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Pontefract Local History

REALISING A HIGH AMBITION

CARLETON COMMUNITY CENTRE
PONTEFRACT

One more section has now been added to the new Community Centre at Carleton, Pontefract, as was reported in ‘The Express’ on Friday. It marks another step in the consolidation of a big project, which arises from some enterprising action within the village, coupled with help from outside, and sets a notable example in the area.

The need for facilities in Carleton for social, cultural, recreational and educational activities has been felt for a long time, and investigations and discussions led to the conclusion that only a Community Centre would meet the need. But it was both inspiration and high ambition that prompted purchase of ‘The Grange’, a country house of spacious dimensions, with equally spacious grounds. Formerly the home of Mr. T. W. Tew, the Pontefract banker, it was built by the late Mrs S. A. Driver, who built the Alexandra Theatre, Tanshelf (now the Alexandra Cinema). It was notable for a greenhouse and conservatory, which was an exact replica of the Crystal Palace, London. Like many other country houses it had not been tenanted for many years. Anonymous residents associated with the move at Carleton bought the house privately, and it was placed at the disposal of the village committee, formed to pursue the project for a Community Centre. With its indoor accommodation and its grounds, it provided all that was needed to cater for the community as a whole. In a very short time, a ladies section of the centre was formed, which in the first week of existence enrolled over sixty members, and a committee of twelve was elected to administer the section under the chairmanship of Mrs G. Barker, M.B.E. Then, youth activities were undertaken and a second section was organised with more than one hundred and fifty members. That section is now busily arranging its own affairs, including provision of equipment of various kinds. In addition, Carleton Cricket Club and Cycle Club have joined forces with the centre, forming the new men’s section as indicated.

During last winter, an entertainment’s sub committee raised over £200 to meet the cost of repairs and maintenance to the house and grounds, and the cost of equipment. Other committees set to work to devise a constitution for the centre, to make temporary renovations, and to prepare a final plan for the adaptation of the house and grounds to indoor and outdoor events. Architect’s plans propose a large hall on the ground floor for dances, concerts and large gatherings, with a stage and artists rooms adaptable to many purposes, such as study circles, as well as cloakrooms. The owners of the house have given the committee the option to buy it at the price originally paid, and if enough interest is shown, it is intended to apply for an official grant of up to 50% of the capital expenditure, equipment and maintenance costs. Such a grant will not be forthcoming, however, unless it can be shown that the community is prepared to take its share of the responsibility.

The centre is intended to meet the needs of all classes of the community, of both sexes and all ages, nor is it confined to the village of Carleton. Anyone interested is eligible for membership and it is hoped to organise the undertaking in such a way that a modest subscription only will be necessary. The complete scheme, covering purchase of the property, renovations, alterations and the provision of equipment, is estimated to cost about £4000, so that at least £2000 is needed from local sources. Pursuing the methodical progress of registered organisation, the committee is organising a house to house canvas to ascertain the response to the project. That response will play a large part in securing the grant mentioned, and inevitably deciding the future of the centre.

The above article was originally published in the
Pontefract and Castleford Express on 17th April 1946.

RECENT VISIT

It is Tuesday 9th May 2006, a warm and pleasant evening and I am sharing it with Jeffrey Fox, set in a scene of peace and tranquility that is known locally as the Carleton Community Centre, Carleton, Pontefract.

Jeff is a long time serving member of the Centre and he has clocked up an impressive sixty years attendance record. My arranged meeting with Jeff came about through my research duties for the Pontefract Digest. I had discovered an article from an archive newspaper search concerning the foundation of the Community Centre in 1946 and quickly realised that 2006 would be its 60th anniversary. I was interested to know how the Centre had developed over the years and if it was still perceived locally as a benefit to the community.

Jeff is a native of Pontefract and has lived here all his life. He was born in a house in the Willow Park area and lived there until the family moved to Reams Terrace in 1935. He continued to live with his parents until his marriage to Margery Stones in 1955. In company with his newly acquired wife, Jeff returned to Willow Park to take up temporary residence with Margery’s mother and lived there for some twelve months before making their final move back into the town centre, to occupy a house in Elm Terrace, where they have lived throughout their married life.

Jeff’s first contact with the Centre was through the cricket team of which he was a player/member. The team became part of the youth section in 1946. Many of the youth section’s activities at this time revolved around playing cricket, table tennis and billiards. The men’s section’s interests were card games, a separate bridge club, dominoes, football and social conversation. They were also the main fundraisers for the Centre and to this end organised a variety of fundraising events – football sweeps, bring and buy sales, raffles etc. The ladies section were also to play an important role in the success of the Community Centre – their duties were to ensure the tea and sandwich refreshment bar ran smoothly. They also organised the annual Summer Fair, which had handicraft goods for sale, with various other stalls selling a variety of bric-a-brac and other household items. Another responsibility was to organise and arrange day trip excursions for the enjoyment of the members.

Over the last sixty years Jeff has witnessed a number of changes at the Centre. He remembers during the war when our lads were returning from Dunkirk in 1940 and were billeted at the Centre to rest and recover from their terrible ordeal. He recalls the first extension to the existing building was in the 1960’s when, with funds raised by the men’s section, they were able to build a ballroom. This was followed some time later with the creation of a licensed bar. The Centre did not hold a license and was therefore unable to serve alcoholic beverages. However, prior to eventually obtaining a license, the Centre would invite a local licensee to provide drinks at the many popular dance evenings held in the Centre’s ballroom. Many years later, in the 1990’s in fact, the Centre managed to fund a further extension to the side of the ballroom, which provided the dancers with a seating area and extra bar facilities. The Centre was also the first home for the small children who attended the newly formed Inglebrook Nursery School, prior to the school moving to its present location, the previously closed and disused Back Northgate Primary School.

The Centre continues to provide a social meeting place for its members and still manages to provide many interesting activities which cater for most tastes. These include ballroom and line dancing, camera club, astronomical society which is thriving, snooker, drama group and bridge club. The membership is still holding at a respectable level, although not, it would be fair to say, in the numbers of its early halcyon days, but if you are an individual or a couple who enjoy a quiet evening in excellent surroundings, with a choice of pleasant activities, then the Carleton Community Centre (Grange House) is the place for you to visit.

To sum up my own visit, I would say that the continued success of the Carleton Community Centre of today is assured. It stands as a testament to the memory of its past founding members, who had a vision to provide a social community meeting place which would benefit all interested parties, residing within the local area – a meeting place of which members had a choice to partake in the many activities on offer, or just to meet with your fellow members for a social evening.

A sample of youth activities taken from a committee meeting held in 1951 lists the following:

  • Puppet Group
  • Mother and Toddler Group
  • Classes in Drama and Musical Appreciation
  • Girls P. E.
  • Weight Lifting
  • Needlework
  • Handicraft Class
  • Ballroom Dancing
  • Discussion Group

One can only really sigh, think of today, and wonder when did it all go wrong!

Maurice Haigh.


 

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