A History of the Hall
Great War origins
The proposal to build a village hall in Lee originated at a vestry meeting in September 1919 when it discussed ways of commemorating the service rendered to the country by a very large proportion of the parishioners. 76 men served in the war, of which 16 died. Following public subscription and general village fund-raising, a Trust was set up in July 1923 to erect and maintain a Memorial Hall in memory of the inhabitants of Lee who laid down their lives in the Great War 1914-1918. The original trustees were Mrs. E.Tugwell, Lt.Col. R.Longstaff and the Rev. W.F.MacMichael. Lt.Col. Longstaff laid the foundation stone on 16 August 1923 and the building was completed in 1924 at a cost of £990. Mrs. Tugwell bequeathed the land on which the hall was built to the Trustees.
Miss Avice Drake-Cutliffe presented the clock in the tower in memory of her late brother, Lt. B.H.H.Drake-Cutliffe.
Second World War
Following the 1939-1945 conflict, proposals were made to extend the hall in memory of those who fell in the Second World War. The extensions were to provide modern sanitation, improve the kitchen facilities and to extend the eastern end of the hall to provide committee rooms and improve stage facilities. During 1947-1961, the local community raised funds and a grant was obtained to finance the project. Mr. & Mrs. Pilley donated the additional land required. Mrs.C.E.J.Gover, wife of the Rector of Bratton Fleming and daughter of the late Rev. W.F.MacMichael, who was vicar of Lee and one of the original Trustees, opened the extension in 1962.
In 1994, the late Mrs.I.Pilley bequeathed School Meadow (also known as Pixie Meadow) to the Trustees. This field adjoins the hall and had been used for many years to hold events. Improvements were made to the field over the next couple of years, including drainage, fencing and planting a fuchsia hedge alongside the road. This work, and especially the fuchsia hedge, won for the hall in 1996 an award from the North Devon Conversation Society of The Endymion Shield.
Over the years, the Trustees have made improvements to the hall and its facilities. Electric lighting was installed in 1937, with the hall being one of the first places in the village to obtain this. Over the years, improvements have been made to the kitchen, toilets and the stage, and an access ramp for wheel chairs was constructed. Heating of the main hall started as a solid fuel open fire, which was replaced in 1967 by an oil stove. Electric heaters were added in later years to supplement the heating. These were superseded in 1999 by a modern oil-fired central heating system for the whole building. Improvements to the hall were recognised by the award in 1994 of the National Westminster Bank Trophy for the best run village hall in North Devon, having been runner-up in 1992.
Since its construction, the village hall has been the main centre of village activity. For many years, a popular social club was run successfully seven days a week. The activities available included snooker, billiards and darts. In addition, dances and whist drives were held and it was usual for an amateur play to be put on each winter. After the Second World War, it was through these activities that funds were raised for the proposed extensions. Other organisations in the village, such as the Women’s Institute which was started in Lee in April 1926, used the hall for their regular meetings.
Although the advent of television changed village life and saw the demise of the social club, the Memorial Hall remains the focal point of village life and, for a village which now has less than 200 permanent residents, is well used. However, in order to ensure that the Hall would be able to continue to serve the village through the 21st century, it became clear that its facilities would need updating to bring them up to modern requirements and expectations. Therefore plans were drawn up to provide a new kitchen, toilets, much enhanced facilities for disabled people, and more flexible use of the stage and committee room. A completely new system for sewage disposal was also urgently needed. Great care was taken to ensure that the new buildings would not only blend in with the fine original hall but would also enhance the visual appearance of the whole complex. After a major fund raising campaign involving applications for grants, appeals for donations and many fund raising events, building work started in November 2009. Despite dreadful weather for much of the winter, the building work was largely completed by the end of February 2010. Subsequently, a team of volunteers redecorated the original hall and thoroughly cleaned the whole building. Then, on 27 March 2010, the building was reopened in a day of celebrating village life. Sixteen village organisations took part and refreshments were served from the new kitchen. Over 200 people attended during the day which marked the beginning of a new stage in the long and distinguished history of Lee Memorial Hall. The development project cost around £120,000 and was fully funded through grants, donations, fund-raising events and the use of hall reserves.