Star Coffee House | Institute and Hall | Cont’d

Following the departure of the Church Army in 1927 as lessees of the complex George Laxton was appointed manager by the Trustees, and remained in post until 1945. Later the same year he was commended for raising membership numbers to 200, and also contributing towards a healthy bank balance. During that year the income from the complex totalled over £658 (equivalent to £42,600 today) with expenses of £650 this left a balance of just over £7. £140 had been spent on repairs and renewals that had included the purchase of a new billiard table, which increased the number of tables in the main billiards room to three.

 

The billiard tables probably formed a significant part of the attraction of Star Institute membership during Mr Laxton’s tenure. By 1929 the quality of the billiard facilities meant that the annual Finedon billiards competition was held there. In that year there were over 60 entries from the various town organisations. The finalists were A. Tompkins and E. Houghton. The Institute also had teams in the local bowls and ping pong leagues. But the football team seems to have folded after the Church Army left and the cycle and gymnastics clubs were not revived after the 1st World War.

 

The large downstairs room in the Institute building was used for regular meetings from various different town organisations such as the monthly meetings of the local branch of National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, ARP lectures, Evacuee Committee meetings, whist drives, Mothers Union socials etc.

 

The refreshment room continued to open on a daily basis serving the men and boys who made use of the sports facilities in the Institute building. I also understand that refreshments were served to those on their way to and back from the cinema in Regent Street, so it seems that the room was now open to the general public.

 

 

The Trustees were looking for opportunities to diversify and late in 1939 an agreement was made with Wellingborough Council that the reading room in the Star Institute would be used as a public library. The library was subsequently opened on 22nd October in the same year, how long it survived there before it moved to the Town Hall is not known.

Before the 2nd World War the Star Hall, as the largest hall in the town, was a hive of activity. As well as the pantomime there were regular dances with the Hirst Cuttell Orchestra. The annual old folks treat was held there every December, along with factory Christmas parties and Friendly Societies AGMs. St John Ambulance, the Ladies Hospital Committee, the British Legion, Girl Guides, Finedon Sunday School Entertainment Committee and the Girls Friendly

 

Society all held fund raising events there. The Hall also hosted harvest sales, election meetings, Royal Jubilee and Coronation events. The annual Hospital Parade also used the Hall for the selection and coronation of the Parade Queen and her court, along with a dance held there on the evening of the parade day.

 

Despite all this activity and the income generated for the complex it would appear that as the country faced up to another world war the finances at the complex were fairly weak. It was reported at the AGM in October 1939 that the books were in deficit by £74, and that this was an identical deficit to 1938.

 

In the early months of the 1st World War men and boys volunteered for the services in large numbers so it was not necessary to introduce compulsory conscription until 1916. In 1939, with the memory of the last  conflict still fairly fresh in the memories of the general population, the  Government realised that there would not a large number of patriotic young men signing up to fight the Germans again. Registration for compulsory conscription by men was therefore introduced immediately, with those aged 20 -23 years expected to register by 21st October 1939. By June 1941 those up to the age of 40 were being called up.

 

As Finedon men and boys went off to war there would have been a decline in the Star membership.  Also some of the regular events that had been held in the complex were suspended, significantly the events associated with the Hospital Parades and pantomime. Although there were war related events being  held at the complex, especially in the large hall which was in regular use for fund raising events for the men in the forces. These events would also have been moral boosting for the general populace. However there is likely to have been an overall reduction in income for the complex.

 

The combination of reduced membership and a reduction in income from lettings during the war is likely to have impacted on the maintenance of the buildings, at a time when they were aging. The original coffee house building was by then approaching 100 years of age. Certainly by the early 1950s poor maintenance probably contributed to the decision to make the caretaker/manager post non residential. Frank Binley seems to have been the last caretaker to live in the residential accommodation in the complex. At that time that accommodation was in very poor state of repair.