian P. Bayley Ltd, was appointed to start work in September 1988. Gary Clives acted as site supervisor on behalf of the Committee.
The Hall was officially opened by the Mayor on 8 January 1989. The building was little more than a shell and much interior work had still to be carried out, mostly by volunteers. Arnold Bullock and his son Garry installed the electrics and Jeff Clarke much of the plumbing.
It was January 1990 that the first Parish Council meeting was held in the Hall and that year Dave South from Alvecote asked why it was the norm to refer to Shuttington Village Hall? From then it was determined the correct name should be “Shuttington and Alvecote Parish Hall”.
Soon after the Hall was opened the need for a small warm meeting room was realised, and two changing rooms were not adequate for the football teams then using the field.
Late 1997 saw an extension added with these extra facilities as well as providing toilets for the quite large numbers of people who came to watch the football.
John Davis built the extension up to roof level and almost everything else was provided by volunteers. Kurt, Gary, Mike and Derek Tattersall put on the roof.
From the beginning of the idea to build a hall the relationship of the Parish Council and the Parish Hall Committee has been close but separate. Often those serving on the two committees have been the same people. When the Hall was actually built it was essential to have a separate committee which could be registered as a “Charity” and was able to apply for help with money which a statutory body like the Parish Council could not.
After the original Trustees retired or died, the Trusteeships were given ex-officio to the chairman and vice-chairman of the Parish Council and to the Rector of Shuttington. This has since been considered not quite proper and four named persons have since been made Trustees. These are Messrs Kovach, Clives and Frost and Judith Tattersall. (Editor's note 2017 - Kurt Kovach resigned and was replaced by Adrian Hall)
The Parish Hall Committee has always seen its main job as maintaining the Hall as a facility for community use and not as a social organiser. Events are arranged to raise money to pay bills such as insurance, electricity, water and broken windows.
Unfortunately the Hall has not proved to have the great social benefit that was originally envisaged. Local residents have not made full use of the Hall. It has not become the social centre as was once hoped.
Today a small group of people keep the Hall going. At the moment there is sufficient money in the bank. But what is the future for the Hall??
Like all things, if they are not used they die!!