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The Reading Room (The Old Village Hall)

The Reading Room as it is now.



Prior to 1913 apart from the Church and the various Public Houses there was no suitable facility in the village to hold public meetings and social gatherings. For many years the idea of a Village Hall (Reading Room) had been discussed but it proved difficult to find a suitable site. However, in 1913 the Market Harborough Co-operative Society stated that they were willing to sell a piece of land adjacent to their premises in Main Street.

Fund Raising and Planning

Mr Payne of Burnside generously came forward and offered not only to pay for the land but also the legal costs involved in the purchase.

A committee was set up and a public meeting held. The sum of £59.2s.6d was raised by public donations, a further £238.2s.6d from loans by various individuals, supplemented by £20.0s.0d. as a result of various fund raising activities in the village. Mr. J Collins of Holt Yard drew up the plans and a Building Committee chaired by the Reverend T. Nevinson was set up.


Tenders were sought for the necessary work and Mr Marlow of Hallaton was awarded the contract for the brickwork and the one for the woodwork to Mr Orton. The original two contracts amounted to £270 but additional items such as heating and other extras took the final total to £300. Building commenced in June and the property was completed in September.

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony was performed by Sir Bache Cunard of Nevill Holt Hall on Saturday 27th September 1913, followed by a tea and concert. In his speech Sir Bache congratulated everyone involved in the project and hoped that business would be well conducted. He went on to suggest to the Committee that on one or two afternoons each week the Reading Room should be made available for the use of the ladies of the village as he did not see the advantage of restricting the use to men only!


The completed building was approached by a set of steps from Main Street. There was a larger room with a stage at the far end, a door on the left hand side led to a smaller room which also contained a small kitchenette. Gentlemen's toilets were located at the front of the building adjacent to the steps and those for the Ladies were at the rear of the building behind the stage.


For almost exactly seventy years the Reading Room (Old Village Hall) formed a vital part of village life, various organisations such as the Parish Council, Whist Team, Sports Teams, Autumn Club, Women's Institute and no doubt others used it for regular meetings. Over the years it also hosted numerous dances and concerts. The picture below shows the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977.

One humorous episode is perhaps worth recalling as evidenced in the adjacent photograph. In 1925 the Whist Team booked the Hall to celebrate winning a trophy but were told that no photography was allowed in the building on Sundays. As a result, dressed in their best clothes they crossed the road to Orton's wood yard which used to be located where the Police House (now 40 Main St.) was subsequently built and had the photograph taken there!

The Whist Team posing in the wood yard!

Village School

In 1981, after a long fight to keep it open the village school was closed. There then followed a period of consultation with the village to determine the best use for the redundant school buildings. The most favoured option was to reuse the old school as a new Village Hall, as the accommodation was larger than the old Village Hall, had better access and improved parking and also had the advantage of extensive grounds.

In 1983 the then current Village Hall Management Committee began negotiations with the charity that owned the school and a long lease was signed which allowed the users of the old Village Hall to transfer down to the new accommodation early in 1988.

Following village votes in 1988 and 1989 it was resolved to discontinue the use of the old Village Hall and sell the building, with the proceeds being invested until needed to purchase another building, or used for the charitable purposes outlined in the 1982 Village Hall Trust Deed. The old Village Hall was eventually sold for commercial purposes with the proceeds being held by the Medbourne Village Hall Charity.

It is rather fitting that this year 2013 will see the hundredth anniversary of the opening of the Reading Room which, over the years, has contributed so much to the history of the village.

Contributed by Keith Sandars, April 2013, with thanks to Tom Price and Dave Tyler for their help.