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.

1899: Bucks Herald, 18 Nov
On Thursday, December 14, 1899.
Members’ radius – Twelve Miles from Winslow. For Schedules and particulars apply to

1900: Buckingham Advertiser, 6 Oct
Winslow Open Poultry Show.
  The second annual show of the District Fanciers’ Society was held in the Gymnasium (and tents adjoining) on Wednesday and Thursday, and proved a great success.  Being an open show of poultry and pigeons it attracted exhibits from all over the country, including some of the best breeders- while there were in addition a local dog show and a Members’ Show of poultry, pigeons, and cage birds; also open classes for table poultry and eggs.  The entries numbered 760, and in all probability but for the Election this number would have been greatly increased.  But as it was there were splendid competitions in the two main sections of poultry and pigeons.  The open classes for rabbits, cats and cage birds the Committee reluctantly abandoned in consequence of the entries being few in number, but there was a nice show of cage birds in the members classes including some not for competition.  The attendance the first day was remarkably good, including some of the leading fanciers of the country (who pronounced the show a remarkably good one) and in all probability it will be as successful from a financial point of view.  The Committee - who worked extremely hard - was Messrs. F. Benbow, C. Osborn, J. Colgrove, H. Hudson, G. Ash, W. N. Midgley, E. Muller, and H. Burdon, with Mr. Clem Watson for an undefatigable secretary.

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 (see below). 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.

Buckingham Advertiser, 28 April 1945

Community  Centre  for  Winslow?
Animated Discussion at Public Meeting
Odd Fellows’ Hall Purchase
Last War’s Ideal and Their Result

A public meeting at the Odd Fellows’ Hall, Winslow, which it was announced had been purchased at £600, to consider the question of a permanent public hall and social centre for Winslow, produced animated discussion on Monday evening and a thought provoking address by Mr. Harold King, Regional Officer of the National Council of Social Service.

As a War Memorial

The Chairman (Mr. E. W. Mitchell) in opening the meeting, referred to a leaflet that had been circulated with regard to its objects and said that it was hoped that the fact that they were meeting on the night of the lifting of the black-out for which they were indebted to the members of the Forces, provided a good augury for the success of their scheme.   “The hall we are now meeting in, now belongs to us,” he said, “and it has been paid for and it is our idea to improve it as much as possible to make it attractive and useful.”  They felt it was not ideal and they had an idea of a much better scheme for building an attractive place with a good dance floor, proper cloak rooms, a small hall for smaller meetings, car park and other facilities, a place of which Winslow could be proud.  All this cost money; but he felt that with enthusiasm in the part of everybody, it would be possible to attain their object within three years or so.   In one week, by a series of entertainments they had obtained enough money to pay for the hall they were meeting in that night and he had in mind a parish of 160 inhabitants which during the past few months had raised £200 and were launching a scheme for a parish hall and community centre as a War Memorial.   He suggested that this was a marvellous idea and far better than that of the types of war memorials built after the last war.  He suggested that there was no better way in which they could call to mind those who had given their lives for their country and hoped that a fund would be started for that object…

… (Mr. King) advised them to raise the financial cost themselves, pointing out that if people really did a thing themselves it seemed much more to belong to them and they took a much greater pride and interest in it.  A community centre should be run for the people by the people who used it and to whom it belonged and if they did the work themselves they were free from the conditions that were generally associated with grants.  He pointed out that the Council which he represented would consider giving assistance by grants and by interest-free loans.  They were usually prepared to go to one-sixth of the total capital cost of a scheme of which they approved and they were prepared to give interest free loans up to one-third of the capital cost.  There were conditions, one that the building must be durable, another that they should see the plans which were “vetted” by a Committee appointed by the Royal British Society of Architects, also that the hall should be under Trustees, preferably outside the parish, by being invested under the Charity Commissioners, with management by a committee, representative of all the interests of the parish.   They did not want any management that was sectional …

… Animated discussion followed and the Chairman, replying to Mr. H. R. Langley, said that £600 was the price paid for the Hall.  Negotiations had been carried through in a perfectly straightforward way with the Odd Fellows’ Society.  The Committee told them what they would give and they said this was not enough.  In further negotiations a figure which the Committee thought was fair and reasonable was mentioned and they decided to accept it.  They were not in competition, as far as he knew, with anyone else.

“Who Appointed Committee?”

Another speaker, Mr. Seeley, asked who elected the Committee and if it might be more representative of the community life of Winslow and the Chairman replied that a public meeting was called and given wide publicity;  but was not well-attended.  The Committee was then properly constituted and carried on and everything was done in a most regular way.

“If this Committee is not representative, it is entirely your own fault,” said Mr. Foster who said that a public meeting was called.  When the Savings Committee was appointed an invitation was sent to every public body in the town and the Public Hall Committee was really the old Savings Committee and was representative of the whole town…

…A request was made for the namers of the Committee and they were read as follows: Mr. E. W. Mitchell, Colonel Selby Lowndes, Mr. F. H. Foster (National Savings Committee), Mr. A. J. Illing (National Fire Service), Mr. Holton (A.T.C.), Mr. R. E. J. Butcher (Boy Scouts), Mr. A. G. Dobbs (Home Guard), Mr. Lanfear (British Legion), Mr. E. A. J. Jones (R.D.C.), Mrs. Selby Lowndes, Mrs. Holden (W.I.), Mrs. Gordon Dean (W.V.S.), Mrs. Foster (Red Cross), Mrs. Tremayne (Women’s Land Army), Mrs. Court, Miss Wilson, Miss Walker (Girl Guides), Miss Hall, Miss Thompson (Post Office), Mr. Ray (Secretary).

“Unpleasant Bickering”

Mr. Knight thought there should be thanks rather than antagonism towards the Committee; but that they should be regarded in the nature of a provisional Government.  Lady Cruise thought that they had better get together and see what they could do instead of indulging in “this unpleasant bickering.”  She was not a member of the Committee and would not be.  In the past because they had had no hall they had been unable to provide members of the R.A.F. with entertainment.

Various names were proposed for co-option and Mr. H. R. Langley (Football Club) who was one of those mentioned, said that if the Committee received no more support than the old Winslow Sports Ground Committee received he was “sorry for them.”

It was proposed that Mr. George Pass should be co-opted to represent the Winslow Boys’ Comforts Fund and that representatives of the Welcome Home Committee should be among those to be co-opted and a resolution was passed approving of the Committee’s continuation in the work of formulating a scheme, a report to be made to another public meeting and fund opened.

Colonel Selby Lowndes expressed thanks to the Chairman and speaker.

On the platform were Colonel Selby Lowndes, Mr. A. J. Illing, Mr. E. A. N. Jones (Clerk to Winslow R.D.C.), Mr. E. F. Foster, Lieut. A. G. Dobbs.

Copyright 4 March, 2022