It had been a very snowy winter so far, six inches fell in just one storm in January, and even more the previous December, but that didn’t prevent the village elders talking about the possibility of gaining a village hall.
For a long time, the Oddfellows Hall (now 12 West Street) was used for meetings, “but was considered unsuitable for crowded meetings, it being an upstairs room approached by a steep and winding staircase.” A meeting was called to discuss the possibilities of building a hall, during which the Duke of Buccleuch suggested that he was willing to donate some land for this purpose.
There followed several years of discussion, but eventually a committee was formed, chaired by: Mr Francis Scott of Geddington Priory, secretary Mr Charles Tilley and Mr Thomas Rippon, a retired builder, who was to act as Clerk of Works.
Despite the Great Blizzard of February 1930 and the Great Depression, come May of 1930, the foundation was laid for what the Kettering Leader described as “this magnificent venture.” It continued: “Geddington has leapt into the limelight and the way in which the voluntary workers have turned up to do their jobs of work is worthy of the highest village traditions.”
Some 70 men and boys worked voluntarily during the evenings, although there was paid labour during the day. (Mr Tilley had taken great care to maintain a list of those who helped erect the building.) There was plenty of interesting things for children to see and do, like the little boy watching the builders in the picture above right, despite it being a building site. One account, given by a lady in 1990, said she and her friends would ride their bikes over the heaps of soil that were dotted around. One girl rode over one such heap, failed to stop, and rode into Swinger’s bake-house wall, sailed over the top, leaving her bike behind – to the great amusement of those watching!
In addition, many of the services were given free, amongst them were the architect, Mr Williams. Mr W T Drage, monumental mason of Kettering, supplied the Weldon stone mullions and stone for the three door steps into the Hall (these have long since disappeared under the slope into the current Hall, but can be seen in the line drawing at the top of the page, drawing courtesy of Mrs G Woods), all free of charge, Mr Alf Bailey of Kettering, supplied the piano with “its useful case of solid oak” and Mr Francis Scott presented the Cyprus trees which lined the drive.
There was much fund-raising done to build the Hall, of course, but there was also the question of furnishing the Hall. The money for the blue velvet curtains, which hung on the stage from 1931 to 1990, was raised by a concert, two dances and a Whist Drive early in 1931.These curtains were made by Mrs Alice Harker (mother of Barbara, Mathew and Don) and whilst some of the work was done by machine, most of it was done by hand. A contributor to the village magazine, The Newsletter, known only as S.J., said in 1990 “When you think of how many times these curtains have been drawn to and fro over those 60 years, you can imagine how well Mrs Harker made them.”
Mr Arthur Barrett (another member of the Harker family) kindly made all the twelve trestles and twelve 12ft table tops in his workshop in Coventry and sent them to Geddington (more about these later), whilst another uncle of Barbara’s, Mr Walter Smith of Smith & Edmunds, builders of Broughton, contributed by sending his men over to help with the building.
The building was erected in the incredibly short time of six months and it was widely recognised that this feat was due to the efforts of Mr Thomas Rippon. He was reported to have said, “The work had occupied my mind day and night and I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible.” Thomas Rippon was, amongst many positions, a church warden, a Samuel Lee Trustee and overseer of the bread distribution. He had retired some fifteen years earlier, but he saw what a chance it would be to do something for the village before it was too late. He supervised the job, laid bricks and worked from 8 ’till 5 and then back again at 6 o’clock to supervise the voluntary workers and give valuable advice. The job was not without its pitfalls. As the Kettering Leader reported on 5 September 1930, “He was the victim of an accident on Monday at the partly erected Village Hall, his legs suddenly went through the floor joists and his legs, arms and head were injured. Mr Rippon fainted, but was able to walk home.” The Leader continued, “Mr Rippon’s work is the example Geddington tries to follow with the dream before them, of being able to rest from their labours and see a Hall which will not only improve the amenities of the village, but will stand for years as a testimonial to friendly co-operation and labour, carried out with enthusiasm, for no monetary awards.”
The official opening took place on Saturday 19 December 1930 and was declared open by the Marquis of Exeter, Lord Lieutenant of the County. A vote of thanks was given by Mr Ralph Wicksteed to Mr Williams (Architect) who stated in his reply that they had been fortunate in their committee, not least of whom was Mr Harker, who had acted as ‘Minister of Transport’. On behalf of the women of Geddington & Newton, Mrs Francis Scott thanked the speakers for their kind remarks and paid tribute to the late Mr & Mrs Berrill as pioneers of the Village Hall Movement. The day finished with a dance and concert in the evening – a fund-raising event, needless to say!
The Management Committee at the first AGM, consisted of 16 village organisations, many of whom have long since ceased to exist: the League of Nations’ Union, the Co-operative Women’s Guild, the Nursing Association and the Foresters’ Friendly Society for instance. The first caretaker was Mrs Reed.
Events in the hall in those early days were varied and numerous. Local talent was displayed in the many Gilbert & Sullivan shows, produced by Francis Scott, who lived at The Priory. Mrs Elliot put on an annual operetta and people came from far and wide to attend the Fur & Feather Whist Drives every Christmas. When interviewed for The Newsletter in 1990, it was the regular dances that most people remembered more than anything else. The Hall was a popular meeting place and buses from Kettering and Corby brought many visitors, so when the Americans were stationed at Grafton Underwood, they would cycle, walk or drive down to the village, to join in the fun and many a romance was started by a chance meeting at these dances.
When school dinners were first introduced they were eaten in the Hall and it was the venue for school parties and prize-giving ceremonies.
In the 1940s, film shows were held with Messrs Eddie and Dennis Toseland, Mrs Betty Toseland and Mr Sharp providing the equipment.
Since its inception, the Village Hall has served the village magnificently, acting as ‘Town Hall’ to the Parish Council, and sheltering evacuees and the mothers’ and childrens’ clinics during the Second World War. It has been let for whist drives (£1), dances (£1.10s to villagers, £2 to visitors), weddings and 21st birthdays (£1 to £1.5s) and flower shows (£1.10s), to quote a few 1930’s prices. Currently, 2015, the rent for the main hall . . . well it depends if the booking is done by a resident or a visitor and at what time of day, but it varies from £9.50 to £14 per hour.
Since then there have been many changes to the building and the surrounding area, amongst them:
1976 November, the Village Hall was registered as a Charity, with nine Trustees from village organisations who use the Hall, with the Parish Council the Custodian Trustee.
1980 Under the auspices of a Village Hall Building Sub-committee and chaired by Vice-chairman David Hall, the new Sports Centre was under way, for a total cost of £15,000.
1981 50th anniversary of the building of the Hall, was celebrated with a stone-laying ceremony performed by Mrs Hutchings, Village Hall President, in one wall of the new extension.
1982 A 21-year lease was arranged with Boughton Estates for the playing field, with an annual rent set at £150 for the first three years, then raised to £400 per annum, to be reviewed every three years.
1982 New extension was opened by His Grace, the Duke of Buccleuch and the Parish Council moved their Council Chambers to the Village Hall in 1988.
Changes at the Hall continue to this day, with a new extension being built outwards from the previous extension.
But, whilst many things have changed since the 1930s, including the prices, a lot remains the same. We are still fund-raising, and always will be. We are still proud of the facilities the Hall provides and it is still one of the best Village Halls in the County. And public dances, which couldn’t be held on Sundays and Good Friday in 1930, still couldn’t in 1995!
Oh yes, the little boy looking over the wall in the picture of the building plot? He grew up to serve in the Army in Burma, married Betty (former President and long-serving member of the VH committee), has two daughters, several grandchildren and even great-grandchildren and at 91 years of age, Dennis Toseland still lives and thrives in Geddington.