The saga of Auldwick with Cowperthwaite village hall Part six. The Indiana Jones experience.

Part 6 The Indiana Jones experience.

One of the questions the nice lady from ACTion with Communities in Cumbria had asked me was, “What is the charity status of your village hall?” In the face of my incomprehension she’d asked the follow-up question, “What does your constitution say.”
I was forced to confess that I had never actually seen the constitution, and to the best of my knowledge nobody had ever mentioned sending the accounts of our village hall to anybody. In fact I’ve always felt that the treasurer at a committee meeting is a bit like the corpse at a funeral. Everybody expects them to be present, but if they start speaking, people get distinctly nervous. Still, Wendy, our treasurer, had long mastered the art of appearing quietly competent. So I thought that it might be an idea to sound her out about our charity status.

Given it was a fine morning and I had to take some photographs of the hall, purely to prove to the world how much we needed a new one, I decided I’d drop in and see her after I’d got the photographs. I showed her the pictures and asked her to choose the ones she felt did full justice to the dilapidation and decrepitude.  As she was engrossed in studying them, I tentatively raised the question of our charity status.

“Oh yes,” she said, still looking at the pictures on my phone, “I sent our accounts off to the Charity Commission every year. Indeed I do them on-line.”

I experienced the warm glow that comes to any great leader when they realise they are leading a team of competent people who get on with the tasks delegated to them.
It struck me that I might have the answer to my problems. I asked, “So, do you have a copy of our constitution.”

“No, never seen it. Have you asked Megan? She is the secretary.”
“She’s also a teacher, she’ll be in work.”
“No problems, I’ll text her.”

We drank coffee and discussed the possibilities for fund-raising, until Wendy’s phone pinged. “Ah, Megan has texted back.”
“Oh good, what does she say?”
Wendy read the text. “Never seen it.”

“Indeed. Given that Megan took the job on when Gladys, her predecessor, died, we can hardly ask Gladys.” With forced casualness, Wendy asked, “You could always ask Archie Wilson.”

Now it’s true that Archie had been chairman for forty years, starting his period of misrule in the 1970s, but frankly he didn’t strike me as the sort of person who kept up to speed with the paperwork.
“You know Archie, ask him anything and he’d leap in and try and take control again. Not because he wants it, but out of pure habit. Could you ask the Charity Commission if they have a copy?”
“The problem with that is that it looks awfully unprofessional. And what happens if they say ‘no’. Not only do we not have a constitution, but the world of officialdom then knows we don’t have a constitution.”

I sighed, then had a moment of inspiration. “Who was secretary before Gladys?”

Wendy stared into her coffee. “I’m tempted to say ‘Adam’, but it might have been Noah.” She paused. “Was it Tucker Wainwright?”

“You’re right, it was old Tucker.”
“But he’s been dead forty years.”
“And the rest. But his daughter still lives in Cowperthwaite. She’s the sort of person who has never thrown anything out in her life. She might still have his papers.”
Wendy shrugged. “I suppose there’s always a chance.”


Molly Wainwright stared into space when I mentioned old Tucker’s papers. “I didn’t throw them out. It’s just a matter of where I put them.” She gestured to the kitchen table. “Sit down and have a cup of tea and I’ll try to remember.”

It took the best part of a teapot full of tea to loosen the gates of memory. Frankly there is only so much tea and coffee a chap can drink, and I was about to make my desperate excuses and leave when Molly said, “That’s it, I never had them. Dad got fed up of them cluttering up the cottage and stored them with Toby Graham. This was sometime before the war. You go and see the Grahams.”


The quest continued! I decided to drop in and see the Grahams after milking. Mark Graham was coming out of the milking parlour when I arrived. He’s Toby’s grandson. I explained my plight.

“Grandfather was a hoarder. He had all sorts of stuff squirrelled away in the old granary. I’ll get our Joseph to give you a hand looking.” He shouted across to his youngest son. “Joe, see if you can find some papers he’s looking for in Grandfather’s shed.”

Joe was the younger of the two sons. Not a bad cowman, but the farm couldn’t support him and his brother. So Joe had his own business. He had a tractor and a vacuum slurry tanker and emptied septic tanks locally. I’d had him round to do ours, he’s a steady lad and doesn’t make a mess. Also he has a digger which he’ll take round to jobs on a low loader pulled behind the tractor. And of course, when he’s not busy, he’ll help out at home.

Joe led me through a maze of old buildings, until eventually we came to a door that was blocked off by a pile of sheep feed-blocks. We moved enough of them to open the door, and Joe led the way in. “We don’t go in here much now. I’m sure there was a light switch. He reached out and clicked the switch. Somewhere up above us in the cobwebs, a light-bulb woke into dim life. Irritated spiders doubtless scuttled for cover, muttering about how the neighbourhood was going to the dogs.

As I looked round, it was obvious that the old granary was quite big, but was pretty much packed solid. The double doors at the front were barred from the inside, but you couldn’t have opened them anyway because an old Triumph Herald blocked the way. Judging by the tyres it hadn’t moved since the 1970s either. We picked our way down a narrow path between piles of buckets and drums filled with the sort of miscellaneous bolts and fittings that nobody in their right mind would ever throw out, ‘because they’ll always come in.’

Eventually we came to a set of shelves which filled the back wall. Joe glanced at the shelves and then pointed, “Look there, if we ever buy an old Fergie tractor, we’ve already for a set of wheel weights for it.”
With that he led me along the front of the shelves and at one end there was a gap. It was only when I passed through the gap that I realised there was another ‘room’ behind the shelving.

“This is where the old lad stored stuff for folk.”

Most of it was covered with old sheets, stiff with dust. Joe flicked a sheet aside. “Good grief I wondered where this had gone.” He picked up a rifle. I recognised it, Short Magazine Lee Enfield. “I remember Grandad telling me old Toby had a rifle when he was in the Home Guard and he’d not given it back because it was too useful for rabbiting.”
I looked at the rifle, I’d have said it was last cleaned at some point in the early 1950s, which was probably when Old Toby’s borrowed ammunition finally ran out.
Joe was delving deeper amongst the heaps. “Here you are, a chest of drawers.” He pointed to the top. Written across the top in yellow smit was a name. “Tucker Wainwright.”

Gingerly I pulled open one of the drawers. It was filled with manila folders full of yellowing correspondence, faded account books and finally, in a faded and only slightly damp envelope postmarked 3rd August 1920, was the document I’d been searching for, ‘The constitution of Auldwick with Cowperthwaite village hall.’


You might not have realised but it’s now ‘Village Halls Week.’ As somebody who, one way or another, has spent a lot of time in village halls in various places, I’m a believer in their importance. So I thought I’d celebrate them a bit. So the story will continue.
Now if you’re lucky enough to live in Cumbria there is ACTion with Communities in Cumbria, our Rural Community Council, on hand to help.

If you’re in the rest of England you want ACRE, Action with Communities in Rural England.


Alternatively, when you just want a good book

As a reviewer commented, “Yet another quiet, but highly entertaining, amble through Jim Webster’s farming life, accompanied by Sal, his collie extraordinarie.
Sheep, cattle, government eccentricities and wry observations are all included.”

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16 thoughts on “The saga of Auldwick with Cowperthwaite village hall Part six. The Indiana Jones experience.

  1. jenanita01 January 25, 2020 at 9:13 am Reply

    This episode reminded me of chinese whispers, but you got there in the end, so well done your perseverance!

    • jwebster2 January 25, 2020 at 9:34 am Reply

      yes, boldly going where nobody had gone for quite some time 🙂

  2. M T McGuire January 25, 2020 at 2:07 pm Reply

    I’m loving these. I suspect they are based on truth yes?

    • jwebster2 January 25, 2020 at 3:54 pm Reply

      “What,” as Pontius Pilate once said, “is truth?” 🙂

      The two villages don’t exist (but many very like them do) and of course no village hall committee would ever let its village hall degenerate to this extent (honest guv) and none of these people exist.
      But out there in a hard cruel world, honest men looking for something else do stumble over SMLE rifles which should have been handed back in 1945, and a lady who can produce lemon drizzle cake to die for can hold a community together 🙂
      I have brought together a lot of things and people from a lifetime of experience 🙂
      After all, my first memories from our village hall come from when I was just about able to walk 🙂

      • M T McGuire January 25, 2020 at 4:19 pm

        Mwahahahahrgh! Truth but not THE truth perhaps … or at least … maybe twisted a bit. 🙂

      • jwebster2 January 25, 2020 at 5:18 pm

        Or perhaps bits of truth reassembled in a somewhat different order to that in which I found them 🙂

      • M T McGuire January 25, 2020 at 5:39 pm

        🤣🤣🤣🤣 yeh. I can easily imagine.

      • jwebster2 January 25, 2020 at 10:10 pm

        you get a better fit than if you stick with harsh reality 🙂

  3. teachezwell January 25, 2020 at 5:11 pm Reply

    What amazing writing. Loved it!

    • jwebster2 January 25, 2020 at 5:17 pm Reply

      Glad you enjoyed the writing and the story. All human life is here 🙂

  4. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 25, 2020 at 7:10 pm Reply

    I suspect we have villages in the Northeast that have similar, but yours go back so much farther in time.

    I bet you could sell that Triumph for enough to build a new village hall.

    • jwebster2 January 25, 2020 at 10:10 pm Reply

      Yes, the five churches we have that work together, two of the churches are pre-Norman conquest, one was consecrated in the 1640s and the other two are modern (but still pre-1850) 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 26, 2020 at 8:59 am

        No way we can ever compete. We bow to your superior historical record.

        You have an awful lot of precedent to overcome sometimes, though. It can be quite stultifying.

      • jwebster2 January 26, 2020 at 1:20 pm

        It can be, but there again, populations move, there is a shortage of clergy so we have far more lay leadership, so in some ways you can get stuck, but in other ways it can be remarkably open.
        Among our 5 churches, at least one still sings the psalms, whilst another congregation sit round in an informal circle and nobody stands up or sits down and after the talk, there’s almost a discussion. All five churches are the same denomination and share the same vicar

  5. Grace January 25, 2020 at 8:40 pm Reply

    Yay! You found it!

    • jwebster2 January 25, 2020 at 10:08 pm Reply

      And avoided the pit-traps, the giant rolling ball and the spear throwing indigenous peoples 🙂

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