The Parish Room, which dates back to late Victorian times, was not originally located at Puttenham but near Tring Station, on the Pendley Estate owned by Joseph Williams of Pendley Manor, where it was reputedly used as a luggage room. It is believed that the building was supplied as a pre-fabricated ‘flat pack’ probably sourced from the catalogue of a Victorian equivalent of Wickes!
Mr. Williams was a great benefactor of Puttenham and in 1917 he made the village a gift of the building, together with a parcel of land with an area of approximately 10 poles (about 300 square yards). A formal Indenture gifting the ‘Mission Hall’ and land to the parish of Puttenham, was made on 27th November 1917, making the Parish Vicar and the two Churchwardens (and their successors) Trustees of the building and the land.
It was arranged that two Puttenham farmers, Thomas Chapman of Grange Farm and Mr. Deverell of Potash Farm, should take a horse-drawn dung cart into Tring and collect the building. Having been erected on its new site the hall played a considerable part in village life providing, amongst other things, a home for the village men’s club and local dances (with tales of the floor having to be watered to keep down the dust). In 1931 the first Puttenham Jumble Sale took place in the hall. This was organised by the then Churchwarden, Miss Edith Chapman and raised an impressive £3.13s.9d! In the summer of 1935, the hall was used for a grand party to celebrate the golden wedding of Mr & Mrs Henry Turner of The Old Rectory who at that time were prominent Puttenham residents and land owners.
During the Second World War, the Parish Hall became the temporary local school after the Long Marston School was bombed. The hall continued to house the school until 1952 when new school premises were built in Long Marston, at which time the Parish Hall closed. It remained unoccupied until 1967 when much work was done to renovate the hall and bring it back into use. This work included the clearing of a fox’s earth and the hacking down of a wilderness of overgrown weeds. The structure of the Parish Hall had suffered during its period of inactivity and Acrow props had to be installed to make it safe.
Electricity was also laid on and the first Puttenham Harvest Supper held there. The old hall had an atmosphere all of its own despite (or possibly because of) the lack of sanitation and running water. Harvest supper guests squeezed in, elbow to elbow, and ‘a good time was had by all’. The Jumble Sales and Harvest Suppers continued until 1991, when the new Cecilia Hall, sited close to the Church, was opened. By this time the Parish Room was in a somewhat dilapidated state and, following a survey carried out on the instructions of the Puttenham Trust, further renovation work was carried out in 2003 by a team of local volunteers which included David Kelland, Dave Jenkinson, Oliver Matthews and Ken Crawford. The walls and floor were in a bad way and much of the woodwork needed replacing, whilst the building was also sprayed against woodworm.
The Old Parish Room continues as a valuable and picturesque parish amenity, its continued existence a testament to the quality of Victorian materials and design, and the continuing dedication of local volunteers over the last ninety-five years.
Article was written by Ken Crawford.