The real history of Wickham Hall is not one of bricks and mortar, dates and events. It is a history of ordinary people in a small rural village who wanted to provide a centre where they could join together to help the less fortunate, for educational talks and to have a place for entertainment when such delights were beyond the pockets of most inhabitants – to be a centre for the community.

In 1878 the population of Wickham was 963 and consisted mainly of agricultural workers who were employed by the local landowners; local shops included blacksmiths, bakers, bootmakers, an undertaker and a vermin destroyer.

Funds were raised, donations were made by wealthier residents and land which was owned by the Rector was made available for the site in, what was then, the heart of the village. A builder was appointed, work began and on October 28th 1878 the gas lit Lecture Hall, as it was to be known, was opened to great acclaim.

The hall brought new life to the village and the societies and clubs which were formed were the fore-runners of a flourishing community. They included the parish library, courses on Dressmaking and Nursing. The local headmistress held Saturday cookery classes for girls, a branch of the Children's Union (Waifs & Strays) held meetings at the hall as did many other charitable organisations. Concerts were held to raise funds towards the upkeep of the hall and lectures were given using the Power Point system of the time – magic lantern pictures.

In around 1904 a new building replaced the one built in 1878 and this is still in use today.*

With the outbreak of war in 1914 the concerts and lectures changed in tone. Patriotic entertainments and fund raising events were held and members of the Red Cross used the hall for making mufflers and socks for the troops as well as holding a training exercise where the hall was transformed into a 'hospital' so that they could practice their skills.

Laying the Foundation Stone
Laying the the Foundation Stone
(l - r) Rev. Page, Miss M. Andrew, Mr. Parker and Mr. Brown(?)

Foundation Stone ceremony crowd
Members of the public watching the Foundation Stone ceremony

In 1931 with a population of 6,229, more houses being built and nearly 70 shops opened, a larger Lecture Hall was needed and many fund-raising activities were held to finance the new hall. A Board of Trustees, local members of the community, was appointed to manage and administer the building. The current Lecture Hall was opened in 1934 with the original hall in use for smaller events. During the war years the hall was used for Home Guard and Air Raid Precaution purposes and the old hall as a YMCA canteen for troops in the neighbourhood although social activities also continued.

In 1962 an anonymous donor paid for many improvements to the hall and at this time it was renamed Wickham Hall.

Our thanks and acknowledgements to the Late Joyce Walker whose history of Wickham Hall has enabled us to produce the above.

*The hall has now been re-named as the Medhurst Hall and is hired out for many different occasions.

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