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Original article by Douglas Ashby 1982, transcribed by Sarah Gilbert

The Preston Memorial Hall

Preston Hall, shown in an aerial view of the town taken in 1923.  This is one of the very few images of the Hall in its complete state
Aerial view taken 1923 depicting Preston Memorial Hall

The recent demolition of the Preston Hall has removed from the scene a building that stood for 91 years and in its hey day played an important part in the life of the parish.

The location of The Preston Hall, as shown in an Ordnance Survey map of 1928
1928 map indicating position of Preston Memorial Hall

Built in 1891 by the Rev F.B. Newman (Rector 1872-1895) it was originally known as St. Crispins Hall and one of the two adjoining houses was for the steward. The hall was also referred to as the Church Institute.

During his time in the parish the Rev Newman was the inspiration behind the first major restoration of the church in 1868. In 1876 he purchased the Manor House property from the Duke of Buccleuch and gave part of the site for building St. Mary’s School.

One of the few colour photos of the Hall before delapidation set in
The Preston Hall
After the Newmans left the parish in 1895, St. Crispins Hall became the property of Mrs. Jacques, wife of the Rev W.B. Jacques (Rector 1895-1911). The Jacques stayed in the parish until the ill health of the rector forced the family to leave for Orlingbury.  The Rev Jacques died there in 1913 aged 49 years. His widow lived on at Orlingbury Hall until her death in 1951.

In 1913 the Preston family purchased St. Crispins Hall from Mrs. Jacques for £700 and it was renamed the Preston Memorial Hall.  Mrs Preston vested the building in the Diocesan Board of Finance with the Rector and churchwardens as trustees.

Until the last war Preston Hall was virtually in daily use.  There were many organisations attached to the church covering all ages and their regular activities and social occasions made it one of the most popular buildings in the town. Amongst the many activities which took place there were snooker and billiard matches (the Preston Hall served as the town snooker hall); youth club work; drama productions; dances; meetings and any number of bazaars and jumble sales. Snapshots of these can be seen in the gallery below.

Above left - Drama in 1930 (Fred Wallis, Margaret Gardner, Clive Lansom, Kathleen Dunkley, Geoff Payne)
Above right - Frank Hendry in a Billiards Championship Final with Wilf Downing in 1923
Below left - a Mothers Union gathering at the Hall in 1932
Below right - a crowd at a Church Bazaar in 1952

During the war it was taken over by the military and afterwards for a number of years the late Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred Downing ran a youth club there.  It continued as a youth club until the early 1970’s when due to the general state of the building - in particular the roof - the property was vacated.  The hall was not endowed with any income.

Presentation to Wilf Downing & wife in 1950. The left-hand picture also shows Rev Sharpley and Capt. Cook

The proceeds from the sale of the site will help towards the cost of the new Chapter house to be built south of the church vestry, so in a more limited way the purpose of the Preston Hall will be continued.

The two inscription stones have been removed to The Home Farm for safe keeping, and may be incorporated in the new building if practicable, although sadly this has yet to happen.

One of the inscription stones now rescued for safe keeping

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