“A Village Hall is absolutely necessary to the proper development of social life in Ickenham and without it the normal and healthy activities of the community must be seriously hindered”.
So concluded the 1926 report of the first Village Hall Committee, when appealing for funds to raise the “alarmingly great sum of £1,800 to turn an insubstantial dream into material fact”.
To the considerable credit of the people of Ickenham, the money was collected. With commendable pace the Hall was built and then formally opened by Princess Victoria, sister to King George V, on 8th January 1927.
What a great asset the Hall has proved to be ever since! Many residents remember it being designated by the Government during the War as a British Restaurant. Bangers and mash followed by stodgy pudding and custard could be purchased for about a shilling (5p). But before that it had served as a school, a bank, a church (while the new Congregational Church was being built) as well as housing day-to-day activities such as meetings, sports, parties and sales. Subsequently, gallons of human blood have been collected in the Hall during the regular visits of the National Blood Service and thousands of sporting and dancing feet of all sizes have pounded the well-kept floor.
A vital need was served only a year after its opening. Overcrowding in the village school resulted in the older pupils being moved to the Hall, which was titled ‘Ickenham Temporary Council School’, until Breakspear School was completed in 1937. Three classes at a time were held in the Hall, with each group facing a different way. The head teacher, Mrs Slattery, was known as the Governess. Such was the strict regime that any children heard to swear, (boys of course!), were punished by having a bar of soap put in their mouths! Things looked up on Shrove Tuesday when pancakes were made in the kitchen and, at Easter, eggs were hidden around the Hall for the children to find.
Nowadays, among the many regular activities are the Horticultural Society’s Shows, a vital feature of village life. In a recent Autumn Show we saw the biggest dahlia most of us will ever see take one of the hundreds of prizes which have been handed over in this special place.
Like all institutions, the Hall is only as good as the people who run it, in this case the Village Hall Committee. Its Chairman, Cavin Higgins, is quick to give credit to his team, particularly George and Joyce Richman who have served the Committee for many years Secretary Ruth Higgins and Treasurer Wendy Arnold. Wendy also copes with the complications of a never-ending demand for letting the premises. If you would like to hire the Hall, please ring her on 07557 270567.
(Acknowledgment and thanks to Alan Noad for this article)