History of Abbots Leigh Village Hall

The Miles family of Leigh Court owned the Abbots Leigh Estate throughout the nineteenth century. In 1894 the Parish Council was established and Sir Cecil Miles, the 3rd Baron Miles became a member of the Council. He provided funding for a Village Hall which was designed by a qualified local resident, Edward Down of Leigh Bank and completed in 1896. The date and the Miles crest are above the Hall door.

The hall soon became well-used for a range of events - parties, concerts, plays - but its role changed with start of the Great War.  During the war the village put on several concerts and plays for the troops stationed locally. In return a Scottish regiment camping in the grounds of Ashton Court put on a concert in the Village Hall as a thank-you. The hall was also used as a centre where carefully packed eggs could be left before being collected and sent over to France.  Some servant girls from the big houses wrote their names and addresses on the
eggs in the hope of a letter from a lonely soldier.

Over and above the war, 1915 was a crucial year for the hall. In October the whole Abbots Leigh Estate went up for auction at the Grand Hotel, Bristol.  You can read more detail about this here.  The hall was sold to Col. Carey Batten of Leigh Lodge for £190. After the war the Village Hall was sold by Batten’s son George to Yda Richardson, niece of William Wills, later Lord Winterstoke and from 1918 owner of the Manor House. In March 1927, at a grand Concert and Dance Yda Richardson presented the Deeds of the Hall to the village.  These were accepted by Ingrham Gunn, then Chairman of the Parish Council.



The hall continued to be used for whist drives, dances, youth club, parties, pantomimes, wedding receptions, jumble sales, and meetings and as a polling station. One of the most popular events was the annual party given by the Frys of the Priory, as was an annual party for the children of the village. These parties covered a period of almost 40 years up to the start of the second world war. In 1938 the Abbots Leigh Women’s Institute was formed and used (and still uses) the hall for monthly meetings.

At the outbreak of the second world war a large number of children were evacuated from east London and arrived at the Hall to be billeted with local households. The village school was already full with local children so the hall was taken over and used to provide an education for the evacuated children.  With many soldiers stationed in and around the village the NAAFI took over the hall in the evenings. The kitchen was turned into a canteen run by volunteers every evening from 6.00-10.00 pm. During 1940-41 when air raids over Bristol were common a sentry was stationed on duty outside the hall. First Aid classes were held in the hall and gas masks were distributed from the hall. The WI made plum, blackberry and apple jam to support the war effort.

In 1975 the stairs and balcony were designed by Colin Woodward – whom many of you will remember - and installed with a local resident carpenter Tony Mitchell
carrying out the work. Further improvements were made in 1995 with the caretaker’s kitchen and sitting room accommodation moved upstairs and the addition of an
additional meeting space (the John Butler Room) on the lower floor.

Since then there have been improvements to the hall ground floor including the upgrading of the floor of the main hall, improvement of the kitchen and its equipment,
removal of the stage, and improvements to audio-visual equipment. But only minor repairs to the flat were made., until 2022, when the flat was fulyl refurbished.