Danehill Memorial Hall

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History of the Hall courtesy of Danehill Parish Historical Society

The story of the Danehill Memorial Hall has its roots with the past owners of Danehurst (now known as St Raphael's). Danehurst can be dated to around 1827 and at one stage was owned by the Hardy family before it passed into the ownership of Mr. Harold George Messel. He was in fact the younger brother of Colonel Leonard Messel who developed the estate of Nymans a few miles away and adorned it with that remarkable house between the wars.

The Messel occupation of Danehurst came to a rather sad and premature end with the death of Harold's wife Leonora in May 1918, followed by his own two years later. They rest under a finely carved though now somewhat weather-worn tomb in the Danehill burial ground. A more practical monument is the Memorial Hall given to the parish by Mr. Messel in memory of his wife.

In December 1919 Mrs. Marie Corbett wrote a letter to the Danehill Parish Magazine headed "The proposed Memorial Hall". An extract from the letter stated:- "... I beg the hospitality of a small space in your widely read magazine to lay before your readers my views as to their duties in regard to what we all seem to have very much at heart, our Village Memorial Hall. We want it now, and the sooner we get it the better, but of course we must be reasonable. Present prices are exorbitant and we should not get our money's worth".

Mrs. Leonora Messel had been closely involved with the newly formed Danehill Women's lnstitute and when her husband died in 1920 his executors made a donation from his estate of £ 1,000 towards the cost of a Hall for the use of the W.l. in memory of his wife.

The donation was not sufficient to enable the Hall to be built, and additional funds were raised to enable a larger Hall to be built which would also serve as a Memorial to the men of the Parish killed in the Great War of 1914-18. Some of the funds raised came by donations from villagers.

The Danehill Memorial Hall was built in 1923, although the plaque in the Hall has a slightly differently name:
The Leonora Messel Memorial Hall
Given to the Danehill W.l. by Harold G Messel Esq.
In Memory of his Wife

The land on which the Hall had been built was given to the village by Mr. C H Corbett in 1927 who was the Liberal Member of Parliament for East Grinstead from 1906 to 1910. Extra funds also came from his wife Mrs. Marie Corbett. They lived at Woodgate (now Cumnor House School). Mrs. Corbett was active in the Cuckfield Women's Suffrage Society and she liked to employ women in any capacity she could. As her family was providing funds toward the Memorial Hall she was able to employ Miss Hughes who was a female architect. The builders were H & E Waters of Forest Row.

The unusually tall height of the Memorial Hall is because there was a very strong badminton group and it was decided the original design for the Hall was not sufficient for this activity so an extra bit was added to enable badminton to be played. This caused problems as the roof was so high and metal bars had to be inserted to give greater stability.

In addition to the hall being regularly used by the Women's Institute and the badminton group, it later also became used by The Good Companions which had its origins in the British Legion who used to hold an annual Christmas party for the old people of the Village.

The Women's British Legion also held functions in the Hall although there was not a licence to sell alcohol and soft drinks only were available.

Dances were very popular and were held at the Hall during the World War ll and many a romance began at one of these events. Men who were stationed at Woodgate and at Sheffield Park were amongst those who used the Hall for these social occasions.

The Danehill School also used the Hall for their Reception class for several years because of the "bulge" of village children after the Second World War. At Christmas all local children, including those who did not attend the Danehill Primary School were invited to the party.

The present kitchen and lady's cloakroom were built in 1975 and the gentleman's cloakroom added in 1980. The disabled facilities and the present committee room were built on in 2010 when the current storeroom was also refurbished.