Village Hall – some historic notes.

I have written these notes about the Fenstanton Village Hall entirely from memory as I no longer have any references. so there may be errors in detail but the broad picture is accurate.

The Fenstanton Conservatives had a successful club in the High Street but the lease of its premises must have expired as the Club had no premises in the 1 920 s.

Prominent Conservatives such as Edward Kiddle and Sir Arthur Dilley raised money for a new hall and in 1 926 Henry Johnson gave a piece of land in trust to local Conservatives on which they could build a hall. . It was called The Constitutional Hall In time, due to lack of funds this hall deteriorated and in 1978 was sold to the village for £4,259 of which the Parish Council paid £3,000 on the casting vote of Bill Robins, Chairman of the Parish Council., The Hall was renamed “Fenstanton Village Hall”, and registered as a charity . .

There two forms of trustees initially. Management Trustees and Custodian Trustees . . The first duty of the local Custodian Trustees was to hand over their trusteeship to the Charity Commission but did not do so. They were not to interfere with the work of the Management Trustees.

In 1979 I retired and attended an annual meeting of the Village Hall Committee where I was elected a trustee, At my first meeting I asked for copy of the rules of the committee but the chairman , Arthur Dunn said that they did not worry with such things. . I looked into things and found that Arthur , Bill Robins and the rest were still Custodian Trustees and should not be managing affairs.

A firm of solicitors had been engaged to see to the transfer of trusteeship; I visited them and found them very helpful although I felt them to be an unnecessary expense. These stages of correspondence ensued and achieved absolutely nothing:-

The Charity Commission sent a vesting form to solicitor who sent them for completion to the Custodian Chairman, Arthur Dunn Arthur returned them to the solicitor who passed them on to the Charity Commission. The Charity Commission returned them to the solicitor as they had been completed incorrectly.

The Solicitor sent them back to Arthur for correction After “correction” Arthur returned them to the solicitor who passed on to the Charity Commission Once more the Charity Commission sent them back to the solicitor as they still were not right Back to Arthur went these forms and were not seen again

At my request the Charity Commission sent me the forms stating that now I must get the signature of each of the Trustees which I did and in 1982 an Order was sealed. What the solicitor did I never found out.

At the AGM Bill Robins said that he supposed Arthur would again be in the Chair However I asked for an election and proposed Reg Keyworth Out of the room went the two candidates and returned when called, Arthur returning to the Chair.

Unhappily for him Reg had been elected so at last there was some sense in the administration. Arthur and Bill were true descendants of Mary but it was the Sons of Martha that were needed to get the Hall into shape. Arthur and Bill did not lift a finger to work on the Hall but fortunately there was a good team of practical folk, Tony Hart with assistance from Reg Keyworth rewired the electrical circuits.

Outside the north wall, earth, rubble and dog dirt were two feet deep , higher than the damp course. A team of volunteers with shovels came each evening and excavated , loading the debris into a trailer which Michael Behagg had placed by the Hall. The trailer was emptied each morning and returned for use by the evening. . Damp course and roof gutters were cleared. Derek Holley was one of the volunteers.

We now had to get a licence for Public Entertainment and a District Council inspector gave us our orders. The front door opened up to an immediate drop. The door had to be moved back so that the floor was level either side of the door .. David Smith was the master mind here and I was his assistant. We bought scrap wood from a timber merchant, constructed the porch as it is today and fitted the the rear of this porch Next there came a ramp to give access for the disabled. We built the concrete at the rear entrance door and Tony Hart fix the handrail. .

We are now in the early 1980 s. My wife gave a looking glass for newly built toilets and I used wood from the cases made to transport of household goods from Kuwait. The annex adjacent to the stage at the north eastern corner of the Hall was saturated with dampness. The narrow channel between the outer wall and the concrete council garage’s platform was choked with soil and vegetation. Starting from the northern end I dug and shovelled the earth forward — this was a long job but time was no object. I cut out the ground elder and eventually the channel was cleared well below the damp course. We then painted inside. In two days the damp was back.

My activities were now over. The Committee did run a 12 week Christmas Draw in which Committee Member Emily Smith raised about £700 each year but at last her age caught up so Arthur Dunn took for one season – he made £20 so the next year I tried – I only reached about half of Emily’ s total.

In the following fifteen or more years many good people made enormous improvements especially having a new floor laid, an improved kitchen with a serving hatch installed and so on. For some years Helen Andrews kept things going

From notes produced by Jack Dady, 2nd November 2005


To many in 20th century secular England, it may seem unbelievable that there was a time when people bought seats in church for their exclusive use. All may be equal in the sight of God, but in a village hierarchy the high and the humble did not mix. For those aspiring to the gentry, a private pew in church gave social status.

There is no detailed description of whatever private pews there had been in Hilton Church but any could have been quite solid affairs, allowing that occupant to have a small charcoal burner for warmth in the winter and sufficiently private for a quiet sleep through an over long sermon.

It was in 1736 that William Sparrow, nephew of William who had cut the Maze seventy six years earlier, convinced the Bishop of Lincoln that he was “a man of substance and fortune” and was so granted a licence to to build a pew at the western end of the north aisle of Hilton Church for the exclusive use of the Sparrow family which would of course include his daughter who married Joseph Sutton.

Was there a family argument that after Miss Sparrow became Mrs Sutton she and her children no longer had access to the pew?

In those days of large families, one pew would not accommodate two or maybe more families. Be that as it may, Joseph Sutton put a lock on the Sparrow pew to exclude his brother -in-law, Joseph Sparrow. Joseph Sparrow appealed to the Archdeaconry Court in Huntingdon to arbitrate. The ruling was that the pew belonged to the bishop “so that everything had to be done decently”. There the record ends. One interpretation could be that the parties were sent away to settle things peaceably among themselves.

In the latter part of the 19th century, these high box pews were removed and the Victorians installed simpler pews of deal. These were removed in the 20th century and oak pews were from Wyton church were installed.
(Compiled for SPECTRUM by Jack Dady  Feb 1991    Chapter 72)


(#81 – Compiled for Spectrum February 1992 by Jack Dady)

Each year the Cambridgeshire Community Council runs a Best Kept Village competition sponsored by a commercial firm such as the Prudential Property Services, Calor and so on. Judges are volunteers from the villages who just get their travelling expenses – the contact number for anyone interested is 0223 350666.

Villages of over a thousand and under a thousand inhabitants are classed separately. In Huntingdonshire, in 1991, twenty three villages in the over a thousand class were formed into five groups for the first round of judging.

The top five villages are then split into two groups for a further check from which emerge the semi-finalists (1991, Brampton and Sawtry) and finally Brampton won the trophy.

In the last three years, Fenstanton has come bottom in its group. Why, when there are so many who do voluntary work and do care? Most dog owners only let their dogs loose when in open fields or they scoop up mess from paths; but there are those who let their dogs out after dark especially round the Clock Tower and in the Churchyard.

Private people have planted bulbs on our Greens and one family has taken the care of the Pond Green under its wing. They had just raked it for planting grass seed and a motorist just ran his car over the soft earth.

Twenty per cent of marks are given to “Gardens and areas surrounding private houses including walls and fences”. Honey Hill area is “very attractive”. The judges may have noticed how the United Reform Church keep their hedge neatly trimmed but when they went around other areas the credit marks would have fallen away like leaves in autumn. They must have noticed trees on private property with foliage obscuring street lights and at road junctions where they it restricted the view of motorists. In a number of places pedestrians brush against overgrown hedges. The kindly judges summed up thus;- “Just an odd one or two let down the rest”.

The maximum number of marks for Notice Boards is only five but we have not been brilliant here. Old notices are not removed and notice boards are festooned with rusty drawing pins.

Litter is a national problem so here there should be a word of thanks to the few people who sweep the outside of their property and who pick up paper and the Coca Cola can the young drop around.

Vandals have only an indirect affect on tidiness but they are expensive for the tax payer – around £6,000 in the past year or two. The Clock Tower seat smashed by a motorist who drove off. Vandals and thieves took from the cemetery tool shed about £2,000 worth of equipment and damaged the shed so that a new shed, built on the lines of Fort Knox will have to be built.

The materials for the underpass mural, beautifully painted by pupils of St Ivo School, cost over £1,000: it was quickly destroyed by young vandals.

Youths tore down the football field fence which the football club repaired and recently this was again damaged. Posts in the Chequer Street play area, installed to prevent cars being driven where the children play have been uprooted and then used to damage play equipment. Repairs to bus shelters cost £123. The list could go on and on.

A final word – the Village Hall. This is only a five mark item but after the valiant work of a few volunteers it is hoped that their efforts will earn all five of those marks in 1991.