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The Croft Hall is a prominent building standing in The Croft. When first opened in 1900 it was known as "Church House". The site was originally part of the land used for the Free Grammar School, founded in 1635, which closed in 1884. In 1898 the school building was sold to Sir William Pearce of Chilton Lodge and the school building was demolished by May 1899. (The Parish Magazine of June 1899 states that the building was "razed to the ground").
Sir William Pearce then paid for the erection of what was then known as Church House, which he presented to the people of Hungerford for Parish Meetings and other community use.
The architect was Arthur Blomfield (son of Sir Arthur Blomfield) of Montague Place, London. The foundation stone was laid by the Very Rev Philip F Elliot, Dean of Windsor, on Wed 12 Jul 1899 following a service at St. Lawrence's Church.See Service for laying the Foundation Stone, 12th July 1899.
The builders were Messrs Wooldridge & Son, of The Wharf, Hungerford. The building was opened (although it was not quite completed by then) by Sir William Pearce at a luncheon in the hall on 2 Aug 1900. After various celebrations during the day, a concert was held in the evening, arranged by Lady Pearce, with musicians from London.
The building comprises the main hall (58' 6" by 28', with platform and gallery); Club Room (30' x 24'); a Sitting Room and two bedrooms on the first floor for use of the curate; and an Apartment for the caretaker. (It is thought the Curate's flat continued in use as accommodation until the 1950s).
"The uses to which the Church House may be put are many besides the Sunday School. The Club for men with papers and magazines, periodicals, games and a library (women came to the services) and lectures. They could make tea, of course'. [from Parish Magazine, 1900].
The builders finally completed their work in the autumn of 1899, and the building came into full use on Sunday 25th November - Sunday Schools being held, although there was a clear shortage of teachers. A desperate plea was in the Parish magazine - "Is there no one who will volunteer?". The ever-generous Lady Pearce donated a grand piano to the Church House, which was used until 2009 when a new grand piano was purchased.
Church House Club (now Hungerford Club) was formed in 1901. They continued to use Church House until they acquired separate premises on the south side of the Croft in 1929.
Sir William Pearce died on 2 Nov 1907, and in his Will dated 3 May 1906 he gave £2,500 to the Trustees of the "Hungerford Parish Church House" to "apply the income thereof to or towards the maintenance and keeping in repair of the said Church House". See Will and Codicils of Sir William George Pearce, Bart.
- The Croft Hall, Aug 2001
- A wedding group outside the Croft Hall, undated, c1912
- The Billiards Room, Church House, 1925
- Church House, c1925
Some of the things happening at the Croft Hall:
The Croft Hall has very successfully been used for various purposes over many years, including:
1914-18 The RASC used the Hall as its headquarters during the First World War.
1920 KD Church House used as library, club, and Sunday School.
1939-45 During 2nd World War used as a British Restaurant. The Newbury Weekly News, 29 Jan 1942, reported "Hungerford is to be congratulated on having opened a British Restaurant in the town, and Mr Forest, the Deputy Divisional Food Officer for the Southern Command, said it was one of the best he had yet seen.The well-cooked luncheon was admirably served in an atmosphere of complete friendliness.The Vicar, who opened the restaurant, commented on the various uses to which the Church house had been put and the constable (Mr W S Raine) said he had no doubt the new restaurant would serve a useful purpose. The rooms used will accommodate 250 people, and Mrs McNulty the manageress, who was responsible for the excellent meal on Tuesday, may be trusted to maintain a high standard of efficiency."
19?? Registrar's Office for Births, Marriages and Deaths (right ground floor room)
19?? Health Visitors Office (first floor room)
19?? Playgroup run by Mrs. Audrey Bond for pre-nursery children (in room at rear)
197? Rainbow Club, run by mothers for babies 0-21 months.
198? Sunday School, held previously at John O'Gaunt School.
198? New Scouts Hut erected at rear of property (previously housed at St John's Ambulance hut, Everland Road demolished in 1980s)
1987 Used as the Coroner's Court after the Hungerford Shooting Tragedy.
1991 onwards used as a Polling Station
2008 Regular Film Club showing monthly films.
Croft Hall continues to be run by trustees - and to be in very regular use for a wide variety of events.
- Croft Hall, a paper by John Newton, 2004.