About the Hall

Litlington, Lullington and West Dean Village Hall.
(The Litlington Parish Institute)

The village hall in Litlington, purpose built in 1953, was officially opened – replacing an army hut – thanks to a single donation by Mr Richard Canning Brown, in memory of his wife, Maud. Its official title was The Litlington Parish Institute.

The first book of Minutes records that Mr Dick Ellis was chairman, Mrs Guthrie secretary, and Mr Dixon, treasurer. Later records show that the Trustees should be the chairman of the Parish Meeting (later renamed Parish Council), the President of the Litlington and West Dean Women’s Institute and the rector. It was decided the Hall should be used for the benefit of the three Cuckmere villages, Litlington, Lullington and West Dean when the Litlington parish was extended.

Obviously the Trustees’ occupations changed when the WI ceased to exist in Litlington and West Dean, (their banner is stored in All Saints Church, West Dean) and Litlington no longer had its own rector as the parish was amalgamated with Alfriston, Lullington and West Dean to become The Cuckmere Benefice.

In September 1962 the village hall was registered as a charity.

In February 1977, Richard C. Brown, the Hall benefactor, died, leaving a legacy of £500 for the Trustees to spend appropriately, as well as a piece of land behind the Hall for the purposes of a playground, and a portrait painted by Penelope Pilkington (Penelope Ellis, wife of Dick Ellis), which now hangs on the south wall. Dick Ellis was chairman of the village hall committee from the outset until 1997 after 44 years of service. He died in March 2011.

The playground was created and equipped in 1978/79 and officially opened in the Spring of 1980.

Fund raising for the Hall’s upkeep began early as did increased activities. A Post Office room was opened next to the stage; the Litlington and West Dean Women’s Institute met regularly in the Hall, as did the local youth club, run by Peter Streeter. The Clapham Lane produce stall began on July 5, 1969 – and still continues during the summer months; whist drives were held regularly as well as jumble sales; a lending library was organised. The Alfriston Flower Club, W.I. choir practice; stage entertainments, private parties were among further developments.

Grants from many organisations proved the widespread support for the Hall and its objectives. In 1953 the East Sussex Education Authority awarded the VH £75 to buy stacking chairs. In 1962 the Village Hall purchased another 50 chairs which were all in use until they were sold for £1,000 in 2008 and new ones bought, thanks to a £2,500 grant from the Grass Roots charity.

Wealden District Council provided £2,450 towards a new kitchen and toilet facilities for the disabled in 2005.

Fund raising received a boost in 1981 when a “duplicated” letter was sent to all houses in the three villages asking for donations – which raised £411.

The Hall car park was resurfaced in April 2012 with the Cuckmere Valley Parish Council donating £2,800 towards the total costs.

The Kindergarten began in January 2010 and continues to provide a much needed service to families throughout the Cuckmere and beyond. The Hall also hosts a yoga class, a sewing group, the Thursday morning coffee gathering open to everybody, as well as council meetings and private functions.

Major activity followed the acceptance of the Cuckmere Valley Parish Council’s Parish Plan in 2009 which stated the village Hall was a priority in village life and should be reinvigorated.

An ambitious building project was planned involving major ground works to create an outdoor seating area, direct access to the playground and new double doors in the south wall, plus the rebuilding of a crumbling flint wall. The whole cost was just in excess of £30,000.

Fantastic support, both financial and in kind, helped make this idea a reality. Over £12,000 was raised through fundraising and donations in the parish, while more than 20 volunteers gave over 100 days in total towards the project.

Capital grant aid of £16,500 was secured from the South Downs National Park’s Sustainable Communities Fund, The Veolia Environmental Trust’s Landfill Communities Fund, Wealden District Council’s Community Grant and Cuckmere Valley Parish Council.

Others involved were: Peter Bidmead & Sons – Cuckmere Valley flint repairs; Richard Bartlett – Tree and Landscape Management; A & S Brown Plant Hire Ltd; Brian Huntly Builders and Decorators; Lambert and Sutton – a planting and design business; Tim Carden – Project manager.

The Hall Committee hosted a garden party on May 10, 2014, to open the project. Richard Mann, a parish councillor and Trustee of the Hall told the assembly: “This project has highlighted the wealth of talent and enthusiasm in this small community, it has encouraged volunteers and helped to create local employment”.

Looking ahead, the Litlington Village Hall is now well placed as a vibrant and financially viable hub of rural village life.

WHO PAINTED THE CANVAS IN THE VILLAGE HALL?

A 15 foot wide canvas of ploughing and horses working in the fields, surrounding the east doors, is the dominant feature of the Hall interior. The artist’s signature – F. C. Bond – is hard to find. Who was he? This is the wrong question. The artist was Florence Cynthia Bond, born in 1895 who died in 1985.

The nearby Wilmington Village Hall contains a similar painting surrounding a window. How could massive paintings of this size become integral parts of at least two village halls?

The answer lies in the period after the Great War when the country was dotted with unused army huts erected hurriedly for troops. These were appropriated after 1918 for many useful purposes – scout huts, meeting places, village halls etc. They were almost all of uniform size and shape.

We know that in 1922 Florence Cynthia Bond was enrolled in the Eastbourne School of Art. She obviously thought the interiors of these huts were perfect to accommodate her large canvases. Her offer to the Trustees of the Wilmington Army Hut was accepted and the painting hung. In 1993 the painting was transferred to the new Wilmington Hall.

Unfortunately there are no traceable records in the history of the Litlington Village Hall to provide similar proof. But we know that the present Village Hall replaced an Army hut on the same site in 1953. And the painting was obviously transferred. It’s shape was adjusted by Cynthia to fit around the shape of the openings.

Cynthia worked as a Sussex artist until her retirement in 1959. Two oils: A summer Plough Team and Cottages on a Beach painted in 1923 are noteworthy. Dates of her birth and death vary. According to her genealogy table the years are 1895 to 1985 – but other sources give the dates two or three years earlier. Cynthia did not use her parents’ name (father George Phillipps, wine importer). She chose to return to her 14th the Bonds of Newbury in Berkshire and London.