An Interview with Mr Reg Harding

From A Centenary Celebration of Forest Row Village Hall 1892–1992, edited by Eric C. Byford for Forest Row Village Hall Management Committee, 1992

Before 1929

The room that is used at present as a library used to be the Working Men's Club bar. The room above the Parish Council Office was a games room for cards, table games and shove halfpenny.

A billiard table was placed in front of the stage in the large hall.

The Secretary of the Working Men's Club was Mr Billy Sinden, father of Cyril.

War 1939-1945

The resident caretakers were Mr and Mrs Frank Wickens.

The Large Hall was used by the Home Guard and troops from camps at Nutley and all round the area. Troops included 1st and 5th Divisions of Canadians. There were demonstrations, lectures, and dances for entertainment of troops, held in the large hall. The dances were run by Mr Challoner who acted as MC, Mrs Wickens (cashier), Frank Wickens and Reg Harding (doorkeepers). As many as four dances a week were held between 1942 and the end of the war. During special weeks, e.g. War Ships Week and National Savings Week, dances were sponsored by Mrs Squarey from Pixton. One large charity dance was organised in aid of local P.C. Lord's wife and children after P.C. Lord died of cancer.

Bands came from the army units. Also Mary Marchant's four girl band from Horsham was very popular. It consisted of two piano accordions, piano and drums. The hall floor was not sealed as now, but was swept, mopped and sprinkled with fresh chalk for dances.

In addition to the dances, a cinema was run in the large hall on Saturday and Wednesday evenings by Mr Bill Smith, who worked at Forest Row Garage. (Mr Bill Smith is the uncle of the late Mr Bob Jack.)

The small hall was then the Working Men's Club. The Steward in 1942 was Mr Thomas Faulkner.

1963 Onwards

Mr Reg Harding was steward of the Working Men's Club 1963-1969 with Mrs Weller remaining as caretaker until approximately 1965.

The hall was then run by four trustees: Miss Katherine Freshfield, Sir Gerald Creasy, Mr Geoffrey Richard Wade and Mr Thomas Leslie Bratt.

While the Wellers were in residence, the front of the hall was used for a cottage hospital in a film called The Collector. The centre of the village was extremely congested with the film crew and lights so that Mrs Harding could not get out of her house with her pram.

In 1992 Reg Harding was caretaker of the village hall

[The film was released in 1965, and directed by the legendary Hollywood director William Wyler (Ben Hur). Based on the novel by John Fowles and starring Samantha Eggar, and Terence Stamp in his third feature, it was nominated for three Oscars, and won awards at Cannes and the Golden Globes for the two leads. Most of the action takes place in London or at a big house in Kent; the Forest Row sequences are both very short and near the end of the film. Not one of Wyler's best. Brad Scott, Forest Row Film Society]

Filming The Collector

The cottage hospital in The Collector

Outside the cottage hospital in The Collector

The final scene of The Collector