Star Coffee House, Institute and Hall- (continued)

One of the main themes running through the information gleaned from the Star Trustees Resolution Book was the dependence of the Trustees upon the Mackworth and Mackworth Dolben families for financial assistance, either as hard cash or the use of the Hall gardens for fund raising. As a consequence of this they also had to listen seriously to any concerns expressed by the ladies.

Mr Mackworth Dolben, father of Miss Ellen and uncle to the Mackworth sisters had originally established the Star Coffee House in 1853 based on the principles of temperance, and the ladies wished for a strict adherence to these principles, whereas the Trustees had to look to the current situation and how outside influences may impact upon any decisions they made with regard to the lettings at the complex. On the whole, it seems that the Trustees operated a bit of give and take, and when they went against the ladies wishes they always gave a legitimate reason for their decision.

Following the death of Mrs Frances Mackworth Dolben in 1872, her daughter Miss Ellen, and her nieces Misses Martha and Augusta Mackworth became the main benefactors of the Star complex. As has been seen this support, along with the proceeds of membership fees and lettings, kept the organisation solvent during the 19th century. However as they moved into the 20th century, with three buildings  to maintain and a mortgage to service events both locally and nationally during the first two decades of  the century could well have caused the disappearance of the facility from Finedon.

In 1904 Miss Martha Mackworth died. She had willingly helped financially whenever called upon by the Trustees and she would have been greatly missed. Annual General Meeting reports from 1907 to 1909 showing a credit in the books of between £10 and £16 indicating that the complex was managing to live within their income provided by membership fees and lettings. There was unexpected detail given in the financial report of 1910. Receipts had been £444/18/11½ (equivalent to about £52,000) Expenditure was £422/14/7½ (about £49,500) giving a balance of £22/4/6 (about £2,500).   Also membership numbers were not just holding up, but were increasing. Reports showed that the billiard facilities were in regular use. Lettings were very varied and the complex was contributing significantly to the social life of Finedon.  Choirs, bands and theatricals were regularly performed there, and not just by Finedon people but organisations from outside the parish came to the Star to perform. Its size meant the Star Hall became the “go to” place to hold political meetings.  The smaller hall hosted wedding receptions, band practices, meat teas, and other social gatherings.  This paints a picture of an organisation that was thriving. Unfortunately as there is no Trustees Resolution book surviving for the period after 1906 we have no idea whether the healthy balances announced at the AGMs had been boosted, as in the past, by financial gifts from Miss Mackworth Dolben, but she had definitely, during this period, helped by allowing the Star Trustees to have the income from the Hall open gardens and use of the gardens for other functions.  Things looked bright for the complex as it entered the second decade of the century.

The 2nd February 1912 would have been a sad day for the Star, Miss Ellen Mackworth Dolben’s death removed a regular source of income as the opening of the Hall gardens ceased, and also Miss Mackworth Dolben’s financial “gifts” that had willingly come their way when ever needed ceased.

With no surviving financial information from a Trustees Resolution Book I turned to local newspapers to see what financial and membership information they could provide. Unfortunately the Northampton Mercury provided no information on the AGMs of 1912 to 1918 and the Wellingborough News just printed one tantalizing sentence in November 1913. It reported “there was a deficit of £3 from last year’s total”. I take this to suggest that financially things were either, at best, static and possibly things were not going so well.  The Wellingborough News at Wellingborough Museum doesn’t survive for the period 1914-1918. So what happened to the complex, and its membership during the Great War has to be a matter of some conjecture.

Traditionally the membership of the Star was drawn from the male population of Finedon, with the younger ones probably having more disposable income. With the outbreak of war, and the initial patriotic rush to sign up to fight in the War that would be over by Christmas. A significant number of the Star’s membership would have disappeared into the Forces for the next four years. This would have reduced the income from membership fees and daily use of the refreshments rooms and other facilities in the Coffee House and Institute. Lettings continued throughout the War, and there continued to be reports in the newspapers of regular events, a number of which involved fund raising for organisations working with the troops while others were obviously moral boosters for the civilian population. However the income from lettings was likely to have been affected because some of the organisations who regularly used the Star’s facilities had a membership who’s demographic reflected that of the young men being recruited into the forces. Clubs such as the football, cycling and tennis clubs had used the facility for meetings and socials but this income source would have dried up when the clubs closed for the duration of the War.

Although the management of the facility was stable throughout this period, in the hands of the Trustees and Mr and Mrs Flowers perhaps because membership and income had not recovered it took a significant change in 1920 to secure the future of the complex.