In 1943/44 nine hundred and ninety nine pre-fabricated bungalows had been built in Corsham to house migrant workers coming to employment in the munitions stores one hundred feet beneath the town of Corsham. These es- tates were established on land in the area we know as Bences Lane, Beechfield Road and Boxfields. Corsham Community Centre was established for the newcomers and for the many service personnel, navy, army and air force, stationed in this garrison town. In 1944 the Centre was opened by the Rt. Hon. Ernest Bevan MP, the then Minister of Labour.
Mr William Light, later to become Parish Clerk, was appointed as the first Warden, and it was during his 20 years at the Centre that it grew to be a venue for entertainment, sporting activities and education, as well as a base for many local clubs. The list is extensive:- Table tennis, badminton, weekly children‘s film show, skittles, Old Tyme Dances/modern dancing, with a ̳proper‘ dance band, bridge, photographic club, whist drives, gardening club, drama group, over 18‘s group, caledonian dancing, country dancing, annual fruit & vegetable show and various evening classes.
There are many people in Corsham who will have taken part in these events. If you are one of them you may like to go on to the website for Corsham Community Centre Info@corshamcentre.com. Perhaps you have a story to tell or photographs to share.
For a time there was a school class from Corsham Council School, now the Pound Arts Centre, run at the Centre in 1949/50, due to a shortage of space in the main building. A pupil remembers a teacher Mrs Hayes, who rode a ̳sit up and beg bicycle,‘ and that surplus Naval Action war rations were also issued to the children there until 1953. No need for coupons!
The Corsham Drama Group regularly put on plays which were very well received by the local populace. Some may remember :-
“Ladies in Retirement” – produced by Alison Curry 1950,
“The Palace Footman” – a Light opera 1952,
“The Open Verdict”,
“Ten Little Niggers”- 1954
“The Heiress” – directed by Muriel Lethbridge; and “Gaslight” – 1971.
A club for The Over 18‘s in the town ran from the late 1940s to the mid 1960s. This filled a gap in young peoples‘ entertainment requirements in the town, after outgrowing the youth clubs.
Summer activities included sports and visiting seaside resorts, such as Charmouth, Devon, and sometimes camping. The winter was devoted to the ̳Gang Shows‘. These revues were produced and directed by club members, together with Ethel Barker and Joe James. The final production was in about 1959 when the panto- mime ̳Aladdin‘ was presented.
The club members enjoyed doing these Revues almost as much as the appreciative audiences received them !