Suffolk Village of the Year 2023

The Village Institute

(Alias the old village hall, which many of us remember!)

As village life returned to normal after the first world war whist drives, or social evenings were held nearly every Friday evening during the winter, and the occasional dance, all of which must have been held in the school.   There were similar entertainments held in the Rectory gardens during the summer months.

It was in November 1921 that a Public Meeting was held in the School to consider providing a Hall for the parish.  A committee was set up and fund-raising commenced, starting with a Jumble Sale the following month.   This was to be for Cockfield people only, admission 2d, and tea to be provided, after the sale, at 1d. a  cup.   A fete at the Rectory the following summer raised nearly £100 – it was opened by Major Howard, MP, at 2.30 and there was a concert in the barn, and, after lawn tennis, there was dancing on the north lawn till 10 pm and fancy dress was worn in competition!  All this in addition to the usual sideshows and stalls.

In August 1922 it was reported that the Committee of the Institute have decided to purchase a structure to be re-erected for the Parish Hall, being part of an unusually large and roomy army hut that had been built and used for an Institute, being broader and loftier than ordinary huts, and suitable for gatherings and entertainments.   It was hoped to place it on ground belonging to Mr. Hodge between the School and Church Farm after harvest.   This was duly carted over from Thetford and, on 22nd December,  the work of erecting it was begun.   Meanwhile rules for the use of the hall had been drawn up and an Institute Council appointed.

A report from the parish magazine for April 1923 is as follows:

“Our Parish Hall was opened on Friday evening March 23rd.   Doors were opened at

7 pm.   At 7.30 the curtain was drawn up, with the Committee on the platform.   Mr. Pattle gave an account of the Institute, a sketch of its progress, and a statement of cost of building, and contributions.   Mr. Ennals spoke of hopes for its future.   Mr. Goodchild also spoke amusingly, and referred to joining it late.   The Rector, the Rev. Edwin Hill, was then asked to declare it open.   He spoke of it as a centre of unity in the parish, and said that the members by so gathering that evening had opened it themselves.   The day had been wet since morning, nevertheless the room was filled.   A Concert followed.”

During the years that followed there appeared to be an annual family membership for a small fee and Friday evenings continued as Institute evenings when a member of the Council would be present to oversee the whist drive, or whatever.   Events seemed to be well attended for the first ten years or so and later there were pleas for more members and support for events.   The WI, formed in 1929, helped to swell its use and billiard tables and so forth were gradually collected for use of members.   It served the village well until its replacement with our present Village Hall in 1976.

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