About Women's Institute Hall (HT)
Including details supplied by Debbie Casey, president of the Rochford W.I. 2017
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Heading down West Street towards the railway station, on the South side of the square sits the prominent Women’s Institute Hall. This yellow stone, Grade II listed building was originally built as the Corn Exchange in 1866 from the designs of architect Frederic Chancellor, on the site of what was once an old Inn named Vernon’s Head. It established itself as the meeting place for farmers and locals. Take a moment to look at the old clock sitting proud on the front of the building. This was a gift to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, just 4 years before she died.
Some sources say that at the turn of the 19th century, Mr Francis, a local businessman moved his printing business from the post office into the building.
The Corn Exchange closed in 1914. The First World War witnessed the purchase of the premises by Miss Augusta Tawke of Bullwood Hall, who turned it into a laundry to provide work for the ‘unfortunate women’ she had taken under her wing. Only a few years later in 1918, it became a garage and repair shop.
Mrs Meeson set up the Rochford Women’s Institute in 1922, renting this distinctive architectural building as a place for country women to meet and socialise; she purchased the Victorian building in 1924 from Miss Tawke by way of mortgage. By 1931, she had paid it off, which was an immense achievement in those days; it remains safe in the care of the W.I. to the present day.
During World War II, members would pick fruit from their gardens and the hall became a jam factory. A canning machine was bought and put into use, canning over a thousand pounds worth of fruit on instruction of the Ministry of Food.
The hall has hosted various competitions including boxing tournaments. The building is still let on a regular basis. It holds the farmers’ market on a monthly basis and community coffee mornings on a Tuesday, as well as the W.I. monthly meeting every second Wednesday of the month. The money raised goes towards the maintenance of keeping the lovely old building in good repair.
|21 West Street
|Historical, Point of Interest, Rochford