The following article is a copy of the text and pictures of a booklet written by SKEALS Chairperson, Jan Crowther and Secretary Diane Horncastle in 2005 at the time of the demolition of the Easington Church Hall which had been the centre of village life for almost 70 years.
This is a very short history of a building which has been central to the social and cultural life of Easington for almost 70 years. Every village needs a hall where people can gather together to celebrate, to learn, to talk, and to mix with and support each other. Easington’s hall belonged to the church, and on some occasions over its long life non-churchgoers were barred from using the building. But eventually wiser counsels prevailed, and the building reverted to being a village hall. Certainly in recent times Easington Church Hall has truly been a Community Hall. And now it has gone, to be replaced by a new building sponsored by the Langeled Partnership. Let us hope that it will fulfil as many functions as the old hall did, and become as much a part of village life.
During World War I it was decided that a Church Institute should be erected in Easington. The purpose of the Institute was to be a venue for church events, religious, educational and social. The land chosen was in the village square on a fold yard alongside Thompson’s Farm, which at that time belonged to the Church. Mr. Robert Walker of The Tower recorded in his diary that he gave £30 to the Vicar ‘for the Institute’, on June 14th 1915. It is not known when the building was erected, but on 3rd February 1919 Mr. Walker recorded having been in the Institute (which was a small corrugated iron hut, with a porch fronting onto the square) for the first time. In its early years it was not the only building used for social functions. Across the square was a wooden hut, which had been brought from Spurn after the war and erected alongside the Quinton’s shop. This was used for whist drives and dances and other social events. However the Institute became popular with the men of the village, because it had a billiards table, and that was to be a cause of contention in the village in the mid-1930s. Apparently the vicar, Reverend Robins, called into the Institute one evening and seeing a large number of the village men playing billiards, queried whether they were church-goers. Many of them were Methodists, and he told them to leave the Institute, which was reserved for church-goers. In a gesture of solidarity all the men, Anglicans and Methodists, l eft. As a consequence of the vicar’s hard line a group of people formed the Social Services Club, with the aim of raising money for a new village hall for all the villagers. Fundraising events of all kinds were held and much money was raised. A Women’s Working Party was established. A plot of land was donated for the new hall, where Dimlington Bungalows were later erected.
In 1935 the billiards table which had started the controversy was removed from the hall despite protests from Mr. Ted Sharp of Southfield Farm, Kilnsea. The vicar said that the church hall was required for ‘more important work’. He intended the Institute to be used for a Men’s Fellowship, a Young People’s Guild, and for weekly whist drives. In the meantime plans were going ahead by the church for a new building on the site of the Institute. The vicar told the vestry meeting that there was a need in the village for a larger building, and asked whether it should be called a Church Institute or a Church Hall. Mr. Henry Clubley, probably mindful of the split in the village as a result of the vicar’s actions, said that he favoured Parish Hall, ‘which would command more general support’.
By 1936 plans were well under way for a new hall. There was much debate, recorded in the Vestry minutes, about the style of the new building. Should it be brick-built or wood? Brick would cost £900, whereas a wooden building could be constructed for £300. The vicar said that he wanted a building that would tone with its surroundings. He wanted it to be built after the pattern of the one at Halsham. There was a debate about the roof. Should it be grey corrugated asbestos tiles, or red ones? The red ones were more expensive but it was decided that they would look better. The building was to face the square, with the main door at that end. The builder was Mr. Hunter, and after the old Institute was sold for £25 to the Tennysons and re-erected as a dwelling at North Farm, Kilnsea, work began in June. The Vestry meeting discussed what kind of floor the building should have, what furniture would be necessary, and how many cups, saucers and plates should be purchased? A piano was needed and this was donated by Mr. Robert Walker of The Tower. The roof was to be varnished with a light varnish, and the lower part of the walls with a darker tint. Curtains and rods, bulbs and shades, a large curtain to divide the room, lino for the offices, new tables and chairs, and 100 cups, saucers and plates were bought. Money was raised through an Easter whist drive and a summer garden party. In July when the framework of the hall was in place a serious flood filled the square, but the work carried on.
The opening took place on September 25th 1936. Mrs Vodden, the Archbishop’s wife, performed the opening ceremony, after which afternoon tea was served. In the evening a whist drive and dance took place. Prizes for the whist drive were donated by Messrs. G, Clark, W. Clubley, R. Brown, J. Tennyson, C. Medforth, H. Clubley, and the vicar. The Masters of Ceremony at the dance were Messrs. W. Clubley and L. Newsam, and Mr Hutchinson’s Embassy Band was engaged for the dance, with Mr. J. Tennyson acting as door-keeper. These surnames will be familiar to all in Easington today!
Charges for the use of the hall were 17/6d (87½ pence) for non-church events, and 10/- (50 pence) for church events. In the meantime the Social Services Club was also flourishing, and in 1938 in a gesture of reconciliation they approached the church asking for some of its members to join their committee, and help to raise money for a hall for the whole parish. However the vicar said he thought that there was not room for two halls in the village and he was resolved not to get involved. The village remained divided over the issue. On 3rd September 1939, war was declared and other priorities took over.
Then came a new role for the hall. The black-out regulations forced a re-think of church services. Blacking out the church was impractical, so the vicar decided that in the winter months the Church Hall should be used. However, in 1940 the hall was requisitioned by the military authorities. This brought in £52 per annum, but took the control of the hall away from the church completely. The army apparently used the hall for a canteen, and the Vestry minutes record its use as a base for the YMCA, which provided support for troops and for firewatchers and searchlight parties. Cinema shows were put on in the evenings. By October 1944 the searchlight parties had left and the YMCA base was no longer needed. The electricity was turned off and there was a confused period, when the cinema organiser, Mr. Agar, arrived to show a film and found that the power had been switched off and no troops had come to see the film. He left in a disgruntled mood and never came back! However the film shows did continue after the war, as the Hall accounts show. They were held weekly in 1946 and must have been very popular. In the next few years they became less frequent but still continued. An entry in the accounts for 1949 on February 26th shows £1 having been received from Kingston Mobile Cinema for two lets in January. Other events taking place in these years were Women’s Institute meetings, British Legion events, the Youth Fellowship, meetings of the Sports Committee, flower shows, and regular whist drives. There was an annual New Year and Boxing Day dance. Further education classes of various kinds were also held there.
In 1949 the hall had a new use – as an infants’ school. Easington Primary School was overcrowded so it was necessary to have an overflow. The educational authorities paid the church for this service, thus helping to keep the hall financially viable. In 1949 the Youth Club was running a Drama Club in the hall, and by the early 1950s the Easington Drama Group was using the hall regularly. In 1952 the accounts refer to the R.A.F. playing badminton in the hall and the Mothers’ Union holding their meetings there. On April 9th 1953 a ‘Flood Dance’ was held to raise money for the devastating East Coast Floods earlier in the year. From the late 1950s wedding reception were held more frequently in the hall, at a cost of two guineas (£2.10).
David Erving, the son of the Reverend Lesley Erving, who became Rector in 1948, remembered the hall from his childhood — ‘The many jumble sales for which my brothers and I collected bric-a-brac! The sales for the blind! The Whist Drives where I acted as MC, the Beetle Drives! The Sunday School parties were great fun - Lantern Slides, potted meat sandwiches and lots of games, from musical chairs to hockey using rolled up newspapers. When I was older I attended the Youth Club organised by Mr. & Mrs. Stinton from Kilnsea’.
The members of the Social Services Club were still hoping for a Community Hall to serve everyone in the village, and in 1956 they again approached the church, this time to ask if they could purchase the hall and turn it into a parish hall. At that time the hall was being used for wedding receptions, dances, evening classes, plays, Civil Defence exercises, and so forth. The organisations which used it included the Women’s Institute, the R.A.F., the British Legion, and the Football Club. After careful consideration the request to buy the hall was turned down by the Parochial Church Council, despite the fact that the hall was being used for many functions not in any way related to the church. It was, for example, used as a library by the County Library service. The library opened every Saturday morning, and someone suggested that it might be a good idea if coffee were to be provided when the library was in operation. This suggestion was enthusiastically taken up. Though the library closed in the 1980s, when the mobile library took its place, the Saturday coffee mornings continued. They have done so ever since!
The vestry minutes record several occasions when the problems inherent in running a church hall which doubled up as a village hall reappeared. In 1967 a prolonged debate about the costings for heating, lighting and cleaning took place, when the Rector stated ‘We are shouldering an unfair burden for the village’. As a result of the debate a sub-committee was formed, which raised the charges for the hall. By this time the Reverend Finch, perhaps in an attempt to emphasise the ownership of the hall, had changed its name to Church House, but as soon as he left, in 1968, the name reverted to the Church Hall, which was ‘received throughout the parish with a sense that we have put something right’.
The hall at that time had a stage, which in 1969 was made a more or less permanent feature. In 1970 charges for hiring the hall were as follows: meetings £1; jumble sales £2; whist drive in afternoons £1 and in evenings £2; parties £3; weddings £4.4s; dances £5; coffee evenings £2. In 1971 BP paid for electric heaters to be put in the hall, and in 1978 two suspended heaters and two strip lights were installed.
In 1975 when the British Legion had lost its hut in the Square, the hall was used by the Legion for Bingo. A change to the outside appearance was made in 1977. Mr. Ken Horncastle, at that time the Chairman of the sub-committee and a person who put much time into the running of the hall, was painting the outside, and noted how damp the building was as a result of the wall that surrounded it. He proposed that the wall should be lowered by about three feet, which was done.
By the 1980s church functions were still taking priority and there was a lower fee for them, but the hall was getting older, and needed regular maintenance. Often income from functions was insufficient. Regular sources of income, such as the Infants’ School and the library had been invaluable, but they were no more (the infants left in 1959), and people of the parish of all religious persuasion and none rallied round to support the hall with regular coffee mornings and other activities.
By 2005 the hall was 69 years old, and new health and safety regulations meant that it no longer met modern requirements. The opportunity arose, thanks to the generosity of the Langeled partnership, to pull down the old hall and build a new one. This was too good an opportunity to miss, but the old hall, which provided such a good venue for events over the years, and had been the focus of social life in Easington parish for so long, will be remembered with great affection by everyone.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the Langeled Partnership for producing and printing this booklet. We would also like to thank all the people (too many to list) who have helped us, by lending us photographs, by talking to us about the Church Hall, and by generally supporting us while we worked on the exhibition and the booklet.
Jan Crowther and Diane Horncastle, on behalf of the Easington Community Hall Committee, November 2005