The Wingfield Hall

The Parish or Wingfield Hall

ON THIS PAGE is information on the Wingfield Hall; memories; some organisations that met there, especially the Men's Social Club; the Women's Institute; and the Mulbarton Players.

The Wingfield Hall was built next to and after the Methodist Chapel (far left of above photo), seemingly on orchard land owned by the mill. From the name, we gather it was associated with Mrs Davinda Wingfield of Mulbarton Hall, who died in 1906. The conveyance of land, dated 1908, is in the Norfolk Records Office (ACC2012/341/box3). Mr H Church is listed as 'Secretary of Reading Room, Wingfield Hall' in Kelly's Directory of 1908. It was run by trustees, but problems arose around 1917-18 - probably after the death of Lady Wingfield, when her estate was sorted out by solicitors, or possibly in conjunction with the sale of the mill and its land.

The Minutes of the Trustees indicate that it was one large room, with a stage with curtains. It was vested in the Trustees 'for the purposes of providing a Reading and Recreation Room for the inhabitants of Mulbarton and for such charitable purposes for the general benefit of the said inhabitants as the Trustees think fit.' (from Minutes, 25th Oct 1933, quoting 1921 Order of the Charity Commissioners).

L>R: Post Office; gap in which garage would be built; Wingfield Hall; Methodist Chapel; World's End; and baker's shop.
L>R: Post Office; gap in which garage would be built; Wingfield Hall; Methodist Chapel; World's End; and baker's shop.

First entry in the Parish Hall Trustees Minutes Book:-

March 18th 1919. A Meeting of Trustees took place at 8 pm at Lodge Farm by the kind invitation of Mr. & Mrs. J W Hill. All the trustees were present, viz Rev E E Ward and Messrs R W Tuddenham and W J Simmonds. The Chair was taken by the Rector, in accordance with the terms of the Trust Deed.

The Chairman having referred to the kindness of Mr & Mrs Hill in buying the Rent Charge and handing the Hall to the Parish, proposed that Mr Hill be a trustees, thus completing the numbers stated by the Deed. Mr Tuddenham seconded....carried nem con.

Mr Hill ably responded and explained why he had come forward in the matter of obtaining the Building for the Parish....

A short discussion followed as to the Funds in hand relating to the old Reading Room Committee, and as the Trustees were members originally of that Committee, it was decided to earmark the balance for the purposes of the Reading Room. At the same time it was agreed that the present season was too far advanced to start a Reading Room this season.

...Scale of charges for letting the Room:

Scale A (without fire and light) 5/- [5 shillings = 25p] per evening until 11 o'clock

Scale B (with fire and light) 10/- per evening until 11 o'clock

Scale C The above scales increased after 11pm by the payment of 2/- per hour, all arrangements as to time being subject to the consent of the Trustees.

[A caretaker is to be appointed; dancing not allowed until further enquiries about 'liability as to a licence', ground to be kept free of weed...]

'A Hearty Vote of thanks to Mr & Mrs Hill brought the meeting to a close.'

[Later the same year, Mr. Hill had died and Mrs Hill became a Trustee.]

1919, Nov. 1st, Trustees decided to ask the former Secretary of Reading Room to call a meeting of members with a view to restarting it. Mr E Draper promised to do this and a meeting was fixed for Nov. 3rd.

Meeting on Nov. 3rd duly took place:  'Mr Tuddenham gave a brief explanation as to the manner in which the so-called Wingfield Hall was now a Parish Hall invested in Trustees who would carry it on for the beneficial use of the Parish. He stated that through the kindness of the late Mr. J W Hill the room was secure to the Parish, whereas it was at one time in great danger of being lost for Parish use.'

Unfortunately we have (as yet) no further details about the rescue of the Hall, but in 1921 the Trustees discussed 'a suitable plaque in memory of M J W Hill's generosity'. A brass plaque was obtained and installed (above) - and came to light again in 2004 as a result of the Mulbarton Heritage Project!

By 1920 Dances were taking place - though the Trustees 'could not sanction 2 Dance nights in succession'. 'It was agreed to let the room for Political Meetings (irrespective of party)' (14th Jan 1920). The Minutes indicate that the Reading Room functioned most evenings for ordinary meetings for men only plus additional evening whist drives, dances and socials. But from now on the Hall often functions at a loss, and occasional problems with behaviour:

1920, May 21st '...a complaint had been made respecting the Reading Room Social "winding-up", and it was decided that in future, when a like Social is held, the Rules of the Room must be strictly observed.'

Other users of the Hall included the Mothers Union and Girls Friendly Society (Mondays) (combined charge 2/- per day plus 6d for the cleaner - referred to Mrs. Sargeaunt (17th Nov. 1919)

Oddfellows' Club on 4th Monday of the month for Juveniles, and twice a year for the Women's Branch (agreed at £1 p.a. plus 5/- for women's meetings 21st May 1920)

Weekly Dancing Classes by an applicant from Norwich had to be turned down because of the agreement with the Reading Room.

Every Wednesday night was reserved for Socials (and this is when most of the entertainments seem to take place in the 1930s).

The Red Cross Medical Aid Dept. had a cupboard (@ £1.5.0d p.a.) and sessions were held when medical stores were given out from it (@ 5/- p.a.)

The Sunday School must have met here, 'it appears that [they] use the piano for hymns, Miss Muskett having offered to pay a small sum per annum for this privilege.' (10th July 1922)

We also know from the School Log Book that the Hall was used in school hours for a week - usually in June or July - for the older girls to have cookery classes.

In May 1920, the Trustees began a process for obtaining a new 'Scheme' from the Charity Commissioners, 'to safeguard the Trustees', which was agreed in 1921. They also put the charges up - and require the Reading Room to pay the same as other users. A Piano Committee was set up, which duly reported back, obtained a piano and agreeing the letting terms on 12th Aug. 1921:

'As to the letting of the piano.....2/6d [25p] be charged for a Dance or Entertainment; 4/- for not resident in the Parish, and GFS [Girls Friendly Soc.] 5/- a year....the pianoforte is not to be used outside the Room.' Mr. Simmonds [schoolmaster] kept the key. The Piano Committee was not disbanded, but carried on to deal with all the problems concerning use and maintenance of the piano!

In 1927, the Trustees had a new cloakroom built at a cost of £30 - and refused to pay more when the builder (Mr. Barrett) asked for it.

Towards the end of 1931, the Men's Club wrote to the Trustees 'with regard to equipping the Room with electric light'. The estimate for installation was '£8.13.0d, [£8.65p] with extras for special billiards lights.' The trustees agreed to pay £4 and the Men's Committee the balance. By December they had agreed to have a locked fuse box and 'four 60 watt bulbs be purchased with a view to economy'.

By 25th Oct. 1933, the 'Men's Club' was paying rent of 5/- per week (plus light and coal). The Football and Cricket Clubs also used the Hall (6d per afternoon), the Oddfellows (1/- per meeting), various Church meetings (1/- per meeting + 1/6d for light and coal). Two trustees agreed to meet 'the Chairman and Secretaries of the Men's Club and explain charges and insist on keeping of rules, especially with regard to admittance of boys under age, gambling and betting and closing of Club at 10 pm'. They duly met at the Rectory on Nov. 16th for a frank meeting about use of electric light 1932-3, the billiards table, piano. Gambling, betting and bad language prohibited; no boys under 16 to be admitted; and club hours 7-10pm only (not Wednesdays). In return for new rental arrangements, the Trustees paid the electricity bill, took over all the fittings and provided curtains for the windows. From now on the Men's Club is treated like any other user. And here the Trustees' Minutes end!

Christmas party in the Wingfield Hall, 1950s
Christmas party in the Wingfield Hall, 1950s

'1935 May 6th King's Silver Jubilee discussed. Committee of delegates from Village organisations to arrange celebration: School Managers; Chapel; British Legion; Boy Scouts; School; District Councillor; Mothers Union; WI; Juvenile Club (Oddfellows); Men's Club.'
This extract from the Parish Council Minutes suggests a wide range of clubs in the village many of which would have met in the Wingfield Hall. 

There are more details about the Men's Club, the W.I. and the Players below.

The Hall continued to be used until 1972. In 1962 there was a major refurbishment: the interior was redecorated throughout for £70, a new stage given by Mickleburgh & Rutland, and curtains by Mrs. Lilian Mickleburgh. At about the same time, Mulbarton began to grow and people remember the hall as the meeting-place for clubs such as the Good Companions, Young Wives, Women's Institute, Youth Club and for Parish Council meetings, Keep Fit, bingo, whist drives, occasional jumble sales and other sales, and the baby clinic.

(Information from Minutes of the Trustees of the Parish Hall, contributed by Peter Mickleburgh and the Mulbarton Church Magazines for 1962, contributed by Mrs. E. Valiant)

The Wingfield Hall next to Frosts' garage in 1975, shortly before it was demolished
The Wingfield Hall next to Frosts' garage in 1975, shortly before it was demolished

Memories of the Wingfield Hall

'The Village Hall, or Reading Room some called it, was opposite the pond, next to the Chapel and Mr. Frost's garage. A wonderful big Hall. I have enjoyed many sixpenny hops, singing and dancing, run by Mr. A. Bussey to help Hospital Funds. He also played the organ at the Church.'  The late Nesda Gray

CONCERT AT MULBARTONReported 18th April 1933:
'A concert was held in Mulbarton Parish Hall on Tuesday...on behalf of local charity... ...The programme consisted of pianoforte solos, duets and comic songs....by performers from Norwich. A play "The Bathroom Door" was well performed by Miss Ramsay [and 5 other ladies] and "Impossible Perkins" by [3 ladies}. Selections on handbells were given by Mr. F. W. Middleton.....'

CONCERT AT MULBARTONReported 31st January 1934:
'A concert was given in Mulbarton Parish Hall on Wednesday on behalf of the Parish Church Surplice Fund. There was a good attendance and the varied programme was well presented. Members of the choir gave five items in character. In the first, "Ten little Pigs" all the members wore pig masks....' [There were traditional and musical songs; sketches; a solo by Miss Cross; recitation by Mr. W. Emms; violin solos by Miss Betty Broom; accompaniest Mrs. Howard.] 'The receipts totalled over £6'

From an undated newspaper report of the 1930s:
"At the Parish Hall, Mulbarton, on Wednesday a jumble sale was held....A cheque for eight guineas has been sent to Mr. A. J. Bussey, the local hon. Sec. of the Hospital Contributory Scheme. This now brings the total amount raised for the Queen's Purse Fund at Mulbarton...to the grand total of £28.18s."

The Village Hall (Wingfield Hall) was next to the Methodist Chapel, where they held WI and Mothers' Union meetings, whist drives, dances and social evenings every Saturday evening.  Dorothy Tungate

During the War years social life in the village continued in spite of the war and dances were held in the village hall. Although I was very young I remember a band called the 'Bunwell Swingers' where Flo Utting played the piano. Flo lived in one of the thatched church cottages and gave music lessons.                                                                     Brenda Ford - nee Collins

The Men's Social Club

There are very early references to a Reading Room in Mulbarton - possibly one existed even before the Wingfield Hall was built. This seems to have been the forerunner of a Public Library as well as a Social club - but membership was limited to men only!

Larking in the Reading Room Mulbarton, late 1800s(?)

In our village....we had a reading room; but the only paper I ever see'd was the E.D.P. I used to get it myself from X and take it down as soon as the room opened. We boys had fun and games there. One thing I remember was to pull a heel iron from our boots, put it in the fire, and when we heard the gates we'd get it out and throw it in the middle of the floor. Time and time again it would be picked up and dropped with a yell. The caretaker lived next-door and she used to make tea, coffee or cocoa at a penny a cup. Three of us would go regular like and say - "Cup of tea please" - "Cup of coffee please" - "Cup of cocoa please". She's get real mad and say "Can't you boys have the same?" "No ma'am," we'd say, "We wants different". She'd be that mad her wig would slip up and down - that's true it did, and didn't we boys laugh!
....We were poor but we had love. We made our own amusements. We worked hard and had few presents. We were content.
(Extract from 'Within Living Memory - a collection of Norfolk Reminiscences' (written and compiled by members of the Norfolk Federation of WIs, 1971) All anonymous)

The Reading Room Rules, duly amended by the Trustees of the Parish Hall on 3rd Nov. 1919, are attached to the front of the Mulbarton Men's Club Minutes Book

Rule 3 - Ordinary Members shall be men and youths of good character living in Mulbarton or its immediate neighbourhood', over 14 years of age.

From 1921 they are inviting past members to become Hon Members and 'if they choose to pay as ordinary members the fee would be gladly accepted.'(!)

Rules 5 & 7 state that an AGM be held on the first Monday in October, and 'the business and management of the Reading Room shall be under a Committee' of which the Trustees of the Parish Hall are ex officio members.

On 3rd Nov. 1919 'Officers to consist of Trustees as ex officio members. Messrs H & W Lake, Joint Secretaries & Treasurer..... Mr. W Lake, Librarian.' They retired from office on 1st Oct. 1928.

Rule 10 - The Reading Room shall be used for Reading, Writing, and such lawful and orderly Recreation and Instruction by Lectures and otherwise as the Trustees may approve. But no person in a state of intoxication shall be permitted to enter or remain in the room...all betting and gambling of any kind, all swearing and bad language, all disorderly or improper conduct, and all loud talking to the annoyance of others are strictly forbidden.'

Suitable conduct is often minuted:

1921, Oct. 3rd '...no Bicycle lamp be brought into the room attached to a bicycle but that they be taken off and stored in the fireplace or another suitable spot.'

Rule 12 - The Reading Room shall be open from first Monday in October until the last Saturday in March, from 7pm to 10pm...

But the Committee and Trustees reserved the right to close it occasionally for the use of others, and eventually rules that it was to be free every Wednesday.

The reading Room season ended with a Social for members.

Rule 15 - The Committee shall decide what Newspapers shall be taken in, and what Books shall be bought.

1919, Nov. 3rd - The followingpapers were decided upon for the Reading Room sessions: Daily Mail, 1d per day; Mirror, 1d per day; Pictorial, 2d weekly; Chips 1½ d weekly; John Bull, 2d weekly; Answers, 1½d weekly; Titbits 1½d weekly. Mr Funnell offered to provide EDPress; Mr. Beare offered the Daily Herald. There were variations over the years - in 1925 the Club 'decided on All Sports, Athletics News, Pictorial & Topical Times, Pearsons Weekly, Daily Mail and Mirror. In 1931, it was decided to take only The Pictorial, and in 1936 the Evening News and Everybody's Weekly were agreed.

Minutes list the many social events:

Whist Drives (were held almost monthly.- for which the Club bought cards and at first borrowed and then bought tables from Mr. Cunningham.

Dances - that on Wed. 3rd Dec. 1919 ran from 7.30pm to midnight, cost 1/3d per person (6p), refreshments not included. Mr. Funnell (baker) did the catering - and allowed bicycles to park on his premises (opposite) for 2d each! Mrs. Cracknell (from the shop that is now Butler House, at least 100 yards from the hall) lent her piano for free. The Trustees agreed to have it tuned at their expense, and later to buy one for the Hall.

Later minutes show that dances were not to be held on Sundays or during Lent.

Socials were held, especially to raise funds for the Reading Room funds - Mr. Bussey (Church organist) was one of the leading lights in their success.

For its own members and meetings, the Reading Room also owned a billiard table - and many hours were spent discussing its care, repair and replacement, and a Billiard table Committee was formed. But a minute of 1st Oct. 1928 records '...delight to place on record the fact that the Club had won the Billiards League shield and medals for the past season.'

Tensions between the Reading Room Members, the Trustees and other users are hinted at in the Minutes - especially over fees and repairs when the Hall got into debt. But the Reading Room members, as the main users, seem to have organised most of the improvements. In 1924 (Sept. 22nd) 'Mr Cunningham offered to give a lamp for use in the room and Mr. Cracknell offered to give the oil'.

October 5th 1925 includes the historic Minute:

'It was decided that in future the Reading Room should be known as the Mulbarton Mens Club' (sic), although that name had been in use from at least 1924 (see title of photo above).

The following year a rota of Stewards was set up 'for certain meetings'. Subscriptions went up to 1/6d [8p] per quarter - the club was usually running at a loss - and 'a big endeavour should be made to get fresh members'. In 1927 subs went up to 2/- per quarter [10p] to keep the club afloat. In 1929 came the promise, 'the Club would be financially sound by the end of the year'. By 1931 there was a rota of six men to take charge of the Room for one night per week.

Darts was a regular activity. In 1928, 'Mr. C J Frost and Mr. W Goward [the blacksmith] generously offered to give 10/- each [50p] towards a punch ball. Boxing gloves must have been bought too - a new set was bought in 1936. This Boxing Club continued until after the War. By 1932 'ping pong' was an activity - but 'the Secretary should purchase balls and sell them instead of providing them free'. Next year this was revoked - 'It was decided to provide balls free...and charge 1d per half-hour for the table'. The same Minutes (3rd Oct. 1933) record that 'it was felt the game of Draughts had been neglected in the Club and the Treasurer undertook to purchase some Boards etc. to encourage the game'. In 1934 a game of billiards cost 2d 'paid before the game', or 1d per game for those under 16.

19th April 1934 'The Secretary reported that 26 members paid subscriptions during the first quarter, and only 15 the second.' This was given as the reason for a deficit of £2.13.7d for 1934-5, leaving a debt to the Trustees. This nearly closed the Club in Oct. 1935. The deficit was turned to a small profit in 1936 - and there the (unsigned) Minutes end....

The Women's Institute

The Mulbarton & District W I was founded in 1944 when the East Carleton & Mulbarton branch was divided. Obviously many were already WI members and knew how an Insititute should be organised. When the two Institutes separated, half the balance was given to Mulbarton: £1. 12s. 3 ½ d! Gifts from the President and Committee amounted to a further £5.10s, and a bank account was opened with Barclays.

 Admitting Mrs. A. Stackyard on 25th Jan 1944. Annual Membership 2/6d (12p)
Admitting Mrs. A. Stackyard on 25th Jan 1944. Annual Membership 2/6d (12p)

The first committee meeting was held on 11th January at Brooke Villa (the old Post Office) with Mrs R Middleton as President. Vice-presidents were Mrs Hooney (of the Long Lane nursery - responsible for birthday posies); Mrs Massingham (of Mulbarton Hall - Magazine Sec); Mrs Quick (of the Mill House - on Social Committee). Miss Larter was Secretary; Miss Claxton, Treasurer. Other committee members were: Mrs Eccleston (trading stall); Mrs Gladwell (social committee); Mrs Goodman, Mrs Nicholls (refreshments, 'with 3 members in rotation'); Mrs G Stackyard; Nurse Sexton; Mrs Blackman (to meet speaker); Mrs. Ladbrooke (Press Correspondent).

Lunch to celebrate Mulbarton WI's 21st birthday
Lunch to celebrate Mulbarton WI's 21st birthday

Meetings were held on a Tuesday afternoon in the Wingfield Hall. Early meetings opened with reading the Alberta Creed and motto and/or singing Jerusalem and ended with the National Anthem. A outdoor meeting was held in August - at East Carlton Lodge or Bracon Lodge, and later at The Lodge or Malthouse, Mulbarton. There were summer outings to Sandringham, Hunstanton, Lowestoft, etc. and trips to the theatre, pantomime, Old Tyme dances and occasionally to London.

The 'Afternoon WI' continued in the Wingfield Hall and then in the Village Hall with a similar pattern of meetings and activities. In the 1980s, an Evening WI was founded to cater for younger women who were at work during the day or had to meet children from school in the afternoon. Gradually the 'Afternoon WI' aged and decreased in numbers, and the two Mulbarton Institutes amalgamated. Irene Eagle, elected secretary of the Evening WI at its foundation, continues as secretary of the current Mulbarton WI after more than 30 years of service.

WI float in the Village Festival parade, July 1992
WI float in the Village Festival parade, July 1992

The Mulbarton Players

Mulbarton Players perform in the Wingfield Hall in 1938 - scene from "Pleasure Cruise", a 5-act play  written and produced by Cyril Fairman. The photo probably shows 'the moonlight scene on the top deck' - described in a review in the Eastern Daily Press as 'artistically arranged' with lighting effects controlled by Messrs. G. Deller and J. Skae. There was a cast of 15 and the acting was describes as 'of a high standard and the chorus girls looked very charming in their numerous novelty costumes'. Exact date unknown - but a Wednesday evening in 1938.