History of the hall

Catforth’s Two War memorials

Based on an article for “in Focus” magazine by Albert Clayton

 

Our Village hall was conceived on the evening of April 7th 1919. A meeting had been called at the School to discuss how the village should honour those who had given their lives in the Great War. This meeting was chaired by Mr W Kirby of Catforth Hall, and at it Mr Tom Barron (seconded by Mr TC Rainford) proposed that a Memorial Hall be built, together with a bowling green and other recreational facilities which could be enjoyed by the whole village, but used particularly by ex-soldiers who had served. The idea was enthusiastically agreed, and a Committee formed to make it happen.

Fund-raising began immediately (anyone recognise a pattern here?), whilst the difficult questions of what should be built, and where, were considered. The second of these problems was apparently resolved when, the same month, a parcel of land was offered by Mr Tom Cornall of “Fair View” in the Village. The site was felt to be an excellent option, being by the side of the road and in the middle of the village, and his offer was accepted. Work began immediately on the Bowling Green, whilst the fund-raising machine marched on, with Garden Fetes and other events throughout the spring..

By June, the impressive sum of £500 had been raised, (about £17,500 in modern day terms), and the Bowling Green (and Club) opened in 1920, with Mr Rainford, the village resident who had seconded Tom Barron’s proposal, as its first President

All very good, you may say, but no!!

Sadly, all was not well!

When he donated the land, Mr Cornall, who was a devout Methodist, had stipulated certain conditions on the use of the Hall. Firstly, there should be no alcohol consumed on the premises, and secondly, the Hall should not open on Sundays.

Thses conditions were not a problem to the majority of the organising committee, who were themselves Methodist, but a view began to gather momentum amongst the other members of the community that the War had been about a fight for Freedom...Freedom to consume alcohol and play bowls on Sunday for example, if that was their wish. Was this not the very freedom that men had given their lives to protect?

The two views were irreconcilable, and soon a deep split developed. The Members of the Committee who could not accept the conditions eventually left to form their own Group, and they and their supporters started raising money to build a different Memorial Hall, this to be called the Catforth Sports Club. This project was much more in line with Tom Barron’s original idea, and he joined, and eventually led them, enthusiastically.

So great was the split, that the two committees would not even meet in the same place! The splinter group eventually found refuge at the Catholic School, permission having been given by the young priest Father Leon Waring, who was supported in this move by the owner of Bartle Hall, WJ Walmsley Esq.

In order to avoid confusion (about which Hall you were giving money towards, I suspect!) the name of the “Official” Methodist sponsored project was changed from Catforth Village Club to Catforth Village Hall.

It is perhaps worth reflecting that our small and scattered community was willing to contemplate not one, but two costly schemes to honour their War dead. The two schemes between them would cost over £3000 (over £100,000 in today’s money), and would both be completed by 1923. This level of enthusiasm was not universal in the area, however!! Although Inskip Church had managed to build a Memorial by 1920, Garstang had still not raised enough for a plaque costing £400 by the end of 1922!!

The stories of the two halls now diverge, so I will deal with them separately