Setting 'a wonderful example' Village hall & Looking back
PUBLISHED: 09:00 28 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:32 28 January 2014
Sarah Ford visits Hambridge and Westport to discover the history of its award-winning village hall and to hear about old times
The handsome, stone-built village hall in Hambridge and Westport opened more than 30 years ago and stands at the centre of this vibrant community.
Overlooking glorious countryside, the hall has recently achieved a nationally-recognised award from the Community Council for Somerset (CCS).
Impressed by this ‘delightful and well-run facility of which the residents and management committee can be justly proud’, the CCS has presented them with the Hallmarks One and Two awards, given to community buildings for good management and practice.
There are close links between the hall and the school, which uses the facilities for gym and school meals.
The idea for a village hall goes back to the days before World War Two when Mr Duck, who had a local milk round, began a weekly football pontoon. His aim was to invest the proceeds for a recreation area for the children of Hambridge and Westport. But he died in 1953 and the sum of money he raised remained untouched until 1969 when a young man – who had been one of those children the milkman had been planning for – called a public meeting.
This led to the formation of the Hambridge and Westport Recreation Trust and the hall was opened in 1982.
Presenting them with a top award in that year, the Community Council for Somerset told the villagers they had set a wonderful example to other rural communities in the county with their new building.
Mr Duck’s daughter, Liz Martin, was there at the award ceremony more than 30 years ago and she is still very much involved in the running of the hall today. She has been Secretary of the Hambridge and Westport Recreation Trust since 1970 and recently received a Chairman’s Award for service to the community from Somerset County Council’s Chairman, Cllr David Fothergill.
Beating the Bounds, Plough Sunday, the local brewery and the harsh winter of ’63 are just some of the memories recalled for Somerset Life by villagers Marjorie Cload, David Cload, John Alford and Liz Martin.
Marjorie, who has lived here all her life, remembers the days when there used to be as many as 11 farms in Hambridge and Westport. Today there are three.
“When anyone died in the village the church bells would be rung,” she says.
“They would ring how old the person was. If someone around that age had been poorly we would know who had died. Every villager knew everyone else in those days.”
Parish council Chairman John Alford remembers Country Ale and Lorna Doone Cider being produced in the village and the successful football team which got to a couple of county cup finals in the 1960s.
His father and uncle ran Alford Brothers building firm.
“Nearly every chap who wanted a trade when they left school worked for Alford Brothers or for the plumbers Whites of Hambridge,” he says.
As young servers at the church, David and John remember joining the vicar for the ancient custom of blessing the parish boundary.
“On Plough Sunday they used to carry the plough through the church and bless it,” adds David.
Two buses used to take villagers on their annual church outing to Weston-super-Mare, while the WI enjoyed its outing to Weymouth.
“I remember the blue double-decker bus that used to come through the village during the building of Hinkley Point,” adds John.
“Even during that hard Winter of 1963 that bus always got through!”
Liz recalls: “There was so much snow it was like going through caves. We had to stay home for a long time because it was so bad.”