There has been a building on this site at Wannock since 1887. The original green corrugated iron structure was described in 1901 by the Rev Edward Walwyn Foley as “The commodious Mission Hall serving the lower end of the parish.”
Wannock in those days was much smaller than Jevington village. It consisted of approximately a dozen cottages, Wannock Farm, the Watermill, Bakery and the Wannock Strawberry & Tea Gardens.
In 1887 the parishioners wished to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria and the Rector, Rev Edward Ebenezer Crake, suggested a Mission Room. There was nowhere at Wannock for people to meet. Wannock residents had to walk to Jevington church to worship and the schoolroom to enjoy concerts, magic lantern shows, lectures or night school.
On 18th July 1887, Carew Davies Gilbert, of East Dean, conveyed a piece of land at Wannock, called ‘Whitings Meadow’, to the rector and churchwardens George Thomas and John Pennington Gorringe as trustees. The land was the ‘site for a building for religious, educational, intellectual and recreative purposes, under the sole management and control of the trustees and their successors.’ The land was valued at £11.16s.6d.
That year the Jubilee Mission Room was completed at a cost £164 1s. 10d. A small vestry lead off the side and an altar stood on a low platform at the far end of the hall. The Diocese of Chichester, The Duke of Devonshire and the Rector made generous contributions and 132 other individuals subscribed. The list includes names of the schoolmasters from Willingdon and Jevington, the blacksmith, local farmers and clergy, the owners of the tea gardens, millers, bakers, a basket maker, a shepherd and the village postmaster. A collection on Jubilee Day, 21st June and proceeds from an opening concert were added to the funds. Many parishioners donated sums of 1 shilling or 6 pence.
The Wannock Jubilee Reading Club was formed and open each night for the men of the parish. I50 books and daily papers were available with tea, coffee and cocoa provided at low cost. Divine Service was held every Wednesday evening and a large choir was formed. About 50 children attended the afternoon Sunday school, run by the Misses Thomas of the Old Mill. A branch of the Temperance Society and the Band of Hope was established with over 70 members. Lectures and Concerts were well attended and enlivened the village in winter months.
Later evening services were held every Sunday and these and the Sunday School continued until St Wilfrid’s church was built in the mid 1960s in the neighbouring parish. There was no running water, so every drop had to be carried from homes, for refreshments and washing up and of course there was no such luxury as a toilet.
By 1959 the future of the building was a cause for concern as structurally it was in poor shape. The rector John Cotton wrote to the Diocesan solicitors for advice. Even with the help of funds from the Wannock Social Club, which held Whist Drives, it was impossible for Jevington church council to maintain the church, the old school, schoolhouse and the mission hall. The building was damp and the floor very uneven. However, we struggled on for another 10 or 11 years by which time the situation was dire. The floor was rotten, so it was no surprise when Hailsham Rural District Council’s Medical Officer condemned it. The Trustees were in an impossible position as they didn’t have funds to improve it but they couldn’t sell it either. So, Rev George Ballard, rector, consulted the Charity Commissions who agreed a new trust deed could be created transferring responsibility from the church officers to a committee of new trustees representing the various organisations in the parish.
Frank Smith and Rupert Edsall standing in front of the old hall in 1973, just prior to its demolition.
A committee headed by Frank Smith was formed, from representatives from local organisations. Funds were raised by an appeal to every household in the parish and some local people generously gave interest free loans. The hall cost in the region of £17,000 with approximately £12,500 obtained in Government and Local Authority grants. Demolition work started in June 1973 and by January the following year the new hall complete with stage, kitchen and cloakrooms was opened by Sue Dixon.
Now re-named Wannock Village Hall it continues to be a centre for community activities.
Researched by Rosalind Hodge