Harpenden Public Hall

Bookings Registers 1938 to 1947

Based on the presentation to the Harpenden Society on 7 December 2017.

The reservations books for Harpenden Public Hall, which have survived in our archives, are an interesting reflection on local village activities before, during and after the Second World War.

Credit: G. Ross, December 2017

A scale of charges also includes provision for Wedding receptions up to 6 p.m £3; Dinners and Suppers £4; and variable charges for use of the piano: for dances 10/-, for concerts 7/6, for meetings 2/6. In addition, use of Tables cost 4d each and Drinks Waggons 1/- each. There was a 20% increase for commercial and out of district bookings.

In the period from October to December 1938 there were 14 dances, 6 socials and parties, 2 dramatic performances, 3 sales and bazaars, 14 meetings, 4 concerts and entertainments, 2 whist drives, also classes and demonstrations:

  • Dances: Barnfield Tennis Club; Bamville Cricket Club (2); Elliswick Lawn Tennis Club; Harpenden Rugby FC; R.H. Johnston, Rover F.C.; The B.H. 1938 Dance Club (2); Mr A.L. Pycock, Vauxhall Motors Engineering Dept; Oaklands Old Student Assn; St Mary’s Mission; British Legion, (dance and whist drive)
  • Theatricals and concerts: W.J. Busby rehearsals and theatricals (6 days); Drama League rehearsals and dramatic performance (6 days); Mrs M Dawn, concert
  • Socials, Dinners and Parties: Mrs Dupere, social; Mr A .J. Phillips, party; Rigby Fisher, social; English Folk Dancing Assn, social; Rothamsted Staff Union, social; Mrs Brigham, Old Folks supper; Rigby Fisher, dinner and social
  • Entertainments: Miss Schneider, P.H. Cook, St Hilda’s School.
  • Meetings and conferences: Harpenden Committee District Hospital, United Mission (10 days). Harpenden Masonic Lodge, Peace Pledge Union, Rothamsted Experimental Station (conference)
  • Sales and bazaars: G.F.S. (Miss Popplewell), British Legion Women’s Section, St Johns Parochial Church Council.
  • Whist Drives: Fire Brigade
  • Regular bookings and classes: YPSS (Young Persons Sunday School) weekly; Miss Slater, dancing classes weekly; Watford and St Albans Gas Co. demonstration (2)

From January to March 1939

  • Dances: Drama League, social and dance; St Albans Master Baker’s Association; Mrs Mangle, Fire Brigade; Harpenden Rugby F.C.; Harpenden Branch Toc H; Barnfield Lawn Tennis; Catholic Action; British Legion; Harpenden Badminton Club; Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animal; Harpenden Conservative Club; Rovers F.C.; Ravenscourt Tennis Club; The J.S. Sports Club; Y.P.S.S.; Elliswick Lawn Tennis Club; Arden Wednesday Cricket Club.
  • Theatricals and concerts: Norman Salisbury, rehearsals and performance (7 days); Drama League, rehearsals and performance (6 days); Luton Amateur Dramatic Soc. rehearsal and theatricals (2 days); St Albans Co-op concert; Mr W. Watkins theatricals, Drama League rehearsals and performance (6 days); South Harpenden Womens Institute play; R.C.H and O. dramatic performance Mrs M Dawn concert.
  • Socials, Dinners and Parties: D.G. Bird, children’s party; W. Marsh, children’s party; W.E. Sanders, social; A.D. Monkhouse, social; British Legion, dinner; National Athletic Assn, social; Harpenden UDC, dinner; E. Johnson, children’s party; F. Gingell (ARP wardens); dinner, Charity Trustees, dinner and social; Girls Friendly Society social; Fire Brigade dinner; St Johns Girls Club social; Rigby Fisher social; Mrs Ross, childrens party.
  • Entertainments: H.Jones, entertainment; Salvation Army Home League, entertainment; Mothers Union, entertainment; Harpenden Preservation Society; T.J.M. Campbell, British Israelite World Federation
  • Meetings: Harpenden Masonic Lodge, meeting (2); A.P. Norwood. lecture; Harpenden Photographic Society (4 days exhibition); WVS meeting; Northmet Film display; National Council of Women; League of Nations Union Parochial Church Council; Harpenden Lawn Tennis Club; Harpenden Memorial Nursing Centre.
  • Whist Drives: St Mary’s Mission; Harpenden Photograpnic Society
  • Regular Bookings and Classes : Y.P.S.S.; Miss Slater dancing classes; Watford Gas Co.

From April – June 1939

  • Dances: Mr H.Walton, British Legion; Red Cross; JS Sports Club (2); Rovers Football Club; Harpenden Catholic Social Club; Harpenden Wednesday C.C.; V.B. Dupere, Harpenden Cricket Club; Arden Companions.
  • Theatricals and concerts: Catholic Action Committee (Miss R. Snowden) Play (2 nights); Miss Merret (Pupils Concert).
  • Socials, Dinners and Parties: Mrs Rowlinson (Wedding reception); Miss E. Fountain (Social); Women’s Conservative Association social; Miss Thackray social; Mrs M. Nicoll (Wedding reception); Mrs J. Morris (Wedding reception); Mrs J. Emery (Wedding reception).
  • Meetings: National Council of Women; Hertfordshire Art Society Exhibition (5 days); Rev S. Veitch, J. Shadbolt, Mrs Crowther
  • Regular Bookings and Classes : Watford Gas Co.

In July and August 1939, with the threat of war imminent there were 4 Wedding receptions, 1 Children’s social, 2 Whist Drives, 1 meeting

Wartime use

With the declaration of war on 3 September, most bookings in the period up to December 1939 were cancelled. Not mentioned in the register was the use of the halls as one of the centres receiving evacuee children from London and allocating them to their billets. There were lectures for Air Raid Wardens lectures, and the regular YPSS meetings. Dances resumed in November and December, and there were a Whist Drive, a Rothamsted Social, and Children’s Christmas festivities. From 1941 there was a large increase in the number of dances, many organised by or for service personnel stationed in Harpenden, as well as fund-raising events.

Bookings from 1938 to 1947, showing the effects of the war. Credit: G. Ross

Credit: G. Ross, December 2017

Local History Society meeting in the small hall, 1970s. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 11676

St John Lawes School prize day, with concert orchestra, 2001

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