The History of the Village Hall
(With thanks to the Boughton Malherbe History Society, from whose book ‘A Journey Through Time’ much of this information has been gleaned)
The main Hall building is a prefabricated construction, probably made in Canada, but shipped to England and originally erected on the Isle of Sheppey (or possibly the Isle of Grain) as a military barracks in the First World War.
It was one of many – and one of many that were subsequently put to uses such as village halls after the war.
When the land on which our Hall stands was donated to the village by local farmer Joseph Wickens in 1921, our particular building was dismantled and the sections transported by horse and cart to its present site (in goodness knows how many journeys!) by villager John Fermor, a carrier by trade. It was erected by William Collins, a local builder, with financial assistance from the YMCA, who would be amongst the first users.
Joseph Wickens, John Collins and John Fermor all have relatives still living in the village.
The hall has been much improved since it first arrived!
When mains electricity came to the village (only around 1950) electric lighting was installed, but it was not until 1961 that electric heating replaced solid fuel here. Previously, we presume, the Hall was heated by a stove, as the accounts show coal and coke periodically being bought and refer to the re-roofing of the ‘lean-to shed for firewood’.
For decades, hirers of the Hall had to buy the electricity they used via a coin-in-the slot meter. This ended in 2014 when the cost was incorporated into the hiring fee.
A new ceiling in the 1960s and a new floor in the 1970s were followed in the 1980s by a brick extension to the back of the building to house new toilets and to create an area for a stage. The toilets had previously been served by a cesspit but were now connected to mains drainage for the first time. (The stage itself is still a somewhat make-shift arrangement of wooden pallets!)
Prior to this time the kitchen had been at the rear of the Hall but when the extension was built it was re-located to the front corner, where it has remained ever since (although it was accessed by a sliding door from the lobby until a couple of years ago when new kitchen units were installed in a new arrangement).
Later in the 1980s the Hall roof was renewed, a process which we have recently had to repeat (at a cost approaching £20,000).
In 2004, after more than 80 years, it was time to replace all the window frames, as well as some of the structural framework but, to borrow a phrase from ‘A Journey Through Time’, apart from the rear extension, the Hall probably looks little different now from when it was first erected on the site nearly 100 years ago.
Maintenance of the old building is an on-going issue, of course, and we are currently planning to rejuvenate the exterior of the Hall with a smart dark stain and to liven-up its appearance with a less dour colour for the window frames and doors.
Rest assured, though, the character of the place will be retained!
Activities at the Hall – past, present…and future!
In the 1920s and 1930s, the main activity in the Hall appears to have been whist drives and dances (which continued behind blacked-out windows during the Second World War) but there are also references in the records to concerts, a play and bible classes.
As was mentioned earlier, the YMCA part financed the erection of the Hall and held regular meetings here – indeed the Hall was known by some as ‘the red triangle hut’ in a reference to the YMCA’s logo which perhaps adorned the Hall. (The present sign above the door, it might be mentioned, was commissioned and paid for by former villagers Pat & Keith Anderson and refurbished this year by committee member John Cheney.)
The Boughton Malherbe Women’s Institute met at the Hall in its early years, later lapsed, but was revived in 1960 and lasted until a dwindling membership finally led to its demise in the early 2000s. A banner made by our WI members travelled around the country as part of the WI’s national celebration of the millennium and now hangs proudly on the Hall wall (along with a photograph of many of Grafty’s residents, taken in 2000 as part of the village’s millennium celebrations).
The Grafty Green Youth Club is another concept which has waxed and waned over the years, in response to the varying numbers of children in the village. It doesn’t exist at present (though, with sufficient demand and willing volunteers to run it, it could yet revive).
Meanwhile, youngsters with a yen to perform are catered for by ‘Dazzle Stars’, the drama class for children, that meets at the Hall weekly during term times.
From 1951 to 1963 there was a table tennis club, but an attempt to revive this recently received little support. (We still have the table, though, if anyone would like to re-kindle the idea!)
Current & Recent Activities
Currently, the regular users of the Hall (in addition to Dazzle Stars) are a yoga class, a pilates class, the Grafty Green Gardening Club, an indoor bowls club and the Headcorn Ladies’ Morris side, who practice here.
The Hall is the polling station for the village, the Parish Council hold their meetings here and, as Covid recedes, we hope to welcome back the coffee mornings formerly run each month by St.Nicholas Church and the annual Harvest Suppers we have jointly organised in recent years.
The Events We Organise
No report of happenings at the Hall would be complete without mention of the many events organised by the Hall committee themselves, several of which have become annual favourites, such as our Quiz nights, Craft Fairs, Pancake Days and Themed meals (‘French’, with burlesque dancers; ‘Italian’, with table magic; ‘Greek’ – or was it Turkish? – with belly dancers; ‘Cockney’, with entertainer Gordon Bennet; ‘Mexican’ with a Mariachi band; ‘Irish’, with a ceiledh band; and ‘Western’, with country music). Photo gallery available on the Events Page
In 2013 we welcomed a celebrity, comedian Zoe Lyons, to our little hall and for the last 2 Christmases prior to Covid, professional pantomimes have been a great hit here.
In 2011 we revived the village fete and ran it every year until the lock-down hit us in 2020. Latterly the fetes were themed and included a ‘Silly Olympics’; ‘Animal Antics’; ‘Medieval’ (with jousting!); and ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
Photographs of some of these events can be seen in our Photo Gallery, perhaps they will bring back some fun memories for some of you!
In 2015, we took on the idea of having a pictorial village calendar printed each year. This has usually comprised seasonal photographs of the village, taken by local people, but in 2017 featured ‘pairs’ of photographs – current and historic images of the same view. (Much here has changed very little over the years!)
Our most recent calendar was a departure – we took up the Yorkshire WI ‘Calendar Girls’ theme but featured local men, scantily dressed but tastefully presented!
The Future – We’d like you to tell us what you want from your hall
Should we put on more professional entertainment, like comedy evenings or musical performances?
Should we provide more for the youngsters of the village?
Should we do more during daytimes (coffee mornings for example) for those who don’t care to venture out so much at night?
Perhaps you know of ideas that flourish in other villages that might be adopted here – we’re not averse to ‘borrowing’ ideas from others!
Please send any ideas you have via the Contact Us form or speak to any of our committee members
All ideas, general or specific would be welcomed – this is your Hall!