The heart of Greasbrough

The heart of Greasbrough

By Gareth Dennison | 19/11/2020

The heart of Greasbrough

 

IT TOOK almost 50 years of effort to bring about and just days with a bulldozer to bring it down.

But, in the intervening 95 years, Greasbrough Public Hall was home to countless memories for generations of residents.

You name it, it was hosted here.

It was used as a doctor’s surgery, a cinema, a theatre and a polling station. It also welcomed play groups, keep fit, self-defence, IT courses, sporting presentation nights, councillors’ surgeries, weddings, birthdays, Christmas parties and more.

It was closed by Rotherham Council in 2014 and demolished in late 2017, despite the efforts of Greasbrough Public Hall Community Trust.

But the trust saved the 1925 stone facade for a memorial — and is ready to hand over an extensive collection of photographs, films and words to Rotherham Archives.

Trust chairman Graham Hobson’s research shows a resolution was passed by Greasbrough ratepayers in October 1872 to form a local government board.

Twenty-seven candidates stood for the few seats available the following May and soon the board was ready to begin looking after the village and its residents.

But where would it meet?

Graham said: “In these early days, it quickly became apparent that suitable premises in which to hold their meetings posed a problem.

“For the first seven years, they held their meetings in several venues including the shop at number 19 Main Street, next to the post office.

“Other Greasbrough buildings used included the Old Wesleyan Chapel and the pub on Church Street formerly known as the Bay Malton.

“After much debate and discussion the board instructed their surveyor to make plans and estimates for a more suitable larger public building to be erected in Greasbrough.”

The board was superseded in 1894 by Greasbrough Urban District Council, which finally delivered the hall in 1925 — after nearly five decades of discussion and planning.

Graham (below)?said: “At the time of building, the hall was a much-needed and imposing addition to the village of Greasbrough and, as such, played a major role in everyday community life.

“The building had a large, welcoming entrance lobby and spacious main hall, which could seat about 350 people.

“One notable fundraising group was the Greasbrough Ladies Circle, run by a team of volunteers led by pillar of the community, Betty Eastwood.

“She organised many events, including mini concerts, fancy dress parties and Easter bonnet parades and, over the years, they raised several thousands of pounds for quite a lot of local Rotherham charities.”

Greasbrough Church Operatic Society, which was formed four years after the hall went up, had a natural home for both rehearsals and performances. The first, in 1929, was Pearl The Fisher Maiden.

During the Second World War, the hall hosted the Home Guard, organised by Rev Arthur Reginald Eyles, and the Auxiliary Fire Service, under Wilf Hulley.

All the building’s trestles, tables, cutlery, pots and pans were requisitioned to contribute to the war effort.

Graham said: “There used to be an air raid siren housed in the copula on the public hall’s roof. I can remember as a young boy, in the mid 50s, hearing the siren being tested on occasions.

“Believe me, it was very loud and could be heard all over Greasbrough.”

Campaigners were stunned when demolition was announced in 2017.

The trust had been formed to take over the hall, which RMBC had closed three years earlier. The council had to apologise after accidentally asking for expressions of interest when it actually had made the decision that the land was needed for a seven-figure transport expansion to reduce congestion.

“This devastating news made the trust change its original goal and re-double its efforts into saving this iconic, historic Greasbrough landmark from demolition,” said Graham.

“It was to be the beginning of a year-long struggle. Unfortunately, all this effort and hard work proved to be in vain and the decision to demolish the hall was made at a cabinet meeting on September 11, 2017. The demolition was completed before Christmas 2017.”

The trust has since accepted that the new road layout will be important in easing congestion, especially with the huge Bassingthorpe development planned for Greasbrough.

The hall’s cupola was rescued and is currently in storage — but its ten-foot stature limits where it could be relocated in the future.

However the facade was transformed into a memorial at Greasbrough Recreation Ground.

This stonework was carved by sculptor and mason Arthur Victor Hardy — and his grandson Peter Sanderson became unofficial “clerk of works” for the tribute.

Peter drew up the plans and worked closely with RMBC facilities manager Stuart Carr on the project.

RMBC met most of the £16,000 cost — but there were notable contributions from the community which had cared so much for the building.

The trust raised £4,500, including £162 thanks to resident Jeannette Wareham (left), who saved timber from the hall for adults with learning difficulties at Oaks Day Centre to craft into keepsake keyrings.

Graham and Peter carried out a groundbreaking ceremony and a time capsule was buried under the memorial containing items including an Advertiser, coins, poems, photos, shopping brochures, takeaway menus and supermarket receipts.

“While cutting the first sod I couldn’t help wondering who, if anybody, removed the first sod when they originally built Greasbrough Public Hall back in 1925,” said Graham.