Welcome to our website, which is dedicated to the community of Lydbrook in Gloucestershire, and the surrounding area. Its purpose is to give information relating to the Memorial Hall and Recreation Ground; advertising events, providing reports on the actions of the committee of trustees, displaying the names of those individuals and organisations generous enough to provide funding, offering opportunities for local people to give practical help in maintaining the old building and the open area of the recreation ground, and helping user groups to promote their activities.
Below, is a map to show you where we are.
History of the Memorial Hall
At a public meeting, on 1st March 1919, people of the village of Lydbrook decided the best way to commemorate the bravery of the 300 men of the village who served their country in the Great War, and those 22 who died in action, was to erect an Institute. The estimated cost of the scheme at the time was £3,500 and building work started even before funds were fully raised.
The idea was initiated by the local Men’s Institute assisted by the Women’s Institute, who were considering acquiring their own building. With funds from these two organisations, the United Services Fund, The Miners’ Welfare Fund, and public subscriptions, a building and land known as ‘The Poplars’ was bought in 1920. Building work began in 1925, and on 12th November 1926 the Lydbrook Memorial Hall was formally opened by Captain Angus Buchanan, V.C., who was presented with a silver key by the architect. The ceremony was attended by a huge crowd who spilled out onto the road. And the local Onward Brass Band played, as the Girl Guides unveiled the Union Jack.
In the Hall’s early years, a balcony sat above the entrance lobby so that films could be projected, and the Hall doubled as a cinema for some years. On 2nd, 3rd and 4th November 1933 for example, the ‘Talkie Cinema’ in the Hall showed ‘Marry Me’ a U rated musical romance. The Hall was also used regularly by the Men’s and the Women’s Institutes.
On 15th August 1948, the War Memorial Tablet commemorating men who were killed in the 1914-18 and 1939-45 wars was unveiled and dedicated, with a speech given by General the Lord Ismay, KCB, CH, DSO. And the Onward Silver Band headed the units who paraded through the village to the ceremony. So began a period of productive use of the facility.
More recently, the trustees have organised maintenance and repairs as the building has aged. The old leaking steel framed windows, long boarded up, were replaced with modern double-glazed windows, a new disabled access was made possible using a different entrance door without steps, and dry rot in the bay was treated.
The Hall is currently undergoing a lengthy and comprehensive upgrade. Bad weather caused a collapse of part of the roof, which has now been completely replaced. We have also updated the aged central heating system with a modern gas boiler and specialised radiators to make the Hall comfortable in bad weather.
The interior is undergoing complete redecoration, which will include the floor being stripped and recoated, with a new badminton court set out. The facia of the stage surround is to be renovated and brought into line with the rest of the Hall’s interior. The smaller rooms, including the entrance hall, boardroom, kitchen and toilets are all in line for refurbishment and redecoration, much of which is being done using voluntary work by trustees and members of various user groups.
Come the better weather, the exterior is also to be made more attractive, with a clean-up of the stonework, new signage, repainting of the doors, attention to the window seals, and work on the bay stonework to cure a leak.
If you think you might be able to help with any of this, please see the final paragraphs below.
History of the Recreation Ground
On 25th July 1934 a public meeting was held in the Hall, chaired by Mr Sidney Miles, headmaster of the school. He called on local people to help remove the eyesore known as the Blue Mound, which had stood as an ugly monument to local industry, overlooking a large part of the village, for nearly half a century.
After some discussion, it was decided that voluntary work would clear the heap; all 30,000 tons of mine waste, to make room for a recreation field to serve the needs of local children and sports players. Up to this point, those who wanted to play cricket, football, tennis, etc, had to take to small boats and cross the river to a facility on the other side. And children had to play at the roadside or in old abandoned quarries.
On 28th July the same year (they didn’t mess around in those days!) a large number of people turned up to begin the massive task. 62 unemployed, 146 part-employed and 87 fully employed people gave their time and labour. The eldest was 85 and the youngest 8 years old. Some of these volunteers gave 300 hours of their labour.
The local branch of the British Legion supplied cash to buy the necessary picks and shovels, and the Cannop Colliery loaned carts to remove the rubbish. It was hard manual work, as time had hardened the waste into a solid mass. Come winter, bad weather meant a break, but in early Spring, 1935, the work continued until, by the end of June, the last load was sent packing.
Part of the process involved digging a trench to house a 600-foot (183 metres) conduit to take the waters of the Lyd. At one point the depth of this was 45 feet (14 metres).
A ‘welcome home’ day committee, formed during the 1914-18 war, had raised money for needy servicemen and their families. A sum of £107 remained from that fund and was used to purchase the land through the Memorial Hall trustees. The National Playing Fields Association gave grants to help with the purchase, development and work.
Much of the total area of 3 acres had to be walled to prevent movement and collapse. One wall was 180 feet (85 metres) long, 23 feet (7 metres) high and had a base 4 feet (1.2 metres) thick. Another was 300 feet (91 metres) long and varied in height from 5 (1.5 metres) to 8 feet (2.4 metres). The stone was donated by the Forestry Commission.
Initially, it was intended that the new recreation ground should accommodate a children’s play area with swings, slide and other play apparatus, facilities for football and cricket, a tennis court and a pavilion, with a flower bed as decoration. After three years work, the ground was finally opened for the use of the children, with swings, a chute, rocking boats, and ‘ocean waves’, along with seating for adults.
70 years later, following the laying of a new water main and a severe storm, parts of the wall cracked, and it was declared unsafe. It was fenced off and left for a year, while solutions were under consideration. The work needed was likely to be expensive, of course. Ownership of the wall, however, was uncertain due to the nature of its construction by local volunteers.
Around that time, the field is reported to have become a dumping ground for rubbish and disused cars! Also, at this time, the Lydbrook Athletic Club, who use the field for football, agreed a new lease on their premises in the lower part of the Hall. The committee for the Hall and Recreation Ground decided to remove the now dilapidated children’s play equipment with the intention of renewing it at a later date.
The wall was reduced in height and the bank above was angled and grassed, allowing pedestrians once again to use the pavement. The work took eight months and much improved the look and stability of the length facing the Jovial Colliers public house.
Currently, the committee is examining ways to gather funds to improve and/or repair/replace the old iron fencing to prevent boar incursion. Part of this project is under way, with some of the wall already reduced in height to allow better vision for drivers and pedestrians exiting the field on the dangerous corner of Church Road. This is an ongoing project intended to improve the practical and visual aspects of the Recreation Ground.
This short history was compiled using press cuttings, photographs and various reports collected by the Lydbrook Historical Society, curated by Mrs Lyn Walker, to whom we are deeply grateful. The photographs reproduced bear no copyright information but if you know who originated them, or wish a photograph to be removed, please contact the site curator using the form on the ‘Contact’ page.
The above gives a flavour of the development of the Hall and the Recreation Ground, both provided as amenities for the village and its surrounding area. The current trustees are keen to bring these valuable community assets up to modern standards for the benefit of local residents. Such improvements are costly in terms of materials, labour and time.
Those involved in making the Hall fit for the 21st century are busy people, leading active lives, who give up free time and effort to achieve these aims. Such activity is seen as a fine and practical way of honouring the lives of the soldiers who died in various conflicts and the miners and others who gave their labour to make the Hall and the Recreation Ground a reality.
The committee welcomes offers of help from all who feel they have something to give this community asset. So, if you have time, energy and any form of skill, please contact the committee and let us know what you can offer. If all you have is time and energy, please do the same; many of the tasks simply need willing labour.
To offer your help, please contact Faith Myers, via the ‘Bookings’ page, or Graham Williams by email here or on 07467 587389, or use the form on the ‘Contact’ page. And those of you who know individual committee members may approach them, of course.
If you want to know what’s happening with the Hall and Recreation Ground, be aware of forthcoming events, etc., please click on the link below, complete the short form, and you’ll get an email each time a new item is posted in the blog.