Can you help? The Church Rooms

Nunney Church Rooms

Nunney’s Church Rooms started life as the village school and temporary church before being used for social events. What are your memories?

Castlebrook House, Nunney
Castlebrook House (left) and the church rooms (right)
Currently a residential property, the Church Rooms were built in the early 19th century as an annex to Maudsley House, now called Castlebrook.

In 1819, Nunney already had a union Sunday school, in which nearly 80 boys and girls were taught, and a national school. These were based in Maudsley House and the neighbouring class rooms.

Edge-tool maker John Fussell left money to the national school upon his death in 1819. Thomas Turner, a Nunney resident, had died on 21 May 1839. In his will, he left £14,467 to be applied “to the instruction of youth, the alleviation of suffering and infirmity, and the solace of old age.”

The charity still exists today. The ‘instruction of youth’ resulted in bursaries, boarding places at the local school with fees paid for by the Turner charity. It is likely that the children boarding stayed at Maudsley House too.

Plan of Nunney Church Rooms
A plan of the ground floor of the Church Rooms in Nunney, when it was in use as a school.

The school was known locally as ‘the Turner school’. The schoolmaster in 1860 was Mr Adams. He wrote:

“In the school there are 45 boys, and nearly as many girls. There are two other schools in the parish, containing perhaps 30 between them. There is no night school. One was kept some time ago by Mr Cotton, a super-annuated exerciseman, but it abandoned now.”

Nunney School extension
Bath Chronicle, Thursday 19 October 1871
The school would later be extended, thanks to a large donation from the Earl of Cork and Orrery, the local MP and patron of the school who lived at Marston House.

The extra space was needed after the introduction of the Education Act of 1870. The school eventually moved to a completely new building in 1896 at Catch Road in Nunney, a building still in use as Nunney First School today.

After the school moved out, the building was used for decades as the Sunday School and village hall. When the delapidated state of the church roof made it impossible to hold services in the church, the congregation met in the neighbouring Church Rooms instead.

A wartime dance at the Nunney church rooms

During the Second World War tea dances were organised in the Church Rooms for the US Army based at Marston and Longleat.

Organiser Romola Anderson of Nunney Court recalled: “We charged sixpence for coffee or fruit juice and a bun, but we made enough money to put in proper flush lavatories and build up the back to a very pleasant sort of lobby for coats.”

Black and White Minstrel Show
The Black and White Minstrel Show at the Church Rooms
After the war the Church Rooms were used for social events and meetings until the new village hall was built at Berry Hill.

The Church Rooms had a stage and a kitchen in those days, plus a piano to accompany entertainment and hymns.

Nunney residents performed their own Black and White Minstrel Show at the village Harvest Supper, held in the Church Rooms in 1967 or 1968.

Nunney community stalwards Fred and Nora Lestrange met at a dance in the Church Rooms.

Nunney church roomsThere are notes in the Somerset County Archives of Nora asking permission to turn the heating on a bit earlier for meetings on cold winter nights in the 1950s or 60s.

Once abandoned for the new village hall, the Church Rooms were used as a carpet and furniture store for a while before being converted into a spacious residential property.

Current occupant Trevor Goodship has kindly given us permission to publish a selection of his private photos of the Church Rooms as he found them, before they were renovated.

They show ivy coming in through the broken windows, but also traces of the old colour scheme of pink and blue downstairs and yellow and white upstairs.

Nunney Church Rooms

A gallery is Trevor’s photos is available below.

Can you help?

Do you have memories of the Church Rooms you would like to share? Did you attend Sunday school, meetings or shows there? Do you have photos or newspaper clippings? Contact us and we will add them to this page for everyone to enjoy.

Responses received so far include:

Teresa Dennett This was where I went to playgroup too!

Angie Boniface Had GFS and Guides in there such a shame

Kevin Snelgrove I attended a couple of kids party’s there and also watched a show in the late 60s with Mr Carr and Owen Hillier in as I can remember and us kids use to play on our bikes at the front of the church rooms, always can remember a big holly bush on the left as you look at building.

Gary Thomas cubs/scouts with Peggy Bird as our Akela with Brian Healey later.

Vernon Russell They held the youth club there for a while when the Rev Pescod was in the rectory.

Claire Haygreen I remember the GFS, guides and the youth club too with Rev Pescod too. Great memories.

Jack Russell Sadler Youth club with Rev Pescod me and Vernon Russell. We got chucked out so we let his handbrake off his car. It would have ran in to the river if the toad stools hadn’t stopped it. Good old days.

Steve Dayman-Johns I was Brown Sixer in the cubs. Upstairs there is a secret door [now blocked] that went through to Castlebrook House, our home. The annual Harvest Supper was held there [I have a pic somewhere – will dig it out sometime]. After the meal, usually a Ploughmans with ham and so on, an evening of entertainment and sketches/singing/comedy routines was performed in typical village hall style. I used to write some of the scripts. Probably the only time I ever saw Rev Bolt actually laugh [but that’s another story].

The 1st Nunney Cub Scout Pack was a lovely safe and comfortable group to be in. I won an award… whoopee ! However, my memory of the scouts in the Church Rooms was somewhat different. One character building game we had to do was to have two boys acting as a horse, then a third boy would sit on the back of the two bent over boys, holding a ten foot pole with a stuffed rag tied on the end. At the other end of the church rooms, a similar set up. Then jousting would commence. Charging at each other, the idea was for the two boys on top to unseat each other by ramming at the other’s face with this ridiculously dangerous pole, the [sharp] end protected only by this flimsy stuffed rag. ‘Elf and Safety hadn’t been invented then. Eeeh ba gum, they’ve got it easy nowadays. Can you imagine the risk assessment if such an idea was entertained now ? Quite how no-one lost an eye or got speared through the throat I really don’t know. Jolly japes eh ?

Paul Holdaway My Mother when she was young saw films there in the 1950’s after the scout hut burnt down. The first Nunney scouts met there in the early 1980s along with the youth club. I remember the floor upstairs had an aweful lot of spring in it. The Holly bush Kevin remembers was big enough to hide in the middle. Happy days.

Stephen A McQuoid I attended Cubs/Scout meetings here in the early 60s when they were run by Mr Geib, Robin? Bullus and Mr Uhlein? It was at a Scout meeting that I heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated and we held a minute’s silence out of respect.I also remember taking part in a Scout “Gang Show” there.

Click to any of the images to enlarge.