Black and white photo of group of people sitting outside Village Hall

Woodford Village Hall (originally known as The Reading Room) was built in 1901 by the Hon Louis Greville, primarily for those employed on the various estates in the Woodford Valley who needed somewhere to spend their free hours. It is now leased to the Woodford Village Hall Management Committee for a nominal annual rent of £1.  The current lease expires in 2057.

The photograph of the official opening of the building, now hanging in the Hall, is a wonderful record of the villagers at that time.  Out of the ninety people shown about thirty were identified in 1978/79 – sadly, the whereabouts of these names is unknown.

At a time when Salisbury could only be reached by foot or bicycle, the Reading Room served a real need, and during the First World War, it was filled to overflowing with soldiers, particularly Australians, who found there a homely welcome.

The main room was divided by a sliding partition (long gone but the runner is still identifiable in the floor) into the smaller left-hand room for women and the main part for men.  The partition was only opened for social occasions. The circular mark on the floor by the North fireplace was made by the iron wheel on the base of the settle that was pulled round  in front of the open fire. When this settle was removed, the wood was used to make a window seat in Swan Cottage, and beeswax had to be used to fill in the holes from misdirected darts – the settle had stood under the dartboard.

Everyone smoked – cigarettes or pipes- so for ventilation there were ‘hatted’ metal vents on the roof, and attached to them inside the Hall, metal boxes with hinged flaps that that could be open and closed by cords hanging down the walls – one cord pulled to open, the other to close.

The Reading Room was open from 2pm to 10pm and refreshments and cups of tea, cakes from Thornton’s bakery were served by the caretaker who lived in the attached house – now known as Club Cottage.  Two framed boards headed ‘Tariff’ hung on the walls showing the fare provided and the charges. The service hatch from the Cottage to the Hall was on the right of the fireplace, while a connecting door was to the left (this doorway entrance is still evident on the Cottage side).

The postman making his midday delivery brought the daily papers, women’s magazines, etc for use in the Reading Room, and these were sold off at the end of the month. In 1933 the Committee revised the list of papers taken – the Daily Express instead of the Daily Chronicle; while Home Chat, The Bee Journal, Pearsons and The Strand were cancelled, but The Humourist was added.

At dances and social gatherings, the music was provided locally.  Among others Mr Dear played the violin, and Mr May played the accordion.  Young people came from surrounding villages to these events which were very popular.

In 1926, an extension was built to house a billiard room and Louis Greville donated the  billiard table and all other equipment (the table was sold in 1985 for £1,500).  An anthracite stove was installed connected to the existing chimney to keep the table dry.  A remembrancer recalls that the older boys and men were very protective of the billiard table and equipment and soundly remonstrated with the younger boys if they abused either.

In the ceiling of the billiard room, a loft door – reached by ladder – allowed access to a storage space above.  This space was later converted to a bedroom for the caretaker’s large family – Mr and Mrs Gee and their five children.

The subscription to the Village Club and Sports Club jointly was 1/- a month.  Billiards, darts and tennis were played (there was a tennis court on the playing field). On the outside of the back entrance door a stern message exhorted the members of Woodford Football Team to remove their boots before entry! There was a battery wireless set and the Solente Band often played for dancing.

The Club Room was open every afternoon and evening except Sunday and the lists of ladies serving refreshments included Mrs J Dear, Mrs G Portnall, Mrs C Creese, Mrs H Sheppard, Mrs E Stokes and Mrs A Matthews – all Valley families of long standing. Sadly, with the arrival of a regular bus service, the Reading Room fell out of daily use.

During the 1940s, 50s and 60s the Hall was the social hub of the community with many a whist drive being held, Women’s Institute and Mothers Union meetings, Youth and Men’s Clubs, socials, dances and concerts amongst other events.

In the 1960s the Hall was in a general state of disrepair  (not helped by an elm tree falling across the roof and damaging the north chimney during a gale on New Year’s Eve in 1959), particularly the windows, and the Country Fairs were started to raise funds for the Hall’s maintenance. Whilst the windows were painted then, it wasn’t until 1978 that a major refurbishment of the Hall took place, when the Committee comprising representatives of all organisations in the Valley were

faced with the urgent task of undertaking major repairs and renovations of ‘this valuable village asset’.  In the mid-60s, open fires were discontinued and the fireplaces blocked off.  Further refurbishment took place in the 1990s.

For the Country Fairs a water pipe was tunneled under the road from the Hall to the playing field.  This is still connected.

In 1989, Wiltshire Council – at the request of the Hall Committee – constructed the kerbing and footpath alongside the Hall.

In 2013/14, the Hall underwent another much needed refurbishment with the fireplaces being uncovered and the pine doors stripped.  But the major work was the division of the old billiard room to provide a modernised kitchen and a storage area/meeting room which was named the Greville Room.  Funding this time round was realised over an amazing weekend from Valley residents together with a grant from Amesbury Area Board.  Serve On volunteers used this project as a pilot scheme and the Woodford Village Hall Management Committee will be forever grateful for the many hours of work they devoted to the work at no cost.

The latest project has been the construction of a free standing storage unit on the north side of the Hall.  This has freed the Greville Room to become a dedicated meeting room.  At the same time the Ladies was modernised, and recently part of the roof has been retiled, and repairs carried out over the remainder.