The early years of the Memorial Hall Fund.
“This fine Hall could not have been built without a great and sustained effort from the people of Wolverley and a lot of valuable assistance from outside sources.”
These were the words of the late Peter Kenrick, then Chairman of Trustees at the time of the opening of the Hall by Lord Lieutenant for Worcestershire Admiral Sir William Tenant on the 10th February 1962.
This was in fact the culmination of a tremendous community effort lasting 18 years to honour those men and women of Wolverley who had fought to defend us from the tyranny of Nazi supremacy in Europe.
I would like to take a little time here to tell you how it all started and developed.
In May 1944 at the suggestion of the WVS and the Wolverley W.I. a public meeting was called and agreed to set up a “Welcome Home Fund” for ex servicemen and women. The objective was to raise as much money as possible so that a useful sum of money could be given to each of them to help them to get back on their feet after the war.
Remember that many of them would not have seen much home life for maybe 6 or even 7 years.
The first Officers of the Committee at that time were;-
Chairman …… George Greaves .. the village Butcher
Treasurer…… Bill Rogers ……… Landlord of The Queens Head.
Secretary…… Arch Fraser……… of Fairfield Lane.
And of course many more people formed the full Committee who got on with raising money through:
Village Fairs, Whist Drives, Dances, Jumble Sales, collections and competitions.
By the time hostilities had ceased in 1945 the grand sum of £1200.00 had been accumulated. This would be equivalent to around £ 200,000.00 in to-day’s terms and each recipient, based on 4s. 10p per month of service, would have received an average of around £15.00 equivalent to around £300.00 today. This was distributed at Sebright School Assembly Hall by Lieutenant Godfrey Place V.C. of midget submarine fame.
Considering these amounts, this was a great achievement for such a small community in the 1940’s when everything was scarce. But having achieved this the Committee wanted to carry on with their good works and resolved to raise funds to provide a permanent memorial and settled on the very ambitious plan to provide a Memorial Hall and recreation facilities.
A new committee was formed with Mr. C. Grazebrook as Chairman, Mr. Owen Wright as Treasurer and again Mr. Arch Fraser as Secretary.
So, the fundraising carried on helped by the introduction of “The Wolverley Winner”, a local Football Pool that was very popular and raised a large part of the funds required for the next phases.
In 1951 Mr. and Mrs Wilson of Hill House purchased and gave the field to the community so that now some real plans could be made. This was clearly a very generous gift and a huge step forward.
By the following year, 1952, the sum of £5,000.00 had been raised and it was decided to provide Tennis Courts, Bowling Green and some playground equipment thus bringing the field into its intended use.
The fundraising continued and by 1953/4 sufficient money was available to build a fine sports pavilion so that a proper Tennis and Bowls Club could be formed. However, it proved after 2 or 3 years that the pavilion was under-utilised and so a decision was made to use it as a Social Club that could also possibly provide income for the fund through the sale of drinks etc. to Members. , This later led to some of the Members moving on to provide the current Social Club and the Pavilion became a Doctors Surgery and later a Scout Hut.
Now back to 1954 and a fresh effort was needed to reach the final objective, but now the Wolverley Winner had to be discontinued because of a change in the Gambling Laws.
Never-the-less new Officers were elected and the effort continued under Mr. Peter Kenrick of Blakeshall Hall as Chairman, Mr. E Howells as Treasurer and Mr. Arch Fraser as Secretary.
Fortunately it was possible later to restart the “Wolverley Winner” and by 1960 the kitty had risen to over £5,000.00 again, but, with an estimate for the building of the Hall of £10,000.00 there was still much to do. But some good news that “The Ministry” would donate one third of the cost of the Hall spurred the Committee on to their ultimate goal.
By 1961 the estimate for the building of the Hall had risen to over £12,500.00 but now with £7,000.00 in the kitty and the Ministry grant it was decided that a start should be made on building the Hall and if necessary some money would have to be borrowed, but they were confident that any loans could be paid off within 2 years.
And so, at long last in February 1962 the Hall was officially opened by Admiral Sir William Tennant and the dream was fulfilled.
Since that date the Hall has been the home of Wolverley W.I. and the focus of the Community in many ways. But this was just the beginning and the story of effort to improve and maintain the facilities has continued over the last 50 years.
I hope that this brief account of the early years has been interesting and perhaps inspired some of you to get more involved in our community and continue this tradition of self help.
Clearly, many people were involved in the creation of this valuable facility but there is one man in particular who I must honour to-day. That man is Mr. Arch Fraser who was without doubt the mainstay and driving force. He seemed to be relentless in his devotion to this task and continued to be involved in the running of the Hall well into the 1970’s. That is over 30 years of dedicated voluntary service to this cause.
This community owe a great debt of gratitude to him and all those involved in this endeavour and this can best be expressed by working to ensure the continuation of this valuable gift for future generations.
April 2012. Peter J Smith. President and Acting Chairman.