THIS article was prepared by Chloe Lewis, and includes excerpts from ‘Ballinger War Memorial Hall – A History’ by Anne Martin. If you would like to read the full version, this is available at

Ballinger Village came together on Saturday, 8th June to celebrate the centenary of their Village Hall, with an exhibition and tea party. This commemorated 100 years since the dedication of the Memorial Tablet which took place on June 7 1924. Neighbours enjoyed sharing family stories about the village and a particular highlight was seeing Mary Morgan, 94, spot a picture of herself aged 8 dressed as a nurse in the coronation procession for King George VI in 1937, for which she won a prize!

Ballinger War Memorial Hall serves as a living memory to the villagers who died in both War Worlds I and II. Since it was erected in 1922, the hall has been fundamental to the life of the village. As well as hosting a multitude of regular events, the hall has over the years played a key role in hosting commemorations and celebrations, including coronations, jubilees, peace in Europe and the end of World War II.

Early history of the hall

In January 1920, at a meeting in Ballinger Grove, it was decided to erect a village hall to commemorate the local men who fought and gave their lives in the First World War. The minutes of the first meeting show that Mr Hart of Ballinger Grove was the instigator of the scheme, however Mr Harrington of Pednor was voted Chairman and responded to this honour by immediately donating £100 to the fund. The vicar proposed that a small enclosure should be attached to the Hall so he could arrange for services, but the decision was taken that the Hall should be non-sectarian and non-political.

The second meeting held at Pednor House decided that no building work should start until £750 was in the kitty, so fundraising began in earnest. These events included Shakespearean plays, concerts and a ‘Big Bazaar’ in 1920 at Pednor House. This consisted of 12 stalls for produce, fortune telling, Aunt Sally, Clock Golf, pony rides and a maypole dance by the village children. From the minutes we can see that this was advertised on posters as far afield as Chorleywood, Chalfont St Giles, Amersham, Chesham, Great Missenden and Wendover as well as the immediately local villages.

Collectors’ books were issued so that subscriptions could be canvassed. From historical accounts we find that Mr Albert Drew drove Mr and Mrs Hampton around in his horse and cart to collect these subscriptions, which were 5 shillings a share, no easy task on roads that were not then tarmacked.

In January 1922 Captain Ivor Stewart-Liberty MC gave a piece of land, known as ‘The Piece’, former common land which was the villagers’ unofficial meeting place, to the Trustees of the (as yet unbuilt) Hall. The Hall was erected in the style of a ‘Buckinghamshire barn’ and miraculously was built in 4 months! Wrights of Missenden were the builders and many local men gave up their time to help with the construction. It was opened on the November 4 1922. The Foundation Stone had been laid on the August 19 with a copy of the Times and a £1 pound note beneath it.

How the hall was used

The hall was to be used as a room for lectures and meetings of an educational or recreational character and for entertainments, concerts and dances for the local inhabitants. Social events flourished in the 1920s and dances at the hall were so packed that half the people had to watch whilst the other half danced. A 30 piece village orchestra put on classical and popular music, there was a Men’s Club, Whist Drives, Christmas parties and plays organised by Ballinger Grange School.

In 1923 the Women’s Institute was formed and activities in the hall increased. Initially there were 59 members. The WI handicrafts club met twice a week and there was a drama group which competed in the Aylesbury Festivals.

Activities increased each year. In 1927 the broadcast of the Albert Hall Armistice performance was relayed to the hall, a great event in pioneer broadcasting. Sporting life flourished and Ballinger Cricket Club was formed.

Many of the local ladies played a key role in keeping the Hall functioning, not to mention heated. Records state that Miss Pearce stoked the boiler three times a day! A caretaker was paid 2/6 a week for cleaning and lighting the lamps, and accounts mention that the orchestra was sometimes distressed by the lamps’ smoke! In 1929 electricity was installed in the Hall and central heating followed in 1931.

The general depression of 1931 had an effect and fundraising for the hall suffered. In May 1931 it was recorded that no activities had resulted in a profit and it was decided that the Hall be shut for three months, except of use by the Horticultural Society, WI and and Maypole Display. However thanks to the WI, the Scouts and other local benefactors the situation improved.

There were many royal celebrations. King George V’s Jubilee in 1935 saw fancy dress parades with a maypole and decorated floats.

The coronation in 1937 was celebrated by another procession from South Heath crossroads to Ballinger Hall where mugs were awarded to the village children. This occasion was also celebrated by a flagstaff being presented by Captain Stewart Liberty, when “the tallest tree from the fir plantation, borne up the hill on the backs of local men where it was debarked and erected.” The Scouts built a huge bonfire opposite The Bull pub (now Mortimer House) so big that they made tunnels in it, walked into the middle and lit the underneath with tapers. It burned for two days.

Second World War years

On the outbreak of WW2, the first resolution the Committee made was that meetings were only to be held on moonlit nights because of blackout. Ballinger Hall was central to the morale of the village during the period. Dances were organised, there were First Aid lectures, Keep Fit classes and the hall was used as an equipment store and evacuation centre. Books were collected and sent to the troops and in 1940 200 Ibs of jam was made for the troops by the WI!

Ballinger received the first bombs of the war in August 1940 as German bombers had apparently mistaken a house in Ballinger for Chequers. There were no fatalities apart from 3 cows in the field behind the village store. Winston Churchill visited the village the following day and in Nigel Dwight’s account in ‘The Lee in Living Memory’ (author Jenny Senior) his father was asked by Churchill “What were the casualties. ‘Dad said, “There weren’t any. We put the fires out.” Mr Churchill said, “Wonderful! Well done, Ballinger.” By now a number of people had gathered because the news had spread, and Mr Churchill took his hat off and raised his cane. He said, “I tell you all now, we shall pay them back. We’re going to bomb them and we’re going to win the war for freedom.” ‘

This wasn’t the only time Ballinger was bombed during the war, as records tell of a Thanksgiving Service on 13 October 1943 for Ballinger’s safe deliverance from fire bombs dropped by a British aircraft in distress. The cottages behind the Hall had to be evacuated for the night and the village people met in the Chapel to hear the apologies of the RAF Officer in Charge. The Bomb Disposal Unit stayed in The Pheasant for a fortnight: ‘Their job was to collect the bombs, set the fuse….and run like hell!’

The hall continues to flourish

The end of the war saw VE celebrations and Peace Day celebrations in June 1946. During the years after the war the Hall was being used fully again. Square Dancing, Old Time Dancing, Bingo, Whist Drives, Beetle Drives, children’s plays and the Brownies all flourished. A Memorial was unveiled in November 1950 by the Chief Constable Colonel Warren, the money raised by house-to-house collection. In 1953 there were Coronation celebrations with another parade from South Heath crossroads and a TV set up in the Hall for the public. The 1960s saw the establishment of a dramatic society, The Ballinger Players, and over the years they put on many sell out productions. Many local children took part in the very popular pantos.

There have been many challenges to finances over the years, the most recent one being the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. However, due to a strong management committee and skilled Treasurer the hall is in good shape, continues to be enjoyed for local community events and is used daily for a wide variety of activities. These include a toddler group, Judo, Pilates, dance, Zumba, bowls, The Arts Society and the Horticultural Society. It was a focal hub for the local efforts to support refugees from the war in Ukraine. It is a popular wedding and party venue seating 100 people and offering a large commercial kitchen and garden. The Hall, and the land it was built on, has always been somewhere for local people to meet and it is hoped it will continue to perform this essential function for years to come.


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