The Story

Of Our

Village Hall

The building still presents to the street a hint of its earlier form – the modest ornamental lintels over the upstairs front windows. It was rebuilt in that style in c.1800 after the Great Fire of 1798. To the right of the front door was a freshwater well in the tiny front yard which was not filled in until about 1955.

This building served as the village school until 1913 when the new school was finished at Elm Tree Corner. The building acquired its prominent gable extending outwards towards the roadside in 1861. Even with the large window there were times in the winter (c.1905) when “the lamps were lit all day”. The school was a Church of England School but had a heritage which originates in 1504. The last of the Wakes resident in the village, Roger Wake, left an endowment upon his death of £11 per year to provide a “Grammar School and to attract a teacher of quality such as a Graduate of Oxford”. The charter was to teach children to read and write, learn certain scriptures in Latin, provide a church choir and welcome “as many poor children, as brought to the school, who should be taught alongside the paying scholars”. Unfortunately the endowment trust was set up to provide a fixed amount of money each year (before tax) and by the 1700’s the school had degenerated financially into an ordinary village school, being taken over by the Church with the headmasters being a succession of curates or rectors. By around 1900, the school was managed by a committee made up from the Board of Ratepayers, the Clergy and officials of the Northampton Education Authority.

At a time before the Great Fire, it is known that the school building occupied the same space as it does now plus around 4 yards more in the direction towards the centre of the village. Next to the building was the freehold land of J.Westley Senior. He had a house which spanned the frontage on Stoke Road and behind it a bake-house and paddock. The fire destroyed a dozen houses including Westley’s bake-house, his own house and the school building. Westley then purchased the 4 yards from the Church for £40. This was a generous sum which allowed the Church to quickly rebuild the school. In turn, the extra land allowed Westley to build a house allowing access to a rebuilt bake-house. The narrow house was built in 1799, just before the new school, and demolished alongside the major housing developments of the 1960s.

 

There is a Blisworth Parish Council minute in June 1938 acknowledging that there should be a village hall. Attention was turned to the small building in Stoke Road directly opposite the old school. This building was put up in 1874 to accommodate the infants at a time when the main school was becoming overcrowded due to the railways and mining expanding the village. By 1913, the infants were moved into the new school at Elm Tree Corner. Afterwards, the building (still owned by the Diocese of Peterborough) was “warmed with a good fire to serve as a quiet retreat” for the working men of the village. It became known as the Men’s Institute or ‘Stute’. During WWII the building was used by the Army Cadets and afterwards being used as a youth club. The disused old school was maintained less well. It accommodated Church of England Sunday School meetings but little else. By 1954, the ‘Stute’ was conveyed from the Diocese of Peterborough to a Village Hall Trust whose trustees were two Blisworth Parish councillors and a solicitor. In around 1963, the building was sold to Frank Freeston for £1000.

Attention on the need for a Village Hall seemed to cool in favour of an ever-mounting push to have some good playing fields. By Len Piggott’s account, the old Parish Field was finally bought by the Parish Council and some of the banked £1000 was used to level, seed and equip a new playing field. The measures were made parochially ‘legal’ by merging the Village Hall Trust and the Playing Fields Association into one body of trustees with a charity status being achieved in around 1965.

Westley’s narrow house and the long paddock behind it was bought in 1923 by the British Bacon Company. On this site they ran a slaughterhouse until November 1960. In the late 1960s, the bacon factory paddock, a slice of land attached to Crieff House and the bulk of the land associated with Home Farm were all earmarked for development. The narrow house next to the derelict old school was torn down in April 1972 as were a few other houses fronting onto Stoke Road. In November 1974, the old school was seen as a potential village hall but only after rumours had circulated that the church was intending to sell it off. The company Buswell’s was approached and gave a verbal undertaking (followed by written confirmation) that a square of land behind the old school would be given to the village and associated with a vaguely perceived community centre. The patch was consistently referred to as the ‘Buswell Play Area’ for many years.

In the third quarter of 1975, the old school officially became the property of the merged association – Village Hall & Playing Field Association. The refurbishment project was handed to the Parish Council to manage. After costly alterations the building was provided with two upstairs committee rooms and a large hall with kitchen facilities at the rear. Two very large steel girders were installed to support the committee room level and the building’s rear wall. The brick extensions on the back of the old school were demolished and ironstone dug out to make room for the large flat roofed extension. In 1975 the projected costs were expected to be up to £20,000. The village needed to raise between £3000 to £5000 in order to get the project started. “We would all happily pay £3 to £4 for a good night out so why not pay that just the once for the village to have the venue for functions in the future”. This worked and it was not long before the conversion could start.

When finished in 1978, the building was handed back to the charity association. This was 40 years after the first recorded mention of a need for a village hall. It was the doubling of the number of households within the parish in their 1960s and 70s that had supplied the driving force.

In September 1978, the Parish Council chairman Robin Philtrip and clerk Tim Rogers opened the new hall. A building of this type, with a 200 year old ridge roof of imported slate is bound to have bouts of expensive repairs but it does not contribute to Blisworth’s distinction.

Recent repair projects include:

The restoration of the large gable window (using a grant from the Co-op and local businesses);

Adequate facilities for the disabled;

Resurfacing of the car park (Lottery grant and Tesco’s Bags of Help);

Total repainting of the interior to an attractive grey with improved lighting suitable for parties and events;

The provision of a new kitchen;

The upgrade of toilets together with the provision of one for the disabled and baby changing;

New carpet for the stairs and meeting room;

Purchase of better chairs and folding tables;

Bowls Club purchased a new mechanism for storing and rolling out their mats, and we have facilitated a box made to contain it;

A new roof in keeping with the conservation area (using a grant from South Northants Council);

Night storage heaters updated;

Provision of cushions for chairs made up by Margaret Holiday;

New crockery, cutlery and kitchen equipment;

Water heater for drinks (grant from our District Councillor in the wake of the Covid pandemic) along with a new fridge freezer and an under counter water heater;

Adequate cupboard storage for hirers to store their items easily.

We strive to make the Hall as useful and attractive as possible.


For further detailed information:

http://www.blisworth.org.uk/images/Articles/village_hall.htm