Need for a general meeting place
Before the village hall was built, social activities organised in the village were held at the ‘Church Room’ in Ovingdean Road, which now houses the Ovingdean Nursery School. The Church Room was built in 1873 as a ‘National School’ but closed due to dwindling numbers of children in 1907. At that time there was no other general meeting place available in the village, so children’s parties, whist drives and other social events were held there. Conscious that the building was much too small for the growing population of Ovingdean, it was decided that a new village hall should be built. A number of residents formed a trustee group and the building was financed with a £300 loan and local fundraising. In 1932, on land leased from Brighton Corporation the predecessor to the present village hall, was built by a local man, Bill Davis.
It was generally ‘The place to be’
The village hall was a very basic design, heating was provided by two fireplaces, and the building was constructed of weatherboarding, but it was a very welcome addition to the village. Reports of the first dance, complete with a dance band, which was held in the new hall, tell of the ladies in their ‘dance dresses’ and ‘people packed in like sardines’. Of course at that time the hall was not licensed for the sale of alcohol, and so soft drinks were the order of the day. In the late thirties there was a putting green behind the village hall and this was very popular with villagers who used to play there regularly and it was generally seen as ‘the place to be’.
Finished building in 1986
One of the stalwarts of the old village hall was the Bridge Club who used it twice a week and was very protective of it for many years. By the 1980s the building was in a poor state; it was becoming increasingly difficult to finance repairs and it was eventually decided to begin fundraising for a new village hall. It was perhaps very fortuitous that the new hall was finished in 1986, as it is questionable whether the old building would have survived the ‘Great Storm’ of the following year.