The Village Saves the Hall

In 1852 Townshend, Cornwall, was a typical small mining and agricultural community, many people surviving on smallholdings of 10-15 acres. That year a number of Villagers banded together to build a Chapel by public subscription. It functioned as the main place of worship until in 1876 a new two storey Chapel with a 'grand' gallery was built on the opposite side of the road. The original Chapel became a Sunday school and Village meeting room.

The Methodists were strict. One middle aged son on acquiring his first car in 1935 was under strict instructions from his mother that it must never be driven on a Sunday until the fateful day when the preacher needed to be fetched. But his long-suffering wife stated ‘if I can’t ride in the car on a Sunday – neither can the preacher’. History doesn’t reveal what happened next.

Although the schoolroom was used by the Methodists, by the 1990s they had ceased to run a Sunday school there, but a very determined Jean Allen, whose family had been farming at Kirthen Wood for 4 generations, carried on the good work regardless, on a non-denominational basis.

By now though, the building’s fabric was in a sorry state of repair as the local circuit had neglected to maintain it despite the assurances given to the village trustees that it would be in safe hands. Even after the Methodists gave up, the villagers continued to use the building for the annual show, flea markets and a pre-school group. A paper bank, generating all important income, was parked outside.

One day one of the flea market organizers went into the kitchen to turn on the tea urn and promptly disappeared through the floor. That’s when we found out where all the dirty water drained away. At an AGM in the refurbished hall she was laughing over the memory. “Every cloud has a silver lining” she said “at least I hadn’t done the washing up so I didn’t get very wet”. Then out of the blue, this same person, Pam Old, who lived opposite the Hall, was told about an advert in the Western Morning News offering both the chapel and the schoolroom for sale by auction in Plymouth as ‘ideal residential conversions’.

A meeting was hastily convened at which over eighty percent of the village’s households were represented. There was overwhelming support for the hall’s retention. Public pressure halted the auction and steps were taken to register a village hall charity. If the Circuit had thrown in the towel, the villagers wanted their building back. And so it was, by one of those twists of fate, that the village got a grant to regain what it had built in the first place. This came from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts – chaired by Sir Tim Rice but set up by the Moores family from the proceeds of Littlewoods Pools.

The new village hall Trustees have overseen a £130,000 programme of restoration of the Grade II listed fabric and enhancement of the facilities, with the help of numerous individuals, bodies and like-minded charities, led by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The building was officially re-opened in 2004. The village was honoured that the Lord Lieutenant, Lady Mary Holborow JP performed the ceremony and a celebration cake was cut by Lady Camilla Osborne, who is a direct descendant of the Dukes of Leeds and had come all the way from Ham Common in London, just to be there.-

There is that old adage “the proof of the pudding lies in the eating”, well ... Nowadays the hall is used for well over 1000 hours each year with approximately half its income derived from the Social Committee’s programme of activities and the other half from lettings to many other persons and organisations, who have, in turn, supported numerous good causes of their own.

Hall History

The original lease for the land on which the present Village Hall stands was granted by the then Duke of Leeds on 0p 24th June 1851 to John Goldsworthy. By 1852 local people had raised the funds for and erected a single storey chapel building and this premises was vested in the Trustees of Townshend Wesleyan Chapel who held it on a 99 lease “if lives therein named so long live”. The yearly rent was set at the princely sum of 3 shillings.

In about 1870/1, the village went up-market and built itself a two storey chapel on the other side of the road with room for a graveyard and, later, a war memorial. The original building, now the village hall, became the Sunday School Room.

Many people called the village Buckshead, because that was the name of one of its hostelries on the coach road from Marazion to Redruth. There was, and still is, a wealth of local musical talent. In the 1880s a harmonium was purchased from Truro for 15yo Jessie Ivey and her descendant, the late Lambert Ivey, is well remembered for the entertaining performances he gave over hundred or so years later. John Winn had an exceptional voice, which never broke, and he trained the choir which helped to raise the funds to purchase and build the organ in the 1871 chapel. The opera singer, Ben Luxon, used the Hall in the 20th century to rehearse because he so liked the acoustics and today it still boasts a concert grade baby grand piano.

Early in its life the Sunday School had to run 3 sessions on a Sunday to cater for all those wishing to attend (and the room comfortably seats 80 today). Townshend also had a cricket team and older residents can still remember the field and pavilion though that has now reverted to a ploughed field. The team was renowned throughout west Cornwall and won many cups thanks to a demon left-handed underarm bowler named Will Eustice. So seriously was this taken that, if a match was lost, a certain character would always wear black the following day.

In 1926, however, the surviving trustees decided to give their leases on Chapel and Sunday schoolroom to the Methodists for safe keeping under the Wesleyan Model Deed. A freehold transfer was effected on the 27th November, by the 10th Duke of Leeds, the Most Noble George Godolphin to the Revd Wilfred Hewitt Boocock of the Wesley Manse, Copperhouse, Hayle. He was the Superintendent Minister of the local Circuit and his witness was Percival B Lello of Trevassack Farm, Hayle.

This was done with the agreement of the surviving trustees who were
• Nicholas Pearce – farmer
• Joseph Blight Mitchell 63 – farmer at Noonvares
• John George Cock – grocer
• John Mitchell 63 – farmer at Godolphin Bridge
• William Cardell – farmer
• Peter Henry James 69 – miner at Bosence Lane
• James Eade Andrewartha – farmer
• John Henry Glasson 43 – wall mason
• Edwin Thomas 61 – farmer
• James Woolcock 74 – farmer at Noonvares