LockDown But Not Out

Written by David Cowell

The Chichester Memorial Hall has sat, like a doting matriarch, on Sandgate’s High Street since the beginning of the 20th century when the building was constructed in memory of Elizabeth Mary (pictured in 1860), known affectionately as Lilla, the Countess of Chichester, widow of the Walter John Pelham, the 4thEarl, a British Liberal politician. She died on 7th December 1911 at the age of 74 at Enbrook. Her support and generosity to the village during her lifetime prompted the residents to raise the necessary money to have the Hall built to celebrate her life and act as a lasting memorial. The building replaced a food shop and bakery.

The funds raised allowed a modest, utilitarian structure to be built with, perhaps, its finest feature being the warm, welcoming terracotta columns that support the triangular peak pediment that bears the Hall’s name at the front door. A small sweeping curved brick wall topped with coping stones and with a hand rail either side of three steps allows easy access to the building.

In 1913 a large clock that originally adorned the Gough Coffee Tavern and Soldiers’ Institute nearby, named after John Bartholomew Gough (b.1817) was placed at the front. He was a local boy who emigrated to the USA, became a reformed alcoholic and a world famous temperance orator. The Freemasons’ Hall and an antique shop now occupy the site.

Situated on the first floor, the main Hall accommodates many regular hires including table tennis (three sessions a week), pilates (two sessions a week), art groups, Tamalpa, short mat bowls and Tai Chi as well as children’s parties, business meetings and ad hoc musical events.

All these hires have of course been suspended for the duration of the Coronavirus lockdown but the time is being spent progressing the Hall’s adventurous refurbishment programme called 20:20 Vision. This comprises ten or so jobs including a new kitchen, new toilet facilities, redecoration of the main hall and stairwell.

The funding of this comes from various sources including the Roger De Haan Trust, whose generosity is acknowledged and others whose decisions are still awaited. A third of the money, it is a £50,000 project, comes from the Hall’s own funds raised through the hires and the Sandgate Farmers Market and acknowledgement has to be given to the people of Sandgate and its neighbourhood who support the Hall so generously. Also the many volunteers who give of their time freely to manage the Market that takes place on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays each month. During the lockdown the needs of local people have been met by creating the Market on-line with stall holders providing home deliveries. Details can be found at: chichesterhall.co.uk/sandgate-farmers-market/

The Hall has charitable status and is managed by an Executive Officer who answers to a Board of Trustees who decide the strategic direction the Hall will adopt to ensure this significant building will be here for many centuries to come, providing the area with its distinctive village hall. Enquiries for hires can be made to david@chichesterhall.co.uk and more information can be found at: http://chichesterhall.co.uk.