ASHCOTT MEMORIAL HALL
The Ashcott Memorial Hall, now converted into private Flats called Meadow Court, was built on the southern side of the A39 Bath Road,west of the village, opposite Etonhurst.
It was built as a “permanent memorial in recognition of the return of peace (after the First World War), and in the memory of those of the Village, who laid down their lives for their King and Country”.
Mr Frederick R. Howe was the main promoter of the building project.
He was born around 1870 and died around 1957.
He was a businessman who owned Collieries in South Wales, was a Shipping Agent and was also involved with the Timber Trade.
He moved to Ashcott in about 1912 with his Son and Daughter, when he built Millslade Hall in Station Road.
He moved back to South Wales in 1922.
Building the Memorial Hall
Mr Howe called meetings of Ratepayers in January 1919 to promote his idea to build a Memorial Hall.
His idea did not get great support, but he was determined to go ahead and by mid February 1919 a meeting decided to build a Hall as a War Memorial.
He offered to donate funds to match any local contributions or fundraising which was rejected.
It was agreed the building be financed by a combination of local donations, fundraising and a loan from Mr Howe which would be repaid within 10 years.
The Architect was Arthur Vigar of Glastonbury, the Builder was E. Granville of Westhay.
Building began at the end of March 1919, Foundation Stones were laid on 9th June 1919.
The Memorial Hall was officially opened by the Mayor of Glastonbury on 20th December 1919.
Fundraising for the Hall
The information we found in local newspaper reports :-
28th March 1919 – a report of a list of 16 donors was published.
30th May 1919 – a report of a Fete & Sports announced that the cost of building had been covered.
14th August 1919 – a report of a Bank Holiday Fete.
Mr Ian Bagg supplied a document owned by his Father Mr Len Bagg dated 1919, which gave a breakdown of Memorial Hall Building Cost, Furniture, Subscriptions and Loans.This shows the total cost of £5,438 which is the 2008 equivalent of £790,000 when comparing average earnings.
The Memorial Hall in Action
The Hall was built to seat 500 people, had a Foyer, Stage and Balcony. It also had an Institute section which included Reading Room, Billiard Room and accommodation for a Ladies Club.
It was very up to date and had Cinema Projection facilities (the earliest Talking Movie was 1927).
Running Expenses were to be paid from a monthly “Members Subscription” of 1/- (5p)
Mr Howe gave lessons in Pitman’s Shorthand and French.
Mr Howe used his contacts in Bristol & South Wales to organise the showing of the latest Films,
Variety Shows and Classical Concerts. Dances were also very popular.
There was also a Flower & Vegetable Show organised by the Ashcott, Shapwick & Greinton Horticulture Soc.
Information about activities at the Memorial Hall is a bit limited and relies upon local newspaper reports and Resident’s memories. We do not have any Photographs of the inside of the Hall.
The Bridgwater Mercury reported 300 people watched a Film there at Easter 1925.
Mrs Griffin of Chapel Hill remembers attending Girl Guides there in the 1930’s.
Dances were held regularly, organised by Ashcott & Shapwick Cricket Club and the Bridgwater Harriers Hunt.
In March 1935, special Buses were laid on from Bridgwater, Bristol, Glastonbury & Wells to bring people to a Dance which 300 attended.
There was a celebration of the Silver Jubilee of King George V in May 1935.
During the Second World War the Hall was used to accommodate Evacuee Children’s School Classes, also it was used as a venue for training the Home Guard.
Mr. Charlie Norton remembered organising the “Welcome Home” celebrations for Servicemen returning.
After the War the Hall was well used for Dances, with people travelling from all over the County to attend.The popularity of these Dances began to cause problems with Cars parking on the A39.
The Womens Institute Drama Group put on regular performances.
Mr. Harry Poole of School Hill Produced many Pantomimes at the Hall during the 1950’s for the Clarks Pantomime Group.
The Hall was regularly used for wedding Receptions. The Marriage of Tony & Kay Edmunds was the last to be celebrated there in 1959.
The Closure of the Memorial Hall
The Memorial Hall closed in the Autumn of 1959, almost exactly 40 years after it opened.
Mr Arthur Moore was Secretary at the time and recalls there were only 3 people willing to serve on the Committee. There was Mr L. Bagg, Mr L. Stone and himself.
The cost of running the Hall was greater than it’s income. Many appeals were made for Villagers to make greater use of it, but the development of Television and difficulties encountered with Police over Car Parking meant the fight to keep it open was lost.
After the Hall closed there was some confusion over the issue of Ownership. Many meetings were held by Ashcott Parish Council & Bridgwater Rural District Council to resolve the issue.
Parish Council Minutes of 24th March 1958 record a letter from Solicitors dealing with the Estate of Mr F W Howe asking for the Council’s proposals for the future of the Hall.
The issue was not resolved until a Parish Council meeting on 4th March 1964 when Mr Howe’s Solicitors said that his Beneficiaries wished to sell the Hall and offered it the Parish Council for a sum between £3000 – £4000.
(Roughly the amount of Mr Howe’s loan in 1919 !)
The Parish Council decided not to purchase the Hall citing lack of support from Village Organisations.
(note that Walton Village Hall was also sold in 1965. This could be interpreted as a general lack of interest in Village Halls in the area at the time)
The Hall was sold to Frampton’s for use as a Warehouse until the mid 1980’s.
It was then converted into small Flats which were rented out for several years.
Then it was changed again to the individually owned apartments we see today.