GRAND OPENING – JUNE 1898
James Payne quotes from the press report regarding the opening of the hall on June 1st 1898.
Lord and Lady Pirbright, of Henley Park, arrived at the Hall shortly after three o’clock, and were met by Dr Chester at the door. Mr J Payne handed Lady Pirbright a silver key in a case. She then unlocked the door, and the party entered in the hall. She was presented with a bouquet by Miss Courtney, grandchild of the late General Hammersley.
The string band of the Gordon Highlanders (conducted by Bandmaster Windham) having played the opening overture ‘Pastoral,’ Lady Pirbright said : ‘I declare this hall open. I wish it every success, and hope it may fulfil the objects of its promoters, to ensure the recreation and improvement of those for whom it is intended. When the history of our times are written, with its wealth of scientific discoveries, art and research not the least of its prerogatives will he that it has raised homes like this, where people may not alone profit by the diffusion of books and literature, but where they may have recreation and relieve their minds from the tedium of work and thereby improve themselves. I thank you for having trusted me with this delightful duty,’ (loud applause).
The band then played the National Anthem the audience singing most heartily the refrain. Lord Pirbright then addressed the assembly at considerable length with inspiriting and encouraging words.
A vote of thanks was moved by Dr Chester, seconded by Mr F G Britten. The words of his Lordship’s reply and extract from a press report : “Lord Pirbright briefly acknowledged his sense of honour accorded Lady Pirbright and himself. He was however to tender in their sincerest manner their thanks to Dr Chester for al1 he had done and was still doing for that hall. He need not enumerate all his good deeds, but he would just add ‘si monumentum guoeris circumspice,’ and that Hall itself was a monument which they owed him.”
I seconded, and heartily endorsed his Lordship’s words relating to Dr Chester, also expressing the great need of the existence in every village and town of halls of this description, having experienced the want of such institutions in my youthful days.
Lord Pirbright, to show his appreciation of our efforts contributed £25 to our fund for the heating apparatus.
A very pleasant entertainment followed and the following is a press notice relating thereto: – “The stage curtain then rung up and discovered a party of vocalists. Mrs Ormerod in capital voice at once singing to full band accompaniment the solo ‘The Ash Victoria Hall,’ the words of which were by Mr J Payne, and the music by Mr W H Bates, It is needless to say the song was applauded to the echo. In a word the Victoria Hall may be dubbed a complete success.”
There was just one element of controversy that James Payne refers to as did the press report that I saw in the Sheldrake Gazette and that referred to the absence of any Church representatives.