On Sunday May 2nd 1954, during a storm of exceptional severity, thought to be a whirlwind, Brabourne and Bircholt village hall was demolished.
Below is the tongue in cheek article from the Daily Herald dated 27th May 1954:
“At lunchtime on May 2 a freak squall hit the village of Brabourne, Kent. It bounced off the wall of Miss Elsie Bishop’s cottage, missed the new council houses and picked on the Village Hall, leaving it a ruin of bricks, tiles and wood.
Not a great tragedy – if it had happened in Manchester or London. But to Brabourne it was the equivalent of London losing all the cinemas around Leicester Square, it’s theatres, Opera house, the Festival Hall and the Hammersmith Palais. It was not one of those dusty neglected village halls used once a fortnight for a whist drive. It was a dance hall, concert hall theatre, debating chamber, cinema and baby clinic to 600 villagers.
For in Brabourne they make their own entertainment. Now Brabourne ought to be a dreamy place full of old folk dozing in the Sun. It is one of those lovely green villages surrounded by gently curving hills which Tommies in the desert and jungle dreamed about when they whistled “There’ll always be an England.”
But Brabourne folk are no more dreamy and slow than a Hungarian forward line. Even 74-year-old Ted Turner who claims the corner armchair in the anchor pub and talks about the Boer War, prances about as if he would challenge Roger Bannister to race up an escalator and not lose by many steps.
So you can imagine that Brabourne folk are not going to let a freak squall beat them.
Already they have salvaged the bricks, timber and tiles from the wrecked hall. Already every able-bodied man and woman has offered to help rebuild after the day’s work is finished.
Young Jack Fortescue, honorary clerk of works is drawing up the rota for voluntary work. With any luck the new hall will be ready by August. And it will have such deep-sunk girders that even an atom bomb will have trouble in shifting it.
“We aren’t making any promises” said Tom Jeanes chairman of the Parish Council and captain of the cricket team “but we hope that next time the Queen comes here to visit her friend, Lady Brabourne, the roof will be on the new hall.”
Just two things are worrying the people of Brabourne. The first is finding the money; £2,500 is a lot in the village of 600. They are gambling on the generosity of outsiders. The second is finding somewhere to hold all the village activities whilst the new hall is being built.
Brabourne will have to fall back for its entertainment on the Victorian music-box in the Woolpack Inn which plays “I’ll take you home Kathleen” and “Hark the Herald Angels sing.”
It’s an ill squall that blows nobody good and the wrecking of the village hall has healed a local breach which goes back for centuries. The villages of Brabourne and Smeeth, almost one materially, were not very good friends. It all started many years ago with some church jealousy. And the whole village hall belonged to Brabourne, not Smeeth.
Now disaster has brought the villages together. The new hall will be the Brabourne and Smeeth village hall. Our forefathers might have found a parable in the village hall story.”