A Short History of Ash Village Hall
In March 1911 plans were mooted for the building of a Village Hall onland in Sandy Lane, now known as Queens Road, to commemorate the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary. The plot of land was generously donated by brother and sister Mr Sydney Bourne and Mrs Lucy Harpole, whilst a Building Fund was launched to raise the funds for the building of the hall. By December 1911 this fund had reached well over £600, the total cost of the hall. Building by local firm Brisley Bros. started in May 1912, in time for the then Lady Northbourne to lay the foundation stones, these can still be seen in the wall facing Queens Road. The hall was soon ready for use “for meetings or any objects having in view the spiritual, intellectual, moral, social, or political wants of the parishioners and inhabitants of the parish”.
Very soon after the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914, casualties from the fighting in Belgium began to arrive in Dover. The Village Hall trustees offered the use of the Hall, free of charge, as a V.A.D. Hospital, and on October 25 1914
it was opened as a twenty bed hospital, staffed by the 128th Kent (Ash) Voluntary Aid Detachment. Many Ash women volunteered to care for the wounded and helped the Medical Officer with minor operations.
The Hall was finally closed as a hospital on January 31 1918 and became available for its original purposes.
At some stage between the two World Wars, a corrugated addition, known as the Institute, which became the Scout Room, was added to the rear of the Hall, which was now proving inadequate for the village’s needs.
The main hall however continued as the setting for many celebrations.
Started in 1927, the annual Ash and District Commercial Fruit Show was staged in the Hall, with a marquee being added in later years to accommodate the many exhibits of locally grown apples, pears, and cherries.
In September 1939 the Hall had again to play a war-time role. Until June 1940 it was used by Kent Education Committee as a school for evacuees. For a short time it was available again for normal usage although “applications for dances had to be refused because of the blackout restrictions, the blinds not being thick enough”. In February 1941 “an application was made for the Hall to be used as a Red Cross Dressing Station being the only suitable building in the vicinity”. In the event, the Hall continued to used additionally by the Home Guard for lectures, etc. whilst the Scouts made way for the Air Raid wardens, and the Ante-Room (entrance lobby) accommodated Medical Stores.
The complex was returned to the committee in September 1944.
By the 1970’s urgent work was required to install new WCs and improve the foyer & entrance. The “corrugated tin” Institute was eventually demolished in the 1980’s when funding was obtained for a major refurbishment including stage, storage room and a dedicated KCC Library Room.
Further updating continued in 2003 to comply with the latest regulations to meet modern statutory requirements for the disabled. £44,000 worth of alterations were carried out to the toilet block while fire exits and ramps were added.
Ash Village Hall gained it’s Hallmark Level 1 award on the 4th of March 2009, Hallmark Level 2 on the 19th of March 2012 and in May 2019 we obtained Hallmark Level 3. Administered by Action with Communities in Rural Kent, it is awarded for “best practice” in application of charity administration and the general management of the premises.
In 2011 the Ash Heritage Archive was added to the complex as a depository of the history of Ash
On May 7th 2012 the Hall’s 100th birthday was celebrated in style; the Heritage Archive Group kindly staged an exhibition with all the memorabilia in their collection relating to the Hall, which was open throughout the day with a coffee morning for adults and a children’s Fancy Dress afternoon party, complete with games, magic clown, balloons, jelly and a birthday cake. An Edwardian costumed supper soiree was held in the evening, attended by a direct descendant of the Bourne family who originally donated the land, with all the party goers dressed in period costume.