St John's Village Memorial Hall

The History of St John's Village Memorial Hall

St John's Hall was built in 1939 next to St John's Lye as a YMCA and provided Canadian servicemen with a place to relax and be entertained. During the 2nd World war many Canadian servicemen were stationed at the Inkerman barracks, which stood close to where Winston Churchill School is now. Many of the Canadian servicemen were later to give their lives in the disastrous raid on the occupied port of Dieppe in the summer of 1942.

It is believed the land where the hall now stands was owned by a lady called Trixie Savage who owned an adjacent bungalow. Details are sketchy, but it was thought she used the land as an allotment, and then she built or allowed the hall to be built on it.

After the war, the Canadian military having returned home no longer required the building, and Sir Norman Rayburn purchased the freehold for 2,000 on behalf of the residents of St John's. It was felt at this time that hall should remain as a memorial to those in the village and surrounding area who lost their lives during the fighting.

The hall is managed and owned by the St John's Village Memorial Hall Association.

The hall had been very well used over the 70 years by many groups, but, as with many timber buildings of its era, wear and tear left its mark on the lightly constructed wooden structure. In recent years, the hall's structural integrity deteriorated rapidly to a point beyond economic and practical repair; the roof regularly leaked, the floor become twisted and uneven, windows could no longer be closed in misshaped openings and the lack of sound insulation restricted use with significant limitations on letting opportunities. In addition, the hall was very expensive to heat with little if no thermal insulation provided in the roof space or walls, it was often cold and uninviting during the winter months. The kitchens and toilets were of a poor standard and were just serviceable.

However, despite the poor condition of the building, the Committee were determined to keep the hall open to the community, and against all odds, kept the building running for many years committing many hours of voluntary work alongside a never ending fundraising machine in the hope that one day the hall would be replaced with a new 'fit for purpose' modern building.

In 2003 a set of plans were commissioned by the Hall Committee which detailed a new 2 story hall on the existing site. Planning permission was granted but the building was never built due to the significant lack of funds.

Realizing that the funding gap was very unlikely to be closed the Hall Committee turned to Woking Borough Council and together came up with another set of plans, this time to move the location of the hall onto St John's Lye itself and pass the existing land onto the council for housing. However, following a campaign from many St John's villagers objecting strongly to a new hall being built on the Lye this application was turned down at a planning committee meeting in November 2008.

Following this, an alternative plan was devised by a largely new Committee jointly with the St John's Village Society (Residents Association) to build on the existing site and to generate the shortfall in funds by building 4 town houses that would be sold to generate cash in support of closing the funding gap. Regrettably, these plans also involved the removal of a substantial oak tree to the rear of the hall. The plans were prepared and presented and this innovative scheme was approved by WBC planning committee.

Finally, with the knowledge that even with the sale of the 4 houses there was still a funding gap to close to enable the construction of a new hall, WBC intervened and agreed to fully fund the project in its entirety negating the need for the town houses at the rear of the site and thereby saving the oak tree. Yet another set of plans were drawn up, this time by WBCs architects and planning permission was granted for a new contemporary hall maximizing the use of the current site. Finally, after years of false starts, and a number of different planning consents, it looked like St John's Village would be getting a new hall!

On 9th March 2012 the old hall was closed it doors for the last time and demolition to commenced in preparation for the building work to begin on the new St John's Village Memorial Hall.

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