Through the 1950s and 1960s the upkeep and running expenses of the Star buildings was providing to be more and more of a problem. When, in 1957, Canon Gill was considering taking on the parish Bishop Vernon speaking to him about the Star complex, said “This will be one of your headaches, if you come”.
Canon Gill did all he could to improve the finances at the complex. He had a long battle with the Valuation Office concerning the rating of the buildings, and finally towards the end of 1964 he, and the Trustees, managed to persuade the Rating Authority that the properties should be de-rated. Apparently this should have been the case for many years, as the bodies that used the complex came within the de – rating regulations. Unfortunately the money paid out in rates in the past could not be recovered as de- rating of a property could not be retrospective. If the de-rating could have been backdated it would have put the finances on to a much sounder footing.
Other people also did their bit to help out. During the early 1960s Mr and Mrs Derrick Pettitt acted as unpaid caretakers for the rooms in the Institute building that were rented out to Lloyds Bank. Additionally others volunteered to do work on the hall for free, for example Phil Smith plastered the ceiling in the bank room during his holidays. Also the Finedon Church Sunday School Entertainment Society (FCSSES) took over responsibility for the upkeep of the Star Hall. These combined efforts meant that by mid 1966, when Canon Gill retired, he commented that the accounts were finally recording a small credit balance.
Despite these efforts the condition of the two older buildings continued to deteriorate and the Boys Club moved to their new building in October 1969 and Lloyds bank gave up their tenancy in January 1970. At that time the bank room appears to have been the only room in the building that was water tight. Following this there seems to have been no use made of the two buildings and they continued to deteriorate. Such that by February 1974 they were considered so dangerous that 50 yards of pavement was fenced off.
Through 1974 a series of articles appeared in the Wellingborough News concerning the condition of the buildings and what was likely to happen to them. The newspaper reported that the Charity Commissioners, who were the only ones who could direct the sale or demolishing of the buildings, had been looking at the situation for the last three years and could find no record of the charity that was responsible for the buildings.
Surprisingly following the first articles the Commissioners authorised the sale of the two older buildings for £20,000. Although it was also reported that this figure was unlikely to be realised due to the state of the buildings. On the positive side it was thought that anything made on the sale was likely to be ploughed back into renovation of the remaining Star Hall building.
It took until January 1975 before Canon Beaumont was able to, as he said, “put the record straight” concerning the Star premises. At that point the Charity Commissioners had ordered and supervised the sale of the Coffee House and Institute buildings. Mrs D. Goodman was in the process of purchasing the buildings and it was her intention to renovate both buildings, the Coffee House as a residence and the Institute building as an antiques centre. The proceeds being made available to the Trustees “in a manner defined by the Charity Commissioners”.
FCSSES has since then continued to raise funds for the maintenance and improvement of the Star Hall. From new flooring in 1982 to installing a new heating system in 2008, all for the comfort of the Hall’s patrons. Finedon must thank the hard working members of the Society for ensuring that the town continues to have the use of a facility that has provided a great variety of entertainment for generations of Finedon folk over the decades, even despite the limitations of the covenant on the Hall’s use concerning temperance.
The original establishment of the complex has now passed its 170th year, and the Star Hall itself its 120th anniversary. Long may it continue to prosper with the support of current Finedon folk by joining FCSSES and helping them in all aspects of their work and also in supporting and enjoying all their productions.
If in this series of articles I have may any errors, or missed any information I would be glad of contact from those who know better that me about these things. The articles have all been based on information from the Trustees Minute Book 1884–1907, Northampton Mercury and Wellingborough News reports and items in the parish magazine. Being too young to have attended the youth clubs in the 1950s I would be especially grateful for any memoirs of the boys or girls clubs and their activities.