In 1873 Mark Philips, son of Robert Philips and benefactor to the village during the Victorian times, built ‘The Philips and Trevelyan Institute’ (now known as ‘The Gables’) on an acre of land in Smiths Lane, Snitterfield. It was originally built for Henry Clutton, the architect of Welcombe House (which later became the Welcombe Hotel, Stratford) while he worked there.
When Sir George and Lady Caroline Trevelyan (daughter to Robert Needham Philips and niece to Mark Philips) took over Welcombe House, one of their first acts of benevolence to the village was to convert ‘The Institute’ for the use of the people of Snitterfield. An Institute Committee was formed and from that point, until when the building was sold, the house was rented from the Welcombe Estate for £7 per year, whilst also being supported by subscriptions.
The Institute consisted of a Reading and Newsroom, Library and Billiards room. It is recorded that over 700 good books were available for the use of the villagers and the library was opened once a week by Mr Harper, the schoolmaster, who was in charge of the library. Later these books were transferred to the village hall until 1948, when the County Library offered to supply all the books in future and the books were removed from the hall
In 1956, a fortnightly Library Service started to visit Snitterfield and, 50 years later, is still well frequented by villagers, when it stops outside the village hall and other areas of the village. The larger room of the Institute (at present 2, The Gables) was used as a news and reading room and was, also, available for concerts, whist drives and the village debating society. The billiards room (3, The Gables) was very well patronised and tables were available for chess with a bar, run for the sale of non alcoholic drinks. The grounds were levelled off to provide a bowling green and two tennis courts.
The caretaker lived in what is now 1, The Gables and for a short time the post office was run in the Institute by a Mr Moore from whom it was taken over by Mr Morgan (the caretaker at that time) until it was transferred to his house in School Lane.
In 1929, after the death of Lady Trevelyan, Robert Trevelyan (her son) and Mr Place offered to give the Institute as a free gift to the Parish Council. However, it was eventually decided that the Parish Council could not warrant the upkeep of ‘The Institute’ and that of the proposed Village Hall, so it was sold to a Mr Tullet of Birmingham and converted into the three dwellings.
The balance from the sale of the Institute, together with the furniture, was given for the use of the future hall (with a proviso that £50 should be devoted to the provision of a bowling green and tennis court). Robert Trevelyan also offered to give £500 for the building funds of the village hall either as an annexe to the Philips and Trevelyan Institute, or as a separate building. After much debate amongst the villagers it was decided to close the Institute and land on Bearley Road was purchased from Mr WT Chatterley for £50 as a site for the new hall, a bowling green and a tennis court (although in 1949 the ‘new’ tennis club was formed and two hard courts were then used at Ingon Grange).
In 1931 a village hall committee was formed and the Trust Deeds were signed and enrolled with the Charity Commissioners. Under these deeds, the rules for the letting of the Village Hall were drawn up and, at that time, included:
That the Trust Deed rules relating to intoxicating liquor not being brought into the hall must be enforced.
That any person entering the Hall while under the influence of drink must be reported to the Parish Council, and he would be debarred from using the Hall for such time as decided upon by the Council.
That all damage and breakages to be paid for.
That stewards must remain on duty until close of the function.
On 21 January 1932, the Village Hall was formally opened by Mrs RC Trevelyan and the hall was filled with villagers and people from the surrounding district, concluding with the play ‘The Butterfly Queen’ by school children.
During the second world war, the village hall was used for numerous activities including a cinema show for the Warwickshire Troops; Home Guard parades and training (our very own ‘Dad’s Army’) and the making of camouflage netting (the nets were suspended from the great beams that cross below the roof of the room).
The Hall was also used for First Aid lectures, jam making by the Women’s Institute and as an emergency rest centre (with a cooking trench on the waste ground behind the hall). It is recorded that in 1940 the emergency centre was for homeless refugees with parties coming from Coventry and Birmingham at night to sleep on mattresses on the floor, being cared for by the Shelter Committee – one family, husband, wife and baby were ‘in residence’ for two months.
A plaque was presented to the village in 1946 by the ship’s company of HMS Verity in appreciation of kindness shown to their men by Snitterfield during the war and this is still mounted on the wall of the village hall.
Over the years the Village Hall has been used by many clubs and societies including the Bowls and Badminton Clubs and the Women’s Club (a forerunner to the Women’s Institute) who would organise an Old Folk’s Party in the hall at Christmas for every villager over 60 years of age.
In 1953 the hall was used to celebrate the Coronation of the Queen and again to celebrate her Silver and Golden Jubilees.