Ashchurch Village Hall offers a large flexible space for all types of functions and community uses. It is situated on the main A46 within a mile of Junction 9 of the M5 motorway and opposite the Parish Church of St Nicholas. Its proximity to the church makes it an ideal venue for Wedding Receptions, Christening Parties and Funeral Wakes. There are regular bookings for Yoga, Zumba Classes and other activities. There is parking for about 40 vehicles. The hall is available throughout the year apart from Christmas day and Boxing Day.
(this history is largely derived from the minutes of meetings held by the Management Committee of the Hall with special thanks to Wendy Snarey for patiently transcribing the sometimes difficult handwriting of the originals)
The first Village Hall was opened late in 1926. It was of timber and galvanised sheet construction. Prior to the first hire the newly appointed committee had a demonstration of the new 50 and 100 candlepower electric bulbs. There was no mains electricity there so their use would have also required an "electric machine" to produce the necessary power. These were all expensive items in those days, a single 100cp bulb cost 35/- (£1.75). This at a time when hire of the hall was 3/6 (17.5p) per hour.
Maybe the committee should have taken on the expense since the new Hall was destroyed by fire on 6 January 1927, only seven weeks after its opening, when an oil light fell from its hanging on the ceiling and smashed on the floor immediately igniting. Here is a newspaper cutting which was pasted into the committee's minute book at the time.
Prudently the committee had insured the building. The replacement building was of brick with an external render and the roof was tiled. It was decided, this time, to wire the new building for electric light and an “electric light machine” was acquired. Here is a contemporary advertisement for the machine…
These small generators were introduced by Kohler around 1920. Here is a link to a Kohler site giving some further information
The new Hall was formally opened on 15 November 1928. This building is the one still in use although various extensions and improvements have been made over the years.
In October 1930 the Performing Rights Society requested that the Committee take out a licence to permit the playing of copyright dance music. This was taken and after this date fees were paid annually to allow the popular dances of the time to continue.
The Kohler generator was effective but costly to run and maintain. When mains electricity was available, in 1934, the decision was taken to change to it. In addition to the convenience resulting from the change, the following year the accounts showed that considerable savings had been made.
1939 brought the threat of war closer and in May a request was received from Cheltenham Rural District Council asking if the Hall could be made available for evacuees however it was deemed that the sanitary facilities were inadequate for them to stay there but crockery and furniture was made available for them to use elsewhere.
In September a request was received to billet workmen at the Hall. This was agreed, with Messers Costain to make remuneration to the Hall. Some meetings continued, temporarily transferred to the School. This included the regular WI meetings. The workmen remained billeted in the Hall until immediately before Christmas 1940, a period of 15 months.
After this interruption business at the Hall continued during the years of WW2 with little effect recorded although there was mention of questions being raised with the Billeting Officer at Cheltenham regarding the crockery and furniture which had been lent by the Hall for use by evacuees at Ashchurch but nothing else.
Following the war years and with normal life starting to return to the country the Hall became very busy. Repairs and decoration took place but because of the costs of these the Hall was frequently running at a loss and the standard response was to raise money by holding a whist drive and dance. At one of these arranged in January 1948 the following prizes were donated for the competition… a live pig, 4½ gallons of cider and a bottle of whiskey.
Later, in February the same year, a room in the Hall was made available at no charge for the distribution of food. Why this was necessary isn’t recorded.
Late in 1948 Tewkesbury Cider Company gifted ¼ acre of land, immediately to the rear, to the Hall.
By mid-1950 quotes were being obtained for an extension to the Hall. Discussions were held with the Gloucestershire Community Council regarding possible grants to the Hall but for this to happen the Hall would need to be in public ownership vested in a panel of public trustees. The current trustees agreed to this and the extension work went ahead. The newly extended hall was opened on 3 December 1951. (TBC planning archives show that this extension included a stage in the Hall and the addition of a kitchen)
Plans were being made in February 1953 for Coronation Whist Drives to be held. Packs of cards and tables were borrowed specially for the occasion.
The Hall had been used for overflow classes from the school for some time but by June 1953 a request from the Gloucestershire Education Secretary was received requesting permission to convert the Hall for preparation and serving of meals. Not only was this initially rejected but it triggered the committee to give notice that due to increasing use they could no longer provide space for the pupil’s lessons. The equipment being left in the school was causing problems for hirers.
After the notice period lessons stopped but the discussions regarding school meals went on and eventually a compromise was reached. No conversions were made and no food was prepared in the Hall but it was used as a dining room. It was used for this purpose from 25 April 1955 for many years and a generation of parishioners remember having their school dinners in the Hall.
While providing a steady income stream the relationship between Hall and School was frequently strained. The problems ranged from spilt food too using the Hall for concerts and events without informing the management committee.
In 1960 a new roof was fitted after many years of problems and leaks. After failing to find any additional funding for this the committee had to use its own funds and only just managed to pay the contractor after many months of credit. This left the bank balance in a very poor state.
One Sunday in autumn 1961 the Hall responded to a frantic call from the rector of St Nicholas when a fire had rendered the church unusable. After a brief transformation the Hall was used for Holy Communion and later for the Evening Service.
In 1967 it was decided to use the land at the rear of the Hall as a car park. It was noted at the time that this land was held by the Charity Commission and was for the private use of the Hall as specified in the original deed of gift made at the time the land was given.
One of the last entries of interest in the original minute books was made in July 1969 when it was recorded that the old solid fuel boiler had been replaced by a new oil-fired boiler. Almost 40 years of stoking and tending the boiler by hand for every meeting during the cold months came to an end and heating the hall became a much simpler matter.
[more to follow when available]