GUNNISLAKE HALL – HISTORY
Built in 1878 as a United Methodist chapel, Gunnislake Hall was one of nine chapels of varying denominations operating in the village during the 19th Century. With the decline of the mines and therefore the population of Gunnislake, the chapel was one of many that fell into disuse. A group of local traders, businessmen and mine workers decided they wanted to acquire the chapel, to be used to be ‘beneficial to the moral and social well-being of the inhabitants of Gunnislake.’
Money was made available to buy the hall by Thomas Edwin Crocker ex-inhabitant of the village – He had made his fortune & wanted to help his home village of Gunnislake, so he bought the United Methodist Free Church schoolroom for use as a Reading Room & Men’s Institute to help keep the men out of the pubs. The first meeting to use the building took place on 27-10-1906 called by the Rev R J Pollard as President of the Calstock & District Free Church Council. The building was mortgaged to the village but on the death of Mr. Crocker in 1914 the remaining debt was cancelled. A bronze plaque on the front of the hall gives thanks to Mr. Crocker for his benevolence.
In 1910 the hall was put into trust, initially to ensure that the loan was repaid, but binding the Trustees to ‘permit the hall to be occupied and enjoyed by the said Institute.’
The initial trustees were;
J. Morgan, schoolmaster; J. Mole, stonecutter; W. Pendrey, dealer; T. Bennett, gentleman; W. Wallace, insurance agent; S. Terrell, miner; J. Tretheway, stonemason; Polylaye, stone mason; W. Gibson, shopkeeper; S. Smale, innkeeper; J. Whitford, draper; W. White, insurance agent; F. Charlton, cashier; W. Trefry, navy; W. Wright, stonemason; J. Davey, gentleman; E. Terrell, mine manager.
During this period the trustees established a management committee to run the hall day to day and only became involved in the work of the hall if major decisions were required.
The hall became known as the Gunnislake Public Hall and Institute and expanded its activities to include Billards, Table Tennis and musical evenings. There was also a cinema (films brought in from Plymouth) and dance classes. A subscription membership to use the hall’s facilities on a regular basis was required, limited only to adult men at first, giving rise to the name change to Gunnislake Men’s Institute. Women subscribers were allowed by the 1930s but the name Men’s Institute remained for many more years.
The organisers of the Institute were heavily involved in the running of the annual Gunnislake Carnival and the carnival accounts for 1939 shows donations from; HM the King (on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall), The Earl of Mount Edgecombe, The Duke of Bedford amd Lord Roborough.
During the Second World War the Hall was used for Home Guard meetings and drills and membership subscriptions were waived for members of the armed forces.