The official title of our old village hall was the Drinkstone War Memorial Institute and it had a long history.
On 30th July 1920, the Ministry of Munitions (by direction of the Disposal Board, Huts and Building Materials Section) held an auction at the former First World War Elmswell Airfield (sometimes referred to as Great Ashfield). One of the huts on the site (an officers mess, cookhouse block) with dimensions of approximately 71ft by 29ft, corresponds to the dimensions of what became the Drinkstone War Memorial Institute (Village Hall).
In 1921, a piece of land (Elm Tree Meadow) in Drinkstone was bought for the purpose of erecting a village hall as a war memorial for the parish. The parish priest, The Reverend Francis Herbert Horne, played a prominent role in this project.
According to local accounts, ‘an officers dining hall from the airfield at Great Ashfield brought to Drinkstone in sections by horse and cart’, at some time between 1920 and 1922*2, was re-erected and dedicated as the official village war memorial. The earliest documentary evidence of its community use, discovered so far, in the Bury Free Press of Saturday 27th January 1923 reports that “A very successful dance was held on Friday in the (Drinkstone) Memorial Hall, when about seventy attended”.
A minute book recording the management committee meetings between January 1928 and January 1969 has recently (September 2016) come to light and refers to activities in the Hall from at least 1927.
The hall occupies a special place in the hearts of generations of villagers and others further afield. It witnessed numerous family, community and national celebrations over the years, including weddings, dances, fund-raising events, coronations and other royal occasions. During the Second World War, American servicemen based locally used the hall for various events too, including ‘hops’ where musicians from the legendary Glen Miller Orchestra played. In 1951 a charitable trust was established to administer the village hall on behalf of the community.
A potentially catastrophic fire at the hall, caused by an electrical fault in September 2010, damaged the front end of the hall and prematurely brought it’s working life to an abrupt halt. Up to that point the hall had been well used by the local community, almost on a daily basis. In the search for a new home for the hall, enquiries were addressed to various aviation museums and enthusiasts across southern England. The Stow Maries Aerodrome Museum expressed an interest in re-erecting the building at their site.
The hall was carefully dismantled during April 2011, with the major part of the cherished old village hall being saved. At least five of the six roof trusses were salvaged and the majority of the walls and floor sections were in good enough condition to be kept. The original corrugated roof, sadly, was in a poor state and could not be reasonably used again. More contemporary internal partitioning and cladding were not required and were scrapped; the window frames were rotten and will be replaced to exact specification as the original.
The party of volunteers from Stow Maries arrived at 9am on Sunday 5th June 2011 and it took them some seven hours to completely fill two large lorries. The ‘move’ was featured on BBC TV’s ‘Look East’ that evening.