The History of Burton Pidsea Memorial Hall
From its conception in the early 1940’s to 2018
Bill Marwood & Carol Taylor
On the back cover of most books you will find a taster, a few words to whet your appetite and persuade you to read the book. A taster of our story might excite the reader and make them want to read the full tale. Our story involves a farmer, a self-made man, a generous benefactor, a grieving mother, a lost son, the 1946 Grand National, a lovely cottage, a flutter on a horse, a movie maker and a rural village with a strong sense of community.
In this ‘History of Burton Pidsea Memorial Hall 1954 – 2018’ I will tell you why the Hall was built, how the funds were raised and who raised them. You could actually be present at the moment that the Memorial Hall was opened in 1954 as the events of the day were recorded on 8mm film and are now available on a DVD. I will tell you how the extension came to be added and the week of celebrations that followed in 1974, some twenty years after the Memorial Hall was built. Finally I will tell you how the Extension was refurbished and the Hall enlarged in 2016 and, as this story has a happy ending, how in 2017/18 the aging structure was stripped back to its skeleton and rebuilt around the original
distinctive laminated beams.
Our story begins with the farmer, a self-made man who also happens to be our generous benefactor, the man who had
the flutter and the forward thinking man who commissioned the 8mm film to be taken to record these events in 1953 and 1954, his name was Tommy Harrison. Tommy was born in Burton Pidsea in 1914, he was educated at Hymers College in Hull. As a man Tommy lived at Manor Farm and at Fitling Hall, he farmed land at both. He moved back to live in Burton Pidsea when he bought and renovated Chatt House in the 1940s. In those days Burton Pidsea was a much smaller community with agriculture and supporting industries being the major employers, many, many families relied
on Tommy Harrison for their livelihoods.
Tommy was a popular boss referred to affectionately as ‘The Lord of the Manor’, he used to say that he made his money from Pigs, Peas and Potatoes. He was a self-made man and despite his success in farming, he never forgot the days when he couldn’t
afford new laces for his boots. Like most people involved in food production during the war, the workers of Manor Farm played an important part in the war effort with food production.
Sons of Burton Pidsea also ‘joined up’ to fight for their Country in both world wars, many lost their lives. Don Rawson was one young man who gave his life for his country which leads us on to introduce ‘The grieving Mother’ Eva Rawson and her tireless efforts for a fitting memorial for all who fought in the war and for those from Burton Pidsea who lost their lives in two world wars.
Frank Rawson and his wife Eva were Landlord and Landlady of The Nancy Inn, they lost ‘their only dear son’ Don who was killed in action during the Second World War, he was a rear gunner in a Lancaster Bomber in 267 Squadron. ‘Donald William Rawson (Sgt. A.G., R.A.F.G.R.) was reported missing on op’s, killed off of Dieppe, France, July 5th 1944.’
A quote from a publication called ‘Burton Pidsea’ tells us that ‘Mrs Eva Rawson who died on the 28th of December 1950 aged 45 had worked unceasingly for a worthy memorial to the men of the village who had served and died in two world wars.’ Sadly Eva would not see the Memorial Hall she had worked so hard for but she would have been aware that it was to be built and was the focus of efforts of fund raising orchestrated by Tommy Harrison.
The idea of a Hall for the village as a War Memorial would have been decided upon just after the end of the War but how on earth would they ever be able to afford such an ambitious project in a relatively poor rural community like ours? During the early 1900s social events involving more than a few people would be held in the Village School, dances, whist drives, wedding receptions, sport receptions and more. People would move desks and tables to the sides of the two classrooms and slide back the folding partition that separated them to create a space for their activity and let the fun begin. At the end of the evening they rolled their sleeves up and put the furniture back where it belonged. The people of Burton Pidsea must have often dreamed of having a Village Hall for many years but would never have dreamed that they would have one, not until Eva Rawson and Tommy Harrison put their heads together.
Moving on then to the first Grand National to be run since the end of World War Two, it was 1946. The Grand National had not been run during the war, normal life was put on hold as thrift was the key word and such an extravagance would have been frivolous. Aintree had been used during the war years as a huge vehicle park for hundreds of military vehicles. April 5th 1946 saw the first Grand National race meeting for eight years. It was an important occasion, a sign that we were getting back to normality after years of conflict. People converged on Aintree from all corners of the
United Kingdom to celebrate this event including one smart well loved man from Burton Pidsea, Tommy Harrison.
Tommy liked a flutter and placed a bet on a rank outsider called ‘Lovely Cottage’ and it won! The odds were high and Tommy won some serious money. Tommy was determined to put his winnings to good use, for the benefit of Burton Pidsea, the village he loved.
With his winnings Tommy bought and gifted to Burton Pidsea, a piece of land to the south of the village large enough for a Memorial Hall and Playing fields. The parcel of land which I believe belonged to the Ministry of Defence had been a search light battery that shone their light at German Bombers flying across the North Sea to bomb Kingston upon Hull and Cities beyond. The search lights were removed leaving a field half covered in concrete bases which the lights had been seated upon. The concrete was broken up by local contractors who gave their time and effort freely. Only one building was left standing, this was the shower block and toilets. This building was later converted into a dwelling and named ‘Lovely Cottage’ for obvious reasons.
For months and months local people and school children would collect lumps of concrete in buckets and barrows after school and at weekends, piling them in heaps to be used as foundations for the new Memorial Hall. Next began the huge task of raising enough money to build our Memorial Hall
Tommy Harrison proposed that a Grand Garden Party be held in the grounds of Chatt House, his home. This was to be an annual event and all proceeds from tickets, stalls, tombolas, rides and raffles would go towards the Memorial Hall Fund. Other big houses in the village also hosted Garden Parties. Whist Drives were run on a regular basis in the School Hall, as were dances to raise more funds for the Memorial Hall Fund. Tommy gathered a group of his friends, some from Hull, they set about raising money. Some of Tommy’s friends and others who were heavily involved were later
honoured by being made Freemen of Burton Pidsea.
Tommy was challenged on one occasion to see if he could raise £1,000 for the Memorial Hall in 24 hours, he accepted the challenge. £1,000 was a huge amount of money in those days but undaunted he laid his plans. Tommy had many friends, as a very successful farmer/ business man Tommy had many high society contacts he could call upon for support which he did to meet this challenge. Tommy got in touch with a famous lady opera singer called Sandra Brown and invited her to come to Chatt House and sing to help raise funds for the building of the Burton Pidsea Memorial Hall. Sandra accepted the invitation and sang to an assembled audience who paid handsomely for the privilege of hearing this then, super star, sing. Tommy won his challenge and raised the £1,000 towards his project.
In all it took some eight years to raise enough money to build the Memorial Hall. Local Tradesmen gave freely of their time to prepare for the construction of the Memorial Hall and to fit plumbing and electrics. The Memorial Hall was pre-fabricated in Hull and built on the footings and foundations laid by villagers and local tradesmen. Many are remembered to this day for their contributions, Charlie Hodgson, Jack Maston, Eric Walker, Bernard Walker and Hewetsons, the company who laid the floor. We have an old photograph and an 8mm film clip of the first sod being cut,
Tommy Harrison handed the special spade to Frank Rawson, Landlord of the Nancy Inn who cut the sod. Frank performed this symbolic task in memory of his deceased wife Eva Rawson who worked tirelessly to raise funds for a fitting memorial to all from our village who gave their lives in two world wars so that we could be free. The total cost to build the Memorial Hall in 1954 came to almost £10,000, this is equivalent to about £205,000 today.
There were two huge events in Burton Pidsea, the first in 1953 was the celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the second. Villagers dressed in their Sunday best flocked to watch one of the three television sets in the village, one in the Church, one in the Black Bull and the other in the Bungalow up Carr Road. The first edition of The Burton Pidsea Story was written by the Headmaster of the School, Mr G.T. Asquith, a copy of this booklet was given to
each child in the school as a souvenir of this historic day. Mr Asquith wrote ‘Your School Managers thought that you could have no better souvenir than the story of your village and so this book has been written and is presented to you in the hope that you will always take a pride in Burton Pidsea and remember the occasion that this book commemorates.’ An Oak tree was planted in the cemetery by the oldest resident of the village and from £190 collected from the people of the village, an individual Flowering Cherry tree was planted for each child in the village. A Pageant written by Ronnie Wray was performed in the grounds of Chatt House telling the story of Burton Pidsea and in the evening a dance was held in the School.
The second big event in Burton Pidsea was on the 31st of March 1954, the opening of The Burton Pidsea Memorial Hall. Tommy Harrison a forward thinking man asked another resident of the village Peter Caley if he would film the events of 1953 and 1954 for posterity.
This film, five rolls of 8mm film, was discovered a few years ago, lent to us by Peter and his family and put onto DVD so that amazingly you can watch today the Coronation celebrations and the building and opening of the Memorial Hall.
This is what Peter Caley wrote for me about the section of film he took showing the opening of the Memorial Hall. “Reel 5 – The last piece of the film shows the Earl of Shrewsbury arriving in the village in his Rolls-Royce and being presented with a book from Tommy Harrison He is introduced to Tom Asquith the village Head
Master and shown around the school yard. The Earl and Tom Harrison then visit Holderness Plough Company, the only member of their staff shown is Jack Lawson the store keeper. Notice the absence of motor cars in the village in 1954. One of the other cars to be seen is my grey Triumph Roadster hidden behind the Rolls-Royce. The opening of the Hall was filmed with my home made flood light and is only very average. Tom Harrison is shown making a speech but there is no sign of the Earl of Shrewsbury, the film seems to have missed his head. There are two Sergeants with rifles in front of the large Union Flag and the flag is undraped by an officer in spectacles. There seems to have been a ‘What’s my Job’ game being played with Tom Asquith in the chair. The panel were Mr T.B. MacKim, Mrs J.N. Jenkin, Miss H Drasdo and Major D.W.T Bruce, F.C.A. The name Viggo Jensen appears, he was a Hull City Footballer at the time and I am wondering if he was sitting behind Tom Asquith. A choir of girls sing after the game and the film closes with the Memorial Plaque to those who lost their lives in the 1914-1918 and 1939 – 1945 wars.”
Fund raising to support the Memorial Hall continued with Garden Parties, Annual Pig & Cake Balls, Whist Drives and much more. The Pig & Cake Ball was a grand, really ‘posh’ affair with evening dress or lounge suit mandatory.
Wedding Receptions were held in the Hall, Children’s Parties, Dances, Plays, WI meetings, Derby & Joan and much more. Many, many groups got good use from the Memorial Hall and it became the focal centre of the community serving the village so well that plans were drawn up to add an extension to the Memorial Hall to add a kitchen and another space that could be used for receptions, meetings, dining and perhaps table tennis.
Twenty years later on Saturday 5th of April 1974 celebrations were held to mark the opening of the much needed Memorial Hall Extension. There was a week long programme of events to celebrate this grand opening of the Extension. The ‘Burton Pidsea’ Book was added to and republished, Tommy Harrison wrote the Forward with great insight and wisdom, it is well worth reading!
As Tommy prophesied life and community have indeed changed very much since he wrote his words back in 1974, some forty four years later as I write this brief history of The Memorial Hall, the change continues. The one thing that remains unchanged is our community’s need for a place to meet, to socialise, to pursue pastimes, hobbies, sport, keep fit, meditate, sing, dance and so much more. Our Memorial Hall is so important to the people of Burton Pidsea to help us remember our past, the sacrifice of so many, the supreme efforts made by so many to provide and improve this special space.
Sadly on November 2nd 1978 Tommy Harrison died at the age of sixty four, no man has done more for Burton Pidsea than Tommy who loved this village so much. Typically Tommy asked for ‘Family Flowers only but donations if desired for The Burton Pidsea Memorial Hall Fund’. Fund raising continued, Garden Parties and Pig & Cake Balls were replaced by our Summer Festival which continues to provide much needed revenue for the Memorial Hall to this day. In my opinion the Hall also stands as a Memorial to the man who did so much for his village, Tommy Harrison 1914 – 1978.
From the Memorial Hall’s conception between the two world wars, the energy and enthusiasm to build our Hall was kept alive by passionate people, a quote here from the first commemorative Handbook and programme published for the Memorial Hall’s opening
“During the summer of 1943, inspired by the success of war-times saving weeks, the scheme was revived. In July a public meeting was held in the School and a committee was elected to raise money for the purpose of building a Village Hall. It was agreed that the committee should act until the end of the war, and when sufficient money had been raised, the Parish should be consulted as to the plan, site and expenditure.” Furthermore “At a Committee Meeting held in April 1947 it was agreed that the Village Hall Fund should be known as The War Memorial Fund”
So you can see that since the 1940’s groups of like minded people have given of their time generously and freely to provide our community with a special space, a special place for us to come together as a village for so many different reasons. The numbers of individuals who have formed these committees over the years must run into certainly hundreds of people who have all worked very hard and made things happen.
I have had to turn to Carol Taylor for more recent detailed information about the role the Memorial Hall has played in all our lives and the supreme efforts our committee members have made on our behalf over so many years. Carol wrote: “During the 1970s and 80s the village grew in population and many new activities and clubs were run at the hall. There were dances and parties, playgroup, youth club and many more. A look at the back issues of the village
newsletter, which started in 1977, shows the variety of users. There were many Christmas, Easter and Summer fairs as well as the Annual Festival, wedding receptions, Anniversaries, Christening parties, Birthday Parties and Wakes.”
During the 90s however it was becoming obvious that the fabric of the building was showing its age. The committees have over the years struggled manfully with upkeep but it was decided that, looking to the future, some very major rebuilding was going to be needed and a new build fund was established. Then there began a never ending struggle to keep the hall habitable, whilst still putting money aside for the future. The hall continued to host big events like the Tribal Gathering bike festival, the 10K run and smaller events like the car boots, jumble sales, and craft fairs.
Gradually the money in the new build fund grew and in 2006 it was decided to begin looking seriously at a replacement hall. Surveys were carried out, different types of hall considered and the picture that emerged was that people really loved the hall, it held their memories and was of course a Memorial to fallen villagers, lost family members and friends. They did not want a replacement they wanted a refurbishment. Plans were drawn up and eventually passed by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
If the hall was held in great esteem before, it was nothing to the role it played in the catastrophic floods of 2007 when 44 people lived in the hall for a week. On June 26th 2007 Burton Pidsea flooded, 135 houses, a pub and the primary school were under water. The hall became a place of refuge, the kitchen volunteers prepared and served hot food, camp beds were set up and evacuation teams brought people in from inundated properties. The hall was the centre of a whole village pulling together with no help from outside. In fact one official source stated “There is no way in or out of Burton Pidsea, you are on your own” and so we were and we got on with it with very little recognition or publicity.
It was soon realised that although the funds were being raised we would need help and in 2009 new ways of funding were being considered. The first application to the lottery was for us to be allowed to actually put a bid in. When permission was granted a bid to the Big Lottery was submitted in 2014 and it was rejected but with a very useful critique and permission to try again.
At this time a survey of the structure of the hall was undertaken and the results were a shock. The south wall was not only failing but was dangerous. Immediate action was taken using money from the wind farms and almost the whole of the new build fund money, the south end of the hall was totally rebuilt by Orchard Builders.
A second bid to the Big Lottery was prepared and written by Alexis Henderson with Stewart Willie preparing the financial information and Roger Peyman the technical advice. Many others contributed but throughout the bid process it has been these three who have guided it all forward. There has been wonderful support financially and practically from our growing community through Burton Pidsea Parish Council, Burton Pidsea Wind Farm, Roos Wind Farm and Tedder Hill Wind Farm who have all contributed so much. The bid to The National Lottery was successful, a professional team was appointed and everyone was very pleased when a local building firm the Soper Group got the contract and started their work in September 2017.
The committee have all worked tirelessly to pay the bills (each invoice has to be checked and then claimed individually from the lottery), to produce this brochure, to decide on colours, materials, flooring and kitchen. At the same time these people have been busy advertising the New Memorial Hall, taking bookings and inviting potential groups who will bring all the classes to the Memorial Hall. The committee continued their hard work arranging the formal opening, the afternoon celebration, the evening dance and a party for the children.
Thank you to all who have contributed in any way, so that, building upon the sterling work of all those who have gone before us, we have built a Memorial building and a community hub of which we can all be very proud.
Please see here Tommy Harrison our great benefactor seated outside Chatt House on an oak bench that he had just presented to his friend Ron Wray.
Ron was a local historian, local dialect poet, finder of the Gold Saxon Cross in the yard of Graysgarth Farm. Ron was also director of The Pageant ‘The Story of Burton Pidsea’ enacted in Chatt House Gardens as part of the Coronation celebration Ron was the commanding Officer of The Home Guard in Burton Pidsea in the second world war. Ron Wray once described himself as a ‘Peasant of this Parish’ he too gave much to his community.
Burton Pidsea Memorial Hall & Playing Fields, Burton Pidsea, East Yorkshire HU12 9AN. Registered Charity No: 523230