Old Village Hall


Following on from his article in the last issue about Sparks Corner, David Ruffle continues his history of Yapton with some jottings on the building which now functions as the Co-Op Store. An unimposing building right in the centre of the village but with a story to tell.

lt began life as a Traction Engine Workshop. Built by John Sparks in the 1850s, the building had iron girders which supported heavy lifting gear, beneath which there were work benches with heated water pipes underneath fed from a boiler and a nearby well. Built in brick it was designed with 14 windows so that if desired a conversion to a row of cottages could be made. An office was built on the eastern end which has since been demolished and is now a parking area. At the western end were the fitters’ stores divided by elaborate wooden doors from the workshop. These doors are still remembered by older residents as being there in old village hall days as was the large entrance porch.

The steam era started to decline and in 1924 the premises were auctioned as part of the 4 acre site to Sarah Sparks Agricultural Engineering Works who traded until 193l when she sold up. The workshop was split up with the fitting shop left vacant. Les Harris, a builder, had the yard next door. Les worked very hard to secure the premises for use as a much needed village hall encouraging local dignitaries, businesses and the general public to donate. Some 170 villagers are listed as donating a grand total of £19-15-10d at the time. A loan of £255 was secured from WSCC but of course there was no lottery funding to tap in those days! And so.Yapton & Ford Village Hall came into being around 1934 and special dances were held there to commemorate the 1935 jubilee Celebrations and the 1937 Coronation.

During the 2nd World War, the Village Hall was requisitioned for use by the army. First by the Grenadiers followed by the Argyles who incidentally discovered the floors were not strong enough for their field kitchens which had to go outside on the forecourt. The threat of a local invasion at Clymping was very real. The Home Guard had permission to use the upstairs for a rifle range with railway sleepers protecting the stage window, which is now bricked up but can still be seen from the outside. This was the arched entrance where the traction engines at one time rolled in and out.

Next door, Les Harris’s yard was requisitioned by the Ministry of Fuel and Power as an essential coal depot, later taken over by The Shoreham and West Sussex Coal Company. The buildings behind the hall were used byThe Southern Caravan and Woodworking Company in premises addressed as the Yapton Joinery Works. Folding wooden chairs were made in the joinery works with many going to Olympia and Earls Court. Some were used in the hall. “Perdio” portable record players popular in the 1960s were also made. They also manufactured wooden motor car estate car bodies fitted to Lea Francis’ chassis that became popular because of an exemption from purchase tax.

After the war ended, the Village Hall returned to use for happier events including dances to celebrate the Grand Festival of Britain in 1951 and the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. Naval air staff based at the Ford Airfield helped to swell the numbers. ln 1958 “The Championship Event” made good use of the hall, amongst many events were “Glamorous Grandmother" and “Happiest Married Couple” competitions.

Dance in the Village Hall

ln 1987 the hall was sold for £120,000 (half the cost of the new one) and the premises converted to a convenience store with a post office. Since then there have been a number of refits with the premises changing hands and trading in turn as “The Happy Shopper", "One Stop" and finally, as "The Co-Op" as it remains today.  

David Ruffle
December 2007

(Originally published in Yapton News & Views, January 2008)


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