Westcott Reading Room
History
The History of Westcott Reading Room

For much of the 19th century the site occupied by the Reading Room would now be described as part of a small Business Development, used for a variety of purposes such as depots and storage and including a coach house and stables, a sawpit, carpenters workshop, a school house and a dwelling (now Tumbledown).

In June1874 the site was sold as potential building land in 5 lots. Lots 3 and 4 were purchased by Mrs Maria Fuller of Rokefield who in1877, together with her spinster sisters Julia and Emily Barclay, paid for a Reading Room and Caretaker’s House to be built on the land with access from the Guildford Road “for the benefit of the inhabitants of Westcott”.

In March 1892 Mrs Fuller and her sisters endowed the land to a Trust together with £1,500 of Railway Stock for its upkeep. Three Trustees were appointed: The Rev. William Lloyd Vicar of Holy Trinity, Robert Barclay of Bury Hill and Henry Fuller of Stoneleigh, Reigate.

The Trust’s Deed is an extensive document but broadly it permitted the Trust to allow the use of the Room for meetings and various forms of entertainment for Westcott residents (or non resident at the Trustees discretion) whether rate payers or not, to set charges for its use but not discriminate due to religious belief or allow the consumption of alcohol or gambling.

Although intended for use by all, in the early days it was only a men and boys club, one room being for men over 18 for reading and quiet games, the other for boys 13 to 18.

During the early 20th century the Reading Room saw soirées, social evenings, smoking concerts and meetings of friendly societies and slate clubs. The orchestra for the dances consisted of a pianist and a violinist. The concerts were especially popular, with people having to be turned away due to lack of room.

Between the wars the Reading Room was mainly used by the Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies, political meetings and private functions such as Wedding Receptions and 21st Birthday Parties. In 1937 the small committee room was let to the Surrey County Council for use as a County Library, an arrangement which continued to 1961 when a Travelling Library was introduced.

During the second world war the Reading Room was a Civil Defence Post used by the A.R.P., Home Guard, Fire Service and Red Cross, a Child Welfare Clinic was also held once a month.

By the early 60’s the original building was badly in need of repair but the Trustees lacked the funds for this. At the time Holy Trinity saw the need for a Church Hall and having considered options, concluded that the best solution was to rebuild the Reading Room provided they exercised day to day control, a very welcome outcome for the cash strapped Trustees.

In 1966 the new Reading Room was completed, built to the rear of the site, and a car park laid out, all at a cost of £8,500. The Church provided £6,500 (a sum which was subsequently written off in the Church accounts), with a Management Committee appointed by the Parochial Church Council (PCC).

The new building attracted considerable use and in addition to the Scout and Guide’s groups and ad hoc private bookings the main hall was used for meetings of the Mothers Union, Blind Club, Sticks and Wheels, and Fishermen. A crèche was provided for the children of Holy Trinity parents each Sunday morning and there was a weekly coffee morning.

The new car park was a great asset with spaces being rented out to provide additional income.

In 1980, Draycote, originally the caretaker’s house, which had been let since1925, was empty and dilapidated having a fixed rent that did not cover its maintenance, there was no option but to sell it. The £18,675 raised was used to extend the Reading Room and install a new kitchen.

By the early 1990’s levels of usage of the Reading Room had not been maintained and the main revenue was from the car park permits, a subject that caused a great deal of unpleasantness in the village and much unwelcome publicity. Far from being an asset to the Church the Reading Room had become a liability and as the PCC no longer felt the need for its use as a Church Hall they terminated the Management Agreement, and a new Management Committee was formed.

Since this low ebb in the Reading Room’s fortunes, usage has again flourished due in part to the availability of free parking for Reading Room users, redecoration and the installation of a state of the art catering standard kitchen, making it the ideal location for functions of all types (Alcohol licence held). Being close to Holy Trinity Church has also attracted post Service celebrations and gatherings following Weddings, Christenings and Funerals etc.

An A to Z of clubs and other regular activities provide the opportunity to join Art Classes, Art Appreciation, Aikido, Bridge, Dog Training, Exercise for Health, Pilates, Zumba & T'ai Chi, not to mention still providing a home for the Guides & Brownies.

Children’s parties are regular events which in the past have featured Animal Petting and even a Bouncy Castle!