Repton Village History Group
Repton Village Halls
The first village hall was a conversion of “The Rink” – a building on the site of the town houses opposite St Wystan’s School. Built around the turn of the century, it had provided for the then current enthusiasm for roller skating and hosted other events too – such as a cinema and regular dances with a number of local dance bands. It was acquired from Annie Turner and her sister who lived at Jessamine – the thatched cottage next door and by February 1938 its conversion to a village hall was complete. On the 19th February it was opened free of debt by Mr Neale Thomson. As a charity it was managed by a committee of Trustees “for the purposes of physical and mental recreation and social and moral and intellectual development through the medium of reading and recreation rooms, library, lectures, classes recreations and entertainments…” It was for the “inhabitants of Repton and immediate vicinity without distinction of sex or of political religious or other opinions …” The hall was used for every conceivable purpose including the young people’s organisations. A sports room annex was built beside and behind the hall on land leased from Repton School – 99 years at 1/- per year (5p).
Dramatically, on the 14th April 1962, the building caught fire. Although the exact cause does not seem to have been determined, it may have been from the floor level gas heaters. The fire was spotted by a young Adrian Argyle who was cycling passed. He raised the alarm and the Swadlincote fire brigade were there within 7 minutes. Sadly the flames reached 50 feet and the hall was destroyed. Interestingly, the Scouts had a wooden box under the stage containing books and some of their other items. Dave Beasley remembers that although the edges of the paper were singed, the books survived.
Plans were made for rebuilding on the same site but by now the provision of car parking was necessary. One proposal involved acquiring more land from the school behind the annexe (which survived) for parking, and another involved a hall on stilts with parking underneath. In the end the site was sold and land set aside by the developers who were planning to build Askew Grove and Brookside Close on the Holly Bush Farm fields. Another 560 sq yds were acquired from Repton School governors to give the hall plot greater depth and a series of plans drawn up for a new building. The annexe became a much valued local library until the County Council closed all but a few of them, when the structure was sold to Repton School.
The finally selected design for the new village hall was a prefabricated timber Vic Hallam building opened on January 24th 1970 by Iris Bentley and George Rowbotham. The total cost was about £19,000.
In 1974, plans were drawn up for a brick extension housing the stage and dressing rooms – one of which was also intended to be a committee meeting room and had a hatch and sink so it could be used as a bar or for serving food. This was built and the stage hosted a number of speakers, bands for Friday night ballroom dancing, barn dances, visiting drama groups and local dramatics – including a splendid Gang Show by the local Scouting and Guiding sections. Other extensions on both sides of this stage extension were proposed but not implemented.
The structure consisted of robust laminated timber arches held upright by glazed and timber panels between them. The panels were eventually found to be suffering from rot and threatened the long term safety of the building. So plans were put in place to build a third village hall. Other sites were investigated but the decision was to stay put and so plans were drawn up. Without a site to sell, all monies had to be raised locally and grant funding was not forthcoming. A hardworking committee and active village supporters set about raising the necessary funds and they were very effective. However it was clear that this was going to take some years to complete and, in the end, it was proposed that a community building could sensibly be at least part paid for from the annual parish precept. Following a referendum, the Parish Council took out a loan for the balance and the Management Committee did an astonishingly good job of getting the new and lovely building erected.
We have a lot more information and have long wanted to put together a proper story. Your recollections will be much appreciated. To offer memories and comments or for further information on the history group, please contact Andy Austen on 01283 702448 or firstname.lastname@example.org