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about the hall

Old photograph of the village hallThe building now known as Kingsdown Village Hall was erected in 1843 by Mrs Elizabeth Curling, wife of William Curling, for the ‘purpose of educating the children of artisans and working people’. Mr and Mrs Curling lived at Kingsdown House, now the Manor House, and were wealthy farmers, land-owners and ship owners. William Curling also gave £4500 to build 'St John the Evangelist' Church in 1850, and financial help to build the Rectory, the Old School House, and Vicarage Cottage.

The school had two large rooms with a fireplace in each room, and catered for 90 pupils by the early 1900s. The present lower hall was originally the cloakroom, with hooks for the childrens' clothes around the walls. The school, which was owned by the Education Authority, closed on the 31st December 1937, and in 1939, the authority decided that the building was redundant. During the whole of World War Two, the hall was used as a troop’s canteen, run and staffed by the people of the village. In 1949, it seemed that the building would be sold by the Education Authority and lost to the village.

1950s Conversion to a Village Hall

The Parochial Church Council stepped in, and raised a mortgage to purchase the building for a total of £250. The PCC further agreed to pass the building over to the care of the villagers in the form of a Village Hall Committee. A Deed of Trust was signed on 10th January 1952, stating that the Hall was to be held in Trust by an elected Management Committee consisting of one nominee from each of the organisations in the village, and run for the benefit of the inhabitants of Kingsdown and its immediate vicinity. The Trustees of the Hall at that time included the Vicar and the Churchwardens of St John’s Church, Kingsdown. The Deed is still registered with the Charity Commission (we were subsequently given the charity number of 302777 after the Charities Act of 1960). With help from some very generous donations, including an anonymous donation of £200 which paid off the mortgage, and subscriptions over a period of three years, the Hall was partly re-built, entirely redecorated, and altered to much as we see it today. Kingsdown consisted of about 600 villagers at this time, so the total of £2100 raised was a considerable amount. The first Annual General Meeting was held on 6th March 1952, when approximately 60 people attended a meeting chaired by Dr M L Farmer, with the District Brown Owl, Miss Sybil Crocker, the Secretary. The Hall was ‘packed to the doors’ for the opening ceremony performed by Mr and Mrs Gerald Hardman, held on Easter Monday 1st April 1952. Lieut.-Col Willis Farrier O.B.E. J.P, from the Parish Council, was acting chairman that day, as Dr Farmer had broken his leg.

Many groups have used the Hall over the years. Along with the Parochial Church Council and Parish Council, these have included a Child Welfare Clinic(1955), Nursery school (1956), Mothers Union, Girls’ Club, Boy’s Club, Young Wives, Music Society, Dancing School, Dance group for children, Line Dancing, Choir, Angling Club, Garden society, Youth Club, Table Tennis section, Badminton Group, Keep Fit Group, Martial Arts, Darby and Joan, Civil Defence, Brownies, Guides, Cubs, Beavers, Sunday School, WI, Wissant Society, and a Whist group. A Playgroup was established in the 1970s by Mrs Barbara Broome, and this has evolved into the present day PreSchool, who are who are now our biggest users. We employed a caretaker for many years, and even paid them a Christmas bonus!

A Village fete was held in 1952, (and annually for about 20 years), in local residents’ gardens (often Red Cottage in Church Cliff) to supplement the income generated by the letting of the Hall to groups and individuals. The money raised was divided between the Village Hall and the Church, and it was this money along with regular donations from the user groups which enabled the Hall to be maintained, generally keeping the finances in the black over the years.

The first biggest change to the Hall, installed shortly after the opening, was the construction of a stage, paid for mainly by the WI. By the AGM held on 22nd March 1954, we also had a kitchen and cloakrooms (costing £640-19s-7d), and the grand piano had been replaced by an upright one installed on the ‘platform’. The Whist group helped to buy a shed for the forecourt, as the lack of storage has been a continual problem for the Trust Members/Hall Management Committee and users. Also in 1954, a picture of the Queen was purchased for £4-17s-3d. Stage plays were often held, (requiring a music and entertainments licence), and funds were spent during 1956 on forecourt repairs, roof repairs, safety equipment, re-polishing the floor and general decoration.

Village Life in the 1960s

Brownies used the Hall regularly, and packs from further afield spent their holidays here during August from about 1957 to at least 1981. The hall was used Sunday afternoons by the Sunday school, and we had the addition of a youth club in 1959. During 1960, the stage was extended, the shed roof repaired and wire netting put over the front windows to protect them. Two years later, the flat roof over the passage had to be repaired, (only to be completely renovated a year later), and stairs were put in to improve access to the stage. In 1963, a fence was erected between the Village Hall and the adjoining property, the Old School House. By 1965, it was considered essential that a complete survey of the Hall was carried out, and the toilet facilities housed inside the building. Another piano was requested by the Sunday school, and the shed, billiard tables (left over from the Youth Club which had ceased), and an old piano were sold. Having previously raised funds for a bus shelter in 1955 (erected at the bottom of Upper Street for use by school children waiting for their morning buses), we now had problems with their use of it after school hours!

The AGM of 28th April 1966 increased the Hall hire charges to cover the cost of our connection to the main drainage as we had a common drain with the Old School House. The work was carried out in 1967 by a local firm called ‘Oliphant and Busby’. The forecourt was resurfaced in 1967/8, but plans for hall alterations in the 1970s were abandoned on the grounds of cost. No summer fete was held in 1972, we bought yet another piano in 1974, but interest in the Hall was at such a low level that a second AGM had to be called on 12th June 1974. The 51 people attending had a lively discussion on the future of the Hall, but after looking at many options, the AGM of 1975 made a ‘final decision’ to repair and maintain the present building. Over the next few years, the back wall was excavated to render in safe, and notice boards put up outside. At the AGM of 1983, Mrs Burton, the owner of the Old School House, confirmed that her deeds showed her boundary up to the adjoining fence on the west side, and gave her verbal permission for a fire door to exit on to her property. Comments that the Lower Hall was used as a ‘dumping ground’ and untidy storage area have been repeated over the years, along with the accumulation of debris on the adjoining Holiday Park property to the east side.

Improvements in the 1980s

More grants and/or funds were needed for the main roof, (part of it collapsed over the stage in 1985 during Colin Cotton’s 15 year period as chairman up to 1999), and a huge fund raising effort was made during 1986 for roof repairs costing in the region of £2000. The Dover District Council, Kent County Council and our Parish Council contributed to the fund, and we had donations from most of the village organisations, including money from the carol singers at Christmas. The roofs were repaired during 1986, and we also built storage cupboards along the walls in the Lower Hall with a donation from Mrs Littlejohns in memory of her husband, Tich. We installed new units in the kitchen and improved the flooring there and in the toilet areas. Fortunately, we suffered no damage to the Hall in the ‘Great Storm’ of 1987 - our new front doors had been installed just in time!

We were concerned about the effect of the new school which had been built on the Village Green in 1988, but only the WI moved there as many of their members found the parking easier. During the year, we had problems with boys from the Holiday Park using the flat roof as a short cut to the village, which probably brought forward the need to repair it the following year! Mr Oliver, the Holiday Park owner, was contacted regarding the adjacent boundaries. We had to buy more chairs as 73 were not enough, the floor was sanded and sealed, the Scouts erected a flagpole in the hall and started using the under stage area as storage space, and the preschool’s storage grew on to the cupboard tops!

Changes for the 1990s

During 1990, we had a new notice board and front gate, a new cooker, two new heaters and new guttering, and the 23 card tables owned by the Whist group were repaired. Our caretaker’s wages were increased from £10 to £12 per week.

The Preschool generously offered to raise money to lay a new forecourt surface. The tarmacing was duly completed in 1991 with financial help from the VH committee, Brownies, DDC and the Parish Council. Auctions and all the usual fund raising activities took place over the next few years to upgrade and decorate the hall, and the cleaner’s wages increased again from £20 to £30 per week. We appointed a new cleaner in October 1996, and she continued in the the job until the end of 2010.

During 1993, the main problem facing us was the fire exit on to the Old School House property. We consulted with Williamson and Barnes solicitors, but eventually had to put in a new fire door costing nearly £3000 (paid for after more fund raising and grants from DDC and the PC) on the opposite side of the hall in 1995. Mr Ian Burton of the Old School House paid for the original access to be bricked up and plastered. The new door exited on to the property owned by Mr Oliver, who agreed in writing, and asked in return for access to be able to use the Hall for visiting French children free of charge. The door was installed, and inspected by a fire officer, who said it was suitable for up to 100 people using the hall at any one time. The dividing brick wall on to the Old School House was also strengthened.

We had another new notice board in 1995 at a cost of £268 – this lasted until 2009, when it became a safety hazard and had to be replaced. During the year, we had a suggestion from the Parish Council that in conjunction with them, we considered the building of a new hall. An Extraordinary Meeting was called on 5th February 1996, when the PC proposed that a new hall could be built in principle, with 25% of the costs coming from them, 25% from the DDC, 25% from the KCC and 25% from the VHC. Parish Councillor Doreen Clark joined the team to progress this idea in 1998, and a questionnaire was distributed to the 1300 villagers on the electoral role. Of the 235 questionnaires returned, the majority favoured the school site. The Parish Council agreed to pay £3000 for planning, and said they would hope to complete the project by the end of 2000. Residents asking about keeping the old hall were informed that this was a non-negotiable option, but after ten years of research, debate and negotiations into the possibilities of using land at the school, the scout camp and the land adjoining the hall to the east, the project had not progressed.

The usual maintenance was carried out, and improvements were made up to the Millennium with the erection of a fence across the playground to improve the safety of the children, and the Lower Hall was given a face-lift under James Tysoe’s Chairmanship with help from Pfizer. The piano, which had seen little recent use, was disposed of, and the space used to create cupboard space for the preschool. We also installed a child-sized toilet in the Ladies. The PC gave us £500 for exterior painting, and the WI moved back to use the Village Hall. Since 2000, we have been trying for formalise the fire escape access, but with no success.

Into the 21st Century

A photo of the village hallThe flat roofs were repaired again in 2001. A DVD and video was made with the profits going to the hall, entitled ‘Kingsdown Ancient and Modern’, and to mark the 50 year History of the Village Hall, a presentation of the history of the hall was made by Mr Tony Burt at the AGM of 2002. We had a complete facelift inside and out during 2007, as the hall was painted by the Community Services (all the labour was free, and we paid for the required materials). The kitchen and toilets received another boost, and we still had the question of a new hall on our regular agenda.

The management of village halls has changed dramatically since 1952. The Trustees joined the Kent brach of a national organisation, known as ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural Kent), and earned their Level 1 Hallmark Award for competance in management in June 2010, level 2 for health, safety and licences in February 2013, and the final level 3 award for Community and social awareness, forward planning and development in January 2014. All three awards are valid until 31st January 2017.

To enable us to finally decide the issue of either to build a new hall, or to renovate the existing hall, another questionnaire was researched and compiled by the Secretary, Mrs Jane Banks, and was then delivered (March 2009) to every household in the Kingsdown Parish – now over 900. A Public consultation meeting was held in May 2009, followed by a voting day on 13th June 2009 for all eligible residents. This was a very emotional period in the history of the hall, but the result was 340 to 129 in favour of refurbishing the present hall. Following this vote, the Village Hall Committee voted unanimously (minutes of meeting 23rd June 2009) to work towards the residents’ choice, and are currently working to establish a business plan and to raise the funds necessary for the project with the aim of having a hall suitable for the 21st Century and beyond by the hall's 60th anniversary on 1st April 2012. It is hoped the improvements will encourage new groups to use the hall, but it has also meant that we said goodbye to our longest running group, the Whist Group on 15th December 2009.

A great deal of work was completed during the summer of 2010, when the stage was removed to make way for new toilet and kitchen facilites, paid for with part of the very generous £75K grant from the Ringwould with Kingsdown Parish Council. A new central heating system was also installed to replace the ancient and inefficient old heaters. The Lower Hall was completely gutted as it suffered from damp.

The results of the questionaire also gave the Trustees valuable information and 'proof of need', essential in efforts regarding grant applications. The Secretary, Jane Banks, was successful in obtaining a Grassroots Grant (March 2009) for nearly £5000 for new chairs, tables, crockery and cutlery, and also a Sandwich Deanery - Church in Society - Grant for £500 (September 2010) towards a hearing loop, which we hope will be installed in the near future. Jane enlisted help from Helen Williams, and together they submitted an application for £1530 for a chair lift for the hall to the Dover Neighbourhood Forum Government 'participatory budgeting' scheme, but were unfortunately not successful (September 2010). However, their bid to the Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust (October 2010) through ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural Kent), was successful, and they managed to obtain £2500 towards refurbishing the Lower Hall (formerly the old school cloakrooms). This grant, with the balance being met by the hall and the Parish Council, provides a self-contained small meeting room for hire by the villagers with a toilet and coffee making facilities. The opening ceremony was held on Saturday 10th September 2011, and the tape was cut by the chair of the Parish Council, Patrick MacWilliam. Many people came to view the display of photographs of the village, (dating from about 1900 to the present day), and one resident even brought with her a souvenir programme from 1st April 1952, when the hall was opened as the village hall after its conversion from the village school.

In August 2011, we were able to act on a further successful grant application to the 'Awards for All' fund. We received £9500 towards the replacement of the preschool cupboard, and during the summer break we constructed a mezzanine floor in that area of the main hall with storage facilities underneath. Thanks go to Doreen Clark for the grant application.

Summer 2012 saw the forecourt fitted with a safe play surface, artificial grass, a new fence (supplied and fitted free of charge by Vurley fencing), hanging baskets on the wall and a replanted flowerbed. Preschool organised and funded most of this work, with the remainder paid for by the hall Trustees.

The Trustees commissioned an Access Review In October 2012, and also consulted the Kent Fire and Rescue service for advice. Our building is a very difficult one in which to provide access for those with mobility impairment, and our policy has been reviewed to advise those with any such issues to look at other venues which can better accomodate them.

Also in 2012, we were successful in obtaining a grant for £2500 from a DDC scheme, and the outside security lighting was replaced. This grant also covered buying a new notice board for community use, and a year later we obtained a further grant of £2500 to refurbish the floor of the main hall. This work will be completed over the Easter break of 2014.

The main hall and lobby were decorated during the summer of 2013, followed by the kitchen in October. The Trustees invited the community to a celebration of all this work, and a full hall enjoyed a talk by a descendant of Jarvist Arnold, our village lifeboat hero, and a singing group performed some Kentish songs both old and new.

Further grants are being investigated to complete the main hall refurbishment.

Information gathered from documents held by Kingsdown Village Hall Management Committee.

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