Fundraising for the Aldbourne War Memorial Hall – Past, Present & Future

Aldbourne War Memorial Hall Account Book

Aldbourne’s aim from 1917 onwards was to build a hall in remembrance of the lives lost in the Great War, and also ‘fitted in every way for public meetings, with arrangements for concerts and theatricals – a building which all hoped would be a real and lasting centre for community life and interest in the village’ (North Wilts Herald 2 May 1919/British Newspaper Archive).

I think those long ago fundraisers would have enjoyed the idea of a Duck Race.

The present-day Memorial Hall Committee invites everyone to enjoy the very welcome return of the Easter Extravaganza on Saturday 16 April 2022.  On the Green if fine, in the Hall if not. The Ducks will race again!

 Our Memorial Hall is still ‘fitted in every way’ to cater for public meetings, concerts, theatricals, Yoga, Lunch Club, hire for parties and wedding receptions – the list is seemingly endless. 

My focus for this month is fundraising; both by the groups who book the hall and for and on behalf of the Hall itself.  A quick study of the history surrounding the early days of the campaign in 1917 and how funds were raised, shows the great ingenuity of the population of Aldbourne.  Bearing in mind that this was during a time when the countryside was still recovering from the effects of the Great War, and many families were suffering great hardship; their menfolk being dead, injured or enduring incapacitating illnesses of the body or mind.

One report from March 1919 relates that on one day concerts were held in the afternoon and evening at the schoolroom; followed at the weekend by a dinner for the Aldbourne lads who had been on active service.  At the same time as raising funds to create a memorial for the fallen, our village was also looking after those who had returned.  It is also interesting to see that Aldbourne Band “resuscitated after four years .. received a cordial welcome”.  Speeches were made, bravery was acknowledged and by the close of proceedings the sum of £15 was handed over to the scheme for which Aldbourne people were working so heartily.

Jumping forward to 1928, a kitchen was added to the Hall and declared open by Miss Evelyn Fox from the Old Rectory.  The newspaper of the day lists all the festivities arranged to celebrate the opening, with generous prizes awarded for a ‘Knock-out Whist Tournament”, parcel tying and a balloon race.  More music, this time from piano, banjo and violin.  At the end of the day another £13 5s was raised for the kitchen fund.

Whist Evenings seem to have been a real attraction and have raised considerable funds over the decades, both for the Hall itself and for village organisations.  In December 1932 no less than 42 tables were occupied for an evening aimed at reducing the debt on the Hall.  A fine turkey was won by the highest scorer, Mr R Hutchins.

So successful was the fundraising that by October 1935 after a year of hard work and several particularly generous donations, the treasurer Major Ingpen was able to announce that the Hall was, for the first time, free of debt.

With thanks to Alison Delorie for helping to collate the information for this article. Also thanks to Alan Heasman and the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group for sharing their encyclopaedic collection of newspaper articles and Parish Magazines.

Originally published in the April 2022 Dabchick Magazine

Memories of Carnival from Mrs Nancy Barrett (1986)

Nancy Barrett (nee Hawkins) Aldbourne’s first Carnival Queen in 1934

When I was asked by the Carnival Committee if I would write some of my personal memories of the Carnival with which my family have been so closely involved over the years, so many things came to my mind that I find it difficult to know where to begin.

My very first memory of the Carnival is setting off from the shop in West Street (now the framers) where we then lived, to take part in the procession with Molly Lunn (Stacey), as Bride and Bridegroom. We were between five and six years old!

We have come a long way since those days, when the Carnival was a much simpler affair, but nevertheless an important event in our village life.

When my father took over from Mr Arthur Ford as Secretary, around 1930, we had moved to Southern Farm, and for a few weeks each year, the Carnival took over our house which was overflowing with posters, prize cards and collecting boxes, etc.

At that time, all the proceeds were for Savernake Hospital and every collecting box had to be clearly labelled to that effect.

Unlike today, there were no events during the week preceding the Carnival, except for ‘Bowling for the Pig’ which took place in the Square from Friday evening onwards.

A comic football match on the Saturday afternoon was a jolly event, leading up to the grand procession which, by any village standards, was always second to none and drew crowds of onlookers.

After a tour of the village (not quite so far in those days), the procession always wound up in front of the Old Rectory, where the prizes were given out from the steps of the house.

The climax to the evening was the Carnival Dance in the Memorial Hall, but when the Fun Fair became part of the celebrations, this event was dropped through lack of support.

I clearly remember the Sunday evening Carnival Service, also in the Memorial Hall, at which one of the resident doctors at Savernake always took part. One thing that stands out in my mind is that we always sang the hymn ‘Sun of My Soul Thou Saviour Dear’, and I associate that hymn with those services to this day.

I was seventeen when the powers that be decided to introduce a Carnival Queen to the proceedings and I was literally thrown in at the deep end. It was a new venture for the Committee, and I and the four attendants: Marjorie Barrett, Nellie Crook, Molly Brind and a young girl who worked at ‘High Town’, were more or less left to make our own arrangements. Not for us the glamorous crowning ceremony, the bouquets and presents etc. We made our own dresses and the cloak and crown were borrowed from Swindon Carnival Committee.

I seem to remember that we did visit the local hospitals and, on Carnival Day, my uncle Chris (Hawkins) dressed as a coachman and drove us round in the procession in an open horse-drawn carriage which we had decorated ourselves. I think we worked harder than the Committee that week.

Sadly, the Carnival lapsed during the War, but was resumed with even greater enthusiasm at the earliest opportunity.

When hospitals came under the Health Service, the Carnival proceeds were divided between the Memorial Hall and the Sports Field which had to be reclaimed after the War.

Although the Community was much smaller in those days, it was surprising how much money was raised each year. The boxes were all taken to the [Memorial] Hall on the Monday evening and the total takings were known the same night.

For several years a special feature of the Carnival was Mr Cooper’s vintage car which transported the Secretary at the head of the procession.

Our involvement in the Carnival carried into the next generation and sometimes it was difficult to think of new things to do each year.

One year we even took Tim’s pony into the old farm-house kitchen when it rained during the preparations. The only other shelter was already taken by Andrea’s pony.

The Band has always played an important part in the proceedings and that involved my husband and later, Tim.

There have been many memorable incidents too numerous to mention, such as the year history repeated itself and Andrea won the 1956 Carnival Queen.

When Mr Tony Gilligan became Secretary in 1962, things were far less hectic on the home front but Carnival week remained very important for our family.

These days, relegated to the side lines, I get very nostalgic at Carnival time and when the Band plays ‘Nightfall in Camp’ and the flags are lowered round the pond, I feel sad for the things that are past, but glad that so many of our new residents have caught our Carnival spirit and are helping to keep the tradition alive.

Carnivals have come and gone in neighbouring villages and towns, but hopefully ours will go on. Long Live Aldbourne Carnival!

Nancy Barrett writing in the 1986 Aldbourne Carnival Programme

William George Deacon (1893-1973) Aldbourne Band

Aldbourne Photographic Club/Civic Society ‘1925 Quartette APC 168’ Names kindly supplied by the late Mr Cyril Barrett (l-r): William Deacon, Wilf Jerram, Fred Barnes, Joe Alder – centre Albert Stacey.

William won many medals for his fine euphonium playing. He can be seen on Aldbourne Band photographs from 1909 through to 1932. William received this medal at the Wokingham Quartet Contest in 1929. “The Aldbourne Silver Prize Band acquired several successes at the contest. They won a silver cup, five medals and a baton for the conductor, and Mr Bert Palmer was awarded a medal for the best instrumentalist of 12 quartet parties”. Thanks to Ashley Jones and Graham Palmer for sharing their research, and also to William’s grand-daughter Lynn, who kindly sent the medal to Ashley for the Aldbourne Band Heritage collection.

The quartet party at Wokingham in October 1929 “consisted of Messrs J G Alder (solo cornet), W Braxton (second cornet) A Palmer (tenor horn) and W Deacon (euphonium). The test piece was by Beethoven. Mr J G Alder was the conductor.”

North Wilts Herald 1 November 1929

See also, William’s wedding photo – Mystery Solved – Wedding 1917.

Mystery Solved – Wedding 1917

This photograph of a young couple on their wedding day was recovered from a skip in Aldbourne many years ago, and kept safe by the late and much missed Trish and Dave Rushen. The glass is stuck to the photo, so Trish passed it to me so that I could take some nice clear photos. The image first went onto Facebook in January 2014. Names were added to faces during 2017 when William and Jessie’s great-granddaughter spotted the photo and matched it up with a copy from her family album. The wedding took place on 5 August 1917 at St Michael’s Church, Wood Green, Middlesex.

William George Deacon (1893-1973) is the groom. Jessie Hidson (1895-1988) is the bride. Her father and eldest brother were witnesses on the wedding certificate so I believe the man next to her must be her father Henry (Harry) Hidson b.1858. Her elder brother behind William is Harry William Hidson b.1884 and possibly her other brother next to him is Charles Hidson b.1886.  I don’t know who the woman next to William is but she is from the Aldbourne Deacon side of the family.

William is wearing a silver war badge on his lapel. Thanks to Phil Comley for spotting this and pointing me in the direction of information about this particular badge of honour. Imperial War Museum Silver War Badge.

There are two other stories to be told about the ‘broken glass photo’. One is about William’s skill as a euphonium player in the Aldbourne Band. The second is about yet another mystery photo that was tucked into the broken frame.

William George Deacon (1893-1973) Aldbourne Band

Second Wedding Photo Mystery Solved

The Revival of Aldbourne Feast in 1919

Aldbourne War Memorial Hall Opening 7 July 1922

The Aldbourne Feast, one of the oldest and best known of Wiltshire village festivals, allowed to lapse during the war, was this year revived with much success … Even in the days immediately preceding the war, Aldbourne Feast was sometimes little more than a date in the calendar … For some years a flower show was held annually, but at no time in the memory of the present inhabitants has a programme of such an ambitious character been arranged as that which was carried out with great success during the early part of the present week.

North Wilts Herald 1 August 1919

‘The roundabouts, swings and sideshows arrived in the village on Saturday, and did a roaring trade on Monday’. The newspaper report went on to list the activities arranged for the purpose of raising funds to build a new Village Hall, in memory of the men of Aldbourne who gave their lives in the war. About £750 had been raised for this purpose prior to Feast in 1919.

In July 1919 there were sports in ‘Mr Wilson’s meadow’ (which did not include ‘backswording’) but did feature ‘many items of an exciting character, in which the representatives of the various hamlets within a six mile radius strove to excel each other in the performances, and displayed a real sporting spirit in the doing of it’. Tug-of-War, a hurdle race and obstacle bicycle race are listed. Plus ‘Bowling for a Pig’.

Mr A W Pembroke gets a couple of mentions in the article. Arthur Pembroke lived at Yew Tree House and as well as being in charge of Bowling for a Pig at the Feast celebrations in 1919, Arthur is listed as a member of the ‘special sports sub-committee’.

Arthur and his mother Annie (nee Penny, born Winterbourne Bassett) later gave the land upon which the Memorial Hall was built.

By the time Feast rolled round again in 1920 the village fund stood at over £1,000. In 1920 the North Wilts Herald listed a huge variety of sporting events, a baby show (judged by Dr Dill of Ramsbury – brave man!) and dancing in the evening accompanied by Aldbourne Prize Band. This time the bowling endeavours were directed to win a ‘pair of ducks’.

Feast in 1921 was ‘a much smaller affair than in previous years’ (North Wilts Herald 29 July 1921) however ‘in accordance with custom’ nearly every household had friends from a distance to visit or absent relatives home for the occasion. ‘Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the “fun of the fair”.’

In December 1921 the tender from Messrs Moulding Bros was accepted by the hall committee and building began shortly thereafter. The Aldbourne War Memorial Hall, a target determined in 1917, was opened by Lord Methuen on 7 July 1922.

See also:

Aldbourne Coronation Celebrations on 2 June 1953

Once again, proof that the good people of Aldbourne knew how to throw a party! I would love to see photos of the ‘Musical Chairs on Bicycles’. Sadly, at least for the moment, I’ll have to content myself with the write-up about the ‘Ladies XI’ in the Parish Magazine. Somewhere in that photo there is a well known BBC presenter, famous for his Animal Magic. As the Vicar said, ‘it is up to the reader to identify them in the photograph’. The mention of the village pond renovation refers to the creation of the concrete basin, which caused some controversy at the time. The pond went from a natural feature to a ‘little concrete prison’ [Ida Gandy] in 1953. It was modified into a more natural form (as it is today) following the Festival in 1990.

Pillow Fights for a New King

North Wiltshire Herald 1937. Source: Wiltshire Museum

I’ve been revisiting my notes on the Coronation Celebrations for King George VI that took place in Aldbourne on 12 May 1937.

It has been fascinating to find and link together photos and newspaper reports to establish a snapshot for this HUGE village party. My friend, John Brown, has fond recollections of the day, especially the delicious tea in the Manor Barn. Other villagers have shared their child-hood memories of singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ with the Aldbourne Band.

The chestnut tree was planted by Beryl Perrett and Kenneth Martin – see Tree Planting by the Pond 1937

‘Eatwell’s Team’ emerged victorious in the Tug-o-War – see Tug of War Tradition in Aldbourne

It is a source of great regret that I still haven’t tracked down any photographs of the Bicycle Obstacle Race, but there has been a breakthrough on the Pillow Fights.

The winner was Reg Slade (who also finished second in the Bicycle Obstacle Race), with J Bowes as runner-up. The Judges were Mr A V Jerram and T D Barnes. Sadly, photographs of the 1937 event are not (yet!) available but Lisa Barkworth has very kindly supplied photos from an earlier competition. Surely a time of laughter and fierce competition, there must have indeed been an epic battle to welcome the new monarch on this day in 1937.

Possibly late 1920s. Source: Stacey Family Album

Moving Pictures & Many Memories

Aldbourne Feast sometime in the 1960s – with thanks to Ron Morley

Aldbourne Nostalgia has arrived on You-Tube (and Facebook wherever Dabchicks gather – including the Aldbourne Archive). Ron Morley has digitised and uploaded films of the Carnival Parade, Memories from WW2, the Winter of 1963 – the list goes on – and there’s more to come!

Click here to see the list of videos uploaded so far

I’d love to hear from anyone who has memories to share and we do know that not everyone likes to use Facebook, so feel free to contact me via email

Tug of War Tradition in Aldbourne

Tug of War winners mystery 2014 – copy photo thanks to Alan Watson

Tug of war was contested as a team event in the Summer Olympics at every Olympiad from 1900 to 1920. It’s been a popular event in Aldbourne for decades. The earliest mention I’ve seen (so far) is in the North Wilts Herald 1 August 1919: that year, the competition at the Feast Sports was won by a team from Upham.

Years ago, this copy photograph of a victorious team was given to me for the Aldbourne Archive. Only very recently have the names and date been added to my file. Thanks to research by Graham Palmer.

There have been some fabulous reports on sports in the local press over the years. I would love to see photos of the pillow fights, and ‘musical chairs on cycles’ must have been a thing of beauty to behold back in 1927!

The tug of war team in the photo took part in the Coronation Celebrations on 12 May 1937 (King George VI). Graham spotted that ‘Eatwell’s team’ were the winners listed in a newspaper report after the events of the day.

Names for faces – thanks Graham
Standing: left to right: Tommy Cowles, Sid Mildenhall, ? , Percy Swash
Seated: left to right: ? , Charlie Cox, Ernest Eatwell, Harry Aldridge.
The gent holding the cup seated at the front of the group is the Judge, Mr Walter Liddiard. Is that Wilfred Jerram behind the fence (in the hat) holding a coil of rope?