The new Memorial Hall (completed in June 2010) is the third community hall to occupy the present site. After the First World War a redundant corrugated iron build was purchased to create the Parwich Church Institute. This was replaced by the Memorial Hall built in the early 1960s as a result of local fund raising. This site has been a centre of village life for nearly a century: the location of Wakes week celebrations, dances, pantomimes, horticultural shows, christening and wedding parties, and funeral wakes. This has meant that accepting the major limitations of the current building and agreeing a way forward was not always easy. Bellow is an account of previous meeting places that have been in Parwich. (It is based on an article by Peter Trewhitt in Newsletter no. 17, Parwich & District Local History Society.)
Community life in part is dictated by where people are able to come together. Initially gatherings would have been out of doors. Before the coming of Christianity there may have been some form of ritual site where St. Peter’s Church is now. It is said that the old church was built on an even older mound, and that this was part of a larger enclosure surrounded by a bank. This could have been a pre-Christian enclosure or an early seventh century church. Was this one of the first meeting places in Parwich? Also in the Saxon period Moot Low, a Bronze-age burial mound above the Dove valley, was used as a meeting place for the larger area. Here local land disputes would have been sorted out and activities that required co-operation between communities.
There would have been a manor court in Parwich from the late Saxon period. Whether the court met at the Manor house or the church or somewhere else isn’t known. The Normans built the stone church dedicated to St. Peter, and for over seven hundred years this would have been the main indoor meeting places. Church festivals gave the impetus for village celebrations. For example Parwich Wakes originates in the celebration of the feast day of Saint Peter (29th June).In the Tudor period as the power of the Lord of the Manor declined, the role of the Parish and the Vestry increased. Though now we have a distinction between the Parish Council and the Church Council, then they would have been one body meeting in the Church. There would also have been out door processions and celebrations, and this revolving of village life around the church and the manor house would have continued into the early twentieth century.
Through the Victorian period people became more sensitive about what churches were used for. The Evans family, who then owned the Parwich estate and built the present church, also built the School in 1861. With the restricted use of the Church the village saw the new School as a possible venue for more secular celebrations. When Sir William Evan’s died in the 1890s, Parwich passed to his two cousins Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Curtis. Sometime after the building of the present School a village reading room was established in part of what is now Stable Cottage in the range of buildings that now includes School View and Parwich Hall’s coach house.
Mrs. Lewis’ son the Rev Claude Lewis became vicar of Parwich in 1904. He lived at the Hall and managed the estate. In 1907 he bought the Sycamore Inn. The Crown Inn and the Wheatsheaf Inn had closed in 1907 and 1908 respectively, and although the large club room at the Sycamore was built in 1889, the village sought to use the School for the planned celebrations of George V’s coronation. Presumably at this time a public house would not have been seen as at all suitable for events involving women and children, though all male groups such as the Odd Fellows regularly used it.
Also although the Parwich Unity Club was inaugurated in 1910, it was housed in what is now Hideaway Cottage, which would have been too small for any large events. George V came to the throne in 1910, but the Rev Lewis refused to allow the School to be used for the celebrations. The School still belonged to the Estate at this time; it was not sold to the local authority until 1918. The village had not had a resident squire for over two hundred years and did not take kindly to the Rev. Lewis’ role as Vicar and landlord. This refusal was a breaking point in the already tense relationship between the village and the Rev. Lewis. A number of villagers created an effigy of the vicar, which they burnt in full view of the church porch as the vicar left the service.
By the time King George was crowned in 1911, the Rev. Lewis was no longer vicar and it had been arranged for the celebrations to take place in a marquee on Parson’s Croft. Gerald Lewis, the vicar’s younger brother, lived at Hallcliffe, and owned the creamery in Knob Hall and the market garden in Monsdale Lane. It is said that the effigy of the vicar was made from a scarecrow that came from his market garden. Presumably Gerald Lewis felt committed to help find a solution to the problem of a venue for village events. After the First World War the Parwich Church Institute was built on what is now the Memorial Hall car parkon land that belonged to Gerald Lewis. Though he moved to Guernsey in the 1920s, Gerald’s daughter (Mary Whitechurch) recalls her parents talking frequently of their memories of the church choir and of the Parwich Institute.
As well as a venue for the Sunday School, there were regular dances at the Institute. The building was a corrugated iron shed that was said to have been used by the army during the war. It is interesting to speculate if it came originally from ‘Tin Town’, a complete village of corrugated iron sheds created to house the navvies that built the Derwent and Lady Bower reservoirs. Tin Town was dismantled shortly before the War. In 1921 Gerald Lewis formally handed over the site to a specially created trust within the Church of England.
The Parwich Church Institute, with its large cast iron stove in the middle provided a venue for village meetings, social clubs and dances. People would walk across the fields from Tissington and Bradbourne for dances in the Institute. Ken Wayne a former landlord of the Sycamore Inn is one of many who have fond memories of the Institute: “It was a great place for social gatherings. There were weekly dances with Mrs. Yates playing the piano. Every evening you could play billiards. The billiard table was across the top end and it cost 6d an hour to play. I and my brother made a stage that went across the top of the billiard table”. It housed the first flower and vegetable show in 1951. By then it was definitely too small, and must have been becoming somewhat decrepit. Perhaps also the war years would have seen a period of neglect and deterioration in the building. However the villagers who had fund raised for and help run the old Insitute must have had mixed emotions when it was demolished.
There was a move in the village to create a suitable memorial to the dead of both Word Wars and a feeling of creating something for the future. The Parwich Royal British Legion Club was established in 1951, replacing the old Unity Club that had closed in 1936. In 1956 the Church of England sold the Institute for £60 to a newly created Trust with Parwich Parish Council as holding trustees, and the Memorial Hall was born. In effect it became a village hall rather than a church hall. The Church used the money from the sale of the Institute to extend the churchyard.
Sir John Crompton-Inglefield the then owner of Parwich Hall was a member of the Parish Council receiving the Institute. Sir John made the offer to the village that he would match each £1 raised by the village to re-build the Institute. This set in motion fund raising that resulted in building the Memorial Hall, so called as it was a Memorial to the dead of the First and Second World Wars. The fund raising included garden fetes, dances, motor cycle racing at White Meadow, raffles, a barbecue in Bell’s Yard, and a Christmas fair.
The placing of the Memorial Hall along the plot’s boundary meant that building could commence before the demolition of the Institute. The building work took place in 1962, the builders Tyler & Coates charging just over £6,000. The materials from the old Institute were sold off, the corrugated iron going for 7s 6d (37.5p) per sheet. The fitting out of the new building took place over the next year, interspersed with more fund raising. Col. Sir Ian Walker of Oakover formally opened the new hall on 5th November 1963. Since that event 40 years ago the Memorial Hall has served a major role in village life, being used by most groups in the village. A full set of minutes of the Management Committee survive from 1957 that detail the fundraising for the Memorial Hall, its opening and running. Here are the minutes from one meeting in 1963:
“A meeting was held at the Hall (Parwich Hall) on Wednesday 11th September at 8pm. By kind permission of Col. Sir John and Lady Crompton-Inglefield. Members present were Mrs. Dodds, Mrs. Calladine, Mrs. L Weston, Mrs. Webster, Mrs. S Weston, Mrs. Ratcliffe, Mrs. Fearn and Mr. Edge. Apologies from the Vicar, Mrs. Hansford and Miss. Steeples. The new Hall (Memorial Hall) was now in its finishing stages and Sir John said he thought it better to have the work done in the car park before it was opened He had renewed an estimate from Mr. Plumby which would cost £178. The committee thought it was a good thing to have this done. Sir John said he would pay for this and that the money could be paid back by using various efforts. Later on the committee thanked Sir John and Lady Crompton-Inglefield very much for their kindness. It was agreed to put up a notice in the carpenter shop window (Brentwood see p.6) about a caretaker required for the new Hall at a sum paid 12/6 (twelve shillings and six pence or in ’new money’ 62.5p) per week plus a …(illegible word) New furniture 50 to 60 chairs at a cost of £1-7-6 each and 12 tables which would cost about £3 each. Mr. Westcome (spelling?) said the Education would give a grant of a third the cost towards the furniture. A date to open the new Hall and November 5th was agreed at 7 pm and Sir John said he would try and get the Duke of Devonshire to come (in the end it was Col. Sir Ian Walker). A sub committee meeting was arranged for Monday September 16th at 8 pm to arrange the hiring charges for the Hall.”
The current users include: Stepping Stones (pre-school), Parwich Primary School, the new mother and baby group, the Youth Club, the Carnival & Recreation Committee (primarily the Pantomime), the Church (including Junior Church, Parwich Praise and fund raising events), the WI, the Horticulture Society, the History Society, the Parish Council, the Over 60s, the Odd Fellows, Elections (unless local polling booths become a thing of the past), the Peak Park Authority, Parwich Village Action Group and private functions. For many people in the village these private functions have served to mark the key stages in their lives: wedding parties, significant birthdays, and funeral gatherings. Funerals have always been seen as an important function, and regular day time users are willing to accommodate their bookings to fit in funerals.
The policy had always been to keep rentals as low as possible, which has meant that the Committee has never built up reserves, which in turn means that any changes or improvements had to be funded by the village, as happened when the Memorial Hall was re-roofed by local residents.
Over recent years people have begun to find the building ‘old fashioned’ in the facilities it offers: the kitchen is too small, there is no adequate meeting room and the toilets do not meet new standards for disabled access. People are beginning to look outside the village for venues for private functions, and village groups are looking for storage facilities, and new possibilities such as a computer/IT room have been raised. The then Memorial Hall Management Committee investigated what people wanted from the Hall and had plans drawn up to improve the existing building when Lottery Millennium Funding for village halls was available in 1997/98. The village raised some £10,000 towards this proposed redevelopment, but did not succeed in the Lottery bid.
In 2000 as part of the Peak Park’s Discovering Villages Initiative, a survey of the village was undertaken with a response rate of 70% of households in Parwich. The question that related to the village hall facilities indicated that for 87% of people replying a ‘new village hall’ was ‘important’ or ‘very important’. Also 61% wanted improved sports pavilion facilities at Parson’s Croft. As a result of this survey the Parwich Village Action Group was established in early 2001. The Group investigated the possibility of a combined sports hall and community hall on the Parson’s Croft site. There was enough space for a suitable building, but additional land would have been required for the parking and vehicle access required by the Peak Park Planners. Despite this it was felt these difficulties could be over come if there was sufficient support for the move. But a further survey of user groups identified that a majority of them were opposed to moving away from the present site.
European legislation on facilities open to the public made a decision about the Hall’s future more pressing. In 2003 the Memorial Hall Management Committee set up a feasibility study looking at what could be done on the existing site, inviting response from the whole catchment area of the Hall and not just the village of Parwich. They again surveyed user groups and in May 2004 presented plans for a new building on the present site that attempted to answer everyone’s wishes. It was quickly apparent that there are a range of strongly held views on the way forward, so a ballot of the Memorial Hall’s catchment area (Parwich, Alsop, Pikehall and Ballidon) on the five main options identified took place in the summer of 2004, with a re-build on the present site being the most popular choice.
A Project Steering Group was set up with Funding and Design sub-groups. In terms of time, we were lucky that the Big Lottery Fund announced a specific pot of money for community halls. A tremendous amount of work took place behind the scenes. In 2007 we were successful at stage I, gaining a grant to help with the costs of submitting a planning application. In May 2008 Project Parwich was launched to help raise money locally as our contribution towards matched funding. Plans were prepared and planning consents obtained in August 2008. The final stage II Lottery Bid was successful (December 2008), ensuring a total of £500,000 BLF funding towards the redevelopment project. This along with other grants and sponsorship ensured the work on building our new Memorial Hall started in September 2009, though this had to begin with the sad work of demolishing our much loved old Hall that has been a centre of village life for the last forty years.