Public Hall / Oddfellows Hall

Public Hall, c.1975

In 1892, H.J. Chinnery of Winslow Hall provided a gymnasium for the youths of the town. It was of the same pre-fabricated, corrugated iron construction as the "Tin Tabernacle" which he build in Tinkers End. He seems to have bought the land, with access from the High Street, from the Selby-Lowndes family, probably as part of a redevelopment of that part of the High Street which was previously the "Townsend" of Winslow. The land is referred to below at the recreation ground.

1892: Buckingham Advertiser, 19 Nov
  GYMNASIUM.- On Thursday, Nov. 10th, the spacious iron gymnasium, in the recreation ground, was opened by H. J. Chinnery, Esq., at whose cost it has been erected for the benefit of the young men of this town.  In opening, Mr. Chinnery spoke some very encouraging words to the younger lads, and on departing was loudly cheered.  After which the Rev. P. H. Eliot gave a brief address.  There were about 20 lads from 14 to 17 years of age, and about the same number over, seven joined.  It is to be opened twice a week for instruction by Mr. Warnock, of the Oxford Military College.  It is very comfortably fitted up with the various apparatus, including fencing and boxing materials, horizontal bars, paralell bars, climbing ropes, vaulting horse, &c., &c., and no doubt will be much appreciated by the younger portion of the community, the fees being only nominal.

1892: Buckingham Advertiser, 12 Oct
  GYMNASIUM.- Boxing classes are now being held on Wednesday, conducted by Mr. H.J. Chinnery, of Winslow, and are well attended.

1894: Buckingham Express, 10 Feb
  GYMNASIUM.- On Thursday, February 1st, a public display of athletics was held in the gymnasium, when the Vicar presided over a very large and appreciative audience.  The display was interspersed with vocal and instrumental music, and was a great success.  The arrangements were made by a committee, of whom Mr. Frank Watson was hon. sec.  The following was the programme:- Song, “Oh, my tooth,” Mr. F. Watson; dumb-bells by Messrs. Reavell, Watson, Harris, Young, and Midgley; parallel bars by Messrs. F. Watson, F. Reavell; J. Clare, Young, and Sear; rings by Messrs. F. Watson, F. Reavell, J. Clare, W. Turnham, and A. Atkins; piccolo solo by Mr. F. Reavell; boxing (three rounds of two minutes) by Watson v. Reavell; Harris v. Pass, Sear v. Atkins; song, “Midshipmite,” Mr. Lomas; bridge ladder, Messrs. Watson, Clare, Midgley, Sear, and Turnham; Indian clubs, Mr. C. Phillips; song, “We are, we are, we are,” Mr. C. Watson; rope climbing, Messrs. Harris, Reavell, Clare, and Watson; fencing, Watson v. Reavell, Harris v. Midgley; song, “I did it,” Mr. C. Watson; “God save the Queen.”

1894: Bucks Herald, 3 Nov
I see by your column that the Winslow Gymnasium has re-opened for the winter. While that is undoubtedly a useful institution, there appears to be a want of control over it. Complaints are made as to the behaviour of the lads attending, and I notice that there is scarcely a whole pane of glass to be seen in the windows.

1895: Buckingham Express, 2 Feb
 A display was given in connection with the Gymnasium on Wednesday, January 23rd, before a very appreciative audience.  The Vicar, Rev. P. H. Eliot, presided, and remarked that owing to Mr. F. Watson leaving the town, and the display having to be got up in a hurry he hoped the audience would look over any mistakes that the gymnasts might make.  The following is the programme:- Piano solo, Miss Phillips; dumb-bells; vaulting horse, 1st half; hand rings; song, Mr. Webster; parallel bars; ladder plank; fencing; horizontal bar; bar bells; vaulting horse, 2nd half; song, Mr. Webster; ropes; Indian clubs; bridge ladder; boxing contests.  At the close of the performances the Vicar expressed his thanks to the performers, and especially to Miss Phillips and Mr. Webster for their services at the piano.

Mr Chinnery left Winslow in 1894 when his lease on Winslow Hall expired, but he still owned the gymnasium, which he gave to the Odd Fellows in 1903 after the gymnasium club had closed. Norman McCorquodale, the new owner of Winslow Hall, offered to buy it from the Odd Fellows, but they refused. As the Oddfellows Hall, it then became the main venue in Winslow for public meetings, dances and showing films, as well as being the Odd Fellows' headquarters with their own war memorial plaque. In 1906 the Parish Council began to hold meetings there.

Oddfellows Hall receiptThe receipt on the right, signed by Hugh Ray the secretary, is for the hire of the Hall by the St Dunstan's Cup Committee in 1926.

In 1945 it was bought by a committee representing the whole town, drawn from organisations such as the Women's Institute, Red Cross, Guides and Scouts, and the Welcome Home Committee. They raised the £600 required through a series of fund-raising events. It served Winslow for another 30 years as the Public Hall before it was destroyed by fire and replaced by the present building, erected in 1977.

The photo below (from the collection of the late Ruth Hall MBE) shows a view of the gymnasium from the church tower, probably taken in the 1890s. The exterior of the building changed little until it burned down.

Gymnasium seen beyond High Street buildings

Thanks to Ed Grimsdale for some of the information on this page.

Copyright 20 October, 2021