The jewel in the crown of Great Massingham

For 100 years, the village hall in Great Massingham has been at the heart of the community. This summer, locals are giving back with a week of celebrations worthy of their cherished amenity and its milestone

The history of the picturesque parish of Great Massingham stretches back as far as the 5th Century AD, when a group of Anglo-saxons settled in the area, Its name actually comes from this time, as the ruling family was known as the Maersings and so the "Maersings' home" evolved into Massingham.

The vibrant village we admire today has come a long way since the Anglo- Saxons, becoming a proud community that has preserved through thick and thin, 2024 marks 100 years since the parish pride and joy, the village hall, was first built and a week of jubilant celebrations is in place to honour the centenary of this charming community hub.

The need for a hall arose when a Men’s and Boys’ club was formed by residents in 1920. Funds were raised through card game events known as Whist Drives, intriguing competitions such as ‘married women races’, and even a game of Musical Chairs on horses.

The land for the hall was donated by Charles Dewar, described as a ‘gentleman farmer’ in his obituary, who was born in the Scottish city of Perth and later bought Abbey House
in Great Massingham from the Marquis of Cholmondeley. Dewar was regularly involved with the care of the village, and in 1924 he generously bequeathed the land for the hall, on the condition that no women were admitted and no alcohol was served.

The villagers were also dedicated to seeing this new hub come to life, donating hours of unpaid labour to complete the build. The new Parish Hall, as it was originally called, was opened under the banner ‘Faith, Hope, Love and Work.’

Tragically, the original hall burned down in 1943, and a replacement wasn’t constructed until 1955. In the interim, the community banded together to find temporary accommodation. The Reverend A.J. Davies opened the Rectory to be used as a club, and disused army huts were commandeered for events and meetings.

The completion of the new village hall was joyously celebrated, with residents thrilled to have a dedicated space to gather again. Today, the hall is thankfully open to all members of the community and it has blossomed into a welcoming modern place, brimming with spirit.

One of the Trustees who oversees the maintenance of the historic hall is the newly-appointed Secretary, Barbara Nadel. She’s keen to promote all the brilliant things the Trustees have worked hard to organise during the anniversary celebrations.

“We have so much going on, it’s hard to keep track.” she says. “We’re kicking off on Thursday 11th July with a centenary quiz to mark all things 100, and then on Friday 12th we have a big event on the Jubilee Field. The Massingham and Harpley schools are holding their Summer Fayre, during which we’re going to plant a commemorative time capsule. It’s set to be a very special occasion.”

The time capsule will be buried for 25 years; in 2049 future residents will be able to discover what the community’s past children dreamt of growing up to become and their visions for the future of the village. It may even be these very children who unearth the capsule in a quarter of a century.

Saturday will play host to a plethora of spirited sports events. Despite the lack of ‘married women races’ taking place this time, tennis tournaments, football matches and bowls games in the summer sunshine will guarantee a fun day out.

“Our brilliant Historical Society has arranged an exhibition within the hall on Sunday morning to showcase our beautiful village and community,” says Barbara. “The team has dug out captivating old photographs from the archives, so you’ll be able to enjoy a glimpse of how the village has changed over the last century.”

There will be an unveiling of a Commemorative Artwork created by the local Craft & Chat group on the same day, accompanied by a delicious afternoon tea. Celebrations will come to a close on Monday 15th July with a concert by Canadian rock band The Fugitives, ending an exciting week with a brilliant bang.

The Trustees hope to show off everything this historic hall has to offer its community. It can be transformed into an atmospheric and cost-effective venue for weddings, hired out for joyous birthday parties, and host spirited local events such as the popular drag bingo.

All of the enthusiastic individuals and groups who’ve thrown themselves into planning these celebrations have benefitted from this vital village hall. Vice Chairperson Dave Morrell says that the purpose of the hall is always to put people first, offering a space to share hobbies and interests or discuss local matters.

Such a staple of the community is deserving of the fantastic celebrations in store, and it’s inspiring to think what memories the village hall is going to capture over the next 100 years. It’s this gorgeous gem that puts the ‘Great’ in Great Massingham.

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