A History of Forest Row Village Hall

Eric Byford

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

The hall was a gift from the Freshfield family of Kidbrooke Park, built as a memorial to Henry Douglas Freshfield, the fourteen-year old son of Mr and Mrs Douglas W. Freshfield, and grandson of Mr and Mrs H.R. Freshfield, who had died on the 16th September 1891.

This tragic family loss was turned into a memorial gift for the people of Forest Row; a building to be used as a parochial hall and institute.

Henry Douglas Freshfield

The building was designed by architect Mr J.M. Brydon, of 2 Cambridge Terrace, Regents Park, and built by Job Luxford, the local Forest Row builder, with orange red bricks from Swinley Forest, Bracknell, and local sandstone, the upper part being covered with ornamental tiling from St John's. It cost about £2000 to build, but more to equip. It was 43 feet long and 23 feet wide, with the disposition of the rooms in the fore part of the building very much as they are today; and the hall and the stage. Warmth was provided by a large open fire place behind which were hot air chambers into the room through the mantelpiece. The site was enclosed with a very neat dwarf park fence with oak gates communicating with each entrance to the building — a crush door next to the stage, with a third door giving access to the caretaker's rooms. Thus is was that on 4th November 1892 at 3pm the hall was opened by the Hon A.E. Gathorne Hardy, MP, who had laid the foundation stone, giving the opening speech.

It is quite possible that the Freshfields decided to build this type of gift for the village because a precedent had been created at Ashurst Wood, where Mr Larnach of Brambletye had given the 'New Room' on the 28th November 1891. Before proceeding further with the subsequent history of the hall it would be useful to indicate what is known of the site and of previous meeting places. In the census return of 1861 there is a strange entry: 'Forest Row Hall uninhabited'. It appears to have been part of the complex we now know as the Brambletye Hotel, previously known as 'the Catt at Forest Row'. What this implies is still unknown, but we do know that very shortly after, in 1865, Brambletye Castle Hotel was opened by Henry Histed on the site, so that even if some hall was available before that date it was certainly not after 1865. Where then did the events of the village take place? It would seem that those of a major nature took place in the schools in Hartfield Road, and those of a lesser degree took place in Mr Easton's room (a large room over what is now [1992] Aspidistra Antiques, 16 Hartfield Road) or at the schools.

The site of the village hall appears to have been in the possession of the owners of Kidbrooke for many years before the hall was built, and may have been acquired when Kidbrooke was first purchased in 1733 by the Abergavenny family. Certainly it was owned by the Colchester family who probably sold it to Henry Ray Freshfield after he bought Kidbrooke in 1874. At the time of the purchase the island site was occupied by at least two buildings: a smithy and a pair of single storey dilapidated cottage. Earlier, the Finch family, blacksmiths, had practised there, but James Cook was occupying the smithy when the hall was being built. This smithy is indicated on the first 25" Ordnance Survey map of the area, and it can also be seen, albeit vaguely, in a photograph taken of this part of the village before the hall was built.

The first Freshfield Hall was very short-lived, for on 14th February 1895, the day after Henry Freshfield's burial, it was burnt down, leaving the shell of the front part of the building, although the firemen saved much of the rear. A strange story is told about the event, which took place on a bitterly cold day. At the time of the fire Mrs Crittle and other women were engaged in preparing vegetables for the soup kitchen, which the Freshfield family provided for the poor of the village, when Mrs James May, the caretaker's wife, came rushing in in to say her apartment was on fire. Mrs May is reputed to have said when Mr Freshfield dies that the place 'would never be any good now'. She also made a statement that she had lost eight gold sovereigns in the fire, but they were never found. Gossip had it that one or other of the ladies in the hall had caused the fire but investigations found no evidence of that, and it is hardly likely that Mrs May would start a fire in her own part of the hall, so their innocence must be assumed. The Forest Row Fire Brigade was severely hampered by their poor equipment and the freezing conditions to such an extent that the water from the little pond on the green in Lower Road froze in their hoses and burst them. The grandfather of Peter Jackson of Hartfield Road watched the fire burn and the water freeze. The East Grinstead Fire Brigade was summoned by telegraph from the station and, with their longer hoses, they were able to obtain water from the Medway and contain the fire to the fore part of the hall. A faded photograph of the hall soon after that time gives some indication of the extent of the damage.

After the fire

Mrs Freshfield and her son Douglas wasted no time in engaging Job Luxford to rebuild it under the guidance of the architect. Harry Welfare, Fizzer Miles and Dotter Paris were Job's bricklayers on the job. The hall was reopened on the 17th November 1895, and at the reopening Douglas Freshfield expressed the wishes of his mother and himself when he hoped the hall would be used by all classes of parishioners, and that it would keep alive the memory of its original founder.

The village hall at the turn of the century

The hall as built, and rebuilt, comprised the main hall with a stage, committee rooms on the west side, and a warden's flat and soup kitchen on the east side, all being lit by paraffin lamps. It was in the favour of the Freshfield family and maintained by them until 1914 when it was handed over to use by the army.

Events taking place in the hall during its first decade widely ranged over political events, church entertainments, concerts, illustrated talks etc., which appeared to meet the needs of all sections of the community. Thus, before the fire, the Forest Row Football Club gave a very successful concert, attended by about 280 people; the Band of Hope, at Easter, gave an entertainment 'A Musical Crusoe'; and on 12th June 1894 a meeting was convened to explain the new Local Government Act which was to come into force that year and create a separate Forest Row civil parish. In the same year a Working Men's Club was formed in the Village Hall and from December 1895 Mothers' Meetings were held there weekly. A curious and interesting inauguration was a carving class meeting on Monday mornings, but there is no indication of how long it continued. Perhaps the fire destroyed the artifacts? In October 1896 the so-called 'New Room' was built in the school playground and syphoned off various meetings and jumble sales for some years to come. It later became the school canteen before being taken down in the 1960s. During 1896 a series of illustrated talks, with magic lantern or oxy-hydrogen lantern, took place, one by D.W. Freshfield himself on Caucasia. On 22nd April 1897 a committee, set up to decide how the village would commemorate the queen's sixty years of reign, called a general meeting to gain approval for the ideas put forward. The suggestion for a drinking trough was approved, but it was not until nearly two years later that the fountain was erected close to what is now the bus shelter, north of the hall. The soup kitchen functioned from the hall until early in the 20th century, but in 1901 the quantity of soup required had fallen to such dimensions as to suggest that it would soon be discontinued. Unfortunately no report of the disposal of the copper appears! On 25th April 1901 the first concert of the Choral Society was given. Mrs Hoare's Amateur Dramatic entertainment; the Sunday School Treat and Prizegiving; Mr Lesland-White's Musical Evening; the Blackbirds, a 'nigger' entertainment — all took place in January 1902. A short report on the Men's Club states that they had billiards, bagatelle, dominoes, cards and newspapers, and that Mr Thomas Berry had the responsibility for the 48 members in November 1905. They appear to have met in the committee rooms. Mr Berry, warden of the hall, succeeded James May, who was first reported warden in the local directory of 1895.

Forest Row in 1905, courtesy of theweald.org

In August 1907 D.W. Freshfield proposed that he hand over the management of the hall to a committee, of which he would be chairman. He offered to pay all the expenses of the hall for both the Cadet Corps and the club for lads and men. This proposal coincided with the arrival in the village of Mr K.J. Ford and his orderly, and the formation of the Cadet Corps. As Mr Ford was to live in the hall it is apparent that Mr Berry would have moved out about this time.

The early years of the century were full of diplomatic and imperialistic problems for the Liberal government, such as the Morocco crisis, the German development of both naval and army forces to bear comparison with that of the UK, which led to the formation of organisations such as the Cadet Corps, the Boy Scouts, the National Service League, in order to train young boys and men for national defence. Thus it was that in 1907 the Cadet Corps was formed in Forest Row, based on the village hall. In November 1907 their weekly programme was: Monday — boxing and fencing; Tuesday — physical drill and running maze; Wednesday — bible class and drill; Thursday — shooting on a miniature range; Friday — class for commissioned officers; Saturday — football. The charge was 2d. a week or 2/- a quarter. In November there were nearly 60 members, under the care of Mr K.J. Ford and Mr Roy Waters. To emphasise the need, the National Service League held in the village hall a big promotional meeting for 'universal training for naval and military' purposes of national defence, prompted by the realisation that the Boer war had revealed the poor physique of British youth.

In December 1907 the Men's Club re-opened in the two smaller rooms of the hall, one upstairs, the other down. The two gentlemen in charge of the cadets were also Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer of the Men's Club. The members had access to newspapers and games, and, a new departure, to the library. Whist drives and other competitions were arranged. A report in February 1908 stated that the Men's Club had made but little progress. It is probably about this time that Bob SMithers began his work with the club, for in March 1909 the Men's Club had 45 members. In the same month the first report of the Cadet Corps showed that there were 57 members, with 72 in the band. Mr Ford had to leave the village in February 1901, and Col. Needham of Tylehurst, Priory Road, offered to help with the running, assisted by Mr Taylor as instructor, who in turn gave way to Mr W.J. Benn in September 1910. Mr Benn was also 'curator' of the village hall. Problems of discipline arose during the following year which led to the suspension of the Corps from June until 24th October, when meetings restarted on three nights a week.

Forest Row in 1910, courtesy of theweald.org

The committee of the village hall (Mr D.W. Freshfield, Chairman, and Mr Alfred Faber of Offerton, Park Road, Hon. Secretary) decided in February 1911 that 'in future the following charges would be made for its use:

  1. For such purposes as the committee consider desirable in the interest of the neighbourhood, and where no charge is made for admission:- For the small upstairs room, during the afternoon, 1 shilling for the 1st hours and 6d. for every additional hour or part thereof. Double charge for evening use.

    For the large room 5s.

  2. Other charges as follows :- the hall — for local purposes 14s., for a political meeting or private profit, 30s.

    All payments must be made in advance. All applications to the Hon. Secretary.'

The use of the hall by the Church of England Temperance Society (Forest Row), the Girls' Friendly Society, the Guild of St Alban, the Men's Club, and the Mothers' Union, continued until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Then the hall was handed over for the use of the many servicemen stationed in this area, under the care of Mr Arthur Beaney. The Freshfields added some 300 books to the existing library. A permanent orderly from the large camp set up near Ashdown Place, assisted by various local lady volunteers, ran it throughout the war. The Men's Club 'froze' its assets and closed down for the duration of the war, as there were only eight members. The sum of £25 6s.3d. was handed over to the committee of the club soon after the end of the war.

The history of the village hall immediately after the First World War is very sparse, but it would appear that the Men's Club 'took over' the main hall and 'took care' of its upkeep. The billiard table in the hall was a dominant feature and gave concern to other users of the hall who called it 'Freshfield Arms'. Mr Frank Wickens was the warden of the hall from 25th November 1929 until October 1951, and, in addition, he ran the bar for the Men's Club. Only the occasional dance, whist drive, entertainment for the Women's Institute, Band of Hope, scouts or guides was possible, therefore the community as a whole was poorly served and the Men's Club were in clover.

Unveiling the war memorial, 1926

In 1927 Miss Olivia Freshfield intimated that she would like to hand over the hall to the local community, and the a trust be formed for that purpose. The elected trustees (Capt. R.O. Hambro; Mr C.G. Rougemont; Miss Violet Needham, Miss Olivia Blanche Freshfield) asked that a building committee be formed consisting of the representatives from the Women's Institute, the Men's Club, the British Legion, and members representative of the public. She also asked this committee to consider the enlargement of the hall. On the 22nd March 1928 Miss Freshfield formally handed over to the trustees and the management committee consisting of three members from each of the aforementioned organisations.

After some deliberations the management committee came forward with the proposal to extend the northern end of the hall; to increase the size of the stage, add green rooms and lavatories, and a room 46½ feet by 24 feet, for the use of the Men's Club. The costs of the building work, about £2850, to be met by subscription of which £1334 was already in hand, Olaf Hambro having already donated £500. To the design of Mr Edward A. Swan, an architect of Forest Row and Oxted, Messrs Chuter & Tyler were given the contract and asked to proceed in February 1929. Mrs Winifred Hambro laid the foundation stone on 2nd February in the presence of Captain Hambro, Admiral Colville, General Coffin, Meddames E.H. Beazley and P.A. Mosse, Mr L. Peel and Mr Chuter. Donations were very slow in coming in but a lump sum of £1500 was given from the fund-raiser brainchild of Mrs Hambro, the Ashdown Forest Pageant, held in Kidbrooke Park during the week of 16th to 20th July 1929. In August 1929 Mr Olaf Hambro wrote to the village hall committee offering to lend the outstanding monies owed on the new building. In early 1930 the National Council of Social Services were approached regarding help to complete the payment. Through Mr Stringer, the headmaster of the village school, the county library asked if they could hire a room once a week as a branch library.

Forest Row in 1930, courtesy of theweald.org

On 11th May 1931 discussion took place regarding the bath in the Men's Club. It was stated that the committee could not afford to heat the water for it during the months from 1st May to 30th September, and that the club must find the funds to heat it themselves. It appeared that the bath was available to boys between the hours of 2 to 6 pm and to men from 2 to 10 pm. In November 1929 the committee opened applications for the caretaker's post and, in consequence, had one hundred applicants, a certain indication of the hard time the local working class were going through in those years. Mr Wickens was appointed.

Other events were now possible in the large hall and among them was a cinematographical show put on by Mr Mapplesden of the Whitehall, East Grinstead, on a weekly basis; dances for all the organisations, including the village hall itself; the use of the hall by the Women's Institute for musical plays and the occasional tableaux. The carnival dance held at the turn of the year, in 1933 on the 29th December, brought this report in the local East Grinstead Observer on 6th January 1934:

Every year since the present committee were invested with the management of the Forest Row village hall, they have given New Year Carnival dances, all of which have been successful. The dance they gave at the village hall on the 29th December was no exception to this rule, indeed it is the unanimous opinion of all who took part that it was one of the most enjoyable and successful of the series. The hall had been most artistically decorated with small electric lamps and art muslin by Mr R.G. Martin. Floral decorations of the stage were kindly loaned by Capt. R.O. Hambro, and tastefully arranged by Mr Duke. The onerous duties of MC were efficiently undertaken by Mr E.W. White and Mr V. Beadle, while Mr J. Brett mounted guard at the door with his accustomed tact. Music, which was supplied by Mr R.E. Smith's "Puck-a-Poo Dance Band", was much appreciated, and added not a little to the pleasure of a most happy evening.

The following year the carnival dance attracted about 220 people and, this time, the Nightlights Dance Band from london played; and the dance continued to 2am. The profit was £12.0s.6. Each year a different dance band was employed until the war put paid to the event. A gymkhana at Ashdown House on 11th September 1935 raised £37 for hall funds.

Throughout the years between the wars the primary trustees of the hall were Miss Olivia Freshfield; Captain Olaf Hambro; Miss Violet Needham and Mr de Rougemont. The management committee meeting on the 10th November 1939 brought complaints about the inadequacy of the blackout curtains; the use of the hall for entertainments for the troops; and the request of Uckfield UDC for the use of a room in the hall for the billeting officer, Mr Wolfson. Mr Wickens' wages were raised to £2 a week 'in view of the present circumstances'. Members of the committee were called up for war service, in particular Mr Squarey and Dr Thornton. The scale of charges were raised in early 1940 to conform with the rising costs; the regular users of the hall being: the Men's Club; the Women's Institute; the produce market; and the cinema.

In December 1940 the Home Guard's request to use the hall on Sunday mornings between 10.30 and 12 when the weather was wet, was granted. The request to use the hall as a First Aid Point and Depot was also granted. In the later months of 1941 the committee gave permission to the local Roman Catholics to hold an 8am service in the hall once a month, on a Sunday, as there were no buses or trains for them to attend services at the Ashdown Park Convent or in East Grinstead. The arrangement was terminated in February 1942 because of other difficulties. In October 1943 the British Red Cross Society (Youth Detachment) Sussex 568 used the hall for an entertainment in connection with aiding the new children's ward at Queen Victoria Hospital. The same organisation found the hall charges were too high for them to have their weekly meetings there.

Meetings of the committee were few and far between during the war and its immediate aftermath, so that in 1946, at the 1st February meeting, apologies for the long time that had elapsed were proffered by the chairman. The trustees then were Messrs R.G. Waters; J. Lambert; A.C. Wolfson; the Revd R.J. Hills; J.B. Paterson and J.R. Coulthard. The Men's Club was represented by Messrs S.J. Taylor, A. Torrington and H.F. Tester; the Women's Institute by Mesdames Clark, Squarey and Stearns, on the management committee. The large hall had suffered considerable deterioration over the war years, both structurally and in its decoration, so that in 1946 application to execute repairs was made to Uckfield Rural District Council and granted, providing they were necessary for the preservation of the structure. Messrs Tyler did the outside work, and Mr W.H. Young the inside decoration.

On 9th May 1946 it was agreed that the parish council be informed that the management committee were prepared to allow them the exclusive use of the committee room at an annual rent of £35, including light, heat and cleaning, commencing as from 1st July 1946. However, problems arose with other bodies and the parish council agreed to use the hall on three days weekly from 10am to 1pm, at a rent of £26 per annum (memo dated 9th July 1946). The Alliance Assurance Company, which had occupied Kidbrooke and built huts in the Park for their purposes during the Second World War, gave the parish council £1000 to be used in the furtherance of social activities in the village, and that greater use of the village hall might be made. On 17th May 1947 an inspection by the National Fire Service made several new recommendations, and limited the seating capacity to 208 persons. It may be of interest to observe that the committee income in 1946 was £511 and the expenses £893. Lettings in 1948 included: Women's Institute, Men's Club, produce market, cinema, food office, library, infant welfare and parish council. As the expenses for running the hall had increased by a third since 1940, it was agreed to increase charges to all the bodies using them.

At the 10th October 1951 meeting Mr and Mrs Wickens, the caretakers, tendered their resignation, which was accepted by the committee. Mr and Mrs Weller were appointed as caretakers on 29th October 1951. The finances of the halls had been in a bad condition for some years and in May 1953 there was a deficit of about £100. The cinema proprietor was asked to employ a person to keep order in the hall during performances, for at some shows fighting had broken out and damage to the property had occurred, undoubtedly because the projector operator could not control the hall whilst working the cinematograph. Later in the same year, 1954, the cinema project was given up, and the South Coast Mobile Cinema Service asked for, and received, permission, to use the hall, at £2 each time. This group also became ustuck in 1956 and Mr Malcolm Powell offered to do the shows. The British Legion were granted the use of one upstairs committee room as from 24th June 1955.

At the meeting of 13th July 1956 it was reported that Mr Samuels of Wych Cross Place had offered £500 towards the needs of the village hall, which included the oil-fired heating estimate of some £2050. He asked that the gift remain anonymous, but with the passage of some 40 years such secrecy seems to be no longer necessary. A further appeal for funds was launched, and a barometer was erected on the outside of the hall to indicate the progress being made. Further discussion led to the decision that part of the gift be spent on pressing needs but the larger part be kept until the result of the appeal was known. The appeal fund had reached £1000 in June 1957. A fete at Kidbrooke Park was arranged with Michael Hall school to take place on Whitsun bank holiday. The profit was nearly £136 for the village hall funds. During the second half of 1959 the oil heating was installed in the hall by Messrs H. & E. Waters and the rewiring of both halls was carried out. The November 1959 meeting agreed to let the hall on three evenings a week to the newly formed Youth Fellowship. At the following meeting it was stated that a windfall of £75 had been received from the sale of the now defunct Forest Row Bras Band's instruments.

In early 1960 the management committee were asked to approve the approach by the parish council to the county council regarding the making up of the Lower and Upper Squares and Hillside, then only dirt roads. About this time the affairs of the hall were in a very bad way; in fact there was an overdraft at the bank, the condition of the building was deteriorating and a considerable sum was outstanding for the new boiler, which had been installed when the heating system had been converted from coal to oil. An appeal was made to the parish council for help and, as a result, new blood was brought to the committee and a long term plan was made to put matters in order. Immediate measures were taken to increase the hiring charges, the parish council doubled the annual grant from £50 to £100, working parties were formed to provide goods for the annual bazaar and other fund raising events were organised. Also an appeal was made to the local residents. About 150 letters were sent out and the appeal was launched with the concert by the Forest Row Lifeboat Choir. About £1400 was raised, which sum included seven year covenants.

The minute book for the period 1953 to 1960 has been damaged by water and therefore the minutes are often indecipherable. The minutes from 1960 to 1966 are missing. A surveyor's report was obtained on the condition of the building and urgent repairs to the roof and some interior redecorations were made in 1965.

In the following year, the resident caretaker retired and it was decided to employ a part-time cleaner in future, which enabled the management committee's expenses to be decreased considerably, and released rooms. The one committee room to the left of the front door had been used by the parish council, the library and the committeess of the user organisations. It was thus possible to give the parish council the sole use of that committee room, the library the room to the right and a general committee room was made out of the caretaker's bedroom upstairs. The other room on that floor was already rented to the British Legion. It was also possible to provide a much-needed store room for chairs, tables, etc., by cutting a door at the back of the hall into the former caretaker's kitchen. These rooms were not included in the heating system as the caretaker had used gas fires, so a separate gas-fired boiler had to be installed.

in 1967 the exterior was repainted and in 1968/9 the hall and the entrance were redecorated, the roof insulated, new stage and hall curtains were provided, and the maple floor was sanded and sealed. Also at this time a grant of £1000 was received from the Ministry of Education and Science to help towards the cost of an improved heating system and double glazing on the A22 side windows to cut out the traffic noise as well as to prevent the escape of heat. It was possible to refloor the stage and replace the lighting and curtains because of a generous donation by Peter Griffits.

The management had worked hard to encourage lets, and in 1966 that seems to have paid off for there were the following renters: Men's Club; youth club; parish council; library; infant welfare; badminton; Women's Institute; over 60s club; Forest Row Dramatic Society; Holy Trinity Sunday school; British Legion; women's British Legion; cycling rallies; EG ladies badminton club; and Men's Club bingo. The produce market had just ceased operations. The Men's Club announced their intention of building a second storey to the small hall, but the proposition was proceeded with because the club moved out. When the caretaker retired in 1966 his accommodation had been incorporated into the large hall facilities, a change which had, with roof, porch, drains repairs and decorations, cost £1120. The Kennedy Memorial on the SE front was unveiled in 1964 by Harold Macmillan. Mrs Eldridge was appointed caretaker in January 1968 and Mr White later in the year.

A report at the AGM on 27th May 1968 revealed that the management committee had been in credit from 1965 onwards. In January 1969 investigations into a new trust for the hall were started with the Charity Commissioners. Further to this, the parish council and the Department of Education and Science were approached regarding trusteeship to the parish council.

On 24th October 1969 the halls were put under a new footing by the Secretary of State for Education and Science under section 18 of the Charities Act of 1960. The main reason for this change, which would enable the management committee to apply for direct grants, was the continuing concern by the management for its financial stability, and the deterioration of the structure of the building, with little finance to meet the problem. As the treasurer stated in his annual report in 1970:

the crunch is due this year. Plans for the installation of a new heating system, with a separate hot water supply to the cloaks has been finalised; double glazing is in the programme. Estimates reveal cost of at least £1500, the largest capital outlay we have made in any one year and it will absorb all the monies we have accumulated over the past few years. The end of the covenants from the 1963 appeal in the coming year, 1970, will test the finances to the extreme.

For many years two portraits of the Freshfield family had hung in the hall committee room; one was now returned to Miss Olivia Freshfield, and the second was restored by her. Subsequently this second portrait has disappeared. On 14th September 1970 the playgroup started in the hall on three mornings a week. Also renting the halls in February 1971 were the following organisations: parish council; Men's Club; bingo; library; British Legion; infant welfare; Forest Row WI; Brambletye WI; over 60s; badminton club; Dramatic Society; British Legion women's section; and youth club. Finances were still very delicately poised for the excess of income for 1969/70 was just £14.21. The conservators of Ashdown Forest and the management committee consulted about the former body using the committee room in the hall, which they moved into later in the year.

At the January 1972 meeting of the management committee it was agreed to apply for charity status. In March a further appeal for the village hall was launched, a letter being sent to every householder in the village, the target being £2500. The accounts revelaed an excess of expenditure of some £75 and, with the anticipated move of the men's club, the loss of rent of some £500. By May 1972 the appeal had achieved £1320.

The men's club had occupied the small hall from 1929 onwards, and virtually no other improvements had been carried out since that time so that a major overhaul had become essential before the small hall could be let to any other tenants. It was estimated that some £9000 would be needed; a third from the Department of Education; a third from the county; and the rest from the management committee. The grants were not forthcoming for the current year but the committee were hopeful that 1973 would be more successful. By May 1973 nearly £2000 had been given to the hall appeal fund. 4th February 1974 the committee agreed to take up a loan from Barclays Bank in the sum of £4000 so that the necessary work on the small hall and the provision of the large hall kitchen could commence. Thus the work on the small hall was to begin in April, but no assurances from the county or Department were forthcoming until August, when the county replied favourably.

During 1974 increased rentals were introduced which, in the case of the badminton club, caused them to look elsewhere for a court. The numerous repairs and work on the small hall and canteen for the large hall necessitated a continuous debit balance for the years 1975 and 1976. However, in 1977 the picture improved with a credit balance of £1055, shown at the AGM, which included the residue of the grants of £9000 from the parish council, Wealden district council, East Sussex council and the Department of Education and Science in 1974. In all, by 1977, the following improvements in the small hall had taken place: a new entrance; a maple floor; ladies' toilet; improved gents' toilet; renovation to the flat roof; conversion of the beer store into a kitchen. In the large hall the kitchen had been enlarged, a serving hatch installed, and the caretaker's former yard had been enclosed to provide more storage space.

In December 1977 the Freshfield crest on the front of the hall fell off in a storm. Mr Kennard wrote to Freshfields, the solicitors, asking if help could be obtained from the family. The company had no contact with the Freshfields and could not help, but they did however send £50 towards the cost of restoration. In March the insurance claim settled on £313.73. In April an estimate of some £1000 was put forward for a wooden replica. The matter was put in abeyance until some of the Freshfield family could be contacted who might be able to offer financial aid. Adverts were put in the local papers and, although positive replies were received, the Freshfields were not found. A committee member's nephew, Mr Groom, offered to make a replica in moulded fibre glass as part of a college prooject at Leatherhead Technical College. It was completed at the cost of £600, which sum was met from voluntary contributions and the claim from the insurance. After some three years the new crest was fixed on 3rd May 1980.

In mid-1979 it was agreed to pursue the project of providing an extra room for the play group. Victor Wakefield formulated plans for this building on the A22 side of the small hall, and the work began in the autumn of 1981. It meant the replacement of the 1929 foundation stone of the small hall. Articles which had been placed in the original stone were replaced, together with topical things from the 1980s, and the ceremony was completed on the 11th May 1982. The play group provided most of the finances for the alteration, but it was agreed that the management committee should own the room.

In early 1982 the conservators of Ashdown Forest vacated the two upstairs rooms they had occupied. The committee then let the rooms to a video library and a software computer firm, for office purposes.

The Department of the Environment wrote on the 31st December 1982 stating that the hall was to be listed, but it was not until the 14th May 1983 that it received a grade II listing as a building of special architectural and historic interest.

At the AGM of the committee on 13th May 1985 the following organisations used the halls and were represented on the management committee: Royal British Legion, Royal British Legion Ladies Section, Brambletye WI, Forest Row WI, Forest Row Dramatic Society, over 60s club, play group, parish council, bridge club, Ashdown Garden Society, model club, youth club, slimming club and the film society. In 1986 the large hall was decorated by Messrs Tyler.

At the 2nd February 1987 meeting, the public licence renewal was announced with seating for 180 in the large hall and 120 in the small hall.

Today the village hall and its management committee serve the village community to capacity. The voluntary work done by the members is a credit to the founders of the halls and to all those who have subsequently served as managers and trustees over the one hundred years.

Forest Row in 2008

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