In 1915 the Parish Church purchased the property at 49 High Street East for a church hall using money from the £1,000 Rowell Bequest. On it was erected a wooden building, said to have been one of the navvies’ huts left over from construction of the railway line and Harringworth viaduct. It was not much loved and during the 1920s several schemes for a replacement were considered and rejected.
A new Rector, Canon C C Aldred, took matters in hand and a fresh plan prepared by Mr Dolphin was approved by the PCC. In April 1932 Dorman’s tender of £1,799 was accepted. The cost was met from a donation by William Southwell. The total costs including purchase of furniture and fitting out came to under £3,000. Building took six months and the new William Southwell Church Room was opened on 13th October by Mrs Owen, wife of the Headmaster of Uppingham School. Mrs Atkins was appointed caretaker at 10 shillings per month.
With the outbreak of war in September 1940 the church room was commandeered by Government at short notice for ‘war purposes’. This introduced a more lively scene to Uppingham’s social life, dances at weekends attended by young people from the town as well as servicemen with often a live band to play. The room was returned from the military on 1st January 1945. Circumstances were different now. Besides church socials and meetings its use widened. The dances continued, the public library and health services hired space, there were classes, produce shows, pantomimes and more. Until the age of television and the motor car, the church room and cinema at Ayston Road were the social heart of the town.
In reality the church room proved too big and too expensive for post-war requirements of the church, a constant drain on funds and latterly often under used. In 1974 the building was purchased by the Parish Council, now Uppingham Town Council, which has improved its facilities and expanded the range of uses to which it is put.
P N Lane