Toft, Cambridge

Toft People's Hall

As related by Ken Tebbit in 1999.

We have to look at the village as it was before World War II - before television!! What did everyone do in the evenings?

There was a pub, but this cost money and most people didn’t have any to spare. There was the Bike Shop, run by Jack Jakins (ex Regimental Sergeant Major) where the lads of the village could spend the evening entertained by Jack and buy fags, sweets and soft drinks. This was very popular. It may sound very tame to lads brought up on a diet of ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Neighbours’. As far as I was concerned, it helped that my father was ‘agin it!’

There was also the Church Institute, a hall that used to be in School Lane, behind the existing hall (then the village school). The Institute was under the control of the Rector, who was able to lay down the law as to what activities could go on in the Institute.

I remember one Rector who would not allow dancing between men and women!! He had obviously never been to a village ‘hop’ where traditionally, the men all stood at one end and the girls danced with each other!

There were often very strong differences of opinion about these restrictions and many objections. After one such interference in activities in the late 1930’s, there was a meeting in the Bike Shop when it was decided to start a fund to get our own Hall. Jack Jakins was Treasurer and another leading light was Arthur (Toby) Morlin, who worked as a trackman on our local railway. Toby was a great admirer of the Soviet Union and often told us all what a marvellous people they were. He believed in the Revolution but was such a nice fellow that I don’t think anyone would have been hurt! None of the rest of us were interested, which he found disappointing.

Over a few years we managed to raise some money. We held various activities in the ‘Institute’ where people did ‘turns’ and often the same ones every time. Sid Badcock always sang “I’m Henry the Eighth, I am, I am”. I found it all great fun and, during the war we carried on with ‘Wings for Victory’ week and similar events to raise money for the services.

When Toft school was closed in 1959 and the building became available for sale, the Parish Meeting decided that it should be bought and turned into a Village Hall. Then it occurred to folk that they had a ‘heap of gold’ collected years before, for this purpose, by then more than £300, a lot of money then. Jack Jakins, as Treasurer, was contacted and requested to hand over the cash. The cash book was produced and inscribed across the front was ‘Toft People’s Hall’.

The members of the Parish interviewed Jack and told him that the money would be used towards the cost of the Village Hall. Jack’s views were somewhere right of Genghis Khan, but he was a stickler for doing things right. He told the meeting in his normal robust way that this cash had been raised for a ‘People’s Hall’ and he would only hand it over for that purpose! The ‘People’s Hall’ it had to be, otherwise the cash would only be produced ‘over his dead body’.

Eventually the Council accepted defeat and for many years, until the early 1980’s, the notice board outside confirmed that, though most ordinary villages had a ‘Village Hall’, Toft had a ‘People’s Hall’.