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Hanney Road, Southmoor.

First phase of new village blood

George Pulley

I arrived in Southmoor in 1956 in my 20s when my parents moved to Hanney Road. I thought, “Why do they want to live in somewhere like that!”

I lived in Oxford and loved the city and all that went on there. Theatre and cinema and things like that. In those days you lived with your parents until you got married. I came out here and thought what am I going to do in a place like this. It was very, very small then. None of the estates were built. I think they were just building the bungalows in Stone Hill Lane. Latton Close was there; it was built to house the people who were on the camp where the Blandy estate now is.

The new Village Hall

There had been murmurs about needing a new village hall for yonks. When the village celebrated its Millennium in 1970 they had a whole week of activities and they raised about £150. In 1973 they called a meeting in the old village hall about what to do with the funds. I turned up at that meeting and said why don’t we put it towards a fund for building a new village hall. The consensus was – yes, good idea - and most of that money could be given on condition that you organise a committee to get the thing off the ground. So I was the first Chairman of the new village hall committee. At one time I was joint chairman of the old village hall committee and the new one. It took from 1973 to 1988.

At first it went very slowly. To start with it was very difficult to find a site. By 1977, which was the Silver Jubilee, it wasn’t going anywhere. We had similar celebrations and the village raised money again (approx. £500?). So they had another public meeting in the village and I stood up and said can’t we put it towards the village hall fund? I still was chairman and the village was growing. Then there was an influx of young people and some more came on the committee and we had a fund-raising committee and everything took off.  We had a village lottery. Len Elkins ran that every week and it raised a lot of money. We did a lot of fund-raising with events in the village apart from the usual jumble sales and so on we had dances and the money was coming in fairly well. Then we applied for grants and we did get grants but we had to find land and Peter Smith and I went round to several land-owners in the village to see what the possibility was of buying or donating land and we couldn’t get any joy really and the last person we thought of was Richard Cox and he had a lot of land around. He owned the land, which is where the new village hall is, and the surrounding land. Richard was very co-operative and agreed to sell us the land at a rate below the market value. There were a lot of conditions and it took a long time with agents and lawyers but we eventually got it for about £600.

Then we had to get plans for the hall and several of us on the committee went round to all the surrounding villages to look at new village halls like Brize Norton, Stanford-in-the-Vale and Cassington to get ideas. I was very keen to get a hall were you could play badminton, because I used to play badminton, but I regret it greatly now because it takes up the hall a lot of time when the Drama Group play but that is just a personal thing! The hall is taken up for an evening sometimes by four people. Brian Hook was the first one to draw up plans but eventually Richard Gardiner took a lot on as well. It was a very combined effort with the village, a lot of people put a lot of time and effort into it. It is wonderful, so many different groups use it. We have added on to it with the Swallow room. I think whatever you have will never be big enough. Another advantage of the village hall is the doctors’ surgery. It started off as a Portakabin near the old school and before that it was held in the Corner house on the Abingdon Road.

The old village hall had to be sold for something other than a meeting place. It was a charity so had to be done through the Charity Commissioners. The new village hall had to be ready at the same time as the old one was sold. I think we got about £20,000 for the old Village hall as a site for houses. We got grants from the Vale through Edith Webb who was a stalwart. She was marvellous. She got us a lot of money for that. Then there was the Lottery. I think the whole thing was about £70-80,000. It was finished in 1988. It was all Richard Cox’s land.

Village News

I was Chairman of the Village News and I had the printing machine in my house, when the Myers moved they passed the Gestetner on to me and I used to “run off with the Ladies” as I put it every month. It was usually Daphne Cooper and Suzanne Walker. It took the whole evening to run then off and someone else collated it all. It went to the Palmers’ bedroom.

Wine Circle

I was in the wine circle in the 70s and still am– I was chairman of that.

Philatelic Society

I got the Philatelic Club in the village. About four of us met in the pub, Roland Botha, Gilbert Bray and Greta Barber. We met in Roland’s house but we got so many members that we had to meet in the village hall once a month. We called ourselves the North Berks Philatelic Society and it is still called that.

When the new village hall came we wanted to meet there but they wouldn’t agree that we were a village organisation and most of our members came from out of the village. So Greta Barber got us the Hinton Waldrist Hall for about a quarter of the price of the Southmoor one. They had a 25th Anniversary dinner recently.

Drama Group and my Morris 8

When I first moved I had a 1938 Morris 8. The first play I was in with the Drama Group, I wrote the wretched thing off coming home. It was misty and my lights were not very good and I was coming back between Fyfield and Southmoor (before the road was widened) and a car coming the other way, the headlights dazzled me and the next thing I knew I’d across the road and into the ditch and turned it over. It was the time of Suez, and petrol was short and I had a two gallon can of petrol in the back. I wasn’t hurt and I managed to climb out and get away from it as I thought it was going to blow up with all this petrol but it didn’t. I had to walk home from there and that was the first night of the play. I didn’t tell anyone until after the performance. I was determined to do it. The show must go on! Cliffs towed it back and I got £10 scrap for it.

I was very reserved until I joined the Drama Group and I think it is the same with some of our young members now. It really brings them out. I think we ought to have a drama youth club and then they would be our future members. The Group had its 50th Anniversary Celebration this year.

NB George Pulley is known to have lived at different times, in Hanney Road, Laurel Drive and Rimes Close.