History of The Palmer Hall
The land for the Palmer Hall was donated to the people of Fairford by Arkell’s Brewery, who also owns the Plough Inn next door.
The hall was designed by Dowglass & Pyle of Cirencester and built of stone in 1936 by Yells Bros of Fairford on the site of the old Assembly Rooms. The building was funded by Colonel A J Palmer DSO, TD, DL, JP, who lived at Fairford Park House and was a director of Huntley & Palmer biscuit company. Col Palmer gave the hall to the town ‘for the enrichment of the lives of the townsfolk.’
The flooring in the main hall is made of Australian Jarrah wood and is said to have come from the trucking alley at the Huntley & Palmer biscuit factory in Reading. The magnificent Australian Jarrah belongs to the Eucalyptus family and has a dark maroon tone, which deepens with the years due to sunlight. Jarrah is one of the finest and hardest hardwood materials.
The Palmer Hall is the only community hall in Fairford with a stage and has been used for amateur dramatic productions, musicals, reviews and concerts. It can hold around 200 people and many a dance and party have been held in the hall over the past 84 years.
The hall has also been used as a local cinema. The old projector room is still above the main hall and you can still see the square holes in the wall for the projector and lighting and the swing doors with diamond cut-outs for staff to keep an eye on what is going on in the Hall.
In fact, the very first event in the hall was a film screening on 8th March 1937. This was followed by a dance on 11th March and then the first big event on 20th March 1937 – a Fairford ex-servicemen British Legion event.
In May 1937, the hall was used to celebrate the Coronation of George VI and there are still photos and details in the local archive.
During WW2, the hall was used to bolster morale and there were more dances and cinema showings held there. As the number of local ladies was higher than their male peers, who were off fighting for their country, bus-loads of Americans were brought in from RAF Fairford to enjoy the dances held at the hall. The Americans also used the hall for film shows for the troops, although it was possible to see films on the RAF base. It is assumed that the reason the Americans came to the hall to watch the films was because it gave them a taste of the old life when the soldiers went out to visit the cinema in their home towns. The Americans also brought all their own projection equipment and got it into the upstairs projection room not by means of the internal stairway, but by a man climbing up a ladder attached to the external wall!! No one knows why this happened, but it certainly got the message out to the whole community as to see a man climbing up the ladder to the projection room meant ‘There’s a film show on tonight!’
Before the new Farmor’s School was built in 1961 on the site of the old Manor House, the school used the Palmer Hall for their Speech Days, end of term services/parties, PE and other events.
Over the next 3 decades, the hall was used for the Sealow Club in the 1940s and 1950s; Fairford Youth Fellowship plays in the 1950s and 1960s; Old Time Dancing, which was run by the Yells family; a Darby & Joan Club and FADS (Fairford Amateur Dramatic Society), as the Palmer Hall is the only hall in Fairford where a theatrical performance can be staged.
Four rings were embedded into the walls around the hall to secure a temporary boxing ring and, on ‘Fight Nights’ the hall was packed with eager supporters in the community and surrounding villages.
The clock above the cinema doors entrance to the main hall has been in place there for well over 50 years and is still working.
After a very successful fundraising campaign in 2018/19, work started on the renovation of the historic hall in November 2018. A new accessible toilet for the disabled was introduced into the old store room; the bar area was upgraded and decorated; the toilets for male and female users were modernised and refurbished; the entrance hall made to look more welcoming and the main hall completely re-decorated and dressed with new stage curtains and window blinds.
Take a look at the newly refurbished Palmer Hall on our website: go to the Home Page and click ‘Refurbishment’.
Funds are still need for on-going maintenance of the hall and the Management Committee would be grateful if you could spare a small amount to help with the upkeep of this historic hall built for the people of Fairford.