(written to celebrate the centenary)

The residents of Farnborough had always depended upon the Church, Pubs and Inns for public gatherings. In 1897 all this changed when the Parish Rooms was built. It has since changed its name to The Village Hall, as well as undergoing a number of improvements.

In the late 19th century the need for a permanent purpose-built meeting room gave rise to a number of local ‘Gentry’ getting together to form a Trust for just that purpose.

In 1893 the following appointed themselves as Trustees of the proposed Parish Rooms in Farnborough: The Right Honorable Sir John Lubbock, Baronet, M.P. of High Elms; Thomas Hamilton Fox of Hollydale, Keston, Esquire J.P.; William St.John Fox of Beechwood, Farnborough, Esquire; John Birbeck Lubbock, of 15 Lombard Street City of London, Esquire;
Henry Wilson, of Farnborough Lodge, Esquire; Arthur Phillips, of Chester Villas, Wellbrook Road, Clerk  and The Revd. Frederick Jessop Kelly of The Vicarage, Farnborough, Clerk in Holy Orders.

See the panel to the right for a

The Official Opening.

As depicted on the inscription built into the entrance porch, the Rev.F.J.Kelly was Vicar of the Parish, the Parish Room was designed by C.St. Pierre Harris, Architect and built by W.Owen.

On 5th October 1897 at 5pm in the Private office of Messrs Fox & Sons at Oak Brewery, Green Street Green, the Committee of Management of the Farnborough Parish Room met.

Those present were Mr. Walter St.John Fox, Mr. Henry Wilson and The Rev’d F.J.Kelly, who was Secretary to the Trustees.

He reported that at a meeting of the Trustees on Sept 29th 1897 the above gentlemen together with Mr. T. Hamilton Fox had been appointed to act as a Committee of Management.

The appointment of Treasurer & Secretary was made and a Warden of the Room would be engaged at such a salary as may seem necessary. ‘The Warden to be responsible for the cleaning, lighting of all fires and of the Gas. He is to be present at all occasions when the Room shall be open. The Vicar is to be entitled to use both rooms on Sundays for the use of Sunday School.’ The Vicar was appointed Secretary and Treasurer. Mr John Bradbery was appointed Warden at £10 per annum and the rates of hire were set. The Trustees were "to set up a repair fund as soon as finances allowed and until they shall deem such Repair fund adequate to the purpose it shall be their duty to endeavour to arrange for one or more annual entertainment to be held in the room, the profits of which shall be carried to the said Fund direct." There are no records of these ‘Entertainments’ being organised.

The next meeting was a ‘Special Committee Meeting’ held on 25th October 1897 to report that the Room had been duly opened by the Right Hon Sir John Lubbock, Bart, on Friday 15th October 1897. (a date to remember)

The minute book records that "The Farnborough Parochial Reading Room" was "Established 1888 and all Male Parishioners of Farnborough of 17 years and upwards shall be eligible to become members for an entrance fee of 6d. The Subscription shall be 2d per week".

At a meeting of the Management Committee on 18th November 1898 the accounts showed the interest in the P.O. Savings Bank was £16 and a balance at Martin’s Bank Building Fund account was £29 9s. "But against that there was Sir John Lubbock’s guarantee to be repaid, if he had not made a present of it". The Trustees had guaranteed, between them, the cost of building the Parish Room , repayments to be met from income raised from the hire of the Room.

2nd January 1899 minutes state, "It was resolved Mr.Wilson write to Sir John Lubbock saying there was insufficient in the Building Fund to repay his guarantee and that Messrs Fox had, before Mr Kelly’s death agreed to cancel their claim". Nearly three years later at a meeting on 31st October 1901 the minutes read "Mr.Wilson reported that he had communicated with Lord Avebury about his claim for repayment of guarantee, and Lord Avebury had accepted £30 in satisfaction of his claim, returning £5 to be spent on books for the Parish Library".

It is not clear how this new venture (Farnborough Parish Room) fared during its first two decades, there were few Trustee meetings recorded, but during this time the Rev Kelly and Mr Wilson had died. There is nothing in the minutes to indicate if the Room was used for any specific War activity or whether the parochial life in Farnborough continued much as normal. We know by looking at the war memorial in the churchyard that many of the local lads did not return from that conflict.

At a meeting on 20th September 1920 Mr Blandford, who had been Secretary and Treasurer for the past thirteen years, resigned from the committee as he was leaving Farnborough. Mr T Hamilton Fox and Mr Walter St. John Fox also resigned as Trustees as well as from the Committee, and Mr Blandford was instructed to sell War Stock to recoup himself and pay the balance to the Post Office Savings Bank Account. This seems to indicate that the finances were not very healthy, probably due to the other activities undertaken by young and old throughout the four years of the Great War. In February 1921 New Trustees were appointed and during that year several meetings were held to appoint officers, review the rules, the fees (these were increased by 50%). and the insurance on the Rooms, (which was increased to £1750.) When new Trustees were appointed a legal "Indenture" had to be drawn up which usually cost five guineas, plus a ten shilling stamp. (quite a sum when funds were almost non-existent).

The 1922 accounts were audited and from then until 1930 the "Room" was used for Concerts, Badminton, British Legion, Girls Club, Girls Friendly Society as well as the usual activities. During that time the outside was painted. Yes, the accounts were again in good order. But Lord Avebury had died as had Mr.Griffin, leaving only Mr.A.N.Lubbock as Trustee.

In 1929 a proposal was put forward to enlarge and improve the Parish Room at a cost of £2000. The scheme put up by the Trustees was approved by the Charity Commissioners but with two conditions. 1. There must be 7 Trustees 2. The Trustees must find a number of people willing to guarantee the £2000.

A public meeting was called on 26th November 1929 at 8.30 in the Parish Room but there are no records of this meeting or of the proposal. However, in January 1931 an account was rendered by Mr. Max J. Bell, Architect, amounting to £131 2s. For a scheme for enlarging the Room., which fell through due to lack of funds. The amount was questioned by Mr Lubbock resulting in a compromise and Mr Bell was paid £25. The following accounts were also paid at this time. £46 2s 7d to West Kent Electric for installing Electric Light to the premises and £235 to Wm. Owen & Sons for cleaning and decorating, supplying new stoves, building new cloak room, and a number of other improvements and repair work. It is interesting to note the wages paid during the recession. A Carpenter and Painter earned 2 shillings (10p) and a Labourer 1 shilling and 8 pence per hour. On August 25th of that year New Trustees were appointed. They were Dr J.F.Douce, Revd. R.G.Griffiths, Lt. Col. Kirkope, Mr. J.R.L.Bartlett, Mr.G.R.Miles, and Mr.L.Boosey.

The 1932 accounts were deemed very satisfactory so 25 card tables were purchased. Mr.Boots, schoolmaster, applied for the use of the small room for his "Old Boys Guild". There were dances held on a regular basis and a charge of £2 2s was made for Wedding Receptions from midday to midnight. The dances were discontinued in 1934 owing to lack of patronage. What did the good people of Farnborough do on a Saturday evening?

The question of the possibility of a third party claim being made against the Parish Hall was raised, quotations obtained and a Public Liability Insurance for £1000 was taken out at a premium of £1 12s 5d p.a.

There are no Trustee Meetings recorded between August 1934 and May 1938 when it was found that the finances were inadequate and it was resolved to increase the letting fees by 12.5%. But in spite of this increase the income from lettings in 1939 was not sufficient to cover the cost of running the Room.

The Trustees asked the secretary to put before the residents of Farnborough and surrounding district the precarious state of finance. He stated that ‘many people believed the Church owned the Room but this was quite incorrect as it belongs to the Inhabitants of Farnborough and the Church pay for the hire of it at the usual rate’. ‘The Room might have to be closed permanently if help is not forthcoming.’ .

September 1939 - What affect will the war have on the room?

 A note in the minute book of an informal meeting reads:- "Parish Room Owing to the war & consequent fewer lettings it was deemed necessary to cut down expenses where possible. The following arrangement was made with the Hall Keeper…instead of 14s weekly it was agreed to offer her, 3s per week for Sunday School, 2s per day on which the Hall is open for meetings etc, with a minimum wage of 6s per week." (and a footnote "She agrees") I’m sure that was not the last contribution to the war effort the good lady made.

January 1940 Mr.F.C.Braby, Church Warden, wrote to Mr. Bartlett suggesting the P.C.C. might consider taking over the running of the Parish Room with a view to upgrading it after the war. The P.C.C. considered this proposal and sought legal advice but no decision is recorded.

The war was causing a further drop in lettings and by October 1940 the finances were again in a very poor state so at a meeting on 19th it was agreed to approach the Orpington Branch of the Kent Community Council to ask if they would accept Trusteeship. If this failed the "Hall" (as it is now being called) would have to be closed.

There are no records as to what happened to this approach but on 8th January 1941 The Hon.Treasurer, Mr. S.Lang, wrote to Mrs. Stone (Hall caretaker) saying he was unable to stamp up her National Health Insurance Card as there was only 2d left in the Hall Account. Just 2d away from bankruptcy.

In a letter dated 13th Jan 1941 from Revd. Field, to Mr.Bartlett, Trustee Hon. Sec., he states he ‘is now willing to be put forward as a Trustee of the Parish Room.’

The next report in the minute book of the trustees is dated 1st February 1942. Negotiations with Orpington Urban District Council had taken place regarding the use of the Hall for a Rest Centre at a cost of 12s. 6d per day, with the Council providing their own heating. They would also erect a surface, brick built, air raid shelter beside the Room. The Kent Education Committee agreed to rent the Hall for 5 years at £30 per annum to be used for educational and recreational purposes. (The cavalry had arrived in the nick of time)

On 30th March 1942 new appointments were made and the names of the Trustees were as follows, John Freeman Douse of the "Gables" Farnborough, Medical Practitioner; John Reginald Quekett Bartlett of "Orchardside", Farnborough, Solicitor; Kenneth Macleay Kirkope of "Galway Lodge", Park Avenue, Lieutenant Colonel in His Majesty’s Army (Retired); Arthur Leonard Hedges of "Westfield" Sevenoaks Road Farnborough, Company Director; Frederick Cyrus Braby of 9 Meadow Way, Farnborough, Engineer and Ernest Peter Field of "The Rectory" Farnborough, Clerk of Holy Orders.

In April 1942 a "Schedule of Fittings at Farnborough Parish Room" was drawn up at the commencement of occupation by the Kent Education Committee subject to lease. At a meeting of the Trustees on 11th April 1943 the minute book records "The lease to the K.E.C. had been completed".

At last the immediate problems of the Room were over.

The "Hall" was used by a number of wartime organisations such as Home Guard, Fire Fighting Party, Rest Centre (at which the District Nurse, Nurse Bhat, was to attend at 10s per call out) as well as the Boys Club etc. Regular income had saved the day at a time that was proving very difficult for many public organisations as well as private businesses.

After the war

The war did end, and Farnborough, like every other town and village in Great Britain, celebrated victory with parties and reunions. But what of the future?

At a Trustees' meeting on 6th July 1946 the K.E.C. lease was renewed for a further 3 years at a rent of £50 per annum. At this time an evening class in drama and speech, run by Miss Dorothy Shadwell, was held from which evolved the present Farnborough Dramatic Society. Saturday Dances had resumed and local residents complained of bad conduct at these events, with young girls being taken to the Woodman and getting drunk. The Caretaker was instructed to exercise greater control over the dances.

We have no records of meetings during the next two years but we do know the Parish Room was well used for Youth Clubs, Whist Drives, Bridge Club as well as Dances and Wedding Receptions.
At a Trustees' meeting on 18th May 1948 a plan for alterations and additions to the premises was set out in a letter from Mr.G.W.Baldock and Messrs Owen & Son’s . Estimates were discussed and items Nos 1, 3, 4 & 8 (we have no record of these specific items) were agreed and £100 would be provided for the work. The accounts at Martins Bank Farnborough (until recent years Barclays Bank) were in credit to £187 11s. 6d. New Trustees were appointed and 10 trestle tables were purchased.

1948 and '49 were years of mixed fortune for the Room. Trustees resigning, rent from K.E.C. being underpaid, and only minor repairs being done. There was much discussion at Committee Meetings as to whether the K.E.C. should be expected to pay the underpaid rent as they had spent £62 on decorating the outside of the Hall. This matter came up again at the next meeting and it was agreed the Hon Secretary should write to the K.E.C. claiming the amount underpaid. It was also resolved at the meeting on 30th December 1949 that, if possible, a meeting of the Trustees should be called for January each year…There were no meetings recorded in 1950 but in this year the Rev’d Peter Field left the parish and his place was taken by the Revd. Aidan Chapman, complete with family and ‘Moped’.

Trustees came and went; Lt. Col. Kirkope died and the Committee expressed their gratitude of his long service as Trustee & Chairman. The K.E.C. tenancy ended in June and a Sub-Committee was set up, comprising of Messrs Downer, Hammond and Baldock, to consider the management of the hall and the fees to be charged for the future. A surveyor was appointed to ascertain the state of the Hall at the end of the tenancy and he reported that, due to wear, the floor had become rough and the K.E.C. had planed it, causing it to give way in certain places. A further three meetings were held during 1951 at which the Sub-committee presented their financial report but not their recommendations.

The minutes of the meeting of the Trustees held on 30th July 1952 were typed but were very brief. Tenders from five firms were considered but no mention of a decision is recorded. The Sub-Committee (Messrs A.E.W.Downer, W.R.Hammond and G.W.Baldock) produced their recommendations, (which were not included in the minutes). It was left to the next meeting, (which took place in the Parish Hall) on 17th July 1953 to record that at the last meeting the Committee had in fact… (1)accepted the cash settlement from the K.E.C. of £498 13s  5d. In lieu of putting the premises in order, prior to surrendering the lease. (2) accepted the tender by Mr Smithers (£230) for external decorations. (3) Messrs Wm. Owen & Sons tender (£203) for internal decorations was accepted. (4)renewal of the floor be deferred for 12 months…The Committee, on 17th July, further considered the state of the floor and decided to accept Messrs Wm. Owen & Sons tender of £142 (subject to amendment for omitting under the stage). They also resolved to set up a "reserve fund "for maintenance and that £150 be transferred from the general account.

Between June 1952 and June 1953 The Trustees had spent £459 16s 11d on repairs and redecoration, with about £150 outstanding to pay for the floor. This left approximately £175 in balance so it was decided to place £50 per year into the reserve fund for further improvements.

The war may have taken its toll on the Parish Room but without the intervention of the K.E.C. and the use by wartime organisations the finances could have been in a much worse condition.

The A.G.M. on 23rd July 1954 was held in the Parish Hall and the accounts revealed a balance for the year of income over expenses of £58 1s 2d. Making an overall balance of £383 2s. 8d. Never had they been so well off and what is more the lettings for the coming year were equal to the past year. The Management Committee were instructed to consult the Surveyor regarding, (1) Demolition of Chimney, (2) Condensation in Hall, (3) Ventilation and Draft proofing. They were also to consider, costs for new types of Blackout Curtains, (this may seem strange when the war had ended but they were essential for omitting daylight when drama & concerts were taking place), the Hall should not be let for Gymnastics, and an extra charge made to the Youth Club to cover additional insurance against damage to the premises. And finally it was agreed that £150 of the Capital in hand be invested in Defence Bonds.

This concludes the history of the first 60 years of the Parish Room/Village Hall.

Alan Robinson


Where to build this new
Parish Room?

There was a piece of land of about the right size on the High Street (next to a newly built house occupied by Mrs Florence Alice Wilson, No.63.)

The landlord was approached and The Right Honorable Sir William Hart Dyke of Lullingstone Castle, Baronet, M.P. and Percival Hart Dyke of the same place, Esquire, sold to the trustees for the sum of £50 the piece of ground previously occupied by Alfred Mace, being No 82 on the Tithe Apportionment Map, to enable them to erect premises to be used for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Parish of Farnborough.

This was for the following purposes".

  • Parish Institute Club Room, Library Reading and Recreation Room, Lecture Room and Room for Entertainment.

  • Parish Room for holding Technical Classes.

  • Club/Meeting Room for Friendly Societies.

  • As a Sunday School.

  • Class Room for Confirmation Candidates, Guild Meetings and other Religious instruction.

  • Room for Mothers Meetings, Band of Hope Temperance Society, Girls Friendly Society and Lads Brigade, Choir Practice and meeting of Bands, Musical Societies,

  • Cricket and Football Clubs.
    Room for collecting for Penny Banks, Dispensaries, Clothing Clubs.

  • Clerical Meetings and Social Conferences of the Clergy and other Parochial workers.

  • Committee Rooms for Societies Promoting Religious, Philanthropic, Charitable or Benevolent Purposes.

  • As a Gymnasium and Drill Hall.

  • With such activities going on in Farnborough how did they manage without a ‘Parish Room’?

    On 4th  December 1895 an Indenture was made, Signed, Sealed, Delivered and Enrolled in Judicature.

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