All About Wadhurst

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Entertainment, Sport & Leisure


At the beginning of the century entertainment was the usual simple things centred round the Church Festivals. There was the choir and a small instrumental ensemble. Evidence of this was found when Doris and Jack Bishop moved back into the Clock House, Doris' family home. It had been the Newington's home for many years ‑ the whole family were very musical, always in demand at family gatherings and local dances. When the attic was cleared three violins were found, relics of the village orchestra. From the Church Choir the Choral Society grew and in the 1930's it could hold its own in local and county competitions. Sidney Ansell, local builder and organist at the Methodist Church, was the conductor for a long time. He was a great character and one of the stories about him is about a rehearsal one evening, when trying to improve the rendition of the song in rehearsal he is supposed to have said ... "When you get to the words, 'her golden hair' P‑u‑l‑l it out."

Wadhurst has always had a good number of Churches and Chapels. Each had their own Calendar of Church and social events. The Salvation Army between the wars had a very good band and every Saturday evening played in Church Street in the centre of the village and on Christmas Day would go the rounds playing Carols. They had their meetings in a corrugated iron hut in Sparrows Green and also musical evenings with much audience participation in the old country folk songs.

We have several good halls ‑ the main one is the Commemoration Hall (with sports field) built as a memorial to local men killed in the Great War. Today it is affectionately known by everyone as the Commem. We are also fortunate in having St. George's Hall, Best Beech Hall (now a picture framers premises), The Upper Room and in more recent times, the Primary School and the Community College.

The Scout and Guide Movement was very strong from the early 1900's onwards. Two families were instrumental in supporting the groups. The Courthope family were linked to the Guides and Brownies and the DuVallon family to the Scouts and Cubs. Rangers, Guides and Brownies had their indoor meetings supplemented with outdoor activities on the Whiligh estate (home of the Courthopes). The Du Vallons did the same for the Scouts. Mr. Du Vallon wrote a Gang Show every year for the Scouts and Cubs to perform in the 'Commem' proceeds from which went towards their annual camp on the Isle of Wight. Now only the Brownies continue.

For adults between the wars, there was football, cricket, tennis and in the late 30's bowls. There was a high standard in all the games and Wadhurst teams featured high in the league tables and often as cup winners. These sports took place on good quality sports fields ‑ one in the centre of the village (football and cricket pitches, tennis courts and bowling green) the other in Sparrows Green (football only ‑ but now - celebrating the arrival of the Millennium 2000, a new sports field and pavilion, which offers a vast improvement to the facilities local sports clubs used to have.. The women of the village were partakers of more sedentary pursuits i.e. W.I. Mothers Union and Sisterhood and more importantly house and home without the mechanical wizardry we have now. Of course, there was the good old Sussex game of Stoolball - also the ladies were much involved in organising money raising events e.g. fetes and bazaars, one of the highlights of the year was the Hospital Sunday Parade, when all the local organisation marched through the village, when money was collected in aid of the hospital ‑ before the N.H.S.

Early in the century the Territorial Army was very popular and owned their own hall with living accommodation for the full time officer who commanded the unit. This hall was used for the very early silent films with a local pianist as accompaniment.

In the 30's public transport became more frequent and reliable so people went to the cinema and theatre in Tunbridge Wells for special occasions and treats. Gradually everyone's horizons widened, the school went to the zoo in London and there was a never to be forgotten trip to the Aldershot Tattoo. One girl recalls that she and a friend, determined to see the then Queen and Princesses, became separated from the school group and were mortified to find that they had missed tea when they finally caught up with the Wadhurst School party; another trip was to Portsmouth and the Victory. It was almost like a trip to a foreign country to travel a hundred odd miles in a coach.

The radio was very popular and everyone sat glued to the set to listen to "Dick Barton Special Agent", In Town Tonight or "Henry Hall's Guest Night etc.

Although travelling was still possible in 1939 entertainment became more local again with a weekly film show, concerts and dances in the Commem or St. George's Hall helped by the new blood of the Forces stationed in and around Wadhurst and the evacuees. The Youth Group was very popular and go ahead. (The school evacuated to Wadhurst was Brockley Grammar School, an all boys school!)

After 1945 as life returned to normal, some organisations kept going, others had to be restarted. There were two high spots in the first years of peace. The radio show I.T.M.A. came to Wadhurst as a welcome home celebration for local men who had been to war, then a few years later the Wilfrid Pickles show, 'Have a Go' was recorded in the village where they coined the phrase "If 1 won a million pound first I'd throw a fit, then I'd throw a party" in answer to the standard question of "What would you do etc?"

One new society was started after the war and in 1946 the Wadhurst Dramatic Society was formed. In their Golden Jubilee year they produced two plays and a musical ‑ South Pacific was an outstanding success. The Society also puts on excellent pantomimes.

There is no longer a Choral Society but there are several small choirs and instead of the Salvation Army band we have a village Brass Band and a Drum and Fife Band. The Conductor and Founder of the Brass Band Algy Hoare reminds those of a certain age of Sidney Ansell, both in sense of humour and shape. The Brass Band is like our village symbol, it has grown from the acorn of the school band where Algy taught, to the oak tree ‑ the Village Band.

An annual play and various music concerts are part of the scene at the Community College which are much enjoyed by parents and residents alike.

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