Welcome to

In the 1930s Miss Benson offered the village the building known as The Mitre for use as a social centre, together with 23 acres of land. The offer was rejected, only to be re-offered later and accepted.

Later still it was realised that The Mitre would not make a village hall, if only because there was no big function room. The Trustees therefore sold The Mitre and all the land, with the exception of one field, known then as Ways Field, originally, First Lime Close. The money was invested in the name of The Witheridge Parish Hall. Through the 50's the Angel Room served as the village function room, being used for dances, plays, receptions, meetings, parties, etc. Smaller events used the Church Rooms. In the early 60's interest in having a real parish hall began to grow, encouraged by the Vicar, the Rev J A S Castlehow. A representative committee was formed, money began to be raised, and plans were drawn up for an architect designed building. It was soon clear that even with the grant available such a building could not be afforded. Contact was made with a firm called Devon Lady, who specialised in the modular cedar wood system. Contracts were signed and the job was done. During this period a parish collection took place and although the response was generous, there was still a few doubters. The hall was opened in 1964 and was at once popular, and soon even the doubters began to wonder how we ever managed without it. By the 70's it was clear that Witheridge was about to expand, so funds were raised and grants obtained and the hall was extended. A hard tennis court was an early addition, together with a storage hut, kids play area and extended car park. Recently room has been found for the recycling hut, where newspapers and bottles are collected. The main room was and is used for meetings, badminton, short mat bowls, drama group productions, flower shows, fundraising events, dances, discos and all the traditional village hall uses.


Biggest day since Coronation A warning that the future management committee should be strong and guard against the wrong sort of outsiders being attracted to functions there was given by Lt. Col. William Edds when the new Witheridge Parish Hall was opened on Monday. Col. Edds, the president of the fund-raising committee for the last eight years, said the existence of the hall was the best possible reward for those who had not only believed in it but had also been prepared to work for it. This effort goes back to long before I came to the village, he said. A parish hall of this type can be a very great asset to the community or it can be a nuisance. If it is used properly, with good administration, it can be a very great help to the young, the old and the parish in general. If on the other hand it is used to attract the wrong sort of element into the place, it could be a nuisance. One of the things we have to do is to appoint a strong committee of management who will see that the hall is used properly in the best interests of the parish and nothing else. The hall queen, Mrs Wendy Blackford, who raised £54, was crowned by Mrs Edds. Her attendants were Miss Rosemary Yendell (£25) and Miss Pearl Woollacott (£20). After the crowning ceremony the tape sealing the doors of the hall was cut by Mrs Blackford, and the crowd surged inside. Guests at the opening included Mr and Mrs T N Allanson-Bailey and Mr and Mrs C  Allanson-Bailey (relatives of the late Mr John Benson, who gave both the ground and a substantial part of the money for the hall), Mr J Adams (Chairman of the Parish Council) The Chairman of South Molton RDC (Mr J Littlejohn) and his wife, and the RDC surveyor (Mr L W Eves and his wife).

Designed for versatility by Col. Edds after consultations with the contractors, Messrs Devon Lady, the building is roomy, light and elegant, and suitable for all kinds of social events, a planned Darby and Joan Club, a table tennis club, and even a chiropody service for pensioners. Through the entrance hall with its ancillary cloakrooms in an anteroom with bar that can be completely separated from the main refreshment counter. Behind both is generous kitchen space. With strong portable staging one end of the hall can quickly be converted for use by the local dramatic society, whose members have been among the keenest helpers.

Col. Edds commented; "It was noticeable that towards the final stages of the building we did not have to ask for help. People came along to do the decorating quite off their own bat, sometimes as early as 7am". No one was daunted by Monday's dull weather, and in any case, some forethought had provided a large marquee for the many slideshows and stalls. Outside was a children's playground with swings and slides; there were pony rides, sports, bicycle and dog races, a tug-of-war contest, clay pigeon shoot, bingo and a grand dance.

It was indeed the parish's biggest celebration since the Coronation, but it had a practical side too. The building, its furnishings and the car park will cost in the region of £8,000, and it was hoped to start relatively free of debt. The hall stands in a field of about two and a half acres, but a portion of the ground is to be sold. A generous surround has been retained to allow for extensions to the car park or even of the hall itself; and there is room at the back for a couple of tennis courts.

The final accounting will be carried out during the next week or so, and a balance sheet is to be presented in about a fortnight. Anyone with views to express can attend a public meeting in about a month's time at which a management committee will be appointed and the general policy laid down.

THE MITRE CLUB: In September 1944, John Benson gave The Mitre, Mitre Cottage, farm buildings and 29 acres of land to trustees, Rev J A S Castlehow and Ernest Hutchings, for them to set up a Charitable Trust to provide social and recreational facilities for the inhabitants of Witheridge, and its immediate neighbourhood. This was the start of the process that eventually led to the Parish Hall. The trust was set up and the first committee consisted of:

Mr H J F Partridge The Parish Council
Mr J Woollacott The Parish Council
Mr E J Hutchings JP The Parish Council
Rev J A S Castlehow The Parochial Church Council
Mr C Maire The Congregational Church
Mr A L Knight The Methodist Church
Mr J H Dryer The Church of England School
Alderman Lake JP The Council School
Mr G Palmer The British Legion (local branch)
Mr E J Darch The Boy Scouts (local troop)
Mr R Vicary The Air Training Corps
Miss Christine Selley The Girls Training Corps
Mr J Adams The Young Farmers Club (local)
Mr R Cox The Farmers Union (local branch)
Miss Constance Selley The Women's Institute
Miss A Trawin The Local Nursing Association
Mr H J Leach The Bowling Club
Mrs Sillifant The Tennis Club

Today the Parish Hall still continues to serve the community, much as originally planned. A keen and dedicated band of people are constantly raising funds to keep pace with all the repairs and improvements required. This year has seen the installation of a Hearing Loop which enables people with hearing aids to hear a speaker without background interference, and also the new disabled access ramps have been installed.

Previous      Go to Top      Home       Text Version      Next Page

Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

Unless otherwise indicated on the page in question, the photographic images reproduced on this site belong to the Witheridge Archives, and, as such may not be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission. However, you are welcome to use any of the photographs belonging to the archive for personal and/or non-commercial use. Any material shown as not being owned by the archive may not be reproduced in any form without first receiving written permission from the owner of the material in question.