Guildhall to Village Hall
The first reference to a Guildhall is found in 1563 in the 'Survey of Kennett and Kentford'. "The Foeffees (trustees) of Kennett with Kentford holde a house in Kentford called the guildhall conteyning in length 60 foote & in breadh 18 foote & more lying between the king's highway on the southe … the east head abutting upon the churchyarde of Kentford"
The hall would have been made of wood and plaster and was probably built around 1457 when there are records of money and property being left to the Guild of Blessed Mary and the Guild of St John the Baptist, both of Kentford, for the building of the new hall. The site is believed to have been on the north side of Bury Road, and on the western side of the Church, which used to be known as the Guildhall Field.
The Guildhall would have been used both for the maintenance and worship of the parish church and for social gatherings and would probably have been the centre of social life for both Kennett and Kentford - a direct forerunner of today's village hall.
Between 1457 and 1563 the running of the Guildhall passed from the Guilds to the Foeffees during the Reformation years and that would have spelt the end of the social side of the hall's existence.
The trustees appointed in 1745 were admitted to "a piece of land ½ acre or less on part of which a messuage or tenement formerly stood called the Guildhall". The 15thC building had evidently fallen down by this time and not been replaced. The land, by now known as Guildhall Close or Pightle, was subsequently rented out in 1746 to Christopher Taylor for 7/6d per year.
In the Enclosure Act of 1827 this land was awarded to John Wellsman who then had Bull Farm and 5 acres of land behind the Church. In exchange the trustees were given 1½ acres on Herringswell Road next to the 13 acres of Kentford Town Lands. In the 1930's these lands were sold, at the suggestion of the Charity Commissioners, and the interest from the sum raised was paid out in the Parish Charities.
The Chairman of the Parish Meeting, Mr J H Wright, wrote to the L & NE Railway Company in 1926 pointing out that 13 out of 40 children attending the school were railwaymen's children and asking for a donation to the School Roll.
The idea of a Village Hall at Kentford was proposed at a Special Parish Meeting in 1938 after the sale of Parish Lands through Mildenhall RDC for £102. 6s 4d which was to be invested in 3½% War Stock until needed.
On 8th February 1939 a public meeting was held at the Village School to consider the proposal. With 40 residents present, a large proportion voted in favour.
During World War II residents carried on fund raising via an enthusiastic Working and Entertainment Committee which held Fêtes, Whist Drives, Concerts, Dances, Grand Draws and other projects. In October 1945 the Fund had raised £423.
By 1947 the Fund stood at £550 and Kentford Voluntary School was closed in April of that year.
The Fund reached £800 in November 1950 with the realisation of £100 from the 3½% War Stock investment and in June 1951 the decision was made to purchase the Kentford School premises from the Diocesan Authorities and convert it into a Village Hall. The Ministry of Education offered £600 Grant Aid. By December, Kennett had agreed to join the scheme and made over their Village Hall Fund of about £450. Work then started on repairing the existing structure and adding a large reception room and two cloakrooms so that on Coronation Day, 1953 the Coronation Committee were able to provide a sit-down supper for Kentford residents in the new part of the hall. In August extensions and repairs were completed to Phase 1 and the hall was now available for public bookings.
The wartime Moulton & District Nursing Association having closed down, a proportionate donation of £112 was allocated to Kentford. This sum, along with two donations of £20 from the Mildenhall Sunday Cinema profits, was utilised to establish a room in the Hall to function as a Medical Clinic.
From early days it had been agreed that as the Village Hall was located in Kentford, the contemplated Playing Fields should, if at all possible, be located in Kennett and in December 1955 Mr Donald Maclaren acquired a piece of land of 1.187 acres between Kennett Railway Station and Kennett School. He made a gift of this land to the Management Committee.
Finally in February 1958 Mr E L Gosling made a free Gift of a further 3.162 acres adjoining the Maclaren plot. The area was now large enough to commence laying out the Football and Cricket grounds and a large car park, as well as sowing grass seed and hedging-in the area.
The management committee was now known as the Kentford and Kennett Village Hall and Playing Fields Association, unique in crossing the County boundaries of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.
The need to replace the pavilion on the playing fields in Kennett led to proposals in 1996 to sell the Kentford village hall and use the proceeds and money raised through car boot sales, and lottery grants to fund a new purpose built facility in Kennett. This idea was dropped in the face of opposition from Kentford residents who were incensed at the prospect of losing the only public building in the village. Fund raising still continues to replace the Kennett pavilion and the hope is that this will be in place in 2001.
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