Working Men's Institute, Bishop Lydeard 1907 The earliest record we have of the site where the Village Hall now stands is when it was a working men's institute. The picture shown here is of the institute in 1907.  A committee was set up in 1937 and met in the institute, until it was demolished, and then at the school until the Village Hall was completed.  The building of the Village Hall was completed in August 1939.

The Village Hall's first use was for war evacuee's from London with their headmaster, Mr Patterson, and two other teachers. They were brought to the village by train and then to the hall where local people gathered to offer them homes. Major Bicknell  played a part at this time as the billeting officer. With the large influx of children into the village the school did not have room for them all, so the village hall was used as a second school until July 31st 1945.

One wonders who those evacuee's were and whether they all went home after the war or some stayed.  Attempts have been made to trace any of the evacuees of that time but have not yet been successful.

Frog Street, Bishops Lydeard The second picture shows a view up what is now Mount Street. As can be seen from this picture it used to be known as Frog Street.

The house on the right of the picture is called Maynards. This used to be owned by the Bishops Lydeard Almshouse Charity but was purchased from them by the Village Hall in 1976. Part of the money used to purchase the house was raised locally through the "Buy a Brick" fund raising scheme run by the Village Hall. The Cottages on the left were destroyed in a fire in 1907 and is where Mount Street garage now stands.

Major improvements to the Village Hall

The first was when single roofed buildings were added to the back of the hall as part of the swimming pool in 1979.

Building site of swimming pool, 1979 The building in the forefront is part of the swimming pool changing rooms.  The building site behind it is where the play park is now situated.  This area used to be an orchard which belonged to "Maynards" house.

The village green was developed as a planning condition of the building of Hithermead which, as can be seen, was still in the process of construction. The village green and associated grounds were donated to the village hall charity by local landowners.

Swimming pool in use, August 1979 The swimming pool was on the site where the Multi Use Games Area now stands. The pool was a very popular facility for the village.

Due to various reasons, the main one being the cost and time in maintaining it, the pool was closed only a few years after opening.

The buildings at the far end of the pool were used for the swimming pool but have, since the removal of the swimming pool, been converted to storage for the hall.

In the late 80's the old entrance on the front of the large hall was sealed up, and toilets and a new entrance were built on the side of the hall in 1993.

The New Small Hall

From snow covered grass in February to the opening of the new small hall in July 2009.

The Enlargement of the Kitchen

The old kitchen and the new enlarged one which was completed in November 2011.

The following is the full account of the opening of the Village hall on Thursday August 30th 1939 from the Somerset County Gazette, Saturday 2nd September.

Bishops Lydeard’s Memorable Day Opening of New Village Hall
£2,650 Centre for CommunIty Life
Ceremony Performed by Sir Gerald Boles

Thursday was a happy and memorable day in the history of Bishops’ Lydeard, being marked by the opening of a new Village Hall on the site of the old Working Men’s Institute in the centre of the village.  Built at a cost of £2,650, exclusive of equipment, the Hall is of the latest design and is probably one of the best in the West of England.  One of the first twelve in the whole country to receive a grant from the Nation Fitness Council, the building is of striking beauty, and will be a great asset to the village with its modern equipment and up-to-date facilities.

The opening ceremony was performed by Sir Gerald Boles, Bart, who, with his mother, Beatrice Lady Boles, generously presented the site of the Hall.  Sir Gerald Boles was accompanied by Lady Boles, and the ceremony, which took place in the main hall of the building, was attended by a large gathering of villagers.

A Remarkable Achievement

The project of building the Hall, which also contains a billiards and clubroom, to replace the Men’s Institute, which was pulled down to make way for it, was mooted many years ago, and under the initiative of the late Sir Dennis Boles, Bart, plans were prepared, but afterwards set aside.

The scheme, however, has at last been accomplished, and the provision of the Hall meets a long-felt need in the village.  Its final accomplishment is in no small measure due to the efforts of Mr. H. D. Heesom, who has given an inspiring lead to the Management Committee and the sub-committee responsible for the organisation of the scheme.  The whole of the parish has played its part in the effort to provide a centre for its community life, and every organisation in the village has been represented on the committee.  How successful their enterprising and co-operative work has been can be judged from the fact that only about £145 remains outstanding on the cost of construction- a remarkable achievement for a village.

In addition to the Hall itself, a car park for the use of patrons of events being held there has also been provided.  This is due to the generosity of Mr. H Darby, who presented the site, and this also will prove an asset to the village.

About £100 still remains to be paid on the cost of this work, and a similar sum for the equipment of the Hall, which it was thought wise to undertake immediately in view of present conditions and the possibility of a rise in prices.

First Used by Evacuees

Apart from the opening ceremony, the Hall was used for the first time yesterday, when evacuated children arriving in the village were assembled there prior to despatch to the homes where they are being billeted.  The children were to have assembled at the village school, but with the new Hall and the facilities it offers available; plans were changed and announced by Major Bicknell, a member of the Hall committee, at the opening ceremony.

Thus the Hall has already proved of service, although in a way not usually associated with village life and activity, yet in accord with the purpose for which it was built – to be of service to mankind.

Features of the Building

Accomodation for over 200

The new Hall, which stands in the centre of the village on the site of the old Working Men’s Institute, is an attractive building constructed throughout of sand faced bricks. The roof is carried on scissor beam trusses, which are covered with cedar wood shingles.  The building is set back from the road, on which fronts the main entrance porch.  On either side of the porch there are cloak-rooms for ladies and gentlemen, each fitted with a shower bath, with hot and cold water, to meet the requirements of the National Fitness Council.  The porch opens into the main hall, which is a large, well lighted, lofty room with seating accommodation for about 220 people.  The floor, which is perfect for dancing, is of Columbian pine, but the walls and roof, like the whole of the interior of the building, are devoid of decoration.  This style has been adopted to reduce maintenance costs to a minimum, but the bare brick and woodwork is very effective and gives beauty to the building.

At the east end of the hall there is a stage, behind which are situated a large retiring room, kitchen, and billiards room.

New Staging Idea

An interesting feature in construction with the stage is that it is constructed of tables. The idea, in which Major A. Bicknell was associated with the architect, is an admirable one, and is likely to be adopted in other halls.

All the tables in the kitchen and retiring room have been constructed to exactly the same measurements, and they can be used to make a stage of various sizes, according to requirements.  When not required for this purpose, or as tables, they can be used as seat benches.  In this way considerable storage space for staging, etc, is saved.  The whole of the building is heated by gas radiators and electrically lighted.

Billiards Room Inglenook Fireplace

The fine billiards room has a separate side entrance, which also has a porch and cloak room adjoining.  A feature of the room is a large old-fashioned inglenook fireplace, on either side of which are comfortable bench seats.  All the floors, with the exception of the main hall and retiring room, are of coloured asphalt.  At the rear of the building there is a shed for the storage of theatrical scenery, etc, while there are also two fine grass tennis courts.  French windows in the retiring room overlook the tennis courts and open on to a terrace, from which games may be watched.

The architect was Mr. Curtis Green, R.A, the eminent London architect, of Messrs. Curtis Green, R.A., Son, and Lloyd, of St. James’. Piccadilly, while the contractors were Messrs. W. Potter and Sons Ltd., of Taunton, the work being carried out under the supervision of Mr. H F. Potter, managing director.  All the electrical, plumbing, and sanitary work was carried out by Messrs. H. West and Son, of Taunton.

The car park, which, although belonging to the Hall, will also be a great asset to the village, has been laid out nearly opposite the Hall, on the site of old cottages cleared for the purpose.

Speeches at Opening

Serving Present and Future

Mr. H. D. Heesom, who presided, described the occasion as a very happy one, and a “red letter” day in the history of the village.  They were, he said, standing in a building which was in every way worthy of all the community feeling, which was such a prominent feature of the village.  At such a time, however, their minds went back to those responsible for founding the old institute on the that site, and he regretted that one whose interest and influence had been great in the parish- Mrs. Frossard – was unable to be present. They hoped she would have been present to represent her late husband, who took such a keen interest in the Institute, and was its chairman for many years, but they regretted that she was too unwell to be present.  It was also regretted that Mrs Vernon, who had founded the initial fund towards the cost of the building, had been prevented from attending by an accident.

History of Project

Explaining the history of the building effort, Mr. Heesom said that it began even before the lamented death of Sir Dennis Boles. “On many occasions,” he said, “I talked to Sir Dennis about a hall, and in his lifetime he had already considered building a hall on this site.  The plans were actually drawn, but they were put aside, and the hall was not built.”   The next step, he continued, was the settlement of a trust deed.  It was over four years since this matter was talked about, but at length the deed was signed.  Then came a long interval, but finally a committee was set up according to the rules of the organisations assisting them with grants, and every organisation in the village was represented on the committee.  After paying tributes to the work of the architect and builders, the Chairman added that when it came to building the Hall the committee considered what an ideal village hall should be, and set out to try and build it rather than imitate others.  They had endeavoured to build not only for the needs of the present day, but also of the future.  The Hall had been built large enough for games, physical training, and other purposes, while a building with low upkeep costs had been aimed at.  In this respect, he thought they had succeeded, and that the Hall would meet the needs of the village for the future.

Villagers Wonderful Response

Dealing with the financial side of the scheme, Mr. Heesom explained that only about £145 was outstanding on the cost of building the Hall.  In addition to providing the Hall, the committee had been presented by Mr. Darby with the site of some old cottages practically opposite the Hall, and had decided to clear the site and make a car park in connection with the Hall.

He thought it would be agreed that this was a great asset to the village, but this work had involved further expense, and a debt of £100 remained on that item.  The village itself, however, had made a wonderful response to the scheme of building the Hall, and had subscribed about £1,200.

The Carnegie Trust had given £445, and the National Council of Social Services had loaned them £600, free of interest, both sums being obtained through the good offices of the Somerset Rural Community Council, while the National Fitness Council had also made a grant of £500.  He thought they would all be pleased to learn also that the recent fete held at Lynchfield House had produced £90, which was a very welcome subscription to the fund.  The cost of equipping the Hall would be approximately another £100, which was also outstanding, but the committee felt that in the present state of emergency the equipment should be provided at once in case of a rise in prices.  In addition, the Hall was now ready for any emergency use.

Gift of Site

The Chairman concluded with a sincere expression of thanks to all who had so generously subscribed to the scheme and assisted in any way.  It was, he said, a remarkable achievement for a village such as theirs, and he was deeply grateful.  He particularly acknowledged the work of the committee; and also specifically thanked Mr. W. J. King for his munificence; Major A. Bicknell for his valued services; Mr. H. Darby for his gift of the parking site and his work; the Working Men’s Institute, who had given up their old building and handed over their funds towards the new Hall; the Women’s Institute; and Mr. H Tipper for his admirable work as secretary of the committee.

In welcoming Sir Gerald Boles, the Chairman also acknowledged the generous gift of the Boles family of the Hall site.  He remarked that as soon as the project was started Beatrice Lady Boles and Sir Gerald had at once entered the scheme, and in addition to presenting the site had both made munificent donations to give the fund a send off.

English Village Life

Sir Gerald Boles Appeal

In declaring the Hall open, Sir Gerald Boles remarked that England was a country in which village life and unity had always had an outstanding place.  What better centre could there be for that life than a village hall.  “Bishop’s Lydeard has long felt the need of such a Hall as this”, he continued, “My father was always very interested in it and wished to see one established.  Thanks to the generosity and hard work of many in this village the provision of a Hall is now an accomplished fact, and it is a building of which we may all be proud.”

Sir Gerald paid a warm tribute to the work of Mr. Heesom, whom he described as having been “the moving spirit” behind the project, and remarked that their thanks were due to him in no small measure.  He also congratulated the architect and builders, commenting that the Hall was on simple, but dignified lines, and would not only stand the test of time, but would be a great asset to the village.  “Now that the village has this Hall,” he added, “I earnestly hope that everybody will do their best to support it.  I appeal not only for the support of visitors and friends from outside, but especially for the support of those who are fortunate enough to belong to the parish of Bishop’s Lydeard itself.”

The Chairman, in inviting the Vicar to dedicate the building, emphasized the fact that the Hall was entirely non-sectarian and non-political, and it would be at the service of everybody in the parish.

He added that it had been that the hoped that the Congregational minister, the Rev. W. Glover, would have been able to take part in the ceremony, but he regretted not being able to attend.

Serving God and Mankind

The Rev. J. du B. Lance (vicar), before dedicating the building with special prayers, said that the new hall was for one purpose, which was the service of mankind, and particularly those of the parish.  “It is not a religious building in any sense of the word.” He said.  “I dare say that it will never be used for any religious service, yet in truth it is to be used for a religious purpose.  It is, as I have said, to be used for the service of mankind, which is indeed the service of God.”

Sir Gerald was warmly thanked for attending to open the building by Mr. R. R Vernon, seconded by Mr. H. Darby.

The large gathering of villagers present were afterwards entertained to tea through the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Heesom, members of the Women’s Institute being responsible for the serving arrangements, and using the new kitchen in the Hall for the first time.

We are always looking for more photos and stories regarding the Village Hall so if you have any please contact us.