The Hall

Page 1


A community project exploring the history of the


INTRODUCTION The Sutton Dwellings in St Budeaux were completed in 1937 and formed part of an extensive nationwide building programme by the Trust, mainly in the regions outside London and which included similar estates in Bristol, Birmingham and Bradford. Interwar housing policy was focused on providing the benefits of good housing and green spaces to those who could least afford it. At this time and historically, Plymouth had one of the most densely populated slums in the country where rents were high and living conditions poor. Plymouth was an ideal location for the Sutton Dwellings Trust to build one of their Model Estates and they entered into negotiations to purchase land in the St Budeaux area.

Integral to planning of the Sutton estates were facilities such as community halls, sports fields and play-grounds with the aim of enhancing community life. As such the William Sutton Memorial Hall was a central feature of life on the St Budeaux Estate. This story of the Hall presents a picture of how the Hall was used and what it has meant to residents over the years; a social and community hub, wedding venue and a recreational and safe space for local young people.

William Richard Sutton (1833–1900) founded the UK’s first door-to-door long distance parcel delivery service. At his death the bulk of his considerable wealth was given to establish the William Sutton Housing Trust, a philanthropic trust designed to provide good quality housing for “occupation by the poor of London and other towns and populous places in England.” His will was disputed by his family, but eventually proved and the Sutton Model Dwellings Trust built estates across England, beginning in London and then Plymouth and Birmingham.

LIFE ON THE SUTTON ESTATE The Sutton Model Dwellings were built to a very high standard and accommodation on the new estate was in great demand. Preference was given to those “in poor circumstances and families which included several children.” This article (left) from the Western Morning News 1937 describes the accommodation in St Budeaux, which included central heating, indoor plumbing, storage for perambulators and provision of a playground. (Gardside, P. and Morris, S. Building A Legacy, William Sutton Trust, 1994)

Group photographed in The Hall (date unknown) Photo donated to Tony Williamson

“My family moved into 6 Colin Close in August or September 1937 when I was nearly 9 years old. What a wonderful day that was. Brand new house, white pebble dashed garden front and back”. (As described by Mrs P Twiss in a letter to Tony Williamson dated 20th February 2003)

“My time around St Budeaux has been happy memories. We used to get up to all sorts of mischief as kids! We used to be told to come in when the street lamps were on and it was fun, it was really good fun you know. We had great times .. .everybody knew everybody! “

“My Mum would take us to Mount Wise swimming but she wasn’t content with taking just me and my sister she would load up half the children on the street. She would take gas cylinders and a frying pan and she would cook these burgers on a frying pan on these little gas jets by the swimming pool.” (from an audio interview with Kim Hallett, St Budeaux resident, in February 2019)

A SOCIAL AND COMMUNITY HUB The Hall was designed to provide a central meeting place for tenants of the Sutton Trust Estate and features prominently in many of the accounts and stories we came across. Letters written about life on the estate during WWII describe the Hall as a popular venue for naval personnel and Allied servicemen. “ The dances were well attended by sailors from HMS Impregnable at Bull Point, naval personnel from HMS Drake, New Zealanders, Poles and sometimes Americans, but the Yanks had their own place at Vicarage Road. The American Padre, Roman Catholic Priest Father Sadtowski from Spokane Washington tried to organise a few get togethers, but not too successfully. Many girls met their future husbands there. I met my husband on December 7th 1941 at the Hall and we still live on the Estate, 62 years on.� (Barbara Czarmeta in a letter to Tony Williamson dated 28th December 2003)

Guests at the Wedding of Joan Yorke and Peter Hambly, at the William Sutton Memorial Hall 28th November, 1959

“Our wedding reception was held at the William Sutton Trust Hall, Shelley Way, St Budeaux and it was where 45 people, family and friends, sat down to a hot three course meal of soup, roast pork, apple tart and cream. We had a three tiered wedding cake all of which was provided by Goodbodey’s catering for 6 shillings and 6 pence per head.” “The music at the party was provided by the Trust and consisted of a record player on a table placed on the stage… we had to vacate the Hall by 6pm” “This year will see Peter and I celebrate our 60th Diamond Wedding Anniversary, Thursday 28th November 2019.’’ (From an account given by Joan Hambly about the Wedding of Joan Yorke and Peter Hambly, Saturday 28th November 1959)

Janet Payne (and her cousin) member of the Hall’s Gardening Club, in her grandparents’ garden in Kathleaven Street (date unkown). Photo given to Tony Williamson by Janet Payne.

“The Dance Hall was always a hive of activity, something going on every day. Modern dances three times a week, and one old time dance once a week. Woe betide any of us young folk who dared to do a ‘modern dance’ on the floor should it be an ‘old time night’!...” (As described by Mrs P Twiss in a letter to Tony Williamson dated 20th February 2003)

“ Delivery men would come in and say, ‘I remember drinking Vimto downstairs in the Snooker Room.’ The Snooker Room was never allowed to have alcohol but it was like a bootleg and there were little stories of alcohol being served on a Sunday morning. Mum and Dad would be downstairs enjoying a drink and the children would be upstairs with crisps and a bottle of Vimto.” “When I first started researching the Hall lots of people started offering letters, photos and memories of their times in the Hall.” “The snooker Hall was very successful in keeping the Hall going.. The snooker photographs were donated by Roy Boyce who was the chairman of the snooker club and who operated it from downstairs. The snooker club had a very, very good name in Plymouth - in being a championship table. It was well cut, we kept it to a high standard.” (From an audio interview with Tony Williamson January 2019)

YOUNG PEOPLE AND THE HALL Over the years the Hall has been an essential space for youth clubs, holiday clubs, discos and other activities for local young people. Tony Williamson established FROSTIES in delivering activites. Young people from the current local youth group, run by Barefoot, told Fotonow about their memories of the Hall and what it has meant to them.

Youth Disco at the Hall (date unknown), photo taken by Tony Williamson

“ ‘The Youth Lounge’… this is where we used to hang out with our mates. It used to be lots of fun, it got us out of the house. The last day we had a disco, now all the fun is gone!” “When the youth club was open we had different staff. One was my favourite... It felt nice to talk to someone. When you can’t talk to parents or carers you’d talk to youth club people and they’d just support you because they know it can be hard, life sometimes.”

THE COMMUNITY PROJECT Fotonow CIC worked with Colebrook South West and the help of volunteers to draw this picture together from various sources; these include an existing archive at the Hall, contributions from residents and volunteers, audio recordings, newspaper clippings and archival research. Coffee mornings held at the Hall from January to April 2019 were extremely valuable for meeting residents, talking about their memories and gathering material. Fotonow also worked with local youth group Barefoot to make a short film about their experiences and memories of the Hall and St Budeaux.

Kim Palmer said this about volunteering on the Hall project; “I used to spend a lot of time in St Budeaux as a child, so it was really interesting to get to know it a lot better. I started to find out a lot of things that I had never noticed before.” “It has opened up a whole new set of questions and projects. The Hall project opened a door for me to get to know my local landscape so much better. I want to continue the work I have started because of the project.”


We would like to thank; history research volunteers Kim Palmer, Jen Foster, Phil Brooks and Sam Hewitt - and to all that joined at the coffee mornings and sharing events. Tony Williamson for building the existing archive at the Hall and for passing on community history through his interview. Staff and volunteers at Colebrook SW. Joan Hambly for sharing memories of her wedding day at the Hall and for generously giving us access to her wedding album. Kim Hallett for her detailed accounts of life on the Sutton Estate. Listen to the interview online at: Ryan Cheetham and Jim Baldwin for teaching filmmaking sessions to the youth group. And to Barefoot for Youth Work support. The Heritage Fund and Clarion Futures for support. Project lead and history researcher at Fotonow Lisa Howard.

Published by Fotonow CIC Š 2019 publishing

In memory of Paddy (above left).

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publishers and copyright owners.

A social history project delivered by Fotonow and Colebrook South West (with the help of local residents and volunteers) to research and celebrate the history of The William Sutton Memorial Hall in St Budeaux, Plymouth.

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