Following the Great War of 1914-1918, there were campaigns throughout the country to erect war memorials to commemorate the service and sacrifice of all who did not return.
The village of Pant is split between the two parishes of Llanymynech and Morton – the hall lies in the latter. While the fallen of Pant are commemorated on the war memorials at St Agathas, Llanymynech, and St Phillip and St James, Morton, the people of the village itself evolved the idea for a small leisure building as a practical commemoration. In 1920 a nucleus of people came together to make plans.
The picture on the left shows Brady Last (1848-1938), the original landowner of the hall site. (courtesy Mrs R Kynaston, his great-granddaughter). He was recorded as the landlord of the Powis Arms in 1901. He later lived on Llynclys Hill and had owned the hall land since 1908. He sold the land to the original trustees for £50.
In February 1922, a document records the purchase of land with conditions that required a building to be erected as a ‘Reading Room Club and Village Institute’ for general purpose use of all residents in Pant. That document also established the name “Pant War Memorial Institute” with management and control of the premises vested in The Management Committee. This Committee was to consist of the Trustees, plus other members to be elected annually by residents of Pant.
The first trustees
The five founding trustees were William Elias Morris, Frederick Lowe, John Rogers, Henry William Eyton Leslie and Alfred Arthur Kynaston. Here is what we know about them; more information is always very welcome.
Alfred Arthur Kynaston (14 November 1876 – 8 December 1946)
‘AAK’ was born at Wern Villa, Crickheath, one of the sons of another Alfred Kynaston. He began his working life as the station master as Llynclys. In July 1900, aged 21, he was knocked down by a goods train and was taken to Oswestry Hospital with a fractured skull and serious injuries to his left arm. The arm had to be amputated, but he recovered from his other injuries. The esteem in which he was already held is shown by the ‘whip round’ held by the community, which presented him with a purse of gold worth £28 in November 1900, equivalent to nearly £3500 today. He continued working for the Cambrian Railway until his retirement, as a clerk at the goods yard in Oswestry.
He lived with his family until he married aged 40. His wife was Swiss-born Josephine Marie Gugolz, who had been employed as a governess/companion in Manchester. They lived at No 2, The Dingle, Pant. He later bought land on Penygarreg Lane and built a new house.
He was committee treasurer for the hall, and also very involved with the ‘bottom chapel’. As a scholarly man, he helped many villagers who could not read or write to manage their affairs. Alfred remained a very active contributor to the hall throughout his life, and is frequently mentioned in the minutes. As a Methodist and abstainer, he had a clause laid down that no drink was to be served on the premises – not a problem at the time with the Powis Arms just across Station Road. (We hope that he would be reassured that drink sales at the hall now need a temporary event notice from the council)
Alfred died suddenly aged 70 in the harsh winter of 1946 from heart failure, while trying to push his car after chapel. The hall committee recorded his death with great regret, standing in silence in tribute to a lifetime of service to the community.
William Elias Morris (1873 – 16 Feb 1935)
William Morris was born in the locality, and lived at Rockwell Cottage in Pant with his wife Rosanna (nee Parry) and daughters Bertha and Olive. He and Rosanna married in January 1901. The 1911 census records that he worked as a delver at the Llanymynech limeworks.
John Rogers (30 Sep 1888 – ?)
John Rogers was the elder surviving son of Samuel and Sarah Jane Rogers, a family recorded in 1911 at Vron Vedw in Pant. He had a younger brother, Alfred Edwin, and an older sister, Mary Jane.
In 1939 he lived at 1 Powis Cottages with his wife Selina and children Edward, John Eric , together with Edward’s wife Phyllis and their daughter Elizabeth. (John Eric was born in 1916 and so was too young to have been one of the founding trustees). He worked as a quarryman at Llynclys lime works. As Jack Rogers, he appears frequently in the minutes of the hall committee into the 1970s.
The clock in the main hall commemorates Jack Rogers and also Bert Morris, another committee stalwart. It was placed by the 1978 committee.
Frederick Lowe (24/2/1889-1968)
Fred Lowe was the third son out of the seven surviving children of Thomas and Sarah Jane Lowe, the village nurse and midwife. He was brought up in the Gin House in Pant. In 1911 he was living with his parents in Pant, and working as a signal porter on the Cambrian railway. Later he ran Woodlands Garage on the main road in Pant; he was recorded as a motor transport clerk on the 1939 register. During World War 2 he worked at engine manufacturers Coventry Climax, who were evacuated to Oswestry in 1941. He married Ethel Millington in 1912, with whom he had two children. Ethel died in 1935 and Fred married Annie Roberts from Whitchurch in 1949. Frederick’s nephew still lives in the village.
Captain Henry William Eyton Leslie MC (1892-1961)
Henry Leslie was a grandson of choral musician Henry Leslie, and lived at Bryn Tanat Hall in Llansantffraid. With a distinguished WW1 service record, he was very much the initial impetus behind the memorial project although his connection to Pant is unclear. His war record included service in Egypt and the Dardanelles in the 1st Hertfordshire Yeomanry from August 1914 to February 1919, and he was awarded both the Military Cross and mentions in despatches. He moved away from the area after the founding of the hall, becoming a managing director at Lloyds of London and travelling the world by ship. He was awarded the freedom of the City of London in 1920. Captain Leslie wrote to the committee in January 1960 resigning as a trustee due to distance and his age, by which time he had retired to Somerset.
The first hall
The first hall building was an ex-WW1 army hut from Park Hall, erected on the site in 1922. It had a timber framework covered in corrugated iron sheets, with a corrugated iron roof. Inside was lined with tongue and groove boards. Possibly not the warmest of buildings!
The hall was fairly primitive by modern standards.The first minutes that we have (August 1932) talk about electric light installation. The toilets were ‘buckets beneath cubicles’ until the mains sewerage was connected in 1970. However it did have a billiards table, a piano and space for the dances that were a regular feature of village life. Heating seems to have been via coal fires. There was a caretaker for many years, opening up and closing down, taking entrance fees, cleaning and generally supervising.
Running the hall
The hall committee has met regularly throughout the decades: the earliest minutes we have date from August 1932. At that time the committee met almost monthly, to discuss and approve requests to book the hall. The minutes from the time record use by a fishing club, many dances and whist drives and the existence of a ‘ladies room’. Other organisations also held events at the hall (as now). Customers included Criggon Radio Station, Porthywaen Band, the Pant pigeon club and Oswestry Cottage hospital.
Hiring agreement was delegated to the secretary in October 1947, initially just for Thursday nights. This is now the job of the booking secretary, directed by an agreed hiring policy.
Although the original building was furnished as a Reading Room, Billiard Room and Club/Institute for the use by residents of Pant, the Management Committee could determine other similar public purposes. The records show some controversy about whether to allow alcohol in the hall, the sale and purchase of various items of equipment as fashions changed, and the ongoing requests for support from the village.
The hall committee has always held all sorts of events to raise funds to maintain and improve the building. It has been known as “The Institute”, “Pant Memorial Hall” or just ‘the village hall’.
Maintaining the tin hut was a challenge. It needed frequent repainting both inside and out, as well as replacement of the galvanised sheets which made up roof and walls.
World War II and beyond
The minute books are interestingly silent on the effect of the Second World War in Pant. Committee meetings stopped between February 1940 and January 1945, although there was income recorded between those dates. Village halls were used in wartime as badly-needed venues for socialising.
The hall soldiered on after the war, with users including the youth club, the pigeon club and a weekly whist drive. The minutes record our long association with the Pant Women’s Institute (still going strong).
Following a recommendation from the Shropshire Community Council, the hall was registered as a charity on 26th March 1965, under the name “Pant Memorial Institute”. That is still the official name (cheques payable to…) although we’ll answer to anything vaguely similar. The original conveyance still acts as our governing document.
By the end of the 1970s the original ‘tin hut’ hall was definitely showing its age. Since 1973 there had been a plan to build a new school and community centre on the site, which meant that there was little point in spending money on the building. This plan was then deferred – in the end it never happened, the present school was built on a different site. It then became worth taking some action.
An ambitious scheme was put in place to modernise the building. The total cost was £37,000, of which £25000 came from a grant from Shropshire Council and the Department of Education and Science. Llanymynech and Pant Parish Council donated a further £3000 and the rest was raised by fundraising events and individual donations. A loan of £6,000 from Oswestry Council filled the last gaps.
The hall was closed in November 1980 for the works to begin. A brick skin was built to replace the tin hut, with a new roof and new floor fitted. The hall gained a kitchen, modern toilets and a proper entrance hall. The committee decamped to various locations round Pant to monitor the works. As always with building projects, the job was longer and more complex than planned, but the hall was back in action the next spring. An official reopening was held on 11th May 1981.
The architect was John Pugh (now MBE for his services to the Porthywaen silver band). His above and beyond contribution to the hall was recognised with a presentation on completion of the works.
To bring the hall into the new millenium, the committee applied to the Heritage Lottery fund. After a great deal of hard work they were able to secure a grant of £99,943. (This shows the effects of inflation since the first rebuild 20 years earlier)
This rebuild added the 25 square metre side room off the main hall, and also refurbished the toilet block, including adding a disabled toilet. The original purpose of the side room was to provide computer training facilities, which were used for several years. (This is why some people refer to this as the ‘tech room’). The room now provides a handy meeting space, a quiet room for livelier events and a ’round table’ without having to set anything up.
21st century – floors, artwork and more
In the first years of the new century, the hall continued to move with the times – with a lot of volunteer work as always. Changes included:
- a refurbished kitchen
- new windows
- smart gravel and planters on the building front
- upgrade to the play area
- new guttering and fascias
- removal of the coin meters for heating – now included in the hire
- addition of fire alarm system and emergency lighting
The hall also now hosts the Pant WW2 memorial plaque. This was originally in the Bottom Chapel, which closed in 2004. The plaque was moved to our entrance hall and rededicated there. Read about the men on the plaque on this page.
Entrance hall refurbishment
By 2018 our long-standing unwelcome guests, the woodworm, were starting to move in force. The entrance hall and storeroom floors were showing their age, and there was also a suspicion of wet rot in these areas. Our prized Canadian maple main floor was at risk – as was the building itself.
With the help of a grant from the National Lottery, a lot of planning, a lot of furniture moving from the committee and some excellent builders – here’s what happened:
This was a massive project, and we are very proud that we got it done on time and more or less to budget. Read more about the entrance hall and storeroom works on this page. The outside was further improved with a painted phone box (thanks, BT), a refurbished bench (Thanks, parish council) and new handrails.
The #Armistice100 project
As the hall was founded as a WW1 memorial, we wanted to mark the centenary of the Armistice. This also took a lot of planning and consulting, including a lively discussion at the 2018 AGM.
After a lot of fundraising and planning, the hall is now the home of our #Armistice100 commemorative artwork, a mini-tourist attraction for Pant and a celebration of the beautiful area in which we live. We’ve also added more planting to this corner of the carpark, providing an attractive welcome to the hall for hirers, locals and passersby.
In 2019 the artwork was joined by the Morton Parish roll of honour, kindly gifted to us. Due to its age and fragility, the original is on long-term loan to Oswestry Town museum, and a photographic copy is displayed in the hall.
The unthinkable – the Coronavirus pandemic
The hall finances are closely monitored and always include reserves. As well as putting money aside for foreseeable items such as roof troubles, window repairs and so on, we also ring-fenced running costs for two years in the event that the hall lost income. Having this money ‘in pots’ allowed us to continue applying for grants despite having reserves. The land was secured for the charity, the bookings were healthy and varied, the building was well looked after – what could possibly produce this situation?
Like the rest of the world – in March 2020 we found out the answer. Lockdown was declared on March 23rd, two days short of the 55th anniversary of our charity registration. After a lot of reading, digesting guidance and discussions on zoom, plus some shopping and rearranging, the hall reopened on September 14th. We were delighted to welcome back a variety of hirers – but as everyone knows, it didn’t last. The second lockdown closed us for November, and at time of writing (January 2021) we are closed again in the third lockdown. There are a very limited set of circumstances in which a community building can be used; we are here to help if any of those apply.
2020 wasn’t a total write off, though. We put in a grant application to the National Lottery just before lockdown, and were delighted to receive the funding. The money was used to upgrade our lighting system – read all about it on this link. The hall now also has a bluetooth speaker system available to all hirers.
A further grant allowed us to buy 40 new chairs, which arrived in December 2020. These are lightweight, stackable, upholstered in smart black vinyl (so easy to clean and usable under the covid-19 restrictions) and most importantly are much more comfortable that the stalwart plastic chairs. We’re all set for our reopening when the time comes.
Towards our centenary…
The events held at the hall have changed over the years, reflecting a more mobile society with very different expectations. That does mean that we also see people from much further afield. We’re still hosting a lot of dancing and even the occasional whist drive – but we’re open to anything that fits in. Before the pandemic we were busy with an enormous variety of events for all ages. There was dancing of several sorts, yoga, mindfulness sessions, psychic events, amateur dramatics and the stalwart Pant Women’s Institute. The hall is also used for band rehearsals (they love our good acoustics) meetings, children’s parties (loads of room for a whale of a time), family celebrations and more. We can’t wait for it all to happen again.
The work always goes on, (open or not!) as anyone who owns a property will understand. We pride ourselves on making the hall somewhere that people want to be. Like all responsible organisations, we ensure that we are up to date with ever-changing charity, health and safety and financial legislation.
There is always more that we want to do – repainting, new facilities, rearrangements. What else would you like to see? Let us know!
The current committee continue the work of nearly a century, and new members are always warmly welcomed.
If anybody reading this has corrections or additions, please contact us.